December of 2014 saw the expansion of al-Nusra in the Idlib Province. Pro Assad’s Wadi al-Dayf, and al-Hamidiyah barricades and camps fell to a number of groups under the leadership of al-Nusra, and to a lesser extent Ahrar al-Sham. The role of the non-Islamist-Anti Assad Syrian groups is dwindling. al-Nusra is very active in the southern front against al-Assad. The south is witnessing very active battles in al-Shaykh Maskeen, Nawa area. There is lots of action around al-Qunaytara, with al-Assad holding on to few positions left there. The Islamic State is trying to get to the South of Syria, and recently news of a large group from the south, Liwa’ Shuhada’ al-Yarmuk pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the leader of the Islamic State. al-Nusra and other groups, clashed in the month of December with this later group. Also, the Islamic State is present in five villages bordering Druze villages, threatening bad days ahead. In al-Qalamun things are changing to the benefit of the Islamic State with groups pleading allegiance to the Islamic State. This is also happening in the northern countryside of Homs, where more Syrian anti Assad groups are joining the Islamic State, the latest of which is Abd al-Basit al-Sarut, the famous anti Assad rebel from the city of Homs. al-Qalamun had witnessed also in the month of December the kidnapping and then the release of Uraba Idris, a Syrian Arab Army defector, and a leader of an anti Assad armed group. The area’s forecast is more violence that could spill into Lebanon. The area saw few fire fights in the month of December, some of which were cross borders with Lebanon. The presence of the Islamic State now is a new factor. The Islamic State waged few attacks against al-Assad’s positions in the Eastern city of Deir al-Zur. The airport is one of the last big holdings of al-Assad in that area. It was attacked and the areas around it, like Huwayjat Saqr and al-Mrei’iyah, are still very active. Fights are continuing in that area. Another hot area of late is the northern mountains of Latakia, which saw shellings against al-Assad positions near Kasab. Around Damascus the situation is the same, as of last month, with al-Assad making slow gains in Jubar. al-Assad also made small gains in Handarat, north of Aleppo, where he took Mazare’ al-Malah and inching in to encircle his foes within the parts the control within the city cutting them from their main supply routes. Christmas came and many celebrated it amidst this war and chaos.
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