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Breaking: Militants to ‘attack on all fronts’ in Daraa if Syrian Army launches east Damascus offensive – reports

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 11:49 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:48 A.M.) – Free Syrian Army-linked militant groups based in Daraa province are threatening to attack pro-government forces from every direction across the region if the Syrian Army goes ahead with its planned operation in Damascus’ East Ghouta region, so say pro-rebel sources.

Pro-rebel sources state that every single Free Syrian Army affiliate militias in the southwestern region have vowed to participate in an ‘attack on all fronts’ against pro-government forces.

The threat by militant groups in Daraa comes amid final preparations by the Syrian Army for what is probably going to be the largest offensive in Damascus of all time and if rebel-held East Ghouta falls, then the balance of power between government forces and insurgent factions throughout the country’s south will change drastically in favor of the former.

Free Syrian Army-linked groups in southwest Syria have a record for threatening major operations against pro-government forces and ISIS whilst in practice doing absolutely nothing.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Turkey claims 1,641 YPG, ISIS fighters ‘neutralized’ in Afrin

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 11:23 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:15 A.M.) – The Turkish General Staff claimed on Monday that their forces had killed at least 1,641 fighters from the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) and so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

The 1,641 ISIS and YPG fighters were reportedly killed by the Turkish Army and their rebel allies between the dates of January 20th and February 18th.

While the Turkish General Staff claims ISIS fighters were ‘neutralized’ during their Afrin operations, there has been no actual proof of the terrorist group being present in this region.

ISIS was previously active in northeast Aleppo; however, they were officially expelled from the province in early 2016.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Iran has no military bases in Syria – Zarif

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 10:54 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:45 A.M.) – The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, stated on the sidelines of the Geneva Security Conference on Monday that Iran has no military bases in Syria.

“No, we do not have them [in Syria],” Zarif told reporters.

Zarif added that Iran does send military advisers to Syria to aid the Syrian Arab Army (SAA); however, they have not deployed military personnel for combat.

The Iranian Foreign Minister’s comments come shortly after both Israel and the United States accused Iran of militarily intervening in Syria.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

‘Damascus army will enter Afrin to repel Turkish forces’ – Kurdish official

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 10:46 PM PST

Senior Kurdish official, Badran Jia Kurd, told Reuters that Syrian Kurdish forces and the country's government had agreed on the deployment of Syrian army troops along border positions in the Afrin region to curb the Turkish campaign, and that the military would enter the beleaguered Afrin within the next two days.

“We can cooperate with any side that lends us a helping hand in light of the barbaric crimes and international silence,” Jia Kurd said.

He also noted that the accord was purely military, and did not include any political arrangements.

“When it comes to the political and administrative matters in the region, it will be agreed upon with Damascus in the later stages through direct negotiations and discussions,” he said.

Last week Rojhat Roj, commander of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin lambasted reports of Kurdish fighters reaching an agreement with Damascus to have Syrian troops deployed in the region to repel Turkish forces.

Meanwhile, YPG commander Sipan Hemo argued that the Syrian army should take most of the responsibility for the defense of Afrin against what he described as a Turkish invasion, calling on Damascus to "immediately send in reinforcements to the border region with Turkey."

Earlier Mayadeen, the Lebanese broadcaster, reported that Damascus and the Kurdish militias had sealed a deal, and that the Syrian armed forces were about to enter Afrin to deter Turkish forces.

A source familiar with the situation told Sputnik that the Syrian Armed Forces would enter the territory near the border with Turkey in the district of Afrin in the next few days.

On January 20, Turkey launched an offensive on Afrin, code-named "Olive Branch," targeting the Kurdish YPG, allegedly affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara regards as a terrorist organization. Damascus has firmly condemned Turkey's military campaign, calling it a violation of the country's sovereignty.


Source: Sputnik

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Alleged Egyptian ISIS commander arrested in the Philippines

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 10:36 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:30 A.M.) – The Philippine National Police arrested an Egyptian national, Friday, that is believed to be an Islamic State (ISIS) leader, the Manila Times reported today.

According to the report from  the Manila Times, Fehmi Lassoued (AKA “John Rasheed Lassoned”) was arrested at an apartment inside the Malate District of Manila city on Friday.

The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines had issued an arrest warrant for Lassoued after it was believed that he was an Islamic State leader.

Lassoued’s Filipina girlfriend, Anabel Moncera Salpida, was also arrested by the Philippine National Police.

No further details were released.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Turkish Foreign Minister calls for respect of Syrian territorial integrity

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 10:03 PM PST

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Sunday held a speech at the 2018 Munich Security Conference, in which he elaborated on the issue of Syria’s territorial integrity and on the progress made at Astana peace talks.

