19 Feb. SANA talks of 'popular forces' going into Afrin to reinforce the Kurds - maybe within 24 hrs? (Seems unlikely any regular SAA will be involved)
18 Feb. Following several successful ambushes on the SAA from the ISIS remains in the eastern desert pocket, one of them killing an army general, Al Masdar changes their estimate of the strength of the group from 200 to up to a thousand, equipped with up to a hundred ratmobiles.
According to Southfront the SAA and associated militias are preparing for a major assault on Ghouta; with presently increasing artillery bombardment. Numerous recent 'innocent children being bombed by evil Dictator / Russians' stories e.g. Louisa Loveluck's latest suggests something is about to happen.
More Kurdish 'reports' suggest the SAA may enter Afrin imminently. They've been saying that for some time now, though just how the SAA can manage both 'seize and hold ground in Afrin' at the same time as 'conquer Ghouta' remains to be seen.
Ahrar ash-Sham and Zanki form a new group The Front to Free Syria (FFS) - via EHSANI2 They also, amusingly, include the FSA flag in their new logos
The SDF claims to have attacked the operation desk of "Operation Olive Branch" in Qara Xaneh town inside Turkey, killing seven and wounding "a large number". Link gone.
Turkey systematically attacks the drinking water infrastructure in Afrin according to the co-chair of the local Water Institute.
Firat News Agency publishes a break-down of the groups that are attacking Afrin on behalf of Turkey. According to this, with 750 fighters one of the largest groups fighting directly at the frontline is Liva El Hemzet, which was formed in the train-and-equip program Turkey ran together with the US and still receives a salary of $250 per month and fighter from the Pentagon. Another article details the five fronts with fighting taking place "guerilla style" in 37 evacuated villages. There's a total of 336 villages in Afrin canton.
Muraselon publishes a map of the recently reinforced Turkish monitoring points in the Idlib pocket which are part of the Astana agreement.
A Syrian asylum seeker is sentenced to life in prison in Sweden after evidence of his participation in a mass execution of SAA soldiers in May 2012 surfaces.
Rudaw Claims of chlorine gas attacks in Afrin. Both sides (Turkish and Kurdish) blame the other side for the attacks. No actual evidence either way. SANA chips in with photos and story of Turkish gas attack.
Ivan Sidorenko Unconfirmed reports of Syrian Government forces entering Afrin
15 Feb. Syrian Army refuses YPG proposal to enter Afrin, after earlier reports otherwise. It is also reported that Kurdish fighters will 'leave Deir-ez-Zor', to be replaced by Deir-ez-Zor military council, DMC (unconfirmed).
According to a statement by a "rebel" negotiation committee in the Rastan pocket quoted by SouthFront, they have been informed by the Russians that the de-escalation agreement is history if they don't immediately start direct talks with the Syrian government, which they refuse to do.
14 Feb. The largest Kurdish organization in Germany, NAV-DEM, issues a statement protesting that the government refuses to allow them to organize demonstrations against the Turkish actions in Afrin and the use of German weapons in them. They draw parallels to the behaviour of the Erdogan government and accuse the Merkel government of "genuflection" before the Turkish president.
13 Feb. Lavrov: We in general, and especially in recent times, have accumulated many questions to the actions of the United States in Syria. They are carried out without an invitation .... Americans, in my opinion, do not act through the painstaking formation of common consent, but through dangerous unilateral steps. These steps look more and more like part of a line to create a quasi-state on a large part of Syrian territory on the eastern bank of the Euphrates right up to the Iraqi border (...Они осуществляются без приглашения...).
The Russian military in Syria issues a specific warning about the planning of a false flag chemical attack.
More or less confirmed reports that surviving ISIS fighters in Idlib have surrendered to HTS along with their families.
12 Feb. SMART News Agency reports Coalition aircraft (accidentally) bombed and killed unspecified numbers of SDF fighters in Eastern Deir Ezzor.
