Syria news/Archive/2018-05

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31 May. RT publishes an interview Murad Gazdiev conducted with Assad (transcript).

Over a year late, the US State Department puts the latest alias of al-Qaeda in Syria on its list of designated terrorist organizations.

29 May. Syria takes the rotating presidency of the UN Conference on Disarmament and will head it for four weeks. Some exceptionally peaceful and unarmed country's delegation throws a hissy fit over it and even stages a little walk-out just to return minutes later. (Syrian opening statement)

Syria recognizes the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the protest of Georgia and the EU.

Rumours about an agreement with Turkey over Manbij are denied by the US State Department.

28 May. The EU Council extends their sanctions against Syria for another year, justifying them with "the ongoing repression of the civilian population".

According to Sergey Lavrov, ISIS-related groups are becoming more active in the region protected by the US umbrella around Al-Tanf. He expects active steps to end the "pointless" US presence in this desert spot at the Iraqi border.

27 May. According to Al Masdar, the SAA is preparing "the biggest offensive of the year" in the south of the country with the goal to take back the borders in the Deraa and Quinetra provinces. (Indirect non-intervention negotiations between Iran and Israel has been reported).

Turkey deploys 700 members of the "Free Syrian Police" they trained to Afrin canton, led by one Rami Tlass who sounds like a member of a notorious family of army defectors.

Channel4's Alex Thomson once again travels to Syria and reports from Ghouta.

Four Russian soldiers were killed by rebel fire, 3 more wounded. Two of those were killed were assisting in correcting fire; 5 more were wounded and two of those died in hospital. (Some reports of additional losses including 2 PMC). This happened in Deir-ez-Zor province at night, in an attack by a rebel mobile group. According to Russian MoD, 43 rebels and their 6 vehicles with large caliber firearms were destroyed in this battle. Local newspaper in Chita, Russia reports on funerals of 2 soldiers from an artillery brigade killed by shelling on 23 May; with two more funerals elsewhere. On 25 May, IS reports on an attack on pro-government forces appeared, said to be claiming that 23 were killed and 5 captured in the attack (unconfirmed, possibly exaggerated; reported by el-Murid, not seen on SITE intelligence) . See also 23 May news (relation not established). On 26 May, a video was published by the Russian news agency FAN, The SAA, with the assistance of the allies, defeated the terrorist attacks of the "IS" who attacked a number of military posts located in the Meyadin area in the east of Deir Ez-Zor (map).

25 May. Several vague reports about another missile attack on a military installation in Homs province. Ultra-loyalist Ziad Fadel says it was an unsuccessful Israeli attempt at destroying newly arrived and installed Iranian air defense systems.

Turkey And US Agree On Road Map For Cooperation In Manbij City

red: Russian / yellow: Turkish / green: Iranian

24 May. The Russian defense ministry publishes a map showing the observation points of the three guarantors of the Astana process on the borders of the Idlib de-escalation zone.

The SDF captures alive a central ISIS figure who is believed to have been involved in the planning of several terror attacks in France.

The important Mhardeh power plant in northern Hama is once again bombed out of service by terrorists.

23 May. Coalition strike on Syrian positions near T2 pumping station and Iraq border (map) is reported by Hezbollah media unit -Reuters. Pentagon did not confirm the report.

The National Hospital in Tabqa, which had been used as an ISIS headquarter, opens again to the public. According to ANHA it's the second largest public hospital in Syria.

22 May. The occupiers of Afrin continue to destroy and loot historical sites.

Former Southern Damascus pocket

21 May. After a 48 hour ceasefire, the fighting around Yarmouk camp resumes with a general deal apparently still missing. There was some evacuation going on though, with military sources telling Al Masdar about two batches of dozens of buses with family members that left for the east. In the afternoon, the SAA military command declares all of southern Damascus to be terrorist-free and under its control

19 May. An attack on a Christian church in central Groznyi (map 1, 2). One worshiper, who came to Groznyi from Uzbekiztan, and two police officers guarding the church, from Saratov in Russia, were killed. The young attackers, 3 Chechens and an Ingush, armed with a shotgun, handguns, knifes and explosives, were eliminated in Chechen special forces operation, with Kadyrov on the scene. IS branch in the Caucuses claimed responsibility. Kadyrov sought to deny that IS was involved.

Norwegians fought on the Russian side in Syria (robo-translation), via Rusvesna.

Former Rastan pocket

SANA publishes images allegedly showing locals greeting the army in the towns of the Houla plains. Technicians are repairing the former pocket's power grid.

The SAA denies reports that an agreement with the surrounded ISIS militants in southern Damascus has been reached.

The once ISIS-controlled Dabisan gas field is operational again in the hands of the government.

18 May. According to SANA news agency, several blasts have occurred near the airport of Syria's city of Hama (said to be Syrian military airbase; El Murid; Cassad-4 lines under PS, more on Syria, 1; updated report with photos). A "Saraya al-Jihad" group claims responsibility a day later.

According to SANA National Flag hoisted over Aqrab town in Hama countryside FARS: Syrian Army on Verge of Liberating Hajar Al-Aswad in Southern Damascus

17 May. Assad meets Putin in Sochi.

Reports in the Iranian press suggest that Saudi crown prince MBS was killed or injured in a coup-like event on April 21. Other reports sought to disprove the theory.

16 May. Syrian flags are raised in Rastan and Talbiseh after the evacuation process in the east and center of the Rastan pocket has successfully been completed (map). According to later reports, the western part of the pocket around the Houla plains is also already in government hands, which would make the Rastan pocket history. The so-called Houla massacre of May 2012 was the event that led to the creation of this wiki, so seeing that place out of "rebel" hands for the first time in six years certainly is something that inspires our curiosity.

15 May. For the first time in five years, the Damascus-Homs part of the crucial M5 highway is open for civilian traffic.

Al-Ja'afari calls the 9th Astana meeting a success (joint statement).

14 May. Iraq: A coalition of maverick Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al Sadr and communists becomes the strongest bloc in the new parliament, followed by the pro-Iranian Fatah coalition and current prime minister Abadi's Nasr coalition in third. Participation was very low with under 45% of voter population.

13 May. The evacuation of the Rastan pocket continues. After 86 buses left Rastan on Saturday evening, today transport vehicles enter the Houla area for the next batch.

12 May. ANHA publishes a report about a visit to the Tishrin Dam, the first (upper) of the three big Dams on the Syrian Euphrates, which unlike the damaged Euphrates Dam produces less energy than needed only because there is not enough water in the river. An open letter sent to the UK prime minister by ecological organizations explains in detail how this lack is achieved upstream by Turkish machinations, using water as a weapon of war.

Iraq: Parliamentary elections take place.

11 May. The third batch of 71 buses leaves the Rastan pocket carrying 3,000 "rebels" and family mostly from Talbiseh north.

10 May. Some kind of another missile exchange between Israel and Syrian territory occurs, which SOHR describes as initial Israeli strike in the night, then return fire from Syrian territory, then an escalation at dawn with around 70 missiles by Israel, of which many were intercepted. Israeli "defense" minister Lieberman comments that they've hit "nearly all Iranian infrastructure" and hope they've "finished this episode". Both Syria and Iran say that it was the SAA, not Iranian forces who returned fire.

Greek magazine Kathimerini publishes an exclusive interview with Assad (SANA version).

Both the SAA and the SDF make progress against ISIS in the respective desert pockets west and east of the lower Euphrates. In the latter, the SDF in cooperation with the Iraqi army captures five high-ranking ISIS leaders alive.

9 May. The Kazakh foreign ministry announces that a 9th round of Astana talks is scheduled for 14-15 May.

Vanessa Beeley publishes transcripts of interviews she conducted with people fleeing the eastern Ghouta through the humanitarian corridors in the last days before liberation.

8 May. According to SANA, Syrian Air Defense has intercepted two Israeli missiles fired at Damascus countryside. Two civilians were killed from the effects of the intercept. However, footage seems to show that ground targets were successfully hit. SOHR claims 15 dead, among them 8 Iranian soldiers. HRW claims 9 dead "pro-regime soldiers".

The National Committee for Dealing with Victims of Children Recruitment meets in Damascus.

7 May. Russian KA-52 helicopter crashed in Syria, both pilots were killed.

While 171 buses have already left southern Damascus in direction north and the fifth batch is prepared there, the first evacuation buses enter Rastan after the militants handed over huge amounts of weapons including dozens of tanks.

YNET Reports: Yuval Steinitz (about 1, 2, protegees 1,2, 3) 'If Assad continues allowing Iran to operate out of Syria, it will be his end'

Lebanon: Preliminary results of the first parliamentary elections since 2009, which took place yesterday, see Hariri's "Future Movement" losing a third of its seats (to 21), while Hezbollah and its allies win an absolute majority (67) of the 128 seats. The Israeli "Education" minister Naftali Bennett educates his twitter followers with the equation "Lebanon = Hezbollah" over this.

Naftali Bennett: Hezbollah’s apparent success in Lebanon’s elections validates Israel’s policy of holding its northern neighbor responsible for the actions of the Shiite terror group.

6 May. The Iraqi Air Force bombs ISIS targets inside Syria.

After some gangs looted hospitals in al-Bab, the people took to the streets in protest again the Turkish occupation, only to get attacked by the army. In protests against this treatment, today six people die at the hand of the Turkish army. Also in al-Bab, there is infighting triggered by the arrival of a group from Qalamoon which had some old beef with another group already in town. Tens of militants are reportedly killed on both sides.

Reports about the misbehaviour of the Turkish-supported gangs are also coming out of Afrin, where the UN says Turkey prevents fled inhabitants from returning to. Meanwhile, Erdogan promises some more land-grabbing after the early elections on June 24.

5 May. After having split the southern Damascus ISIS pocket into two, the SAA eliminates the southern part.

4 May. ANF publishes a summary on the reconstruction of Raqqa.

The evacuation of the Rastan "rebels" is delayed until after the weekend, some thinking because of an actual lack of buses.

Another specific warning about the staging of another "chemical attack" appears in Russian media.

The OPCW has finished its fact-finding mission to Douma.

The US Navy starts flights over Syria from the Truman carrier group.

3 May. According to CBS, U.S. freezes funding for Syria's "White Helmets" as well as several other aid programs in Syria

A Russian SU-30SM plane crashed at sea shortly after take-off from Khmeimim, both pilots were killed. It is said that enemy fire was not involved, preliminary information blames bird striking an engine (update).

While the first Al Qaeda militants from the South Damascus pocket take the bus north, ISIS continues to take a beating.

According to Al Masdar, only the militants in the towns of Rastan and Talbiseh have agreed to the evacuation, while those in the more rural areas of the Rastan pocket (like the Houla plains) refuse.

2 May. The surrender agreement with the militants in the Rastan pocket seeks to complete the disarmament and evacuation in three days, after which the Homs-Hama highway will be opened for the first time in several years.

The US aircraft carrier strike group around the USS Harry S. Truman enters the Mediterranean armed with over 1,000 cruise missiles.

1 May. Following a 24-hour ceasefire in the Rastan pocket, according to Al Masdar sources the "rebels" are ready to surrender and the terms will be discussed tomorrow.

Another deal made is already in the process of realization: Al Qaeda and other factions in southern Damascus are taking a bus ride north, in exchange for the evacuation of the Shia villages al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province. This means there is "only" ISIS left to fight the SAA and allies in Yarmouk camp.

The SDF announces that it will relaunch its campaign against ISIS in eastern Deir ez-Zor province. It had been halted after Turkey attacked Afrin in late January. The operation will proceed in coordination with the Iraqi army.

According to sources speaking to Elijah Magnier, Hezbollah considers its mission in Syria to be accomplished and has already withdrawn most of its forces back to Lebanon.