On Syria’s Territorial Integrity

“We have to be sincere that we are supporting territorial integrity of Syria and we need to pay more attention to political process, which is as important as fighting terrorist organizations,” Cavusoglu said.

The Turkish minister added that supporting a terrorist organization against another terrorist group was “a big mistake” as such an approach put Syria’s future at risk.

Cavusoglu’s remark comes amid Turkey’s ongoing military operation in the northern Syrian Kurdish-held district of Afrin, which started on January 20. Ankara has said its offensive was aimed at clearing the Turkish-Syrian border from terrorist presence. Damascus reacted by saying that the operation was an assault on Syria’s sovereignty.

The relations between Turkey and the United States are currently in crisis because of the support provided by Washington to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which are regarded by Ankara as affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey and several other countries. Washington explains its backing of the Kurds by the need to fight against the Daesh terrorist group.

On Progress Made on Syria

“We made a lot of progress [in Syria] thanks to Astana and Sochi, and we link Sochi to Geneva right now. We can say now that the situation on the ground is much better despite the violations of the [ceasefire] regime in Idlib,” Cavusoglu said.

The Turkish minister also stressed that a lot of achievements had been made in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group but noted that it was early to speak about its total defeat in Iraq and Syria.

Syria has been engulfed in a civil war since 2011, with government forces fighting numerous opposition factions and terrorist groups. The international community has taken a number of steps aimed at settling the crisis, including through negotiations in Geneva and Astana. Russia and Iran, alongside Turkey, are guarantors of the ceasefire regime in Syria.

The Syrian National Dialogue Congress was held in Russia’s Sochi last month. It brought together about 1,400 delegates from the Syrian government and various opposition groups who agreed to form the Constitutional Commission in Geneva to amend the existing legislation of the Middle Eastern nation.

Source: Sputnik

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Zero hour approaches the East Ghouta as Syrian Army troops gather at several axes: map

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 09:54 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:30 A.M.) – Zero hour has approached the East Ghouta, as several Syrian Arab Army (SAA) units have gathered at a number of axes in this rural region outside of Damascus city.

According to the latest military report from east Damascus, the Syrian Arab Army’s Tiger Forces division has positioned themselves at several axes in the western part of the East Ghouta, while the 4th Mechanized Division and Republican Guard gather in the east.

While some reports indicated that the Syrian Army is planning to retake the entire East Ghouta region, a military source in Damascus stated that the primary objective is to gain enough ground in order to ultimately force the Islamist rebels to kick out Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham from Damascus.

This won’t be an easy task, however, as the Islamist rebels of Faylaq Al-Rahman and Jaysh Al-Islam are well-armed and deeply embedded in the East Ghouta.

The Free Syrian Army’s Al-Rahman Regiment (var. Faylaq Al-Rahman) is considered one of HTS’ closest allies in the East Ghouta and their refusal to kick out the aforementioned jihadist group has tainted each ceasefire agreement.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Syria should close airspace for Turkish jets: YPG official

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 08:38 PM PST

In an interview to Sputnik, Kurdish YPG representative Nuri Mahmud detailed the disposition around the Syrian city of Afrin, where Turkey's Operation Olive Branch is still underway.

“The attacks on Afrin by the Turkish army and groups of the Free Syrian Army, controlled by Turkey, have entered the fourth week – they launch massive airstrikes and employ heavy weaponry. Many countries feel indifferent to Afrin's fate, whereas they should really demonstrate support of the city and help repel the Turkish offensive. If the Syrian regime deems itself landlord of this territory, it must close Syria's airspace for Turkish planes and fulfill its commitments with regard to defending Afrin, which is part of the Syrian state. We haven't engaged in talks with the Syrian authorities on this issue before,” Mahmud underscored.

Earlier the YPG units were reported to have reached an agreement with the Syrian authorities for the Syrian army to enter Afrin to help halt Turkish attacks.

Mahmud said that the army troops would be deployed at a number of positions along the border and were expected to arrive in the Afrin region within the next two days.

The Afrin offensive, code-named “Olive Branch” broke out on January 20. The Turks launched a massive attack against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG groups, which now control Afrin and are deemed by Ankara affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — a terrorist organization, according to Turkey. Damascus has slammed the move as “treacherous aggression.”

Russia has also spoken against the offensive and urged all parties to the conflict to respect Syria’s territorial integrity.

Source: Sputnik

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Confirmed: Two major Syrian rebel groups merge into single militia to fight Syrian Army

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 08:22 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:20 A.M.) – Two major Syrian rebel groups have officially merged ranks into a single militia to fight the Syrian Army and rival militant factions.

On Sunday night, the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate group Ahrar al-Shram and the Free Syrian Army-linked Noor al-Din al-Zenki faction official announced (announcement shown below) that they had merged ranks into a new unfed militia called Jabhat Tahrir Souriya.

