Syria news/Archive/2018-01

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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.

Rocky start for Syria talks in Russia as some delegates refuse to leave airport

29 Jan. The long-anticipated Syrian National Dialogue Congress starts in Sochi.

US Is Not Going To Withdraw From Manbij Despite Turkey’s Warning

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 route

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).

Russian Foreign Ministry statement on US allegations regarding chemical attacks in Syria. A day earlier, U.S. takes aim at Russia after claims of a gas attack in Eastern Ghouta

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.

Turkish Leopard after PTUR hit?

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).

Cassad: 'Olive branch day two' (+ day 3, includes a map).

Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish villages- Al-Malikiyah
KORAL-Turkish electronic warfare system reported near the border

20 Jan. YPG: six civilians, a YPG fighter and two YPJ fighters were martyred, while 13 civilians were injured in the attacks; we will resist (Hawar News)

Turkish aerial bombardment of Afrin -Rusvesna; Cassad, TASS, CNN Turk

Erdogan: Turkish military operation in Syria's Afrin has begun- Reuters

YPG member attends a local villages council (some text, several gunshots heard at a distance).

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.

Military influence in Syria during 2017 (Jusoor)

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. Meanwhile, Turkish media has some strong words about US-backed 'border force' plans (reported on 22 Dec. 2017).

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.

2 Jan. The SAA declares the western Ghouta to be free of terrorists (background story on the history of the Beit Jenn pocket).

In the eastern Ghouta, the SAA is involved in heavy clashes with Ahrar Al-Sham over a base in Harasta.

1 Jan. Assad appoints new ministers of Defense, Industry and Information. The new Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub was until now the SAA's Chief of General Staff.

The Mharda power plant in northern Hama gets shelled but stays in operation with damage only to administrative buildings. Meanwhile, the al-Zara power plant goes back on line.