- Confirmed: US retrains ISIS and ISIS-like jihadists in east Syria and re-brands them ‘democratic forces’ (VIDEO) – Exclusive
- Another high ranking jihadist commander mysteriously assassinated in Idlib
- Alleged Iranian drone captured by Israel is ‘copy’ of US’ sentinel UAV
- Latest battlefield update from northern Aleppo – map
- Syrian Army troops mobilize in western Deir Ezzor for next offensive
- Turkish-backed rebels release footage of their forces capturing two towns in northern Aleppo
- Turkey renames street of US embassy after Operation Olive Branch
- Rebels mourn the death of two child fighters in southeast Idlib
- Iranian-backed PMU save 11 US-backed fighters from capture by ISIS (photos)
- Iranian presence in Syria will continue despite Israeli attacks: Khamenei’s adviser
- What led to the intense confrontation between Syria and Israel this past weekend?
- Lebanon will defend its territory from Israeli aggression: Aoun
- Sorry America: Russia calls on BRICS members to invest in post-war Syria
- Alleged video of Israeli anti-missile defense system arriving to Syrian border
- Graphic: Militant ranks annihilated by 4 major assassination attacks across Idlib during day of chaos (video, pictures)
- Kurdish YPG fighters down Turkish reconnaissance plane in Afrin
- Breaking: Syrian Army unleashes major offensive against militants in Rastan pocket on Homs-Hama border
- Pictures: Kurdish forces blown away in east Syria after double ISIS car bomb attack
- EU deeply worried about military escalation at Syrian-Israeli border – official
- Breaking: Almost a dozen Kurdish fighters encircled by ISIS in east Syria rescued just in time Iraqi paramilitary forces
- Turkish-backed rebels capture several areas near Afrin-Idlib border
- Graphic: ISIS suffers nasty losses and big defeat at the gates of rebel stronghold in southeast Idlib
- Kremlin hails Russia-Turkey-Iran cooperation on Syria
- Lebanese man crosses Israeli border fence
- New Russian Su-25 warplanes to be 100-percent resistant to heat-seeking missiles after Syria shoot-down
- Israel deploys anti-missile systems on Syrian border – reports
- Raqqa in ruins as locals make desperate plea for help
- Kurdish forces claim 4 Turkish tanks destroyed in northern Aleppo
- Founder of Al-Nusra Front applauds Israeli airstrikes in Syria
- Breaking: ISIS seizes strategic crossroad stronghold from Syrian rebels in southeast Idlib
- Turkey steps up operations in Afrin after recent losses (photos)
- Turkey-led forces suffer hundreds dead since start of Afrin operation – statistics
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 10:00 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:00 A.M.) – Clear-cut evidence has emerged that the United States is retraining jihadist militants – most of them surrendered ISIS members as well as fighters of other militant groups with an ideology similar to that of ISIS – in east Syria and re-branding them as ‘democratic forces.’
After many, many months of complaints by Russian military and diplomatic authorities that US advisor forces in Syria’s east were retraining ISIS and ISIS-like militants, a video (shown below) released by the Deir Ezzor-based opposition media outlet Euphrates Post has confirmed it.
The video is the centerpiece in a puzzle of otherwise vague information that has been leaked about US intelligence activities in east Syria over the last year.
It should be made clear, that the Arab fighters in the video below do not belong to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) proper, but rather a lesser known off-shoot militia called the Deir Ezzor Military Council (DMC).
DMC forces are – unlike the SDF – the project of the US Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency, separate from Pentagon initiatives and bureaucratic processes.
Fighters of the DMC are on the Department of State payroll (i.e. individuals receive a paycheck) which technically makes them US-vetted mercenaries instead of just ‘US-backed fighters’ (that implying military support from US military agencies only).
The history of DMC forces prior to their re-flagging under US initiatives is interesting. Most DMC fighters fall into two categories:
These are the ‘ISIS people’ that Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, General Valery Gerasimov warned about in late December 2017 when he claimed that over one thousand re-flagged ISIS and ISIS-like militants were being trained and equipped by US advisor forces in east Syria.
Over the last few days, and on at least one occasion before that, DMC forces have attacked positions of the Syrian Army and allied paramilitary groups in Deir Ezzor province without provocation (or any other kind of defensive pretext) at the towns of Khasham and At-Tabiyyah.