Key positions and those appointed to them within Jabhat Tahrir Souriya have been identified as follows:

  • General Commander – Hassan Soufan.
  • Deputy General Commander – Tawfik Shehab al-Din.
  • Chief of the Political Bureau – Hussam Atrash.
  • Military Commander – Captain Khalid Abu al-Yaman.

The new militia has sworn to fight the Syrian Army and any rival rebel faction that opposes it – this being a very specific reference to Al-Qaeda affiliate group Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) relations with which for both Ahrar al-Sham and Noor al-Din al-Zenki have increasingly deteriorated since the start of 2017 to the point of outright hostility.


Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Syrian military conducts massive overnight assault in the East Ghoua

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 07:58 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:50 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched a massive attack last night that targeted several areas under the control of the Islamist forces in the East Ghouta region of Damascus.

Led by the Tiger Forces division, the Syrian Army fired dozens of surface-to-surface missiles, artillery shells, and rockets towards the East Ghouta, striking several areas at the western axis of this region.

According to a military report from Damascus, the Syrian Army targeted the suburbs of Harasta, Arbeen, Zamalka, Jobar, and ‘Ayn Tarma last night, marking the first large assault by the Tiger Forces since they deployed to this area.

Below is a video from last night’s assault that was posted by a pro-government You Tube channel:

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Afrin doctors plea for help following alleged chemical attack (video)

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 07:44 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:30 A.M.) – Medics of Afrin General Hospital gave a press conference on Sunday, following an alleged toxic gas attack on the village of Aranda on February 16. The attack is believed to be part of the Turkish military’s ‘Olive Branch’ operation in northern Syria.

Director of Afrin Hospital Dr Khalil Sabri confirmed that six civilians were transported to the hospital with symptoms of poisoning, including shortness of breath and coughing.

After carrying out a clinical examination on the cases, Sabri explained that, "it was suspected that these injuries resulted from the inhalation of toxic gas”.

According to a member of the Health Authority in Afrin, Abdullah Yousef, “the results of the analysis showed that the soil samples contain a large percentage of chlorine.”

“Other soil samples from other areas of the village were analysed and no chlorine trace was observed,” he said.

“We call upon all institutions, influential forces and international actors, and all countries with democratic systems, to do whatever is necessary to put an end to this aggression and to convene an emergency session at the United Nations to stop this war,” said Yousef.

Source: Ruptly

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

VIDEO: Hundreds of Syrian Marines gear up for future offensive

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 07:26 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:25 A.M.) – An entire battalion of Syrian Marines recently graduated from their months-long intense training regime and are now ready to be deployed to almost any front in the country for offensive operations should they be called on.

The battalion in question numbers many hundred troops (as many as 500 according to some sources).

Not all of the graduated troops are fresh recruits, some have just undergone re-training after service in the Syrian Army or a pro-government paramilitary unit.

According to Al-Masdar News journalist Ibrahim Joudeh, the Syrian Marines will not be participating in the looming government operation against militant groups in Damascus’ East Ghouta region.

In any case, the Syrian Marines are being reserved for another offensive in Syria and although the where and when of such an operation remains officially unknown, rumors suggest a possible deployment to the Rastan region on the Homs-Hama border or even the country’s east.


Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Israel attacks Hamas in southern Gaza after rocket fire: IDF Spox.

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 07:22 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:15 A.M.) – Israel launched several airstrikes over the southern countryside of the Gaza Strip last night, targeting a number of areas under the control of the Hamas Movement.

“A short while ago, in response to the rocket that was launched at Israel earlier today, IAF fighter jets targeted underground infrastructure in he southern Gaza Strip belonging to the Hamas terror organization,” the IDF Spokesperson tweeted this morning.

The IAF attack came in response to a rocket that was fired into a local Israeli settlement from the Gaza Strip – no casualties reported.

With last night’s confrontation, Israel and Hamas have now exchanged fire at least twice in the last 72 hours.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Latest map update from northern Aleppo – February 18th

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 07:05 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:00 A.M.) – For the third day in a row, the Turkish-backed rebels scored a big advance against the YPG forces, seizing several areas inside the northwestern corridor of the Afrin region.

Led by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Turkish-backed rebels managed to capture three towns inside the Rajou District of Afrin on Sunday.

According to pro-opposition activists, the Turkish-backed forces captured the towns of Darwisha, Hajikanli Fouqani, and Hajikanali Tahtani; this resulted in their forces establishing fire control over Rajou.

Rajou is one of the largest towns in Afrin and it is the gateway into northwestern corridor of this imperative region near the Turkish border.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Saudi Arabian FM slams Iran for actions in Middle East and Africa (video)

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 06:47 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:45 A.M.) – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia Adel al-Jubeir talked about what he believes is the destabilising effects of Iran in the Middle East and with countries in Africa, during the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

Underlining the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, aJubeir said, “We didn’t attack Iran, Iran is the one attacking us.”

