Syria news/Current

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23 May. Syrian army moving towards Jordanian and Iraqi border, and featuring Russian/Soviet equipment: TOS-1A Solntsepyok '(Sunheat'), "Crocodile" MI-35 helicopter gunships; 152 mm howitzer Msta-B; Chinese HJ-8 ATGM

Situation around Raqqa

22 May. After a rapid advance against ISIS in eastern Aleppo province over the weekend, the SAA stands 10 km west of Maskanah, fighting off IS attempts to counter-attack (photos)

A massive ceasefire breach in the morning by Nusra and allies in the Deraa pocket is met with a strong response by the SAA.

21 May. Iraq: Rudaw reports that the US is supporting a project called Taqadum for the decentralization of government power not only with good words but with above $100 million. The US-appointed head is a Kurd.

Situation in the desert south-east of Damascus

19 May. Despite the illegal US bombardment, loyalist forces continue to advance in several areas in the south-east including the Damascus-Bagdad motorway towards Al-Tanf border crossing.

Appears to be 'Kata'ib Al Imam Ali' with a Kornet heading to Al Tanf on 18 May

18 May. U.S. military carried out an air strike on Thursday against militia supported by the Syrian government who had moved against U.S.-backed fighters near the town of At Tanf (map, near the border with Jordan, Iraq) -Reuters

The coalition struck pro-regime forces that were advancing well inside an established de-confliction zone northwest of At Tanf, Syria, May 18, and that posed a threat to U.S. and partner forces at At Tanf. This action was taken after apparent Russian attempts to dissuade Syrian pro-regime movement south towards At Tanf were unsuccessful, a coalition aircraft show of force, and the firing of warning shots. Coalition forces have been operating in the At Tanf area for many months training and advising vetted partner forces engaged in the fight against ISIS. The agreed upon de-confliction zone agreement remains in effect. -inherentresolve.mil

ISIS forces massacre up to 52people (video) after temporarily taking control of the village of Aqarib Al-Safi in the eastern countryside of Hama.

17 May. According to a McClatchy report, actions taken in early January by the then-designated National Security Advisor to Trump, Michael Flynn, delayed the operation to take Raqqa with the YPG after he got paid by Turkish lobbyists.

15 May. Al Aan reporter Jenan Moussa publishes her documentary "Undercover In Idlib" based on three sources who went undercover to the province to see who is in control and how life is. (full video with English subtitles).

'Spetsnaz from USSR' said to be deployed in eastern Homs, near Palmyra. Report 1, 2 includes a video, said to be of a 'Kornet' launch.

Earlier video, The muslim "Turan" battalion attacks position of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham

14 May. Canadian media finds that the al Nusra Front has, despite the reward on its leader, so far managed to stay off the US' (and Canadian) list of terrorist organizations after its latest shapeshift into Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham.

270 thousand Basic Education students start taking their final exams.

13 May. The SAA takes full control over the Damascus suburb of al Qaboun, a long-time stronghold of militants.

12 May. Another evacuation deal is reached in the Damascus suburb of Tishreen, while in Barzeh already the second batch of militants takes a bus ride to Idlib.

After having started to advance again in eastern Aleppo province in the previous days, in the evening the SAA takes over Jirah airbase from ISIS who retreat to the Maskanah plains north-west of Tabqa.

11 May. In a NYT op-ed Sinam Mohamad, speaking for the Syrian Kurds, asks for a US pledge that, as the title reads, "Once We Beat ISIS, Don’t Abandon Us", looking for protection against Erdogan's Turkey. Erdogan is scheduled to meet Trump in Washington on 16 May.

10 May. Four officers from the Russian Special Operations Forces were awarded medals for operations in Syria. A 16-strong Russian unit managed to repulse attacks by 300 jihadists while Syrian forces had withdrawn. Russian sources say the battle happened in Aleppo Province against al-Nusra Front, but the details of the battle more closely match the defense of the T4 airbase after ISIS recaptured Palmyra.

The SDF finally liberates Tabqa dam and the remaining part of the city 50 days after launching the operation. A "forced withdrawal" of the remaining 70 ISIS fighters contributes to the success.

The State Department offers a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Nusra-head al-Jawlani.

9 May. The US administration decides to arm the YPG directly, not only the arab parts of the SDF like they claimed to do before. Ankara is not amused.

Assad is interviewed by Belarussian State TV (transcript).

