The recent sandstorm that is engulfing the entire Syrian-Lebanese border has grounded the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) due to poor visibility; and while this may seem like a reprieve for the Islamist rebel forces of Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra”, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Hezbollah had no plans to halt their advance inside Al-Zabadani.
Under the cover of red clouds formed from the sand debris, the Syrian Arab Army’s 63rd Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division – in coordination with Hezbollah, National Defense Forces (NDF), and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) – continued their advance inside the Al-Ghabiyah District, capturing the Al-Maas Neighborhood after intense clashes with the Islamist rebels of Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham and Jabhat Al-Nusra.
Following the capture of the Al-Maas Neighborhood, the Syrian Armed Forces and Lebanese Resistance pushed their past the Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham defenses at the Al-Jisr Mosque, killing 11 enemy combatants and destroying two 14.5mm anti-aircraft machine gun turrets that were positioned to the east of the religious building.
According to the Daily Star, the death toll in Al-Zabadani is as followed:
- Over 400 Islamist rebels killed (including 154 foreigners); 189 of them have surrendered to the Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah.
- 60 Hezbollah soldiers killed-in-action (KIA)
The firefights are likely to intensify in the coming hours, as the Syrian Armed Forces and Lebanese Resistance seek retribution for the Islamist assault on the Abu Al-Dhuhour Military Aiport in the Idlib Governorate.