He also emphasised his opinion that for Iran to be treated as a regular state, “It has to change its behaviour and comport itself with international law.”

Source: Ruptly

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Israel’s ‘invincibility has crumbled’ – Iranian FM

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 06:05 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:00 A.M.) – Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that Israel's "invincibility" has "crumbled", as he lambasted a speech given earlier by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Munich Security Conference, Sunday.

Zarif talked in reference to the shooting down of an Israeli F-16 jet which had reportedly attacked an Iranian site in Syria. “What has happened in the past several days, has been that the so-called invincibility has crumbled."

"Israel uses aggression as a policy against its neighbours”, he said.

Zarif concluded with stern words of warning: "Iran’s interests are not secured, Iran will respond, will respond seriously, and I believe, it would be a response that people would be sorry for taking Iranian actions, they did not."

Source: Ruptly

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Pro-Syrian Army tribal forces join east Damascus battle

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 05:59 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:00 A.M.) – Syrian pro-government tribal forces are to join the Syrian Army’s upcoming offensive against militant groups in the East Ghouta region of Damascus.

Paramilitary fighters and heavy equipment from tribal units have already begun their journey towards the country’s capital amid the ongoing build-up of other Syrian Army and pro-government forces units in and around it.

According to reports, all of the tribal fighters are inbound from their local postings in the provinces of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa; they are to be led by a commander called Sheikh Turki.

Having served alongside the Syrian Army in its Raqqa and Deir Ezzor campaigns of 2017, the tribal units coming from both provinces are already well-acquainted with assisting spearhead formations such as Tiger Forces Division (which will be leading the East Ghouta operation).

According to Al-Masdar News journalist Ibrahim Joudeh, the tribal fighters are to be used as second echelon forces who will fortify and defend areas captured by breakthrough units of the Syrian Army.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

VIDEO: Syrian Army deploys Tochka ballistic missiles to east Damascus amid arrival of another huge armored convoy

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 05:24 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:25 A.M.) – The Syrian Army is deploying its Tochka ballistic missile systems to Damascus for use against armed rebel groups operating in the city’s East Ghouta region.

Visual confirmation of the Syrian Army’s transferal of such strategic weapons towards the country’s capital emerged just hours ago with the releasing of a video by Syrian troops showing the arrival of a second, massive armored convoy near Damascus.

The video also shows the convoy possessing at least one Smerch heavy rocket artillery unit.

Special weapon systems aside, the bulk of the second convoy is shown by the recently released footage to include T-55 battle tanks, BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles and cannon-armed trucks.

According to military-affiliated sources, the second convoy (now arrived in Damascus) has come from the province of Idlib. Whilst unique weapon systems like the Tochka and Smerch spotted in it belong to special purpose units, most of the armor and trucks belong to the Tiger Forces Division.


Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Two 17 year old Gazans killed in Israeli airstrikes

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 10:50 AM PST

As Israel struck sites throughout the Gaza Strip last night – in what the IDF called retaliation strikes for a roadside bomb which exploded on the border of Gaza injuring four Israeli soldiers – it managed to do damage to only civilians, killing two 17 year old boys.

Salem Mohammad Sabah and Ayman Abu Sheikha, were the names of both 17 year old Palestinians murdered last night by israeli aerial bombardments, in Eastern Rafah (South Gaza). Their bodies were pulled out of the rubble of destroyed civilian infrastructure.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced, that in response to the explosion of an IED on the Gaza border, the Israeli military should now focus on working to assassinate leading Hamas and Islamic Jihad members. It is still unconfirmed as to who planted the explosive, which injured solely soliders.

Gaza was hit with tank fire, airstrikes and intimidation tactics, such as the firing of flares over civilian neighborhoods were also used throughout the night. Sirens were also blaring in Israeli border settlements, no damage was reported and no rockets were confirmed to have landed or hit anything.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Turkish-backed rebels show off gains against Kurds in Afrin

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 09:39 AM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (07:40 PM) – The elite forces of the Syrian rebel organisation calling itself the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has released pictures of recent gains made against Kurdish forces in the north Syrian district of Afrin.

The Al-Hamza Group, an elite armed force within the FSA, captured the towns of Al-Darwisha, Hajikanali Fouqani and Hajikanali Tahtani in western Afrin on Sunday, after heavy clashes with forces of the mostly Kurdish force known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

During the offensive, the Turkish-backed militants killed at least five Kurdish fighters, as well as capturing one female YPG soldier alive. The captive is shown in the released pictures as well.

