To most Syrians, the name “General Nayaf Al-‘Aaql” brings back memories to the Lebanese Civil War, when the aforementioned leader of the Syrian Arab Army’s prestigious “104th Airborne Brigade of Republican Guard” fought off a powerful assault from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) at the Battle of East Beirut in the summer of 1982.
However, the General is not sitting idly in retirement; his ancestral home and birthplace – Al-Sweida – is now facing its greatest threat since the French Imperialist Army attacked the Syrian Forces – under the command of Sultan Basha Al-‘Atrash – at Jabal Al-‘Arab, during the “Great Syrian Revolt” of 1925.
As hordes of Islamist militants from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Jaysh Al-Yarmouk, and the Syrian Al-Qaeda organization “Jabhat Al-Nusra” have begun to assault the strategic “Tha’lah Military Airbase” some ten and a half miles away from the provincial capital of Al-Sweida, General Nayaf Al-‘Aaql has once again found himself in high demand by his fellow countrymen.
The People of Sweida Fight Back
While Al-Sweida’s sons in the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) are spread across Syria, the need for a provincial defense unit has become even more imperative; however, who could mobilize and train such a unit so quickly?
The answer was easy: General Nayaf Al-‘Aaql.
Known for his cheerful and sarcastic demeanor among the people of Al-Sweida, the stocky General was known by his army peers as a tough and brilliant field commander that rarely left the frontlines; instead, similar to his future successor (Major General Issam Zahreddine), General Nayaf Al-‘Aaql was revered and beloved by his soldiers for his refusal to leave their trenches during the Battle of East Beirut.
So, it should come as no surprise that the retired General had no reservations about leading a provincial militia against the intruders from the FSA and Jabhat Al-Nusra in Al-Sweida.
The Battle of Sweida has Begun
Over the last five days, General Al-‘Aaql has been able to recruit 6,000 men and women to join his National Defense Forces unit that was specifically formed to protect the province from the Islamist rebels and the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) in the northeastern countryside of Al-Sweida.
Reports of more civilians joining the ranks of General Nayaf’s civil defense unit have begun to surface on Sunday, as throngs of supporters have chosen to stand their ground in the face of looming danger.