Both official SDF and other US coalition sources have failed to make any remark on the confrontational activities of the DMC and the simple reason for this is that neither the SDF (on its own) or US coalition bureaucracy is responsible for DMC actions – only the CIA is, and it has no obligation to publicly disclose information about its projects.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 02:07 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:00 A.M.) – Another jihadist commander was assassinated in Syria recently after his vehicle struck a roadside bomb along an important highway inside the Idlib Governorate.
According to pro-jihadist activists, the high ranking commander of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham, Abu Hudhayfah Al-Homsi, was killed while traveling along the Ariha-Mastouma Highway in western Idlib today.
The jihadist commander was considered one of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham’s most battle-tested leaders, as he served at many fronts in the Idlib, Hama, and Aleppo governorates.
Pro-opposition activists have blamed Syrian Army spies for the assassination.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 01:45 PM PST
A drone captured by the Israeli Air Force over the weekend, which Israel claims belongs to Iran, is essentially a "copy" of a Lockheed Martin Sentinel drone made for the US Air Force and Central Intelligence Agency that was shot down in Iranian skies in 2011 by Iranian forces.
“It’s a copy of a similar system that fell in Iran,” Israeli Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar told Defense News Monday. “They more or less duplicated it.”
The IDF reportedly launched yet another series of missile attacks on Syrian soil February 7. A few days later, the Israeli Defense Forces said they had downed an Iranian drone and carried out attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. Syrian forces defended their territory by downing an Israeli F-16, forcing the pilots to eject. The Kremlin has called on both sides to de-escalate the situation “in favor of avoiding any steps that could lead to a new round of dangerous confrontations in the region.”
When Israel said that an Iranian drone had been intercepted over Israeli airspace, Tehran denied that any of its military equipment was even in the area.
“Reports of downing an Iranian drone flying over Israel and also Iran’s involvement in attacking an Israeli jet are so ridiculous… Iran only provides military advice to Syria,” Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said February 10.
According to an expert at the Fisher Brothers Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, it certainly would have been within Tehran’s capability to have a Sentinel-like unmanned aerial vehicle operating in the region.
“There are two copies that Iran made out of the [Sentinel]. One is Shahed 171, and this is supposed to be jet powered and for reconnaissance missions. Then there is the other variant of this vehicle — similar in design to RQ-170, with a piston engine and a propeller — named Saeqeh. This variant was shown in 2016 armed with four laser-guided munitions,” said Tal Inbar, director of UAV studies at the institute.
The drone identified by the IAF general was said to be a Shahed 171 aircraft.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 01:18 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:10 P.M.) – The Turkish-backed rebels have been on a roll in the Afrin region recently, capturing several areas from the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their allies.
Backed by the relentless airstrikes of the Turkish Air Force, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their allies managed to score a big advance along the Afrin-Idlib axis this past weekend.
This advance would pave the way for Monday’s success, as the Turkish-backed rebels were able to build a comfortable buffer-zone around the Jandaris area in the Afrin region’s southern countryside.
Meanwhile, in northwestern Afrin, the Turkish-backed rebels have once again tried to infiltrate the YPG’s positions in Rajou; however, they have failed to make any headway in this large district.
According to pro-YPG activists, their forces were able to foil all of the attempted advances by the Turkish-backed rebels in Rajou the Rajou District.
In response to the rebel failures in Rajou, the Turkish Air Force has unleashed a powerful attack on the district in a bid to weaken the YPG’s defenses.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 12:57 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:25 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has begun mobilizing their forces in the western countryside of the Deir Ezzor Governorate, as they prepare to battle the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group near the Homs Governorate border.
According to a military source, the Syrian Arab Army’s 5th Legion and several units from Hezbollah’s Syrian faction have been moved to the Badiya front, where they are preparing to storm the large Islamic State pocket.
ISIS has maintained a large presence in the Badiya pocket of western Deir Ezzor since they were officially expelled from the strategic border-city of Albukamal, which is located directly west of Iraq’s Al-Anbar province.
With nowhere to retreat, the Islamic State is expected to heavily resist this new Syrian Army offensive in the Badiya region.
The Syrian Army and their allies will rely on close air support from the Russians and Iranians, who also have a large presence in this part of the country.
This new offensive is expected to begin in the next three weeks, as the Syrian Army moves more reinforcements to this front for the upcoming battle.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 11:54 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:30 P.M.) – The Turkish-backed rebels captured several areas from the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) over the last 48 hours, giving them access to several parts of the Afrin region.