The FSA is a self-professed moderate rebel organisation, which in the past years had nearly vanished into irrelevance in the Syrian conflict. Following the Turkish offensive into Afrin however, the group has received significantly boosted support from Ankara.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Map of East Ghouta before upcoming Syrian offensive

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 09:29 AM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (7:30 PM) – Below image shows the curren status of the East Ghouta pocket under control of militant rebels, before the massive Syrian Arab Army offensive that is expected to kick off any time now.

Militant rebel forces, most of them from Salafist organisation Ahrar al-Sham, are still in control of the exclave east of the Syrian capital Damascus for the time being. However, reports have it that massive Syrian reinforcements have been arriving from Idlib and other parts of the country, including the elite special forces unit known as the Tiger Forces.

Early reports for the upcoming battle say that the Tiger Forces are massing near Nashabiyah town, in the far east axis of East Ghouta, preparing to storm the area very soon.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Video: Elite Tiger Forces send reinforcements to East Ghouta

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 08:14 AM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (06:15 PM) – Video footage from Syria has surfaced, showing large amounts of reinforcements being sent to the capital of Damascus in order to support the Syrian Arab Army’s operation against rebel militants in East Ghouta.

A large military convoy is shown in the video, traveling from Idlib province towards Ghouta. The reinforcements are part of the Tiger Forces, the elite special forces unit of the Syrian armed forces that specializes in offensive operations of supreme importance.


Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

VIDEO: Iraqi forces deploy guided-missile combat drones to eliminate ISIS remnants

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 07:26 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:25 P.M.) – The aviation arm of the Iraqi Army is now deploying Chinese-built, Predator-like advanced combat drones to hunt down the remnants of Islamic State forces across the country.

The combat drone, classified by its Chinese manufacturer as the CH-4B, is capable of operating at a height of 5,000 meters from where it can use laser-guided missiles and bombs loaded onto six hard-points near the wing-root.

Being equipped with advanced camera equipment, the drone can also serve in the reconnaissance role.

Given the limited reconnaissance-strike capability (i.e. the ability to constantly have warplanes in the air to track and attack targets as they are identified) of the Iraqi Air Force due to its size, the CH-4B of the Iraqi Army serves as a very helpful auxiliary fire support asset in direct assistance of troops on the ground and as a stand-off weapon.

Recently, media sources within the Iraqi Army released a brief video report showing its CH-4B’s in action against Islamic State targets across the country.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Confirmed: Syrian Army’s full order of battle for east Damascus offensive

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 06:44 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:45 P.M.) – Confirmed information on the Syrian Arab Army’s complete order of battle for its now-imminent offensive against armed rebel group in the East Ghouta region of Damascus has been attained by sources exclusive to Al-Masdar News.

The number of Syrian Army divisions and brigades – most of them veteran formations – involved in the new east Damascus offensive suggests a massive battle to come.

To this end, the Syrian Army formations assigned to the operation have been identified as follows:

  • Tiger Forces Division;
  • 14th Special Forces Division;
  • 1st Armored Division;
  • 4th Mechanized Division;
  • 9th Armored Division;
  • Republican Guard 104th Brigade;
  • Republican Guard 105th Brigade; and
  • Republican Guard 106th Brigade.

In the last hour, artillery units attached to the elite Tiger Forces Division commenced a massive bombardment of rebel positions and defense lines across East Ghouta.

This indicates that the Syrian Army is committing to its much-anticipated operation, having now started the preliminary phase of it.


Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Iranian FM fires back at Netanyahu over drone comment

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 06:15 AM PST

Iran’s foreign minister said that Israel is using aggression as a policy, responsible for mass reprisals against its neighbor's, daily incursions into Syria and Lebanon.

“Israel uses aggression as a policy against its neighbours,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Munich Security Confefence, accusing Israel of “mass reprisals against its neighbours and daily incursions into Syria, Lebanon.”

“The entire speech was trying to evade the issue,” Zarif said in reaction to Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the conference earlier. “What has happened in the past several days is the so-called invincibility (of Israel) has crumbled,” he said of the Feb. 10 downing of an Israeli jet.

Earlier, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran seeks to dominate the Middle East region, and seeks to dominate the world through aggression and terror.

According to Zarif, Israel is trying to “escape responsibility for its criminal policy and has been seeking scapegoats for many years.”

According to the Israeli military, on February 10, their helicopter downed an Iranian drone in its airspace. In response, the Israeli Air Force attacked Iranian facilities in Syria, destroying a UAV control point.

Following this, the Syrian air defense launched several anti-aircraft missiles against the Israeli F-16 fighter. The plane was destroyed and the pilots ejected, one of them was seriously wounded, the second was injured. Then Israeli planes attacked 12 positions in Syria, including eight Syrian airplanes and three anti-aircraft batteries.

After the incident on February 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and called on Tel Aviv “to avoid any steps that could lead to a new round of dangerous-for-all confrontation in the region.”