The SDF releases a statement summarizing the results of the Turkish attack on Afrin. According to them, 98 SDF fighters died while the toll on the other side was 862. This is roughly opposite the numbers the Turkish media is reporting. The number of harmed civilians is given as 180 dead and 413 wounded.
After clearing the ISIS pocket in northern Hama, the SAA starts a large offensive against the Rastan pocket between Hama and Homs.
Meanwhile, the wandering ISIS micro-caliphate is causing the anticipated trouble after re-insertion into the shrunken Idlib pocket.
Israel is reported to have moved medium range anti-aircraft missile batteries near to Syrian border. Engagement range includes Damascus area and potential deep 'security zone' on Syrian side of the border.
The mayor of Ankara starts an initiative to rename the street where the US embassy lies into "Olive Branch Street".
10 Feb. Turkish helicopter is down near Afrin -Rusvesna/videos
Israeli F16 'crashed' in Northern Israel, amid intensive Syrian anti-aircraft fire, with implication the F16 had been downed by it Sputnik reports. According to IDF spokesman report Israel had been targeting an Iranian drone control centre, and the downed F16 was involved, after an Iranian drone entered Israel from the Golan Heights.
Extended report by RT including details of response in Northern Israel where alarms were sounded and aerial explosions heard. RT reports an Iranian drone was shot down by an Israeli helicopter. In response Israeli F16s attacked 'Iranian targets' in Syria, the drone control centre/drone’s launch site at the Tiyas Military Airbase near Palmyra in a 'complicated surgical strike'. There have been earlier reports that Russia is flying small number of SU-25 planes from Tiyas airbase (also Russian commercial interests in the nearby area have been reported).
In a follow-up, Israel strikes more Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria: “Twelve targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria were attacked.”
Unconfirmed report (Mimi al-Laham) of Israeli Apache Helicopter shot down over Shab'a Farms in Lebanon (possibly a mix-up). No further confirmation so disregard.
Haaretz now reports the same as RT etc and says F16 PilotS were forced to eject. Israel operates a twin seat F-16D variant in addition to the normal single seat variants. Reports suggest that the plane was F16I "Soufa", which Israel has in a 2-seated option. The pilots are safe and were transferred to a hospital. One of the pilots is reported in 'serious' condition.
So far no images of the downed Iranian drone in Israeli territory. Videos of drone and command vehicle destruction have been posted by IDF.
- Netanyahu shows a piece of Iranian drone in Munich, 18 Feb. 2018
Pro-Assad Syria-Iran alliance does not confirm (nor cleanly denies) the drone loss over Israel, threatenes 'a severe response'
9 Feb. Reports that the SAA has permitted several hundred ISIS elements in the town of Suruj in Hama to escape from the area under attack and move to Idlib - sort of green buses without the buses. Al-Masdar says the move was opposed and resulted in dozens of loyalist casualties. A map shows where they allegedly went and captured three villages from HTS. According to Al Masdar, their goal is to reach the town of At-Tamanaa and reunite with up to 1,000 like-minded fighters there. On the linked map, Tamanaa is directly south of the ".com" inscription, the first larger settlement to the east of Khan Sheikhoun.
RU MoD media 'Red Star' claims that submersion and destruction of the Russian-built pontoon bridge over Euphrates could be deliberate, by opening dam locks of hydro power plant El Tabbah, located in the territory controlled by the opposition groups supported by the US-led "international coalition". Photos of the bridge appeared in social media.
