- Pictures: Turkistani jihadists deploy sledgehammer cannons against Syrian Army in east Idlib
- Breaking: 100+ Syrian troops killed by US ‘defensive’ airstrikes in Deir Ezzor – Reports
- VIDEO: Syrian warplanes unleash dozens of airstrikes on militant positions across east Idlib
- VIDEO: Syrian Army seizes over 80% of ISIS-held northwest Syria leaving terrorist vehicles scattered across countryside
- Breaking: US warplanes conduct ‘defensive’ bombing of Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor
- Syrian Army liberates 80 percent of ISIL’s pocket in northeast Hama – map
- Israel has begun constructing controversial wall along Lebanese border
- Russian Air Force unleashes powerful assault over Idlib
- Syrian Army retakes town after beating back Islamist offensive in east Idlib
- 18 year old Palestinian executed this morning in al-Khalil
- New videos show purported attack on Su-25: Sputnik
- Syrian Army foils jihadist Abu Dhuhour offensive in rural Idlib
- Saudi Arabia denies allowing Israel access to their airspace
- Kurdish YPG destroy another Turkish tank in Afrin (video)
- VIDEO: Coalition warplanes carpet bomb ISIS forces in Iraq
- Iranian FM Zarif welcomes Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu to Tehran (video)
- Breaking: Militants open up second front against Syrian Army in Idlib, attack towards strategic town
- Russia’s top diplomat believes US has plans to divide Syria
- Rebel offensive in east Idlib reveals new strategy and tactics used by militant forces
- Video: Syrian Air Force responds to rebel rocket attack on Damascus
- Turkey has no plans to restore ties with Syrian government
- Breaking: Turkey-led forces snatch 3 towns and mountain in Syria’s Afrin after Kurdish forces abandon counter-attack
- Nusra Front became tool of sides unhappy with Russia liberating Syria – MoD
- Breaking: Elite Syrian forces inches from splitting ISIS pocket in half after new big push across northwest Syria
- Syrian military showcases downed Israeli missiles in rural Damascus (photos)
- Russian Air Force switches to their advanced jets after jihadist MANPAD attack
- All military activity in Syria must have consent of gov’t – Iranian Ambassador
- Breaking: Russian Navy fires several cruise missiles into Idlib province
- Jihadist rebels launch major counter-offensive to retake lost territory in Idlib
- [Graphic 18+] Saudi Coalition suffers heavy losses after seizing strategic Yemeni city
- Slain Russian pilot’s wingman: ‘when MANPAD took out his jet, all bets were off’
- Intense clashes breakout in east Damascus as Syrian Army troops attempt to advance at Harasta
- Latest battle update from northeastern Hama – map
- Turkey claims nearly 1,000 YPG, ISIS fighters ‘neutralized’ in Afrin
- ISIL’s defenses fall apart in northeast Hama as Syrian Army troops liberate dozens of areas
- France claims Turkey, Iran violating international law in Syria
- Iraqi military announces operation to clear mountains near Kirkuk oil region
- Turkish troops arrive at strategic city inside Idlib
- France demands Hezbollah withdraw from Syria
- Breaking: Syrian Army overpowers ISIS in northeast Hama to liberate several areas
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 11:14 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:15 A.M.) – An Al-Qaeda affiliate militia made up of Uyghur colonists from west China has attacked forces of the Syrian Arab Army in the province of Idlib with the biggest guns available to its arsenal.
Amid a staggering but nonetheless ongoing offensive against the Syrian Army and allied paramilitaries in the southeastern countryside of Idlib province by militant groups, the Turkistan Islamic Party Al-Qaeda affiliate faction has brought several truck-mobile artillery pieces to bear against government defenses.
The self-propelled guns used by the Turkistani jihadist group have a caliber of 130-mm or greater, putting them into the category of ‘heavy.’
These heavy-hitting guns which used by the Turkistan Islamic Party and other militant groups are generally held in reserve and only deployed for the purposes supporting major rebel operations.
Whilst the three-day militant assault has produced virtually no gains on the ground, rebel shelling of Syrian Army positions has nonetheless been rather intense, as described by reports.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 09:42 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:42 A.M.) – Some one hundred or more troops of the Syrian Arab Army and allied paramilitary forces have been killed as a result of retaliatory airstrikes carried out by US-led coalition warplanes in the country’s east according to media sources claiming to cite American military officials.
US military officials speaking to Reuters have stated that ‘defensive’ retaliation strikes carried out by US-led coalition airpower has killed 100 Syrian pro-government troops in the province of Deir Ezzor.
The US military is claiming that so-called anti-ISIS coalition forces repelled a threatening Syrian Army-led attack consisting of five hundred troops – backed by artillery and tanks – during the night of Wednesday to Thursday against positions of Arab and Kurdish partner militias at oilfields near the town of Khasham on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River.
Apparently no American troops were killed in the engagement.
At the present time, the Syrian Army is yet to release a statement on the engagement.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 08:51 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:50 A.M.) – Over the last three days, the Syrian Arab Army and allied paramilitary factions based in the eastern countryside of Idlib province have been repelling a general counter-offensive by militant forces.
The purpose and goals of the rebel counter-blow has been vague and most of the gains made by militant groups have now been reversed by Syrian pro-government forces with the aid of heavy artillery and air support.
Whilst some sources report that the Russian Aerospace Forces have virtually ceased operations over Idlib, in reality this could not be further from the truth with Russian warplanes and cruise missile targeting militant movements and gatherings throughout central areas of the province.
Whilst Russian airpower has been busy with strategic and interdiction sorties, Syrian warplanes have been carrying out tactical strikes against targets in Idlib – namely militant positions close to government lines.