Led by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Turkish-backed rebels managed to take hold of Al-Dakkan and Deir Ballout, yesterday, in
With these two towns under the control, the Turkish-backed rebels now control several towns in the Jandaris axis of the Afrin region.
Below is the video of the Turkish-backed rebels taking control of these two towns:
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 11:23 AM PST
The street in Ankara where the US Embassy is located will be named in honor of the Olive Branch operation carried out by Turkish forces and their allied Syrian opposition units in the northern Syrian district of Afrin, Ankara’s Mayor Mustafa Tuna said.
“We signed a request to rename Nevzat Tandogan Street, where the US embassy is located, as Olive Branch Street. The initiative will be introduced for consideration at Ankara's municipal assembly today,” Mustafa Tuna wrote on his Twitter page.
The statement was made amid rising tensions in Turkish-US relations caused by Ankara's discontent with Washington's support for Kurdish units operating in northern Syria. Last week, a senior State Department official said that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would seek to put an end to Olive Branch Operation.
Operation Olive Branch in Afrin was started on January 20. Afrin is controlled by the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which are considered by Ankara to be affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey and several other countries.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 10:39 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:25 P.M.) – The Free Syrian Army (FSA) mourned the death of two child fighters that were killed fighting the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) inside the southeastern countryside of the Idlib Governorate recently.
According to a press release from the Free Syrian Army’s Jaysh Al-Nasr group, the two child soldiers were identified as ‘Abdel-Qader Al-Khaled (age 14) and Ahmad Al-Naji (age 15); they were both from the rural Hama town of Qal’at Al-Madiq.
No further information was released on the two child soldiers.
Due to their recent personnel commitments to the Afrin front in northern Aleppo, the rebel forces have been forced to use child soldiers and foreign jihadists in their attacks against the Syrian Arab Army.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 10:16 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:05 P.M.) – The Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (var. Hashd Al-Sha’abi) saved eleven members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from being captured by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) along the Syrian-Iraqi border this week.
According to the official media wing of the Popular Mobilization Units, their forces took in the retreating SDF fighters after they were overran by ISIS terrorists at the Syrian border.
The Popular Mobilization Units protected the SDF fighters and pushed back the Islamic State from the Iraqi border.
The SDF fighters were then given food and beverages while they rested at a local PMU base; they will be transported to Syria in the coming hours.
Below are the photos of the SDF fighters that were saved by the PMU forces:
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 09:26 AM PST
Ali Akbar Velayati, the Iranian Leader’s Aide on International Affairs, said Monday that “Iranian presence in Syria will continue.”
“Iran’s presence in Syria is for the sake of defending the axis of resistance according to agreements between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria. The downing of the Israeli F-16 planes is an important milestone in the conflict with Israel. Israel must know that every attack will get the same response, it is Syria’s right. The axis of resistance will protect its sovereignty, and we will not remain silent to Israeli aggression,” he stated.
Israel launched major air raids in neighboring Syria on Saturday, including against what it described as Iranian targets in the country. It was the first time Israel publicly acknowledged hitting Iranian targets in Syria since the 2011 start of the civil war there.
“We inflicted on Saturday a heavy blow to Iranian and Syrian forces,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Feb. 11’s cabinet meeting.
On Saturday, the Israeli Defense Force claimed that an Apache attack helicopter detected an Iranian drone infiltrating the disputed area of Golan Heights, which has been at the center of conflict between Syria and Israel. Following the incident, Syrian air defense systems had hit Israel F-16 fighter jet which became the first loss of an Israeli jet in combat since 1982.
The day before Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi insisted, that “Iran does not have a military presence in Syria, and has only sent military advisers at the request of the Syrian government.”
Israel and Syria, which have never engaged a peace treaty, and have a long history of troublesome controversies over the Golan Heights, have repeatedly exchanged fire, with the latest incident taking place in early January when the Syrian government’s army sabotaged three Israeli missile attacks on Damascus province. In response, Damascus accused Tel Aviv of collaborating with terrorist groups, emphasizing that Israel “posed a threat to global security and peace on a par with Daesh and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra).
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 08:24 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:40 P.M.) – Syria and Israel were involved in a fierce air battle this past weekend that resulted in the destruction of an IAF F-16 and several Syrian military buildings in Damascus and Homs.
While these events took place on February 10th, the first confrontation actually took place two days prior when the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) opened fire on an Israeli drone near the occupied Golan Heights.
