Syria news/Archive/2018-03

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31 Mar. RT: All East Ghouta towns liberated, All E. Ghouta towns liberated (but no mention of Douma!)

30 Mar. After Macron received a delegation from the SDF in Paris the day before, Erdogan reminds him that he shouldn't "bite off more than he can chew". Shortly after, loyalist Turkish Anadolu Agency publishes a map showing five French bases on Syrian territory, all near Kobane. The Parachutist Regiment of the Navy’s Infantry is deployed there according to the paper.

29 Mar. Trump says the US will end its military presence in Syria "very soon".

al-Masdar: The SAA will not assault Douma due to large number of prisoners held there. Vanessa Beeley reports from the IDP camps outside Douma.

28 Mar. Rebels in southern Syria reject reconciliation with government, vow to fight.

Reports that Jaish al-Islam intends to fight it out in Douma.

27 Mar. Statement to the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria (27 March 2018) includes the detail that 140,000 people from Afrin have sought refuge in Tal Rifaat. Meanwhile Turkey has announced that Tal Rifaat is its ultimate target in the present operation.

Fresh reconciliation talks over the Rastan pocket are going on on initiative of "rebel" groups.

26 Mar. Saudi Arabia: Several reports that in the night the Saudi capital Riyadh has been targeted by a ballistic missile fired from 1100 km away Yemen, which was intercepted. According to Al Sura it has been three missiles and on one, the Saudi air defense not only failed to intercept, but the defense missile turned onto the city, with both impacts causing at least 17 injured (report with video allegedly showing the failed intercept).

IS / associates now control the majority of al-Qadam suburb in South Damascus. This is in addition to their existing control of Yarmouk Camp and environs.

Iraq: According to Al Masdar citing local activists, the PKK-affiliated Kurdish militias have withdrawn from Sinjar and been replaced by the Hashd al-Sha'abi following Erdogan's threat to invade the region (background report) .

25 Mar. Erdogan announces new military operations to capture Tal Rifaat in Syria and Sinjar in Iraq. Both are controlled by Kurdish militias Turkey sees as PKK proxies. In Tal Rifaat the Russian military has a presence. The Iraqi Defense Minister reacts stating that “Iraq will not be sitting with its hands tied against attacks against its territory.”

While the evacuations of Harasta and the Damascus suburbs in the south of the eastern Ghouta are on their way (video talking with some passengers), Jaish al-Islam is still refusing to surrender, but has opened humanitarian corridors out of Douma again while negotiations brokered by Russia are going on.

At a cabinet meeting, the Syrian government sets up a reconstruction and investment plan for the Ghouta.

Turkish-backed "FSA" groups are fighting each other over the loot in Afrin city.

24 Mar. Former PYD-co-chair Salih Muslim speaks at a seminar in the Swedish parliament about the situation in Afrin. According to him, there are 3,000 fighters among the Turkish proxy forces who had fought for ISIS before fleeing to Turkey from Raqqa and Kobane.

Tens of thousands take it to the streets in many European capitals and cities on what was planned as "World Afrin Day" by Kurdish organizations.

23 Mar. Al Masdar reports that the SAA has struck a deal with Faylaq Al-Rahman, the group dominating the south-west of the Ghouta pocket, about giving up four suburbs and accepting a bus ride to Idlib. The four are the notorious strongholds Ain Terma, Arbin, Jobar and Zamalka who have been under "rebel" control for six years. The evacuation is scheduled to start tomorrow at noon. With a deal in Harasta already realized, this would essentially leave Douma, controlled by the Alloush's Army of Islam, as last remain of the former Eastern Ghouta pocket.

Pentagon: Russian Guidance Prevented Clash With Coalition Forces in Syria

22 Mar. Elijah J Magnier: The Turkish army and the Syrian army exchange fire artillery all night around the city of Nub'bul where the Turkish Army and its allies advanced and occupied 3 villages in rural Aleppo previously under SAA control.

Hundreds of insurgents and their families leave Harasta on buses. (but mostly not green ones)

21 Mar. The Kurds are celebrating Newroz, the beginning of Spring and the new year.

Southfront / Hezbollah Media: 1,500 FIGHTERS OF AHRAR AL-SHAM TO LEAVE EAST GHOUTA WITHIN 24 HOURS UNDER AGREEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT

20 Mar. Peto Lucem: SAA forces are advancing in the Damascus suburb of Hazeh and have secured the heavily fortified Ain Terma valley.

19 Mar. U.S. and NATO forces are said to be planning a large-scale land invasion of Syria.

18 Mar. Turkish-led FSA forces capture Afrin city (Afrin Administration statement).

VV Putin wins his fourth presidential election with over 75% of the votes from around 67% turnout.

al-Masdar: Major rebel faction in east Damascus ceases hostilities with Syrian Army, begins talks with Russia

"Jaysh Tahrir al-Sham" militants shot down with MANPADS a Su-24 plane (apparently Syrian AF) over the mountains of Eastern Kalamun in Damascus province near the border with Lebanon (report),(video).