8 May. Syrian FM al-Moallem states that Syria supports the Astana memorandum and the de-escalation zones and announces that reconciliation processes like the recently finished one in al-Waer have started or are discussed in the Damascus suburbs of Barzeh, al-Qaboun and Yarmouk camp.

The Syrian ambassador to China estimates that 5,000 Chinese citizens of the Uighur ethnicity are fighting in various Islamist militant groups in Syria.

7 May. The SAA starts an operation to secure a puffer zone south-east of Damascus to prevent militant groups, the so-called Maghawir Al-Thawra who are US-supported, operate out of Jordan and have recently advanced in the desert, from coming close to the urban areas.

6 May. According to Kurdish sources, 3,485 Yezidi women and girls who were kidnapped by ISIS during their attempt to conquer Sengal are still missing.

Russian FM comments on chemical weapons reports

5 May. The de-escalation memorandum signed in Astana comes into force. Russian envoy Alexander Lavrentiev believes that those safe zones are closed to coalition aviation, however that is not explicitly spelled out in the memorandum. Russia stopped using aviation in deescalation zones from May 1. The defense ministry holds a press briefing about the "Principles of implementation of the Memorandum on Syria de-escalation zones signed in Astana”. The four zones are described as

  • Idlib pocket with over 1 million inhabitants, controlled by 14,500 militants
  • Rastan pocket with 180,000 inhabitants controlled by 3,000 militants
  • East Ghouta pocket with 690,000 inhabitants controlled by 9,000 militants
  • Deraa pocket with 800,000 inhabitants cotrolled by 15,000 militants

German special police forces in Leipzig arrest a Syrian man who was as Nusra commander involved in the conquer of Tabqa in early 2013 and then joined ISIS after the schism between the groups.

4 May. Oksana Boyko interviews Alexander Shulgin, the Russian representative to the OPCW, about why no formal investigation into the Khan Sheikhoun incident has been established.

An SDF statement denies earlier reports by SOHR that ISIS has left Tabqa city and dam following a deal. They are still on the dam while fights in the northern neighbourhoods of the city have reignited. No deal has been made.

In Astana, Russia, Iran and Turkey sign the Russian memorandum on de-escalation zones (text)

TASS and RIA Novosti report that Russia has noticed that "stringers from Al Jazeera" have recently shot footage of a fake chemical attack in Jisr al-Shugour, which is planned to be released and blamed as real on the SAA before next Sunday.

First appeared 30 Apr. in Iranian sources and social media, and Rusvesna quoting a Syrian mukhabarat (security) source. Claims of dead babies taken from a morgue at that time too.

An eighth batch of bus riders from al-Waer district of Homs city finishes the reconciliation agreement.

3 May. On the day the Mhardeh power plant in northern Hama province is put into operation for the first time in seven months, Nusra shells the giant Al-Zara power plant in southern Hama province.

At the press conference following the Putin-Erdogan meeting in Sochi, Erdogan says that the perpetrators of the Khan Sheikhoun incident did it to sabotage the ceasefire, and that he and Putin agree that they have to be brought to justice. About the "de-escalation zones" unity was expressed as well. Meanwhile in Astana, the "armed opposition" delegation headed by Mohammed Alloush, the brother of Zahran, the deceased head of the Saudi-sponsored Army of Islam group currently engaged in turf wars in the eastern Ghouta, left the negotiations complaining about ceasefire violations and the involvement of Iran in the talks.

2 May. Several participants and delegations arrive in Astana ahead of the next round of "Syria Settlement" talks due May 3/4.

Trump-Putin phone call. On Syria: The conversation...included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons. The United States will be sending a representative to the cease-fire talks in Astana, Kazakhstan on May 3-4-WH readout. (Kremlin readout does not offer call details). Sputnik on the Russian "deescalation zones" proposal

SDF forces have liberated Tabqa city and the remaining ISIS forces in unknown numbers are under siege on the southern part of Tabqa dam.

Al Monitor has spoken with senior Turkish military people and reports what they said about the reasons for the recent attacks on Kurdish targets in both Syria and Iraq that angered both Russia and the US.

1 May. Similar to appearances of US forces further east, Russian military is spotted together with YPG forces near the Turkish border in Afrin canton.

30 Apr. In heavy fights, the SDF wrestles more and more of Tabqa city out of ISIS hands.

Infighting: territorial control in the eastern Ghouta

29 Apr. Around 75 militants die in the eastern Ghouta due to infighting between Al Qaeda and FSA factions on the one side and the Army of Islam group on the other side, the latter trying (again) to monopolize control in the pocket.