8 Feb. New video claims that SU-25 shootdown was by anti-aircraft artillery, not MANPADS. However, another SU-25 was fired on from anti-aircraft weapons on Feb.1, and on Feb 1-2 there was discussion on Russian social media of the incident, of positive sort. There were some videos, one of them here, another from machine gun location 1, here. (Weather conditions appear different from the Feb. 3 shootdown). It is unclear when exactly the latest machine-gun close up first appeared. Russian MP Klintsevich believes the latest claim is a fake. On Feb. 3, there was a second SU-25, whose pilot warned Filipov that he is being 'worked on' and yelled at him to maneuver to avoid fire (tangage !). The second pilot stayed in the air (noise heard on firefight videos), and said that he attacked and destroyed two vehicles approaching olive grove where Filipov was. This pilot account mentions MANPADS fired. (The second plane left the area when there was too little fuel left).
7 Feb. US-led coalition claims a 'defensive strike' killing more than 100 pro-government forces east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line in Khusham, Syria. Russian MP Klintsevich calls it 'an aggression'.
Barbara Starr of CNN is now blaming Russian contractors for being behind the attack that got the 'defensive' response.
For possible Russian private military contractors losses, see discussion.
RU MoD presents a very different version of events - Syrian forces doing reconnaissance-in-force targeting 'a sleeper IS cell' in the area of El Isba oil refinery plant suddenly attacked by the coalition; submits that 'US goal is seizure of economic assets of Syria.'
Two senior American generals came to the front line outside the Syrian city of Manbij, flying outsized American flags on their vehicles... Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, elaborated. “You hit us, we will respond aggressively. We will defend ourselves.” (NYT).
6 Feb. The SAA attacks the ISIS micro-caliphate in Hama province on several fronts and has taken over a dozen villages just in the morning. A second wave in the afternoon sweeps another large number of villages in the unfortified rural terrain the dispersed ISIS gangs had taken over from the retreating Nusra Front only some weeks ago.
Several sources report that a large convoy with reinforcements has reached Afrin after traveling from the Kurdish cantons in the East through SAA-controlled territory in northern Aleppo province.
Body of the Russian pilot Roman Filipov was returned to Russia, said to be by the Russian military intelligence services in interaction with 'Turkish colleagues'.
A robot is formatted at an event in Ankara for interrupting the Turkish communication minister during his speech.
5 Feb. Syrian and Turkish forces exchange artillery fire near the town of Al-Eis in southern Aleppo Province.
Turkish forces convoy entered Al-Eis strategic area in the southern countryside of Aleppo "in implementation to the agreement of de-escalation zones agreement signed in Astana between Turkey, Russia and Iran"
3 Feb. A Russian SU-25 is hit by a MANPADS over Idlib province (launch video). The pilot, Roman Filipov ejects, gets caught by "rebels" and killed, according to Jaysh al-Nasr who claimed responsibility. Cassad: pilot shot back, then detonated himself with a grenade. (Brief video of his last fight, from Idlib+ news. Video of dead pilot at Liveleak). The group has at one point been equipped with anti-tank weapons by the US. Another group that is said to have claimed responsibility is a HTS “air defense battalion”. In the late afternoon it's reported that Russian missiles from Khmeimim airbase and/or the Mediterranean have taken off in the direction of Idlib.
2 Feb. Al Masdar News publishes high resolution map of Syria - including locations of Western bases
1 Feb. The SAA has been advancing in recent days against both the ISIS micro-caliphate in its Hama province pocket and Nusra in the south-east of the Idlib pocket. The latter has apparently been helped by the fact that relevant portions of the Islamists went north to fight against the Kurds of Afrin on behalf of Turkey. It is reported that there have been protests in the "rebel"-held towns of Idlib against this move and that significant elements are heading back south to fight the advancing SAA.
31 Jan. One civilian dies and twelve are injured in Turkish artillery bombing of Afrin's city centre.
30 Jan. Russia's special representative Alexander Lavrentiev: congress in Sochi adopted 3 documents, appeal by the participants (stop the war sort), final statement, and a list of candidates to the Constitutional Commission (TASS)(Almasdar News); number of candidates is 150 -ANNA news.
In the early morning hours, eleven members of the Turkish Medical Association's central council including its head are detained for their negative remarks about "Operation Olive Branch". They add to over 300 people totally arrested for social media comments regarding the operation.