Source: Sputnik

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Houthi forces strike Saudi Army positions in the Jizan Region (video)

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 06:07 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:00 P.M.) – The Houthi forces targeted the Saudi Army’s positions in the Jizan Region near the northern border of Yemen this week, scoring several direct hits in the process.

According to the official media wing of the Houthi forces, their fighters heavily bombarded the Saudi Army’s positions with artillery shells around the town of Hamda.

As shown below, the Houthi forces struck the Saudi Army’s positions on a number of occasions this past weekend:

The Houthi forces have recently intensified their attacks in the Jizan Region in a bid to weaken the Saudi Army’s resolve near the Yemeni border.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Syrian Army Tiger Forces unleash massive artillery barrage across east Damascus

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 06:07 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:07 P.M.) – Just moments ago, the elite Tiger Forces Division of the Syrian Arab Army commenced the opening stage of its offensive against militant groups in eastern Damascus by launching a huge artillery barrage onto rebel defenses across various district towns.

The elite division is employing a vast array of artillery assets in its shelling of militant positions including medium and heavy howitzers, field guns, heavy mortars, Elephant rocket throwers and Grad rocket launchers.

According to military-affiliated sources, the artillery barrage is currently targeting designated rebel strong-points and defense lines in the district towns of Masraba, Ayn Tarma and Beit Sawa.

The scope of the artillery attack is expected to increase – in terms of intensity and the number areas of targeted – during the hours (possibly even days) to come.

When and where the actual ground assault by the Tiger Forces begins will take place is unknown and, until then, can only be guessed.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

BREAKING: Syrian Army to enter Afrin following deal with Kurdish militia

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 06:01 AM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (4:05 P.M) – The Syrian government has reached an agreement with Kurdish forces in northwest Syria to officially enter and defend the Afrin region, Kurdish media sources reported.

“SDF and the Syrian Army have reached an agreement whereby the government troops will enter Afrin tomorrow”, said Sheikho Bilo, an official from the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (PYDKS).

“The agreement has been concluded to protect borders and of purely military nature”, he added.

Turkey along with its proxy armed factions launched a military campaign dubbed “Olive Branch” aimed at ‘Securing and liberating Afrin region from the terrorist Kurdish militia”.

With little to gain in the ground, the Turkish military targeted, with airstrikes, the infrastructure as well as several archeological sites in the Kurdish-held region.

A few days ago, the Syrian government accused Turkey of using toxic substances against the civilians. Turkey, in return, denied the claims.

The newly-reached agreement will most likely put the Syrian and Turkish-backed militants in direct confrontation.


Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Prominent Syrian general vows to eradicate militants from Damacsus: video

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 05:47 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:40 P.M.) – The prominent commander of the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) Tiger Forces, Major General Suheil Al-Hassan, delivered a speech on Friday night after arriving in the eastern part of Damascus.

Major General Hassan told his soldiers on Friday night that they will eradicate all the militants currently active in the eastern part of Damascus.

The Tiger Forces commander was accompanied to east suburbs of Damascus by his bodyguards and Russian Special Forces; they could be seen in the video below:

While no date for this offensive has been officially announced, it is expected to commence in the coming days, as the Syrian Arab Army positions themselves for the attack.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Biggest threats to the Syrian Army in upcoming east Damascus offensive

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 05:45 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:45 P.M.) – Despite the sheer strength in firepower and numbers the Syrian Arab Army plans to hit East Ghouta-based militant groups with for its upcoming offensive, there exists a number of very real threats that have in the past brought other powerful government operations across the region to a virtual standstill.

The first among the these great threats is the use tunnel and building bombs by rebel groups. Observing the past, it can be seen that the well-timed detonation of a tunnel or building bomb by militants can wipe-out entire platoon of Syrian Army troops.

The second serious danger is anti-tank missiles. At the present time, it is unclear just how many anti-tank missiles rebels in East Ghouta have in their possession, particularly so after the last great army operation to capture Jobar and Ayn Tarma districts during July and August.

In any case, rebel groups like Faylaq al-Rahman and Jaysh al-Islam have elite tank hunter teams, each with multiple kills to their title who generally hit their mark every time.

Prepared kill-zones represent the third great threat. In districts like Jobar, Ayn Tarma and Zamalka, rebel fighters have had years to refine their defensive strong-points along key streets and crossroads. Using crack-shot snipers and heavy machine guns, militants have, in the past been able to pin-down and even kill entire squads and platoons of Syrian troops.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Video footage of Turkish-backed rebels capturing new town in southern Afrin

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 05:26 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:20 P.M.) – The Turkish-backed rebels seized a new town in the southern countryside of the Afrin region, following an intense battle with the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Led by Faylaq Al-Sham, the Turkish-backed rebels managed to take control of Al-Muhammadiyah after overrunning the YPG’s defenses at the Jandaris axis.