On Wednesday alone, Syrian jets delivered more than thirty airstrikes again rebel positions in eastern Idlib.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 07:31 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:30 A.M.) – In 100 hours of combat operations against ISIS throughout Syria’s northwest, the Syrian Arab Army and allied paramilitary forces have seized over eighty percent of the territory that the terrorist group once held to its name.
Some of the most elite Syrian Army and pro-government militias are involved in the anti-ISIS operation across northwest Syria; whilst the Tiger Forces Division stands out the most in this regard, units of the Republican Guard, Qalamoun Shield Forces and Military Intelligence Shield Detachment are also present in the battle.
It has become apparent that Islamic State militants where simply unable to mount an effective defense of their territories throughout northwest Syria due to the sheer amount of airstrikes and shelling they came under (and are still coming under) as well as the number of directions they were attacked from by pro-government forces.
Recently, Hezbollah-linked media has released a video showing off some of the towns and villages recently captured by the Syrian Army as well as the charred and broken remains of vehicles used by ISIS.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 06:48 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:48 A.M.) – US-led coalition warplanes have conducted ‘defensive’ airstrikes against Syrian pro-government forces in the east Syrian province of Deir Ezzor according to official American military sources.
According to an official statement released by the Pentagon, US-led coalition airpower has conducted several ‘defensive’ strikes against Syrian pro-government forces in the province of Deir Ezzor after they launched ‘unprovoked’ attacks against allied Arab and Kurdish paramilitaries and foreign ‘advisors’ towards a ‘well-established headquarters.’
Other (early) sources say – in more detail – that the Syrian pro-government forces made a sudden move on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River, shelling US-backed forces positions at the towns of Khasham (which is meant to be under Syrian Army control) and Jadedat Akedat as well as the surroundings of the Koniko gas field.
The same sources go on to state that in retaliation, US-led forces bombed and shelled Syrian troops at the the towns of Al-Salhiyah and Hatleh with aircraft and rocket artillery.
No losses on the part of the Syrian Army and other pro-government forces has yet been reported.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 02:27 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:15 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) liberated a large portion of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) northeastern Hama pocket, today, after a short battle near the Idlib axis.
According to a military report from the Hama Governorate, the Syrian Arab Army and their allies managed to take hold of more than 30 localities inside the Islamic State pocket, forcing the latter to retreat to an area that is approximately 375 square kilometers.
Video footage of the 30+ localities that were liberated by the Syrian Army was released by Hezbollah’s official media tonight – please see below:
The Syrian Army is expected to liberate the towns under the Islamic State in the next 72 hours, as they look to secure the Hama-Idlib axis for the first time in years.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 02:11 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:55 P.M.) – Israel has begun constructing their controversial wall along the Lebanese border, the Lebanese Interior Ministry reported on Wednesday.
UNIFIL Official Spokesperson, Andrea Tenenti, statedthat the Israeli side has already begun to carry out works south of the Blue Line.
“We are in contact with the parties on both sides of the border to resolve this issue and prevent any tension or escalation,” Tenenti said.
“Any work that is conducted along the Blue Line should be predictable and also coordinated with UNIFIL in order to prevent misunderstanding and decrease tension,” he told The Associated Press in an interview at the UNIFIL base in Naqoura.
Lebanese and Israeli military officials had on Monday attended regular U.N.-sponsored talks on the border. Tenenti said both parties demonstrated their commitment to preserve stability.
Sources: NNA, AP
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 01:45 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:30 P.M.) – The Russian Aerospace Forces unleashed a barrage of airstrikes over the Idlib Governorate, tonight, targeting several towns under the control of the jihadist rebels.
According to a military report from Damascus, the Russian Aerospace Forces launched more than 10 airstrikes over central Idlib, striking the Islamist rebels of the Free Idlib Army and Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham inside the key town of Ma’arat Al-Nu’man.
The report added that the Russian Aerospace Forces destroyed an HTS ammo depot and two of the Free Idlib Army’s headquarters in Ma’arat Al-Nu’man.
As a result of the Russian airstrikes on the Free Idlib Army bases, one of the rebel group’s commanders named “Abu Najib” was killed alongside nine of his fighters.
Below is footage that was released by pro-opposition activists, tonight; this video shows the destruction of one of the Free Idlib Army’s bases:
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 11:50 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:35 P.M.) – The Islamist rebels launched a second offensive in the Idlib Governorate, Wednesday, striking the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) positions near the strategic town of Sinjar.
Led by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, the Islamist rebels managed to advance at the start of the offensive, capturing the town of Ajjaz after a short battle with the Syrian Arab Army.
However, the Islamist advance would be short-lived, as the Syrian Arab Army was able to beat back the attackers near the town of Sinjar.
According to a military source in Hama, the Syrian Army was able to retake Ajjaz, tonight, while also pushing the Islamist rebels further north in order to secure this front.
The Syrian Arab Army has now foiled all Islamist attacks in the Idlib Governorate after several hours of fighting.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 11:37 AM PST
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (9:32 P.M)- Eighteen year old, Hamza Yusuf Zamarah, was executed by Israeli occupation forces this morning in al-Khalil (Hebron).
The IDF announced that it was justified in its actions, claiming that Hamza stabbed an illegal Israeli settler near the settlement of Ariel – located in a different area of the West Bank – and that this was a revenge attack carried out by the Israeli army.
Israeli occupation forces had for approximately 12 hours, carried out raids in Nablus the previous day, claiming that it was also searching for the ‘Ariel’ settlement attacker. The raids resulted in clashes in which Israeli forces murdered another Palestinian teen along with injuring at least 110 (according to the Palestinian Red-Cresent).