While a Pentagon spokesperson confirms that US forces are in the border region "monitoring" the situation, Erdogan tells Turkish industrialists how he and the US could "turn Raqqa into a graveyard for ISIS".

28 Apr. Trump delegates the decision about use of force in Iraq and Syria to defense minister Mattis. Videos emerge showing a convoy of military vehicles flying both US and YPG flags said to be from Darbasiyah in Hasakah province near the Turkish-Syrian border.

27 Apr. Assad is interviewed by teleSUR (transcript).

After a couple of Israeli missiles hit Hezbollah targets near Damascus airport, the Kremlin asks Israel to respect Syria's sovereignty.

26 Apr. The Iraqi parliament starts an investigation into the Turkish airstrikes. The spokesperson of the YPJ (female part of the Kurdish YPG, the dominant force in the SDF) calls on the US to do more than issue statements of concern to stop further Turkish attacks, or they will rethink going to Raqqa and withdraw.

25 Apr. 26 Turkish warplanes attack Kurdish targets in the north of far eastern Syria and far western Iraq. US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner claims to be very, deeply concerned about these actions done "without proper coordination". He also reaffirms "our view that military action in Iraq should respect Iraqi sovereignty" while leaving open their view about Syria.

24 Apr. A pocket cut off by the SDF north of Raqqa the days before is quickly cleared of remaining ISIS fighters. This officially concludes phase four of Wrath of Euphrates. Tabqa city and parts of the dam remain under siege but in ISIS hands, with heavy clashes going on.

23 Apr. According to media reports citing proverbial unnamed US officials, ISIS has moved its "government" from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zor.

According to SOHR, the US-led coalition has killed 7,631 people in Syria since it intervened, among them 1,256 civilians including 275 children.

Patrick Henningsen publishes part one of his reportage about his recent visit to Aleppo.

Situation in northern Hama province

Militants flee Halfaya and a couple of villages in northern Hama countryside, leaving them for the SAA to overtake.

22 Apr. The SAA continues to advance in northern Hama countryside.

To the sound of little skirmishes on the Golan heights, the ex-Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya'alon tells a story about how ISIS apologized for hitting the IDF in November 2016.

21 Apr. Assad is interviewed by Russian news agencies (transcript)(video). On al-Baghdadi arrest: 'that's not true' (around 3:25). OPCW: they were invited to investigate Khan Sheikhoun and previous attacks, but the arrival was blocked by the West.

The first stage (evacuation of civilians) of the four towns agreement is completed.

20 Apr. Since the beginning of the fourth phase of Wrath of Euphrates, more than ten thousand civilians have fled ISIS-controlled northern Raqqa countryside towards the advancing SDF.

19 Apr. Planes of the Us-led coalition destroy all bridges in Hazimah town in northern Raqqa countryside.

The Russian Air Force destroys a Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham training camp in sothern Idlib and an underground base northern Hama. White Helmets later release footage of rescue work at what they claim was an underground hospital south of Idlib.

18 Apr. The constituent congress of the Raqqa Civil Council takes place in Ain Issa to the north of Raqqa. With over 100 attendents of important social functions, among them clan leaders, a sort of exile government is formed to which the SDF will hand over power once Raqqa is liberated from ISIS. After the congress, a statement is released.

17 Apr. A fifth batch of almost 2,000 green bus travellers leaves Al-Waer.

According to German Damascus-based correspondent Karin Leukefeld, the Saudi-sponsored Army of Islam group has claimed the attack on the buses from Fou'aa and Kafraya immediately after the event, but quickly deleted the statement from their website when it became known that the victims are mostly children.

14 Apr. Thousands of civilians take a bus out of both Madaya and Al-Zabadani and Al-Fou'aa and Kafraya. The latter are then attacked, RT reports, by a suicide bomber, wounding many and killing at least 39 (first reports), later at least 126 (Reuters, and over 150 (including 68 children) by some sources. Ahrar al-Sham at least denies responsibility, claiming it was a "regime" attack (tweet). (Red Crescent workers seen fleeing before the blast?)

13 Apr. The beginning of the fourth stage of Wrath of Euphrates is announced by SDF command. Aim is to take over the northern countryside of Raqqa and tighten the siege of the city.

The Pentagon announces that two days ago, they killed 18 SDF fighters near Tabqa in a "friendly fire" accident.

Assad is interviewed by AFP (transcript).