In addition to capturing Al-Muhammadiyah, the Turkish-backed rebels also established full control over the hilltops overlooking this small town in southern Afrin.

Below is the video of Faylaq Al-Sham capturing Al-Muhammadiyah this week:

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Netanyahu holds up Iranian drone shot down over Syria (video)

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 05:15 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:10 P.M.) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held aloft what he claimed was a fragment of an Iranian drone downed over Israel, at the Munich Security Conference, Sunday.

“Here’s a piece of that Iranian drone, or what’s left of it after we shot it down,” he said.

He added: “I brought it here so you can see it for yourself. Mr Zarif [Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif], do you recognise this? You should. It’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Iran: do not test Israel’s resolve.”

Source: Ruptly

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Turkey denies using chemical weapons in Afrin

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 05:00 AM PST

On Saturday, the Syrian SANA news agency reported citing doctors from Afrin that at least six people had been sent to a hospital after the Turkish troops allegedly used chemical weapons.

Reports about alleged chemical attack in Syria’s northern district of Afrin, where Ankara is carrying out its Operation Olive Branch against Kurdish militants, are nothing but groundless accusations, the Turkish Embassy in Moscow said in a statement obtained by Sputnik on Sunday.

“The claims that have been made by SANA, the mouthpiece of the Assad regime, and some terrorists pretending to be journalists are groundless accusations and part of black propaganda,” the statement read.

“Turkey has already denied these false statements. In addition, the coalition forces yesterday stated that there is no proof indicating the use of chemical weapons by the Turkish Armed Forces,” the Turkish Embassy explained.

Source: Sputnik

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Syrian Army deploys entire artillery division of howitzers, field guns, mortars and Grad rocket launchers for east Damascus battle

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 04:56 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:55 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army has deployed an entire artillery division worth of fire support assets in preparation for a major offensive operation against militant groups in the East Ghouta region of Damascus.

Among the vast array and great number of army fire support weapons that have arrived in Damascus (and continue to arrive) are medium and heavy howitzers (both self-propelled and towed), field guns, heavy mortars, Elephant rocket throwers and Grad rocket launchers.

Although all the artillery comes from different units of the Syrian Army, the sheer amount of it (which remains classified for now) and its concentration into a single operation is essential the equivalent of a Cold War-era Soviet artillery division used to support corps and army-level operations.

The deployment of such firepower is obvious – the Syrian Army intends to completely pulverize militant defenses, using sheer support fire as a breakthrough method in and of its own right.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Pictures: Turkish Army hurls another mechanized battalion at Kurdish forces in Afrin battle

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 04:16 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:15 P.M.) – The Turkish Army has deployed tens more infantry fighting vehicles to the frontlines in Syria’s Afrin region as part of a reinforcement package aimed at bolster its hitting power against Kurdish forces.

Yesterday, photos (shown below) emerged showing one of several new mechanized companies that the Turkish Army is deploying to Afrin in a bid to offer more fire support to troops and allied proxy fighters currently battling Kurdish forces throughout the region.

The mechanized reinforcements are ACV-15 infantry fighting vehicles.

In addition to severing as traditional battle-wagons for mechanized troops riding into battle, the semi-asymmetrical nature of the fighting in Afrin has also seen the armored vehicle be used as a standalone fire support weapon.

To this end, the 25-mm cannon on the ACV-15 offers exceptional hitting power against soft-targets and earth-based positions.

Although the Turkish Army reinforcements are being deployed at battalion-level strength, they will likely be dispersed into separate infantry units when they finally enter combat.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Pictures: Kurdish forces lose 2 European fighters amid ongoing battle with Turkish Army in Syria’s Afrin

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 03:40 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:40 P.M.) – The media wing of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has announced the death of two European volunteer fighters – one from Spain and the other from France – from within its ranks amid ongoing battles with Turkey-led forces across Syria’s Afrin region.

The pro-YPG European volunteer fighters have been identified as Kendal Breizh from France and Baran Galicia from Spain.

The exact times at which the foreign volunteers died is unclear, however, other sources reporting on the YPG announcement say both Kendal Breizh and Baran Galicia died within the last week.

Furthermore, it is officially unknown how either were killed; nonetheless, it is thought that Turkish airstrikes were the cause of their death.

The Turkish Army and Syrian proxy forces loyal to Ankara launched an operation against Syrian Kurdish paramilitary groups in Afrin just shy of one month ago now. Since then pro-Ankara forces have made modest gains in the region but still have yet to achieve a major breakthrough.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

China’s step into the maelstrom of the Middle East

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 02:56 AM PST

The Middle East has a knack for sucking external powers into its conflicts. China's ventures into the region have shown how difficult it is to maintain its principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

China's abandonment of non-interference is manifested by its (largely ineffective) efforts to mediate conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan as well as between Israel and Palestine and even between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is even more evident in China's trashing of its vow not to establish foreign military bases, which became apparent when it established a naval base in Djibouti and when reports surfaced that it intends to use Pakistan's deep sea port of Gwadar as a military facility.