Nablus is to the North of the Ariel settlement, al-Khalil is to the South and no evidence has been presented by the Israeli military to confirm that either of the teens they executed were linked in any way to the stabbing.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 10:56 AM PST
Two new videos have surfaced online, one allegedly showing jihadist militants firing on what is thought to be the Russian Su-25 strike fighter that was downed over Syria on February 3. The other shows an interview with the militant who claims to have shot the plane down. The Russian MoD has yet to comment on the authenticity of either clip.
The two clips were released by Directorate 4, a Telegram channel monitoring terrorist activities which had earlier released footage of what appeared to be the downed Russian pilot’s fight with the jihadists shortly after ejecting from his doomed aircraft.
The first video shows militants firing on the Russian plane from a pickup-mounted heavy machinegun, as well as the purported moment when the Su-25 appeared to have been struck by what the Russian military has said was a shoulder-carried SAM missile. The jihadists can then be heard yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ in the background.
The second video shows an interview with Mahmoud Haj Ismail, a fighter from the Jaysh Idlib Hur militant group, for Northern Syria Observer, which positions itself as a collection of independent Syrian journalists.
In the interview, the jihadist claims that his group shot down the Russian plane, and not with a MANPAD, but using their Zu-23-2 anti-aircraft twin-barreled autocannon. The militant goes on to claim that this was the fifth aircraft destroyed by the group, including one helicopter, two unspecified warplanes and an Ilyushin (an aircraft brand which has not actually suffered any losses in the Syrian campaign).
The Russian Ministry of Defense has yet to comment on the authenticity of either clip.
Earlier, Directorate 4 released video of a group of jihadists rushing toward Major Roman Filipov, the pilot of the fated Su-25, as he fired at them before activating a grenade and blowing himself up to avoid being captured.
In that video, Filipov can be heard yelling “This is for our guys!” before pulling the pin on a grenade, after which the jihadists can be seen running for cover, followed by an explosion.
On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that Filipov, who has been posthumously conferred the title of Hero of Russia, had blown himself up after being surrounded by terrorists.
On Wednesday, Krasnaya Zvezda, the official newspaper of the Russian Defense Ministry, provided new details on Filipov’s wingman’s desperate efforts to protect his commander, covering him from the ground until his own plane was close to running out of fuel.
Tahrir al-Sham, a militant group linked to the Nusra Front, the Syrian offshoot of al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s shoot down. Russian air power has responded to the attack with a precision strike on the area where the MANPAD missile was thought to be launched, eliminating over 30 militants.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 10:36 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:05 P.M.) – The jihadist rebels launched a major counter-offensive in the Idlib Governorate, today, targeting the territory they recently lost to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) at the Abu Dhuhour front.
Led by Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham and the Turkestan Islamic Party, the jihadist rebels began today's attack by sending a suicide bomber towards the Syrian Arab Army's (SAA) positions inside the small town of Tal Kalba.
However, the jihadist offensive at the Abu Dhuhour front would be short-lived, as the Syrian Arab Army was able to beat back the Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham offensive by the late afternoon hours on Wednesday.
Much of the Syrian Army’s defensive success, today, was due in large part to the Russian Navy’s powerful cruise missile strikes that battered the enemy forces near Abu Dhuhour city.
These cruise missile strikes helped weaken the jihadist attack and ultimately force them to retreat back towards Tal Sultan.
The Syrian Army was then able to reestablish security around Tal Kalba by increasing the size of their forces at this imperative front in rural Idlib.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 09:48 AM PST
According to Reuters, a spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation denied the report, saying the agency had not given Air India approval to operate direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv.
If finally confirmed, a newly projected air route to Tel Aviv will be historic in every possible way: it’ll cost passengers less money and time, but, most importantly, it will potentially signify a new era in Saudi-Israeli ties.
The move would essentially mean that the flight duration would be reduced by two and a half hours compared to the current route, which would cut fuel costs and make tickets more affordable.
The only currently operating rival to Air India is Israeli El Al, which flies an 8-hour route to Mumbai via southern Yemen. As New Dehli is regarded as a new promising destination and has no direct routes to Israel, the airline will be getting a 750,000 euro grant for launching a new route.
Earlier, the airline sought Israel Airports Authority's approval for flights to and from Israel, but the question had not been seriously tabled until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India last month.
The potential move is seen as a nod to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s influence in the region, who is due to arrive in the contested West Bank on February 10. Last year, he became the first Indian premier to go to Israel on an official visit.
Most importantly, however, Air India’s New Delhi-Tel Aviv route will be the first public signal of the warming relationship between Tel Aviv and Riyadh. Though there were reports earlier on their undercover cooperation on security issues, no tangible evidence has ever surfaced, Haaretz wrote.
For seventy years now, Saudi airspace has been closed not only to Israeli aircraft, but to those of other nations en route to Israel, except for privately owned jets which were to make a stop-over in Amman airport first. The recent decades have seen only two direct flights to Israel, that we know of, which have traversed the Saudi airspace, and this was the United States Air Force One carrying President George W. Bush and a subsequent flight with Donald Trump aboard.
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab states to date that have official diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv and host Israeli missions on their territory.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 09:08 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:55 P.M.) – The Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) destroyed another Turkish tank in the Afrin region, while repelling a major assault from the Euphrates Shield forces in the Rajo District, the group’s official media wing tweeted on Wednesday.
As seen below, a YPG fighter scored a direct hit on the Turkish tank after launching an anti-tank guided missile in the Rajo District.
The YPG has now destroyed at least two Turkish tanks over the ten days in the Afrin region.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 08:22 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:20 P.M.) – Declassified footage from the targeting cameras of US-led coalition warplanes operating over Iraq during 2017 has been publicly released. The footage shows anti-ISIS coalition aircraft conducting attacks against the terrorist group’s positions and underground bases in the north of the country.
The airstrikes by US-coalition airpower were in support of Iraq forces on the ground who themselves conducted a major and ultimately successful offensive against Islamic State militants throughout the Hawija region over the course of September-October 2017.
Coalition warplanes were particularly fixated on hitting ISIS positions and underground bases throughout the Hamrin Mountains at the time of the Iraqi operation across Hawija.
To this end, the footage available at the end of this article shows anti-ISIS coalition warplanes (mostly likely American) carrying out a heavy carpet bombing of terrorist positions and underground bases throughout the Hamrin range.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 07:51 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:40 P.M.) – Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu arrived in Tehran on Wednesday and was welcomed by his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Cavusoglu is scheduled to discuss some of the more pressing regional, global, and bilateral issues with Zarif during his one-day visit to Iran.
The visit came amid the ongoing Turkish military operation in Afrin, northern Syria, which started on January 20.
At a press conference a day earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned Turkey's operation in Afrin, calling on Ankara to put an end to Olive Branch with immediate effect.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 07:34 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:33 P.M.) – Militant groups have opened up a new front against the Syrian Arab Army and allied paramilitaries in the southeastern countryside of Idlib province, attacking towards a strategic town that commands rail communications throughout the country’s northwest.
Free Syrian Army rebel factions and the Muslim brotherhood affiliate militia Ahrar al-Sham have initiated a second offensive axis and a pro-government forces in southeast Idlib near the town of Sinjar.
Furthermore, it appears that Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate group Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) is also involved in the new assault.
The assault was kicked-off in the last hour with heavy shelling of Syrian Army positions by rebel artillery – the bombardment is still ongoing.
So far, rebels claim to have taken the town of Ajjaz, however, no visual confirmation has been presented by opposition media and Al-Masdar News cannot currently verify the claim either.
Sinjar was captured by the Syrian Army in January of this year. The town is important insofar as it commands rail traffic throughout northwest Syria between the cities of Aleppo and Hama.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 07:30 AM PST
The United States has plans to divide Syria, Russia will discuss the issue with its American counterparts, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a master class session for the finalists of the Leaders of Russia contest on Wednesday.
“Looks like in Syria, the Americans have embarked on the course aimed at dividing the country,” the minister said. “Plans for the actual partition of Syria do exist, and we are aware of that. We will ask our American counterparts how they see all that.”
According to Russia's top diplomat, the US gave up the assurances that the only purpose of its presence in Syria without an invitation from the legitimate government is to defeat the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia).
“Now they say that this presence will continue until they are convinced that a stable political settlement process, which will lead to a change of regime (of President Bashar al-Assad), has begun in Syria,” he pointed out.
“The fact that the United States is cozying up to various groups of Syrian society, which are countering the government, including with weapons in their hands, leads to very dangerous results,” Lavrov stressed.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 07:03 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:00 P.M.) – A slow and sporadic but nonetheless ongoing offensive against the Syrian Arab Army in the eastern countryside of Idlib province by militant groups has revealed a new set of tactics being employed by rebels, overall producing mixed results.
Over the last three days, armed rebel groups – led by hard-line Islamist factions – have been conducting a general counter-offensive against the Syrian Army in eastern Idlib.
First thing worth mentioning is that the current assault is different from almost every other rebel offensive of the last three or four years in that that there are no specific objectives (i.e. to retake a specific area, base or settlement) – the idea behind the current operation is to just retake whatever villages can be taken and to determine what can be reclaimed by attacking it several times over.
The town of Tal Sultan (now confirmed to be under rebel control) was captured by militants after three separate assaults during which time they withdrew twice without the Syrian Army even counter-attacking.
Further evidence of this is that there was no major build up of militant forces for the offensive (compared to the Aleppo and Hama rebel offensives of 2016-2017); available units in the area simply started carrying out attacks immediately – at first receiving a bloody nose due to vicious Russian airstrikes – and since then new fighters and equipment have trickled towards the target sector.
One major problem is that this strategy only works for the retaking of frontier towns; as militant groups begin to penetrate government lines in slightly greater depth, the forward-back-forward hopping approach becomes infeasible and towns intended for capture need to be fortified as soon as being entered into.
Another thing that has become apparent is the more economic and drawn-out use of car bomb (or VBIED) attacks by Al-Qaeda affiliate militias, namely Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra).
Where as before Islamist militias would employ a mass attack of several VBIEDs on a single point of the front all at once to kick-off a major offensive, now one car bomb attack is being regulated per attack wave.
Finally, it appears that militant shock assault units have been reduced in size – this may be due to a reduction in available heavy equipment.
In the past, a standard rebel inghamasis (infiltration) unit comprised one battle tank, one BMP and about 10 fighters; picture evidence now suggests that this has been reduced to a single BMP (with battle tanks held back for fire support only) and 5 fighters.
Overall, the offensive of the last three days has witnessed militant groups seize just one town from the Syrian Army in east Idlib (this being Tal Sultan). Other claims for the capture of another four villages further south appear to be completely false as no picture or video evidence has been provided whilst, at the same time, military-affiliated sources deny having lost the settlements.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 07:02 AM PST
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (5:05 P.M.) – At least 30 airstrikes were conducted today by the Syrian Air Force against jihadi positions in the Eastern Ghouta region in response to days-long attack launched by Islamist rebels on the Syrian capital.
Pro-rebel activists reported the airstrikes on Arbin town , underlying the substantial damage inflicted upon the facilities used by jihadi fighters.