17 Mar. Russia again accuses the U.S. of preparing a military strike against Syria (RT Eng.). Threatens to retaliate to any cruse missile attack by sinking U.S. ships. According to RT, a Pentagon spokesperson called the statements "extremely absurd".

RT: Over 30,000 leave militant-controlled E. Ghouta as people continue to flee for safety.

16 Mar. Sayed Hassan Ridha: Tens of thousands of people have now evacuated Eastern Ghouta

Russian MoD mocks EU document on new sanctions on Syria dated Mar. 19, released in error, and allegations of chemical weapons use by pro-Assad forces in Hamouriyah, East Ghouta (Sputnik, Eng.)(TASS).

Commander of U.S. Central Command: Syrian Regime Has Won Civil War

Battle for Afrin

15 Mar. The Turkish army is indiscriminately shelling and bombarding civilian neighbourhoods in Afrin city center where hundreds of thousands of people are under siege. According to Kurdish sources, since yesterday alone 13 people died and dozens were injured (ANF 12, ANHA 12 (all with videos)).

14 Mar. al-Masdar: SAA closing on East Douma, taking remaining farms on Eastern border of Douma urban area.

Syria Glory: Reports of shelling by the SAA on Turkish military positions in the town of Mare’. This is in retaliation for a Turkish air attack on troops loyal to the Syrian government at al-Zyara crossing which killed 8 fighters and wounded 10 others.

13 Mar. Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become the new Secretary of State. Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA.

TASS: Militants are preparing a provocation with poisonous substances in Syria to justify a massive US blow to the government districts of Damascus. This was stated on Tuesday by the Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov (video 1, 2, 3). The RF Ministry of Defense is ready to take retaliatory measures "to target both the missiles and their delivery vehicles" if there is a threat to the Russian military Gerasimov said. Later Lavrov echoes the statement warning Nikki Haley that it is one thing "to exploit the microphone at the UNSC" but real life military actions are a whole other thing.

12 Mar. Within Syria: Suggests that Syrian forces are moving into Afrin without an agreement with the YPG, taking South Eastern parts by force including Tell Rifat and Mingh airbase.

ANNA News: According to reports, the National Defense Forces are now in control of : Tell Rifaat, Deir Jamal, Kimar, Al-Ziyara, Burj al-Qass, Bashmara, Busufan, Menagh and the Menagh Military Airbase.

Following a call published in eight languages on an anonymous blog called "fight4afrin" last week, which asks to start today with militant actions against Turkish state institutions and their perceived helpers in NATO countries, a series of arson attacks seems to have begun in Germany with at least two Ditib mosques in Berlin alone attacked, in addition to several other targets through-out the country. Ditib is the umbrella organization of Turkish mosques in Germany, which is directly run by the Turkish state.

Andre Vltchek reports from Al-Azraq in Jordan, which is a refugee camp as well as home to the Air Force base NATO seems to have chosen as replacement for Incirlik in Turkey, with the Germans and Dutch pioneering the move.

@Suriyak: Parts of Yarmouk Camp to be evacuated of fighters - without any fighting! Not sure if this includes ISIS.

11 Mar. Muraselon: Hmeimin military airport attacked again by single insurgent UAV. UAV shot down.

10 Mar. The SAA has progressed so far into the heart of the Eastern Ghouta that it has effectively split it into three parts, with Douma and Harasta respectively under close siege and a larger urban sprawl to the south. Meanwhile, the Kurdish defenses in Afrin are collapsing and the Turkish-backed Islamists are reportedly only a couple of hundred meters away from the canton's name-giving city.

ANNA news, several text updates on Turkish forces advances in Afrin, and pro-government advances in East Ghouta. Cassad: Afrin report and photos.

9 Mar. Several sources report pro-government demonstrations in the "rebel"-controlled cities of the Eastern Ghouta.

8 Mar. The main water pumping station for Afrin city is out of service after being damaged by Turkish bombing, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without sufficient drinking water supply.

Russia unsuccessfully continues to try to persuate the Ghouta gangs to take a green bus ride to Idlib.

7 Mar. The general command of YPG releases a statement calling on Russia "to undo its decision of allowing the Turkey’s invasion on Afrin and stop participating in killing the people in Afrin and destroying its towns and villages." (Among Russian mainstream and internet media, ANNA News is one of the few with some current news from Afrin, with most of attention to East Ghouta, or PMC and losses reports. It is also covered here, but with the attention to the effect of it on Deir ez-Zor. This source is listed as a 'special project' of ANNA news; another one apparently is 'Kurdistan Insider' ).