This contradiction between China's policy on the ground and its long-standing non-interventionist foreign policy principles means that Beijing often struggles to meet the expectations of Middle Eastern states. It also means that China risks tying itself up in political knots in countries such as Pakistan, which is home to the crown jewel of its Belt and Road Initiative — the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Middle Eastern autocrats have tried to embrace the Chinese model of economic liberalism coupled with tight political control. They see China's declared principle of non-interference in the affairs of others for what it is: support for authoritarian rule. The principle of this policy is in effect the same as the decades-old US policy of opting for stability over democracy in the Middle East.

It is now a risky policy for the United States and China to engage in given the region's post-Arab Spring history with brutal and often violent transitions. If anything, instead of having been 'stabilised' by US and Chinese policies, the region is still at the beginning of a transition process that could take up to a quarter of a century to resolve. There is no guarantee that autocrats will emerge as the winners.

China currently appears to have the upper hand against the United States for influence across the greater Middle East, but Chinese policies threaten to make that advantage short-term at best.

Belt and Road Initiative-related projects funded by China have proven to be a double-edged sword. Concerns are mounting in countries like Pakistan that massive Chinese investment could prove to be a debt trap similar to Sri Lanka's experience.

Chinese back-peddling on several Pakistani infrastructure projects suggests that China is tweaking its approach to the US$50 billion China–Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Chinese rethink was sparked by political volatility caused by Pakistan's self-serving politics and continued political violence — particularly in the Balochistan province, which is at the heart of CPEC.

China decided to redevelop its criteria for the funding of CPEC's infrastructure projects in November 2017. This move seemingly amounted to an effort to enhance the Pakistani military's stake in the country's economy at a time when they were flexing their muscles in response to political volatility. The decision suggests that China is not averse to shaping the political environment of key countries in its own authoritarian mould.

Similarly, China has been willing to manipulate Pakistan against its adversaries for its own gain. China continues to shield Masoud Azhar (who is believed to have close ties to Pakistani intelligence agencies and military forces) from UN designation as a global terrorist. China does so while Pakistan cracks down on militants in response to a US suspension of aid and a UN Security Council monitoring visit.

Pakistan's use of militants in its dispute with India over Kashmir serves China's interest in keeping India off balance — a goal which Beijing sees as worthy despite the fact that Chinese personnel and assets have been the targets of a low-level insurgency in Balochistan. Saudi Arabia is also considering the use of Balochistan as a launching pad to destabilise Iran. By stirring ethnic unrest in Iran, Saudi Arabia will inevitably suck China into the Saudi–Iranian rivalry and sharpen its competition with the United States. Washington backs the Indian-supported port of Chabahar in Iran — a mere 70 kilometres from Gwadar.

China is discovering that it will prove impossible to avoid the pitfalls of the greater Middle East. This is despite the fact that US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman seem singularly focussed on countering Iran and Islamic militants.

As it navigates the region's numerous landmines, China is likely to find itself at odds with both the United States and Saudi Arabia. It will at least have a common interest in pursuing political stability at the expense of political change — however much this may violate its stated commitment to non-interference.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

ISIS pocket in Homs-Deir Ezzor desert becomes major problem for the Syrian Army amid endless ambushes, raids

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 01:24 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:20 A.M.) – A vast area of desert countryside held by Islamic State forces in the provinces of Homs and Deir Ezzor is now becoming a major problem for the Syrian Army and allied paramilitaries despite the fact that they have, technically, cordoned-off the area.

For months now, Syrian pro-government forces have upheld a blockade of ISIS-controlled desert countryside – several thousand square kilometers in size – that stretches throughout eastern Homs and western Deir Ezzor.

Yet despite this, terrorists with the pocket continue to conduct raids and ambush attacks from all directions (from As-Sukhnah, to Humaymah and Abu Kamal) against the Syrian Army and allied paramilitaries – often so with deadly results.

The latest attack by ISIS from the region resulted in the death of a Syrian Army general who was the chief of intelligence for the Deir Ezzor region.

All initial reports by military-affiliated sources, opposition sources and Syrian conflict observer sources made several months ago placed ISIS manpower in the blockaded desert region at about two hundred fighters with a handful of technicals.

Now it has become apparent that the ISIS force holding out in the region is much larger – perhaps closer to one thousand fighters with 100 or so armed pickups who hide in tunnels, caves and canyons (something the terrorist group is quite adept at).

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز