Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen's Importance on the Hama Battlefield

 

Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen viewed from the west. Source.

Sitting about five kilometers north of Hama city and under a kilometer east of the M-5 highway, Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen represents a key strategic position for Syrian government forces. Pro-Russian news agency ANNA News recently posted a video from just below the mountain's summit during the ongoing regime counter offensive. From this position, one has a commanding vantage point over the entire northern Hama plain. In the video, government artillery teams can clearly be seen shelling the town of Souran ten kilometers away. According to some accounts, one can see as far as fifty kilometers to the north from the mountaintop. Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen has an elevation of 619 meters, making the second tallest peak along the northern Hama frontlines. Only Jebel Kafra'a, sitting a couple kilometers to the east is taller. However, Jebel Kafra'a is significantly less fortified, due to its position further away from the M-5 highway and the city of Hama.

 

The view of Souran, 10 km away.

 

Through the study of recent satellite imagery on Terraserver.com (from 21 February 2017) one is able to make out numerous fortified positions on Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen, particularly on the mountain's northwest face. At the location of the video, here on Wikimapia, one can see two 130mm field guns (presumably M-46s), as well as several vehicles. Due to the quality of the images it is hard to verify, but the Grad rocket truck that appears in the video might be parked to the left of the field guns. At the bottom of the mountain a heavily fortified checkpoint can be seen right off the M-5 highway. This also featured what appears to be 130mm cannons, as well as numerous military vehicles.

Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen in relation to Hama, and the current frontlines

A topographically map of northern Hama. Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen can be seen just east of Qomhane. Source.

As pro-opposition news agency Shaam.org has pointed out, the possession of Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen has been key in the defense of northern Hama. On 22 March, a day into the most recent rebel offensive, a spokesman for FSA faction Jaysh al-Izza highlighted the mountain's importance to regime defense of both Hama city and the nearby military airport. In speaking to SyriaDirect.org, He stated that capturing Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen was the operation's main objective. However, this latest offensive has already begun to falter and lose territory to the loyalist counter offensive. The closest opposition groups have come to the mountain in 2017 was entering the town of Qomhane, which they were soon pushed out of.

Without capturing this strategic mountain, it appears doubtful that Syrian opposition forces will be able to sustain any advances within the vicinity of Hama city.

A 130mm M-46 on Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen, targeting rebel positions in Souran. 

Artillerymen on Jebel Zayn al-Abdeen. A Grad rocket truck can be seen in the background.

 

Grad rockets being fired from the same position.

 

The artillery position filmed in the ANNA news video. Two 130mm cannons can be seen in this satellite imagery from February. Location.

Fortified position on the mountain's NE face featuring what appears to be two tanks. Location. 

The Gov't checkpoint at the base of the mountain. Several large artillery pieces and military vehicles can be seen. Location. 

At mountain's summit lies a shrine to Shia Imam Ali Ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abdeen. Photo source.