The following day, the Israeli Air Force flew several drone flights along the Syrian-Lebanon border, prompting the Syrian military to remain on high alert in Al-Quneitra and western Damascus.
The Syrian military would then fly their Iranian-manufactured drones in several areas that had an IAF presence, including the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Lebanon’s Beqa’a Valley.
According to a Syrian military source in Damascus, on the day of their forces downed the F-16, the Israeli Air Force deployed fighter jets to the Syrian-Lebanese border, which led Damascus to believe that an attack was imminent.
Using their plethora of Soviet-era S-200 anti-aircraft missiles, the Syrian military struck the F-16, causing the jet to crash in northern Galilee.
In response to the downing of the F-16, Israel would unleash a large number of airstrikes over the southwestern countryside of Damascus, with their primary target being the Syrian military bases and Iranian installations in the Rif Dimashq and Homs governorates.
Although some reports alleged that the IAF targeted Syrian military installations in the provinces of Al-Sweida and Aleppo; these were all false claims started by pro-opposition activists.
A Syrian Army source in Damascus told Al-Masdar that the Israeli airstrikes would result in the death of at least eight Syrian military servicemen and a couple of Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary personnel.
Since the attack, the Syrian military has remained on high alert near the occupied Golan Heights, as the border situation remains very intense.
Despite claims that they are not seeking confrontation, Israel has reportedly moved their anti-missile systems to the Syrian border, which has increased fears of another hostile engagement.
Should another confrontation occur between Syria and Israel in the coming days, this could be the largest air battle we have seen between the two countries since the Lebanese Civil War.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 07:35 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:25 P.M.) – Lebanese President Michel ‘Aoun conducted an interview with Egypt’s ON Live, Monday, in order to discuss a number of topics affecting the country.
The primary focus of the interview, however, was his latest meeting with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri in regards to the recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria and Israel’s attempts to claim the Block 9 section of the Mediterrean.
The Lebanese President told ON Live that Lebanon will defend itself if Israel chooses to encroach on the country’s economic resources. resources
“Lebanon has made a decision to defend itself in case of an Israeli aggression or encroachment on its rightful access to its offshore oil and gas resources,” ‘Aoun stated.
“So far, there has been no attack and it seems unlikely that Israel will carry out its threats,” he continued.
President Aoun assured that he gave no importance to Israel’s “verbal provocations”, but warned “against new wars if these provocations are translated into action”.
He called for resolving the issue of contentious border points, refusing Israel’s construction of a wall on Lebanese territory.
“Peace can not be built on threats of war but by a new approach that is to reach a determination of rights and a minimum of justice, something that has not yet happened,” he said, affirming all the Lebanese constituents determination to maintain stability in Lebanon.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 07:13 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:00 P.M.) – The Russian Federation has invited its partners in the BRICS coalition to invest in post-war Syria, as the country begins its massive reconstruction process.
"According to Syrian estimates, losses in the real sector of the economy topped $75 billion," Syrian Ambassador to Russia, Alexander Kinshchak., told TASS news agency on Monday.
"UN experts believe that it will take nearly $200 billion to achieve the pre-crisis GDP growth rate," he continued.
"We are aware that the Syrian government will find it difficult to obtain a huge amount of money required for the post-crisis recovery," Kinshchak explained.
"Therefore, Russia suggested that the international community, first of all, the nations friendly to Syria, should join efforts in order to work out a complex program for its revival," he added.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 06:55 AM PST
According to the recent reports from the Jerusalem Post newspaper, the Israel Defense Forces have deployed anti-missile systems along the country’s border with Syria after the downing of their F-16. However, this report has not yet been confirmed by the IDF.
The video, circulating on the internet, allegedly shows Israeli trucks delivering parts of the anti-missile systems to the Syrian border.
The reported deployment took place after the February 10 downing of an Israeli F-16, intercepted by an Iranian drone launched from Syria, as claimed by Tel Aviv.
Responding to the attack, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) hit alleged Iranian targets inside Syria.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 06:47 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:45 P.M.) – In a day of utter chaos across rebel-held areas of Idlib province, some four major assassination attacks – all carried out by an unidentified party (or parties) – have taken place against militant commanders and fighters. The attacks have served to leave the ranks of Syrian insurgent forces in tatters.
At the town of Marrat Misrin in northern Idlib province, a booby-trapped motorcycle detonated near an old police station killing eight people and wounding tens more; most of the casualties have been identified as Free Syrian Army ranks.