12 Apr. A revised version of the Western draft resolution for the investigation of the Khan Sheikhoun incident circulates in the UNSC. Unlike the first version, it contains no blame of Damascus and speaks of a "reported" CW use. Yet it still demands unlimited access to SAA sites at threat of military action and gets vetoed by Russia later that day.

Prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr calls on Assad to step down, warning that otherwise he will share the fate of Gaddafi. It's the second time in recent days that Sadr makes that call.

Trump asserts that the US will not invade Syria.

According to the SAA command, a US-led coalition airstrike between 17:30 and 17:50 h in Hatla village east of Deir ez-Zor blows up an ISIS warehouse which contained toxic substances. The resulting white-yellow cloud allegedly killed "hundreds" including civilians. Reactions: US called these claims "incorrect" and Russia said it had no information, would send drones to take a look.

Russia's UN rep attacks British representative--gross. Video, Engl, Russ. (full)

11 Apr. Buses arrive to Madaya and Al-Zabadani in preparation for the execution of an unusual deal brokered by Qatar and Iran.

10 Apr. Iraqi Kurdistan: Due to a technical issue on the Turkish side, the oil flow to Ceyhan will be interrupted for three days, causing $23 million damage per day.

9 Apr. "Euphrates Shield" command orders to close all roads from Turkish-controlled Jarablus border post into SDF-controlled Manbij area.

8 Apr. In the fourth batch of proverbial green bus rides, 480 gunmen plus family members leave al-Waer, the last militant-controlled neigbourhood in Homs city.

A large market called "Silk Road Souk" with 211 shops opens in New Aleppo part of Aleppo city, temporarily replacing the historical souks in the old town that were left in different stages of destruction by the militants.

7 Apr. Russian MoD official statement -Engl. captions (footage at the end suggests low effectiveness).

TASS: frigate of the Black Sea Fleet 'Admiral Grigorovich' will enter the port of Tartus. Said to pass Bosporus(@YorukIsik); equipped with Kalibr cruise missiles, +modern naval version of 'Buk' (SA-N-7C Gollum).

After US airstrike, Russia calls it an aggression against sovereign country, suspended memorandum on safe flights in Syria, calls for an urgent -TASS (Russ.)(Engl.)

  • At least 6 people were killed. Military source: six MIG-23 planes undergoing repairs, decommissioned AN-26 , and several small foreign transport planes destroyed; damage estimated at 1-2 mln $, strike cost, at 90 mln $.
  • UNSC meeting live feed, Engl'; Russ.

6 Apr. US media reports that two US warships fired 50 Tomahawk missiles at a single target - Shayrat military airbase in Homs province, "the airfield from which the United States believes the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired the banned weapons [on Khan Sheikhoun]".

  • Amateur strike footage
  • Video from the airbase after the strike (an old air defense system is seen). More photos, videos 1 ,2 showing damage. Vesti.ru video claims that Russian MoD was notified and parts of airport where Russian military could be located was not hit; Herbert McMaster quoted to make similar statement; while Russian MP Vladimir Dzhabarov believes there was no notification. More photo/visuals -Cassad 1, 2.
  • ACLOS page

The Turkish Health Ministry says that autopsies they conducted of victims of the alleged chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun point to exposure to Sarin.

"US ground forces kill 'Islamic State' (IS) militant linked to Turkey nightclub attack" - occurred on 6 Apr. and announced around 21 Apr.

Assad was interviewed by Croatian newspaper Vecernji List (transcript).

5 Apr. Tabqa is under siege and the SDF are moving towards the city center. Violent clashes are taking place.

The "municipality of people" governing the regions liberated by the SDF have given out 600 licences for stores to be opened while the residents are returning.

The US army expands the runway of a military airfield near Kobane to make it capable of handling large cargo airplanes.

4 Apr. Reports of a chemical attack with many victims, including children emerge from southern Idlib province (ACLOS page).

3 Apr. Turkey announces to not attend the EU conference about the future of Syria to be held on 4-5 April. Meanwhile Erdogan promises "very good surprises for all terror groups" in new military operations under new names.

1 Apr. The third batch of militants leaves al-Waer district of Homs city in green buses to Idlib.

The "successful completion" of Euphrates Shield doesn't mean that Turkey plans to end their occupation of Syrian land anytime soon, says Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu, while also reporting about his meeting with US counterpart Tillerson which seems to have mostly consisted of C.'s complains about the YPG.

According to Al Masdar, in the late evening three Russian jets crossed into Turkey while targeting Islamist positions around the border in Idlib province.

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