29 Jan. The long-anticipated Syrian National Dialogue Congress starts in Sochi.
According to the Afrin Health Council, 60 civilians were killed and 153 injured in the first nine days of "Operation Olive Branch".
Several archeological sites in Afrin have been targeted by Turkish airstrikes, among them the over 3000 years old Temple of Ayn Dara.
The - twice - daily changing of hands on Jabal Bursaya becomes kind of a ritual.
Turkish convoy in Idlib traveling to front-line town of ea-Aiss stopped at Kafr Halab when blocked by Russian bombing at Al-Qammari. (Jena Moussa). Other unconfirmed reports have the SAA shelling the convoy and fire being returned before the Turks started withdrawing (Mark on Twitter)(Cassad: Syrian artillery or Iranian proxy + at least some exaggeration). A "Popular Front To Resist The Turkish Occupation" later claims responsibility for the attack and the death of three Turkish soldiers.
28 Jan. An SDF statement points out that after nine days, the Turkish attackers have still not made significant gains on the ground. It is alleged that this failure has led the army to resort to illegal weapons like Napalm and cluster bombs to reach their goal.
26 Jan. The Syrian government and opposition delegations on Friday agreed on a cease-fire in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta countryside of the capital Damascus during the Syrian talks in Vienna - Xinhua metareport
25 Jan. The SDF releases a statement directed at "Turkish army elements and their allies", inviting them to surrender when they are closest to the line of contact and their handlers can't prevent it, to avoid "staining their hands with blood" and become "war fuel".
A statement from the Afrin Canton Democratic Autonomous Administration calls on the Syrian government to "deploy its armed forces properly in the region and fulfill its responsibilities for the protection of the Afrin region".
24 Jan. In the early morning hours, a YPG/SDF combat group carries out a surprise attack into "rebel"-held territory south of Afrin canton, entering a castle near Darat Issa. After their unspecified mission is carried out, they retreat, leaving eight enemy combatants dead (Al Masdar, SDF).
In a phone call between Trump and Erdogan, Trump "urged Turkey to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties" and "expressed concern about destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey".
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi publishes an extensive interview he conducted with the YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud on January 19th.
Kurdish Official Say They Welcome The Syrian Army In Afrin Region. See the revised al-Mayadeen report it is based on. (But another Muraselon article quotes another Kurdish source denying this).
23 Jan. Fighting in Afrin continues to follow the pattern of proxy "rebels" approaching under Turkish air cover, only to flee from the gained territory in the subsequent YPG counter attack. The strategic Mount Basraya has changed hands four times in two days in this manner. If reports from Kurdish informers in Azaz are to be believed, it dawns on some of the proxy "rebels" that they are used as cannon fodder.
22 Jan. According to Kurdish sources, 17 civilians were killed and 28 wounded in the first two days of Turkish "Operation Olive Branch" attacks on Afrin. While Turkish sources and Al-Masdar report significant progress of the proxy "rebels", the SDF insists that so far no territorial gains have been made. They claim to have killed 40 mercenaries and/or soldiers and damaged three additional tanks today.
21 Jan. The SAA takes Abu al-Duhur airbase and closes the pocket to the south-east which includes the ISIS micro caliphate. According to the Russian defense ministry, 1,500 Nusra fighters are inside the pocket.
YPG posted a video of a direct hit on a Turkish tank from anti-tank weapon, claimed it was "destroyed" (cannot be verified, argued it was not by another user). Rusvesna quoted YPG claim that up to 5 tanks were destroyed and up to 14 soldiers killed (no independent confirmation). Anadolu agency is quoted by Rusvesna saying that the Syrian government provided help to the Kurds (Similar claim on Yeni Safak; Anadolu website is here).
Erdogan: Turkish military operation in Syria's Afrin has begun- Reuters
19 Jan. "A column of Russian troops entered the Kurdish Afrin"-report.
The YPG twitter account at 19:30 reports that a Turkish attack on Afrin was repelled.
Lavrov denies reports that Russian military observers left Afrin.
YPG Rojava on twitter, titled "Invasion of the Turkish army in preparation for attacking Afrin" , as per source.
Detachments of the Russian forces, on a preliminary agreement with the Turkish side, left the village of Kafr-Jannah in Afrin. Turkish military activity in Afrin is possible -Rusvesna. Cassad posted some updates, with running updates on linked there telegram channel.
18 Jan. Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Turkey, Army General Hulusi Akar and the Director of the National Intelligence Organization of the Turkish Republic Hakan Fidan visit Moscow, meet with the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation - First Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, Army General Valery Gerasimov, whose big smile is here.
The city of Afrin sees mass demonstrations against the Turkish threats of invasion and occupation. Solidarity demonstrations take place in cities of the other Kurdish cantons like in Qamishli and Kobane.
Syria's deputy foreign minister Mikdad warns that any Turkish incursion into Afrin will be considered an act of war and that the air defense systems are ready to target Turkish planes entering the country.
17 Jan. Rex Tillerson tells reporters that "entire situation has been mis-portrayed, mis-described, some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all". Later he delivers webstreamed remarks about Syria at the Hoover Institution. Nothing about the events of recent days is said, however he states that "the United States will maintain a military presence in Syria ", and that "our military presence is backed by State Department and USAID teams who are already working with local authorities to help liberated peoples stabilize their own communities". Some commenters are unconvinced that a border force is not being created, not just mis-sold, pointing out that a border force may be used to control flow of weapons, ammunition, supplies, fighters into Syria.
16 Jan. Speaking at a NATO meeting in Brussels, the head of the Turkish army General Akar stresses that his country will not allow "the PKK" to be armed and supported by the US, which he asks to "return from its mistake". Back in Ankara, Erdogan urges NATO to show solidarity with Turkey against the US. "NATO! You are obliged to take a stand against those who harass the borders of one of your partners", he requests in front of the parliamentary group of his AK party.
In an interview with Firat News Agency, the YPG Commander General Sipan Hemo states that should Turkey attack Afrin as announced, they are well prepared and "the final war" to get rid of "the Erdogan menace" would begin. Asked about the US stance, he says that they have no information. A "Border Security Force" plan is not mentioned in the detailed interview.
15 Jan. Situation in the Idlib pocket: In recent days the SAA has advanced from the East towards their comrades at the gates of Abu al-Duhur, then in a surprise move freed the Khanasir-Aleppo road up north, building a pocket east of it. Apparently next to no militants were left in that pocket and by now it seems to be almost cleared. The opening between the forces at Abu al-Duhur and those to the east is only 2 km wide by now, almost forming another pocket to the south which includes the ISIS micro caliphate. Meanwhile to the West, Nusra and their Uyghur comrades throw everything they have against the SAA, with only small and temporary success (map of latest developments).
Lavrov: what we see is not a desire to help resolve the conflict as soon as possible, but rather to help those who try to make practical steps to change the regime in Syria. WSJ: The Russians and Turks threaten the U.S. to abandon Syria’s Kurds; Lavrov misses John Kerry.
13 Jan. The US military announces that it is training a 30,000 strong "Border Security Force" that is supposed to protect the borders to Turkey and Iraq as well as the east bank of the Euphrates. 15,000 of them are already recruited veteran SDF fighters. Syria and Turkey sharply condemn the move, with Erdogan promising to "crush the terror army". Al Masdar reports that as part of a "secret side deal" the US has delivered MANPADs to the SDF. There is no statement on the SDF website even 48 hours after the announcement.
12 Jan. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, they have "completely wiped out" the group that attacked the Khmeimim base on Dec 31, blowing up their minibus after special forces had located them. They also destroyed a depot of drones of the type used on Jan 6. In both cases "Krasnopol precision artillery munition" was used.
Jusoor publishes an infographic showing the development of military influence in Syria during the months of 2017.
11 Jan. Speaking about the drone attacks to the Russian press at an extensive meeting, Putin says that Russia knows who paid whom how much for the provocation aimed at driving a wedge between Turkey, Iran and Russia (answer to Mikhail Komissar in full transcript + video. Also, Igor Chernyak: Recently, during an attack on the Russian base in Syria, a US reconnaissance aircraft was spotted near the base, according to the Defence Ministry. Putin: There was a drone hovering nearby).
Putin conversation with Erdogan prior to press conference (drones including).
10 Jan. A map showing today's again rapid developments in the eastern Idlib pocket suggests that HTS/Nusra is fleeing out of the building pockets to the west, while the SAA and ISIS are filling the void. The SAA stands at the gates of Abu al-Duhur airbase.
Turkish state media prints claims by "moderate rebels" that "Russia, Iran and the Assad regime" are responsible for the growing of the ISIS micro caliphate in the Idlib pocket.
According to a source cited by an Al-Masdar author, the number of fighters in the ISIS micro caliphate has grown from initially 300 who broke into the pocket months ago, to 800-900, mainly thanks to defections.
An article in the newspaper of the Russian Defense Ministry, "Red Star", states that the drones attacking the Russian facilities have originated in the village Muazzara in the Turkish-controlled part of the Idlib de-escalation zone. Inquiring letters to the heads of Turkish Army and Intelligence have been sent.
9 Jan. Russian military sources quoted by Kommersant say they have evidence that the Jan 6 drone attacks on their facilities were carried out by Ahrar Al-Sham, with "satellite assistence" from a state, implying the US. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is "worried" that such drones are seen in the hands of militants, claiming to have seen them being used by ISIS. A further al-Masdar report claims a US P8 Poseidon was flying an orbit nearby during the attack - implying the US had prior warning of the attack and was monitoring Russian Command Control and Communications.
Israel attacks SAA targets in the western Ghouta with missiles.
ISIS-in-Idlib-pocket snatches another dozen villages from HTS and extends their micro caliphate into Aleppo province.
Speaking to parliament, Erdogan repeats his threat to extend Euphrates Shield to Manbij and Afrin.
8 Jan. A Turkish army convoy is attacked by unknown militants in western Aleppo countryside. While Muraselon reports that at least one military vehicle was destroyed and the crew killed "by RPGs", Yeni Safak claims that "a rocket" missed the convoy by 20-30 m and no damage occured.
7. Jan Continuing the rapid advance, the SAA takes the regional traffic hub of Sinjar and several villages in southern Idlib province. Video footage from Sinjar released by the Tiger forces shows an empty town.
The Turkistan Islamic Party, a militia consisting of Chinese Uyghurs based near the Turkish border in the Idlib pocket, sends a large convoy of reinforcements to the front with the SAA to help out Al Nusra.
6 Jan. Russian air defense at Khmeimim base intercepts an unknown flying object. Later report with photos said that armed wooden frame drones handmade by the rebels were shot down near Khmeimim. Two days later the Defense Ministry speaks about 13 "rebel" drones they had intercepted.
5 Jan. According to both government and opposition sources, HTS/Nusra is retreating from its positions in the southern Idlib pocket while the SAA advances. A bit east of that battlefield, the pocket-in-a-pocket ISIS micro-caliphate uses the opportunity to take two more villages from the rival Jihadis.
The SDF continues to fight remnants of ISIS on the low east bank of the Euphrates.
4 Jan. A Brazilian parliamentary delegation comes to visit Syria.
3 Jan. The SDF publishes a detailed report of their activities in 2017. A similar year-end report by the Turkish PKK's militia HPG claims that they have killed 2,616 Turkish soldiers and police men in 2017.