Around the same time, a vehicle full of fighters belonging to the Al-Qaeda affiliate group Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) that was traveling along the Ariha-Mastouma expressway was hit with a roadside bomb killing militant commander Abu Hudhayfah al-Homsi and three other jihadists.
Earlier in the night, another Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham commander by the name of Abu Al-Jod (a security chief for the group) was shot dead in the streets by unknown gunmen.
Finally, two Free Syrian Army rebels were killed near the city of Idlib when assassins (again, affiliation unknown) jumped their passing motorcycle with a hail of automatic fire.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 06:41 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:35 P.M.) – The Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) downed a Turkish reconnaissance aircraft that was seen flying over the Afrin region of Aleppo on Monday.
According to the YPG’s official media wing, the Turkish reconnaissance plane was identified as a Bayraktar Tactical UAS drone, which was manufactured in Turkey.
The Bayraktar Tactical UAS is a surveillance and reconnaissance system able to do airstrikes as its armed with a Smart Micro Munition.
Below is the video of the YPG forces downing the Turkish reconnaissance aircraft:
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 05:48 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:48 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army and allied paramilitaries have launched a new offensive operation against armed rebel groups in a large militant enclave straddling the provincial border of Homs and Hama.
Moments ago, military-affiliated sources reported that that the Syrian Army and its allies kick-off a new offensive against militant forces in the Rastan pocket – located in parts of northern Homs and southern Hama province.
At the present time, Syrian pro-government forces are storming the Rastan pocket from southeast Hama and have entered into and captured most of the town of Maqsam al-Hamrat amid intense clashes with rebel fighters.
The new offensive by the Syrian Army comes following the decisive conclusion of operations in Idlib for the time being.
Russia has made multiple attempts since 2017 to implement an effective ceasefire in the militant-held Rastan region.
However, multiple violations of the deescalation agreement by rebel forces, who shell and raid nearby government-held towns (almost on a daily basis), has pushed the Syrian Army to now undertake a full-scale military operation to neutralize the threat emanating from Rastan and its surrounding area.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 05:28 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:25 P.M.) – US-led Syrian Kurdish forces have suffered a major blow to their ranks in eastern Syria after taking direct hits from two Islamic State car bomb attacks that were directed against them at a key fortress village.
For close to two months now, US-backed forces in eastern Syria have been attempting to wrest control of the ISIS stronghold of Al-Bahra (located on the east shore of the Euphrates River in the province of Deir Ezzor), having made multiple assaults and entering the village but still failing to take it fully.
Like the town of Gharanij further north (captured by US-led coalition partner militias several weeks ago), Al-Bahra serves as a fortress settlement for Islamic State militants; tunnels and propositioned heavy equipment helps ISIS to launch counter-attacks.
On Saturday, ISIS targeted two gatherings of Syrian Kurdish forces inside Al-Bahra with car bombs. In the event, both attacks hit their mark, inflicting dozens of dead and wounded on the ranks of US-backed fighters.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 05:23 AM PST
The European Union is deeply concerned with the military escalation in Syria amid Israel's strikes and urges the sides to show restraint, European External Action Service’s (EEAS) spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said Monday.
"The military escalation throughout Syria, including the events we have seen on the Israeli border over the weekend, is deeply worrying. It could indeed lead to the dangerous spillover. We are following the situation very closely, and at the same time we urge the Syrian parties, their allies, as well as regional actors to abide by the international law, to show restraint and to avoid actions that further escalate the situation and prolong the suffering of the Syrian civilians," Kocijancic told reporters.
The statement was made two days after the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said that its helicopter had intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria, while the Israeli Air Force (IAF) struck Iranian targets in the Arab country.
The Israeli moves prompted a response fire from the Syrian air defense systems. In the second wave of the attack, the Israeli forces struck 12 targets in Syria, including Syrian air defense batteries and Iranian military facilities.
The Iranian side denied the allegations on the intercepting Israeli F-16 by their drone in Syria, saying that the Islamic Republic had only an “advisory, not a military presence” in Syria.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 04:50 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:50 P.M.) – Almost a dozen Kurdish fighters of the US-led coalition who were encircled by Islamic State militants in east Syria during a big battle on the country’s border with Iraq have been rescued by Iraqi paramilitary fighters.
According to the sources within Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), forces of the battle-proven paramilitary group have rescued some eleven Syrian Kurdish fighters who were encircled by ISIS in the province of Deir Ezzor.
Reports state that unit of the PMU’s 13th Brigade conducted a successful rescue operation on the Syrian-Iraqi border to save a group of Syrian Kurdish fighters whom they had observed having been surrounded by Islamic State forces.
The development comes amid a big battle between Syrian Kurdish forces and ISIS in the Al-Sosa area of Deir Ezzor province (very close to Syria’s eastern border with Iraq) that has been raging for several day now.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 04:48 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:30 P.M.) – The Turkish-backed rebels continued their advance in the Afrin region of Aleppo, today, targeting the YPG’s positions at the Jandaris axis.
Led by the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) Al-Sham Regiment, the Turkish-backed rebels were able to capture the entire town of Al-Muhammadiyah after fierce battle this morning.
Following this advance, the Turkish-backed rebels were able to expand on their buffer-zone along the Idlib-Afrin border, seizing several hilltops from the YPG forces, including the Omarah Hill and its corresponding tower.
This latest advance by the Turkish-backed rebels comes after the heavy overnight bombardment in the Afrin region by the Turkish Air Force.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 04:11 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:10 P.M.) – Islamic State forces have suffered a big defeat, as well as heavy losses to go with it, at the gates of a key rebel stronghold in the southeastern countryside of Idlib province.
Since Friday, ISIS has been trying to capture the crossroad town of Umm Khalakhil in southeast Idlib from rival militant groups.
Although entering Umm Khalakhil and capturing parts of it, ISIS was eventually repulsed on Monday morning after several days of violent clashes for the town and its surrounding countryside.
During firefights that took place on Monday alone, Syrian rebels killed about a dozen Islamic State fighters inside and near Umm Khalakhil – several more were captured alive and have been taken prisoner.
Only further to the southwest has ISIS encountered some degree of success against rival militant groups. Here it captured the village of Ard az-Zurzur and reportedly also seized the junction town of Khuwayn (some opposition sources are disputing this).
Recently, the Al-Qaeda affiliate group Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) released photos over its official media channel showing some of the ISIS fighters killed during the battle of Umm Khalakhil.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 04:09 AM PST
Cooperation between Russia, Turkey and Iran has provided significant backing for further peacemaking activity within the framework of UN efforts in Syria, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Monday.
“As you may know, the Russian president has for the past few weeks maintained regular contacts with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts. This work will go on. It is expected to provide significant support for further peacemaking activity within the framework of UN efforts [in Syria],” Peskov said.
Moscow can see a shortage of assistance from the US in stabilizing the situation in Syria, he said.
“As for the United States' assistance in stabilizing the situation in Syria and advancing the search for a political and diplomatic solution, it has been in short supply,” Peskov said.
At the same time, he pointed out that cooperation between Russia, Turkey and Iran was very important for advancing the United Nations' peacemaking efforts in Syria. “As you know, the Russian president has been maintaining contacts with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts, the work aimed at facilitating the United Nations peacemaking efforts will go on,” Peskov said.
The Kremlin spokesman stressed that “Russia continues political and diplomatic efforts.” “It particularly concerns the Astana and Sochi processes,” he added. According to Peskov, “everyone realized that it would be impossible to put an end to terrorist raids in an instant.” “However, the Russian troops and Aerospace Force units remaining in Syria, intended to assist the Syrian army in the fight against terrorists, have the necessary potential to deter terrorist activities in Syria,” Peskov concluded.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 03:50 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:30 P.M.) – A Lebanese man crossed a border fence built by Israel in southern Lebanon, Sunday, the National News Agency (NNA) of Lebanon reported.
“After he crossed some distance inside the occupied territories, a van arrived and took him deeper into Israel,” NNA said.
Once the van arrived, the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL forces arrived and encircled the area.
“Investigations showed that the citizen who crossed the border fence is A.M., 25, who hails from (the southern town of) Habboush,” the NNA report said.
“This is the second time that he crosses the border fence and he had been considered mentally disturbed after his first crossing,” NNA concluded.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 03:42 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:40 P.M.) – According to the Sputnik news agency, Russian engineers have designed a new countermeasures suite that allows aircraft to be ‘100-percent immune’ to heat-seeking missiles. The system will soon be fitted on the SM3 model Su-25s in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces.
The new countermeasures is dubbed Vitebsk-25 and has apparently already been tested on Russian military helicopters in operational conditions in Syria.
By offering guaranteed protection against heat-seeking missiles (like those fired from man-portable surface-to-air missile systems), the Vitebsk-25 system will allow Russia’s Su-25 warplanes to also engage in subsonic dogfights (at least so with a far greater degree of survivability) as well as conduct its original task as a ground attack aircraft.
The move by the Russian Aerospace Forces to upgrade Su-25SM3s with the Vitebsk-25 system is undoubtedly a response to the very recent down of downing of one of its Su-25 warplanes in Syria by a man-portable surface-to-air missile system.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 02:49 AM PST
The reported downing of an Israeli F-16 in Syria on February 10 cut short the country’s long-term aerial dominance in the region: that was the first Israeli plane lost in 35 years, since 1982 – the time of the Israeli war in Lebanon.
The Israeli military has deployed anti-missile systems, as well as “missile defense batteries” on the northern part of country’s border with Syria, near the city of Baka al-Gharbiya, the Jerusalem Post newspaper reported Monday, citing eyewitnesses.
As the media outlet specifies, some witnesses posted alleged photos of “trucks carrying the batteries on central highways in northern Israel.”
According to the newspaper, on early Saturday Israel also deployed eight warplanes to target positions inside Syria.
However, the Israeli Defense Forces have yet to comment on the media reports.
Downing of Israel’s F-16, Strikes in Syria
The reported deployment follows the February 10 downing of the country’s F-16, intercepted by an Iranian drone launched from Syria, as claimed by Tel Aviv. Responding to the attack, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) hit alleged Iranian targets in Syria.
The attack has put an end to Israeli aerial superiority, as that was the country’s first plane to be lost since the Israeli war with Lebanon in 1982.
The Israeli strikes triggered retaliatory fire from the Syrian air defense. In turn, the Israeli military began the second wave of the attack, which resulted in striking 12 targets inside Syria, including Syrian air defense batteries and Iranian military facilities, according to the country’s Defense Forces (IDF).
As Israeli Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar stated on Saturday, this military operation by the country’s air force against Syria on Saturday was “the most significant” action against the air defense of neighboring Syria for the past 36 years.
Commenting on the alleged intercept of Israeli F-16 in Syria, Iranian security chief Ali Shamkhani called it ridiculous, adding that its forces are operating in Syria at the request of the country’s legitimate government. As Tehran explained, the country maintains an “advisory, not military presence” in Syria.
The official stated that this time the Syrian nation had proved it would respond to any act of aggression.
Israeli Fight Against Hezbollah
Meanwhile, Israeli forces see another growing power from the side of Lebanon – the Hezbollah movement, as claimed by the groups’ Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem, quoted by Press TV.
According to him, Tel Aviv is in a deadlock dealing with the rising power of Lebanon’s resistance.
“Israel cannot make a decision to wage war [on Lebanon] as it may have grave consequences for it (Tel Aviv)…; on the other hand, it can’t watch the other side growing [in power], and it does not know how to deal with this power,” Qassem stated, cited by the media.
Speaking about the resistance group recently, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman equated it with Lebanon’s army.
“Lebanon’s army and Hezbollah are the same – they will all pay the full price in the event of an escalation,” Liberman said as quoted by Press TV.
Lebanese officials, for their part, consider Tel Aviv a real menace to their country. In particular, in January, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called the country “the real threat” to Lebanon.
“The only threat I see is Israel taking some kind of action against Lebanon, out of a miscalculation,” Hariri said. “And this is the real threat, I believe.”
The confrontation between Israel and Lebanon included three wars: in 1982, 2000, and 2006.
The Hezbollah movement was established in 1985 to protect Lebanon from foreign aggression, as the leaders of the group claim.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 02:30 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:05 P.M.) – Wreckage, bullet holes and collapsed buildings litter the landscape of what once was the historic heart of Syria.
The ancient city of Raqqa, as seen in images shot on Saturday, turned to ruin after airstrikes against militants who were hiding inside the city.
“We are living a tragedy amongst destruction. No one is taking care of us,” said Khawla, a local resident.
Mohammad Junaid, a former teacher from Raqqa said that “no one helped” them with rebuilding and removing rubble from the city.
“We received nothing at all, not even a penny! Not from the coalition nor from anyone else,” Mohammad said with regard to international aid.
Resident Fayyad Omar Mayel said that he believes that it’s "the Coalition that is responsible in the first place and it should be the first to help us."