The heavy aerial bombardment comes in retaliation to a surge of deadly rocket attacks fired by anti-government fighters against the Syrian capital, which had killed and injured dozens of civilians.
The airstrikes would also propel the government troops on the ground to reclaim several points and positions lost earlier to jihadi rebels of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham groups.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 06:37 AM PST
The issue of restoring contacts and ties between Syria and Turkey is not on Ankara’s agenda and such proposals are unrealistic, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednesday.
“We have no relations with the [Syrian] regime and there is no talk about contacts with it. Kilicdaroglu’s proposal does not look realistic within the framework of the political transition in Syria. We do not have this issue on our agenda,” Kalin told reporters.
The Turkish official added that the Syrian government was responsible for the truce breach in the de-escalation zone in Syria’s Idlib province.
On Sunday, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the largest Turkish opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), called on the Turkish authorities to restore contacts with the Syrian government to ensure the stabilization of the situation in the region amid Ankara’s ongoing military operation in northern Syria.
Turkey’s offensive in Syrian enclave of Afrin is aimed against Kurdish militias from People’s Protection Units (YPG), which are regarded as terrorists by Ankara, and elicited strong condemnation from Damascus as it was considered as an assault on Syria’s sovereignty.
Turkey and Syria severed diplomatic ties in 2012, soon after the beginning of the civil war and escalation of violence in Syria.
The government troops are fighting against opposition and terrorist movements, whereas Turkish troops in cooperation with opposition groups loyal to Ankara have also participated in a number of military operations in Syria, mostly against Kurdish militants, such as the ongoing Olive Branch operation in Afrin and the Euphrates Shield operation from August 2016 to March 2017.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 06:13 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:13 P.M.) – The Turkish Army and allied Free Syrian Army-linked militias have scored a worthy advance against Kurdish forces in Syria’s Afrin region after a two-day back and forth battle for a key mountain and its nearby villages.
According to rebel sources, Free Syrian Army fighters – backed up by fire support and armor from Turkish forces – have seized the mountainous area of Sheikh Kharuz and the villages of Kharuz Fouqani, Kharuz Wastani and Kharuz Tahtani which surround it in northern Afrin.
The advance was made after a 48-hour swinging battle for the area during which time pro-Ankara forces endured inconveniently high losses in manpower and equipment and even claimed a fake chemical attack by Kurdish artillery on their positions (typical of Free Syrian Army factions when important battles do not go as expected).
On Tuesday, Kurdish forces launched a counter-attack to completely push pro-Turkey militias off the mountain, not only succeeding in doing this but also killing about a dozen Islamist fighters and capturing two armored vehicles in the process.
However, the last several hours has nonetheless witnessed Kurdish fighters pull-back from their positions on Sheikh Kharuz and hand over control of it and its nearby settlements to Turkey-led forces.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 05:26 AM PST
The Syrian militants from Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham, also known as the Nusra Front, are attempting to derail the peace process in Syria’s de-escalation zones by squeezing the moderate opposition from there, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
The Nusra Front militants remain the major source of instability not only in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone but in the entire country, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday.
Konashenkov explained that the Nusra militants are receiving the arms supplies from the third parties and are trying to derail “the peace process in the de-escalation zones, ousting the moderate opposition from there.”
“This confirms our fears that the terrorists of Al-Qaeda’s offshoot have become an obedient tool in the hands of one or a number of technologically advanced countries that are dissatisfied with Russia’s key role in liberation of Syria from Daesh,” — Konashenkov stressed, recalling Nusra’s latest actions in Syria, including the attack on Russian airbases in Tartus and Hmeimim that was launched by the Nusra militants with the use of the sophisticated armed umanned aerial vehicles.
Commenting further on the situation in the de-escalation zones, the Russian defense representative has expressed concern with Nusra Front Militants obtaining Man-Portable Air Defense (MANPAD) systems that may be used “not only in Syria and not only against warplanes.” The Russian Defense Ministry is working to establish the channels through which the arms were supplied to the terrorists.
This comes after it was reported that MANPAD was used to down Russian Su-25SM that was on patrol over the Idlib de-escalation zone. Pilot Roman Filipov ejected before the plane crashed and later engaged in a fight with militants on the ground. He eventually blew himself up with a grenade in order not to be captured by terrorists.
The body of Filipov has been transfreed to Russia. He is expected to be buried in his hometown of Voronezh on February 8.
Russian Armed Forces Units Remaining in Syria Self-Sufficient
The Russian Armed Forces’ contingent remaining in Syria is self-sufficient, the Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday.
“At the moment, the main tasks of the Russian Armed Forces stationed in Syria are monitoring the ceasefire regime in de-escalation zones and assisting the Syrian people in establishing a peaceful life. There is a self-sufficient contingent of the Russian Armed Forces in the Syrian Arab Republic for these purposes," the ministry's statement read.
The de-escalation zones have been established in Syria as part of the Astana peace process, a series of talks to launch peace process in the war-ravaged country. Russia, Iran and Turkey have brokered the ceasefire in Syria as well as the establishment of fighting-free areas in the country that cover four areas, including the Idlib province and three other zones.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 05:18 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:18 P.M.) – Elite forces of the Syrian Arab Army are on the verge of splitting an already shrinking ISIS pocket in the country’s northwest after another big push against the terrorist group during recent hours.
Moments ago, military-affiliated sources reported that assault units of the Syrian Arab Army’s elite Tiger Forces Division drove Islamist State militants from six towns and villages amid an ongoing offensive sweep across northwest Syria kicked-off in earnest on Monday.
The new settlements to be captured by Syrian troops have been identified as Al-Andren, Bayoud, Thaniyat as-Sorana, Um Jarn, Um Habes and Raboo.
By this advance, the Syrian Army is now just three or four towns away from decisively spitting ISIS-held territory in northwest Syria in half, this just being the first step of a greater plan to divide the pocket many times over as Al-Masdar News revealed as part of an exclusive report on Tuesday.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 05:14 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:05 P.M.) – The Syrian military released several photos on Wednesday showcasing the debris from the downed Israeli missiles that were targeting the Jamraya area of rural Damascus.
According to a Syrian military source, the debris from the Israeli missiles is believed to be from a standoff air-launched cruise missile.
Using Lebanese airspace, an Israeli jet is believed to have fired these cruise missiles towards the Jamraya research center, which is located near the Iranian base in rural Damascus.
No casualties were reported by the Syrian military.
This attack by the Israeli military comes just three months after they targeted the same area in the Rif Dimashq Governorate.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 04:44 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:35 P.M.) – Five days after the downing of the Su-25 aircraft by jihadist rebels in Idlib, the Russian Aerospace Forces have switched to using their advanced Su-30 and Su-35 jets in Syria, a military source told Al-Masdar this afternoon.
According to the military source, due to the small number of Su-30 and Su-35 jets in Syria at the moment, the Russian Aerospace Forces have temporarily halted air operations above some parts of the Idlib Governorate.
The purpose of switching to the Su-30 and Su-35 jets is due to their ability to launch airstrikes from high altitudes, putting them out of range from the jihadist anti-aircraft missiles (MANPAD) in the Idlib and Hama governorates.
Most of the Su-30 and Su-35 jets were withdrawn from Syria after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the Hmaymim Military Airport in December; however, they are preparing to bring them back after the downing of the Su-25.
Below is a video from the pro-opposition STEP News Agency that shows the Su-30 in action in Idlib:
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 04:26 AM PST
Any military actions in Syria should be agreed with the country's government, Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei told Sputnik in an interview.
“As regards Afrin, the Islamic Republic of Iran, in accordance with the UN Charter and international law, advocates for the preservation of the territorial integrity of Syria and believes that any military action and military presence in Syria should be agreed with the government of the Syrian Arab Republic,” the ambassador said, commenting on Turkey's operation in Syria's Afrin.
On January 20, the Turkish Armed Forces launched Operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish forces in Afrin, an area controlled by the US-backed 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. The operation has been conducted jointly with the Free Syrian Army forces.
Sochi Congress on Syria is a ‘Worthy Event’
The Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi has become a big step towards the Syrian political settlement amid the lack of progress at the UN-led Geneva talks, Mehdi Sanaei said.
“I would like to say that the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue, which was held in Sochi, was a worthy event. It involved representatives of various parties, tribes, and religions, and in my opinion, this is a big step towards a political settlement of the Syrian crisis. Especially given that the Geneva talks lack particular progress,” the ambassador said.
Iran-Russia Energy Cooperation
Tehran hopes to sign contracts with Russian oil and gas companies in 2018, there is already noticeable progress in its cooperation, in particular, with Rosneft and Gazprom, Mehdi Sanaei stated.
Six large Russian oil and gas companies have memorandums of understanding and some of them have already submitted their materials on the projects, the ambassador noted.
“We hope that all this will lead to the signing of contracts in 2018. Companies are exploring the fields, but some companies are closer to signing contracts. For example, Rosneft is making good progress, Gazprom is in serious talks on LNG, Zarubezhneft has signed a preliminary contract,” Sanaei said, adding that among Russian companies that are also “working well” with Tehran are Gazprom Neft and LUKoil.
Tehran hopes that an agreement with Gazprom on its participation in the Iran LNG project will be concluded in the first half of 2018, the ambassador noted.
“The Iranian side very much hopes that it will be so. We want the Russian companies to hurry up and to sign the relevant contracts,” Sanaei said, answering the question whether the contract could be signed in the first half of 2018.
New Forum to Unite Russia and the Persian Gulf States
Mehdi Sanaei proposed to hold the Southern Economic Forum, which would bring together Russia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the countries of the Persian Gulf and Turkey.
Development and hold it in one of the southern Russian cities, it may be not only an Iran-Russia economic forum. Look, there is the St. Petersburg Forum [SPIEF], there is the Eastern Economic Forum [EEF], there is a forum in Arkhangelsk, and the Southern Forum could unite Russia, Iran and the countries of the Persian Gulf, Turkey. We offered this idea to Roscongress and we are working on it,” Sanaei told Sputnik in an interview.
Roscongress Foundation is a major Russian organizer of conventions, exhibitions, and public events.
The ambassador recalled that Iran has participated in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum at a high level in the past two years.
“I think that this year Iran will also take part [in the SPIEF], we received an invitation,” Sanaei said.
Iran to Retaliate if Nuclear Deal Dropped
“Iran, of course, will try to cooperate with Russia, with China, as well as with European countries, will try to protect the JCPOA, but if it is violated, then, of course, Iran also has its own scenarios… Iran has specific retaliatory measures,” the ambassador said.
According to the diplomat, Tehran has notified Moscow of such possible scenarios.
Sanaei stressed that Iran was thankful to Russia "for a very just and rightful on the JCPOA."
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that the United States will withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan for Iran’s nuclear program if it fails to achieve its revision. The deal was reached in 2015 by Iran and the 5+1 group that includes China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States and Germany. It stipulates that Iran will adhere to developing the peaceful nuclear program in exchange for lifting anti-Tehran sanctions.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 04:12 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:05 P.M.) – The Russian Navy has fired several cruise missiles towards the Idlib Governorate, today, a military source told Al-Masdar News from the port-city of Tartous.