'US military intelligence has no information indicating that the February offensive against the Syrian opposition forces near the settlement of Hashsham in the province of Deir ez Zor was directed by the Russian Armed Forces. This was reported on Mar. 6 by the director of the Intelligence Directorate of the US Department of Defense, Lieutenant-General Robert Ashley' (TASS ).

A German parliamentary delegation of the "populist" AfD (Alternative for Germany) party has been visiting Syria in recent days. After a meeting with reconciliation minister Haidar, the leader of the delegation complains at a press conference that the image of Syria in German media is seriously distorted. Meanwhile, on prime time German public TV, Grand Mufti Ahmed Hassoun, with whom the delegation met the day before, is smeared with an out of context and butchered quote, trying to make it seem as if he had threatened Europe with a wave of suicide bombers, thus making the AfD delegates "terrorist supporters".

6 Mar. Report: Russian military transport aircraft An-26 crashed at Khemeymim airbase on the approach to landing Six crew members and 33 passengers were killed, all military, including a Major-General. The causes are investigated, but said to be not due to enemy fire. A technical fault is blamed. Video of the crash

Washington Post: SDF forces withdrawing from Deir ez-Zour to fight in Afrin. Notably this latest tranche of around 2,000 fighters are ethnic Arabs.

The SAA has captured 40 percent of the Eastern Ghouta pocket in their recent offensive. While these are the more rural areas, reports from the cities remaining under "rebel" control show raised Syrian flags and civilian protests against the gangs.

Director LT. Gen Robert Ashley gives testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee On Emerging Worldwide Threats Facing The U.S.

5 Mar. The US Embassy in Turkey is closed "due to a security threat" and will stay closed for at least another day.

Turkish government officials demand that Germany arrests and extradites PYD ex-co-chair Salih Muslim, who according to them has been in the country over the weekend taking part in demonstrations against "Operation Olive Branch" (~20,000 on Saturday in Berlin alone). According to SPIEGEL, the German government refuses to comment on the issue.

According to Kurdish sources, Turkey flies air raids with more than 50 warplanes on several city centers and villages in Afrin canton, killing and injuring scores of civilians. The agency calls it the "second heaviest" attack of this kind since the beginning of the Turkish aggression.

4 Mar. A large Turkish army convoy with over 100 military vehicles is spotted on its way to Afrin canton.

3 Mar. Lucem Significant advances by SAA in East Ghouta since the start of the offensive

Southfront: Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Tiger Forces supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces advanced in the heart of the East Ghouta pocket and captured the al-Oabb farms between the districts of Duma and Misraba and the town of al-Shaffoniya.

ANNA news report and video: At least 15 Syrian pro-government militiamen were killed in an air strike of the Turkish Air Force on Kafr Jana airbase in the Afrin district. Earlier, a checkpoint of Russian military police was located there. After Russians withdrawal, it was taken over by the Kurds, who gave it to Syrian pro-government forces with the start of Turkish invasion.

A video (allegedly) showing 2 children escaping from East Ghouta and running to a government checkpoint, published by a Telegram channel linked to Russian military sources.

2 Mar. Firat News Agency publishes a document described as internal FSA report to Turkish intelligence MIT about the deaths of a single day, February 24. The 47 people listed are said to be mostly Syrians from villages around Aleppo. The night before, they published a list of 40 names of Turkish soldiers who had been delivered to one single hospital after events in a village near Rajo on March 1. 13 of them are said to have been dead on delivery. According to the Turkish state, the total losses in the over 40 days of Operation Olive Branch are 41 Turkish soldiers and 116 FSA fighters.

1 Mar. Shoigu: SU-57 left Syria after two days there, some photos on internet are fake (never in the open together).

Putin delivered yearly address to the Federal Assembly, unveiling Russia's new doomsday weapons.

al-Akhbar, 22 Feb. 2018 Washington to its allies: Let us divide Syria ('divide' used 4 times, 'Iran' used 2 times, auto-translated date of event appears to be 11 Oct. 2017). Apparently independent Near & Moyen-Orient publication, appeared on or before 22 Feb. 2018, but dated 26 Feb. 2018, with a reference made to the Security Conference in Munich, 17 February; 'Iran' used 4 times, 'divide' used 0 times; the claim is about a diplomatic telegram allegedly sent by Benjamin Norman on 12 January, 2018, reporting on the first meeting of the "Small American Group on Syria" (United States, Great Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan), held in Washington on January 11, 2018. Tillerson policy address is 17 Jan. 2018. (professional German translation of Al Akhbar article)

Southfront: Fighting continues in many places in Syria. Insurgents in Idlib keep fighting each other. SAA moving slowly into Ghouta. Humanitarian Pause isn't working. Turkish backed forces slowly advancing into Afrin despite resistance by Kurdish forces. No mention of NDF and militias in fighting in Afrin.