Another resident, Eyyad al-Haj, said that there is no security and that “looting” occurs quite often.
“The people of Raqqa came back to restore life again on their own expense, and removing the mines will be on their own expense and by themselves,” he added.
Syrians are starting to return to the city, which is still laced with booby traps and explosives. Injuries and deaths due to unexploded ordnance are a daily phenomenon as mines are still people's biggest preoccupation.
A Raqqa resident injured by a mine and being treated at the Tal Abyad Hospital, Radwan Hajji Jasim, recounted how he was wounded and how a friend of his killed when they tried to remove a mine near their homes.
Some 3,000 bombs were reportedly dropped on the former stronghold of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIS/ISIL) since January, paving the way for a ground victory by fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the People’s Protection Unit (YPG).
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 01:57 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:40 A.M.) – The People’s Protection Units (YPG) claimed on Sunday that their forces have destroyed at least four Turkish tanks in the Islamist-held town of ‘Azaz in northern Aleppo.
According to the YPG’s official media wing, their forces destroyed the four Turkish tanks after their mortar shell hit an ammo depot.
As a result of their alleged mortar shell strike, loud explosions ripped through this ammo depot, resulting in the destruction of the four Turkish tank.
Below is the video of the alleged attack by the YPG:
Contrasting these claims were the Turkish-backed rebels, who claimed the loud explosions in ‘Azaz were a result of a fuel depot explosion.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 01:10 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:45 A.M.) – A Syrian jihadist commander commended the recent Israeli airstrikes on the the Syrian military’s positions in the Damascus and Homs governorates.
Using his Twitter account, Saleh Al-Hamwi applauded the Israeli airstrikes and called for more attacks against the Syrian military in the future.
“We welcome any Israeli air or naval attack against the regime and Iran in Syria and we urge them continue to do so. We warn Israel that their silence against Iran’s intervention in Syria will work against you, if fail to uproot them,” Al-Hamwi tweeted via his Al-Sera’a fi Al-Sham account.
Al-Hamwi is a staunch opponent of the Syrian government and founding member of the once Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 12:34 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:34 A.M.) – Islamic State forces have seized a key stronghold town from Syrian rebel militias amid an ongoing offensive by the terrorist group throughout the southeastern countryside of Idlib province.
After three days of savage clashes between ISIS and rival militant groups on a number of different axes across southeast Idlib, Islamic State fighters – currently on the offensive – have achieved a major breakthrough.
According to emerging reports, ISIS has captured Khuwayn, a strategic fortress town that commands multiple rural roads throughout southeast Idlib.
Moreover, ISIS is also said to have captured the village of Ard az-Zurzur (just northeast of Khuwayn by about one kilometer).
The capture of Khuwayn by ISIS, if true, gives the terrorist group its first major stronghold in southeast Idlib from which it can consolidate its presence and launch future attacks.
At the present time, Islamic State forces are also attacking Syrian rebels at another junction stronghold town further northeast called Umm Khalakhil, already taking control of parts of it.
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 12:24 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:10 A.M.) – The Turkish military has recently stepped up their field operations in the Afrin region after their recent personnel losses at the hands of the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG).
According to pro-opposition activists, the Turkish Army sent a large number of reinforcements and military equipment to the Afrin region of Aleppo in order to intensify their offensive against the YPG forces.
With these latest reinforcements to the Afrin region, the Turkish Army is preparing to take over the initiative from their rebel allies.
Below are the photos released by pro-opposition activists of the large Turkish military convoy that was recently deployed to the Afrin region from Idlib:
Posted: 12 Feb 2018 12:08 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:05 A.M.) – The Turkish Army and allied Free Syrian Army militias have suffered hundreds of dead among their combined ranks since kicking-off their offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria’s Afrin region just over three weeks ago.
According to war monitoring groups (many of them opposition-leaning), Turkish-backed rebels have now suffered just short of two hundred dead.
Per Sunday, the Turkish Army had officially (i.e. by its own account – shown below) lost 33 soldiers killed in action and another 93 injured.
By comparison, monitors say that the death toll for defending Kurdish forces in Afrin is not too far behind with some 150 to two hundred fighters reportedly being killed since the Turkey’s offensive across the region began.
For Kurdish paras, Turkish airpower and heavy artillery has been the main cause of their losses; on the other hand, Kurdish anti-tank guided missile strikes and hit-and-run attacks have been big contributors to dead and wounded among the ranks of pro-Ankara forces.
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