According to the military source, the Russian cruise missiles specifically targeted Hay’at Tharir Al-Sham’s positions near the Abu Dhuhour front.
With the absence of their air force at the Abu Dhuhour front, the Russian military has relied on their navy to inflict heavy damage on the jihadist positions.
This latest cruise missile strike comes just days after the jihadist rebels downed a Russian military aircraft in the northeastern countryside of the Idlib Governorate, prompting them to halt air operations in the province.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 03:59 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:55 P.M.) – The jihadist rebels launched a major counter-offensive in the Idlib Governorate, today, targeting the territory they recently lost to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) at the Abu Dhuhour front.
Led by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and the Turkestan Islamic Party, the jihadist rebels began today’s attack by sending a suicide bomber towards the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) positions inside the small town of Tal Kalba.
No advances have been reported thus far.
Tal Kalba is located directly east of Tal Sultan, which was captured by the jihadist forces two days ago.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 03:52 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:40 P.M.) – The Saudi Coalition attempted to advance past the strategic city of Hays on Tuesday, targeting the mountains overlooking this important area of western Yemen.
Led by the UAE-backed Southern Resistance forces, the Coalition troops attempted to capture the Hays Mountain from the Houthi fighters protecting this imperative area.
However, the assault would be short-lived, as the Houthi troops proved too strong at the Hays Mountain.
According to the official media wing of the Houthi forces, their fighters killed several Coalition fighters, while also seizing the latter’s weapons before they retreated to Hays city.
Below are the photos that the Houthi forces released from the battle:
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 03:27 AM PST
The wingman of a Russian pilot who was downed by terrorist forces in Syria fought to the last to protect his commander, strafing terrorist forces converging on the crash site until he had no fuel left.
"I'm hit… The right engine's ablaze… Heading south… The left one [engine] is stalling as well… Call an search-and-rescue team," Major Roman Filipov radioed his wingman after the ill-fated pilot’s warplane was hit by a surface-to-air missile, ordering his compatriot to "head for the clouds" to avoid sharing the same fate, according to Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), the official newspaper of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The wingman, however, refused to abandon his commander and, instead of fleeing to safety, engaged the enemy ground forces in a desperate attempt to cover the downed pilot's escape.
“When a MANPAD took out commander's aircraft, all bets were off. I've always covered him in the air, now it was time to do the same on the ground where he was fighting. So I remained there and made several attack runs against vehicles approaching the grove where Roman was hiding. Took out two cars,” he said.
The wingman also added that he immediately alerted a search and rescue team and kept broadcasting the downed pilot coordinates to the command center.
“I've seen the commander's landing area but not the fight itself as the sun was setting… Had to leave when I was down to the emergency fuel reserves, barely made it to the airfield,” he said.
Filipov's Su-25 was downed by a MANPAD portable surface-to-air missile during a mission in the Syrian province of Idlib, over an area controlled by the terrorist group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra).
The pilot managed to eject and land safely on the ground but was immediately surrounded by terrorist forces. Refusing to surrender, Major Filipov fought to the last and in the end – outnumbered, outgunned, out of ammo and heavily injured – blew himself up with a hand grenade.
The terrorist organization Tahrir al-Sham, which was linked to an offshoot of al-Qaeda, reportedly claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.
In retaliation, the Russian forces launched a precision strike in the area from where the MANPAD missile was launched, wiping out over 30 Jabhat Fatah al-Sham terrorists.
Russian military intelligence, with the assistance of their Turkish colleagues, managed to recover Filipov's body and bring it back home to Russia to be interred with full military honors.
Major Filippov was posthumously decorated by President Vladimir Putin as a Hero of the Russian Federation, his nation’s highest honorary title.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 03:15 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:05 P.M.) – A fierce battle broke-out at the eastern outskirts of Damascus, today, when the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched a powerful attack inside the Harasta suburb.
Led by the 4th Division and 105th Brigade of the Republican Guard, the Syrian Arab Army renewed their assault inside the strategic Harasta Orchards in a bid to force the militants of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham to abandon the area.
According to a field source in Damascus, intense clashes are ongoing inside the Harasta Orchards, but no gains have been made thus far.
Meanwhile, at the nearby Al-Ajami Neighborhood, the Syrian Army is attempting to gain the upper-hand in this battle by expelling the Islamist militants from the area.
Recently, the battle for east Damascus has intensified, with both sides exchanging offensives along the Harasta-Arbeen axis.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 02:41 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:30 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army is rolling through the northeastern countryside of the Hama Governorate, today, liberating over 30 towns, hamlets, hilltops, and villages from the Islamic State (ISIS) in the process.
Backed by heavy airstrikes from the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Syrian Arab Army’s Tiger Forces scored a major advance inside the Islamic State’s pocket in northeast Hama, forcing the terrorist group to retreat to the last towns under their control.
According to a military source in Hama, the Syrian Arab Army is still advancing inside northeast Hama and has liberated another half dozen towns from the Islamic State forces.
The source added the Syrian Army is expected to take full control of the Islamic State’s last pocket in the coming days, as the latter continues their mass retreat towards Idlib.
As a result of this advance, the Syrian Arab Army has liberated nearly 70 localities in the last 48 hours from ISIS.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 02:28 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:20 P.M.) – The Turkish General staff claimed on Wednesday that their forces had ‘neutralized’ at least 999 fighters from the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) and so-called Islamic State (ISIS) since they began their operation in the Afrin region of northern Aleppo on January 20th.
Among the 999 that were ‘neutralized,’ at least 29 of the YPG and ISIS fighters were killed last night by the Turkish Armed Forces and their rebel allies, Ankara state-owned Al-Anadolu News Agency reported this morning.
Since launching the operation on January 20th, the Turkish General Staff alleges that their forces and allies have seized 36 localities in the Afrin region, including 23 villages and 11 strategic hilltops, that were under the control of the YPG and ISIS forces in Syria.
While the Turkish General Staff claims the Islamic State is present in Afrin, there has been no actual proof that this terrorist group is currently active anywhere inside of the Aleppo Governorate.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 02:18 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:00 P.M.) – The so-called Islamic State’s (ISIS) defenses are falling apart in the northeastern countryside of the Hama Governorate, as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) continues its large-scale advance in this rural region.
Led by their elite Tiger Forces, the Syrian Arab Army liberated another 19 towns from the Islamic State, today, after overrunning the Islamic State’s northern and southern flanks in northeaster Hama.
According to a military report from Hama, the Syrian Arab Army liberated the following towns: Jubb Al-Sukkar, Junaynah, Al-Hanin, Al-Khatabiyah, Jdeideh, Abu Mahalah, Jubb Al-Hintah, Al-Qinatar, Abu Habaya, Marami Bani Halal, Umm Zahimak, Al-Buydah, Al-Faydah, Matostiyah, ‘Aqlah, Mushayrifah, Muksar Al-Sharqi, Abu Al-Qanat, Abu Sawaya, and Qa’lat Huwayes.
The Syrian Arab Army has now liberated nearly 70 towns, villages, hamlets, and hilltops over the last 48 hours in the northeastern countryside of Hama.
In addition, the Islamic State’s once large pocket in northeast Hama has been reduced to a small area near the Idlib axis.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 02:04 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:00 P.M.) – French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM TV on Wednesday that both Iran and Turkey were violating international law in Syria.
"Ensuring the security of its borders does not mean killing civilians and that should be condemned. In a dangerous situation in Syria, (Turkey) should not add war to war," the French Foreign Minister claimed.
Furthermore, he stated that international law “is being violated by Turkey, by the Damascus regime, by Iran and those who are attacking the East Ghouta and Idlib.”
The French Foreign Minister did not specify how Iran was violating international law in Syria.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 01:41 AM PST
Iraqi forces launched an operation to consolidate control over the territory near the border with Iran. It will be used for the transit of Iraqi oil, the military stated, stressing concern over the mountainous area, where two armed groups are active.
Iraq signed an agreement with Iran for the supply of oil from Kirkuk on December 10. According to the agreement, crude oil exports should total 30,000 barrels per day, which would subsequently be increased to 60,000 barrels.
Kirkuk Province is not part of Iraqi Kurdistan, but until recently the key infrastructure, including the oil and gas sector, was controlled by Kurdish armed groups.
In mid-October, during an Iraqi forces operation, Baghdad was successful in re-establishing control of all oil fields belonging to the North Oil Company.
Iraq began its operation in Kirkuk a few weeks after the referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The exportation was slated to start last week but there’s been a delay; oil officials declined to give explanations for the delay, other than that it was technical in nature.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 01:23 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:15 A.M.) – The Turkish Armed Forces have arrived at the strategic Idlib Governorate city of Saraqib this morning, pro-opposition media reported.
According to the reports, the some of the Turkish troops that were part of the original Tal Al-‘Eis convoy in southern Aleppo made their way to Saraqib, where they setup an observation point.
The duration of this ‘observation’ period is still unknown.
Damascus has demanded that Turkey immediately withdraw all of their forces from Syria, citing that Ankara’s excuses to enter the country are baseless and violate international law.
Ankara has repeatedly ignored Damascus’ demands and continues to work around them by going through the Russian government.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 01:10 AM PST
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called for the withdrawal of Hezbollah from Syria.
When asked in an interview on BFM TV whether Le Drian wanted Turkish armed forces to withdraw from Syria in the wake of the ‘Olive Branch’ operation, he replied that he wanted: “The withdrawal of all of those who ought not to be in Syria, including Iranian militia, including Hezbollah.”
Iran has been accused by the US and some of its allies, including Israel, of providing arms to the Hezbollah movement fighting terrorists alongside the Syrian army, however, Tehran denied the claims, though admitted its political support for the Shiite movement, which is included in the Lebanese parliament.
Previously, the French top diplomat criticized alleged “Iranian presence and the desire to make an axis from the Mediterranean to Tehran,” a claim repeatedly denounced by the Islamic Republic. Iran has repeatedly refuted accusations of a desire to establish a military base in Syria, however, confimed sending military advisors to help Damascus fight terrorists.
Tensions between Iran and France have increased since the end of 2017 after French President Emmanuel Macron had said that Tehran should be “less aggressive” in the region and clarify its ballistic missile program.
The statement has also been echoed by Le Drian, who denounced Iran’s alleged “hegemonic temptations” during a visit to Saudi Arabia.
France is part of the US-led coalition of over 70 nations that has been conducting anti-Daesh operations in Syria without either the government’s approval or a UN mandate, with Damascus caling its presence in the country a violation of international law.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 01:01 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:45 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) scored another advance in the northeastern countryside of Hama this week, liberating several areas that were occupied by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).
Led by their elite Tiger Forces, the Syrian Arab Army stormed the last towns under the Islamic State’s control inside their large pocket in northeastern Hama this morning.
The Syrian Arab Army was able to take hold of the northeastern Hama towns of Rasm Al-Souf, Sabakh, Akhu Hassan, Olous, Tal Fa, Khirbat Hawish, Al-‘Aziziyeh, Abyan, and Tal Sawwan.
As a result of this advance, the Syrian Arab Army has now liberated more than 50 towns inside the Hama Governorate in the last 72 hours.
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