INFIGHTING AMONG IDLIB RADICALS RESUMES WITH RENEWED ENERGY

South Front

Late on June 23, the Israeli Air Force conducted airstrikes on alleged Iranian-linked targets near al-Sukhna and Kabajab in central Syria and near Tel Al-Sahn in the countryside of as-Suwayda in southern Syria. A second wave of Israeli strikes early on June 24 targeted Salamyieh and al-Sabboura in the province of Hama. Syrian state media denied that the strikes hit Iranian targets saying that 2 soldiers were killed, 4 others injured and some material damage was caused by the attack. As was expected the airstrikes took place just a few days after Hezbollah-affiliated media had released a video with threats to strike targets inside Israel in the event of an escalation.

Since June 23 intense fighting has been ongoing in the countryside of Idlib and the southern part of the province between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and the recently formed coalition of al-Qaeda-linked groups, Fa Ithbatu.

The Idlib central prison area, the village of Arab Said, and the towns of Barisha, Sarmada and Ariha were the main focal points of the confrontation. According to pro-militant sources, the fighting broke out as a result of recent tensions caused by the arrests of some members of Fa Ithbatu by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham security forces. From demands to release its members, Fa Ithbatu forces moved to a direct confrontation with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. However, as of the morning of June 24th, they had not yet achieved any major successes in these efforts.

Simultaneously, tensions grew between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and another al-Qaeda-linked group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, in the town of Jisr al-Shughur. Turkistan Islamic Party members reportedly surrounded a local HQ of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

Fa Ithbatu and the Turkistan Islamic Party are apparently very unhappy with the recent actions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which had indirectly supported the implementation of the Turkish-Russian de-escalation agreement on southern Idlib and pressured other al-Qaeda-linked groups in the area to gain more support from Turkey.

While the close cooperation with Turkey allows Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to increase its military and financial capabilities, the implementation of the de-escalation deal poses a direct threat to interests of smaller radical groups such the ones from Fa Ithbatu. Thus, there is a clear conflict of interest that may yet turn into a full-scale military confrontation.

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Syria & Iraq Launch Operations Against ISIS In Border Area

South Front

Members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Turkistan Islamic Party have four times shelled positions of the Syrian Army in the provinces of Lattakia and Hama over the past 24 hours, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria reported. At the same time, according to the Russian side, Turkish-controlled armed groups did not violate the ceasefire regime.

Despite this, the situation on the contact line between government forces and militants remains tense. The M4 highway is still blocked by supporters and members of radical militant groups.

On April 14, the Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces kicked off a security operation against ISIS in the countryside of the town of al-Sukhna on the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor road. The operation came as a response to recent ISIS attacks on army positions in the Homs desert, which resulted in several days of intense fighting between government troops and terrorists.

However, according to pro-government sources, it is unlikely that the efforts of the government forces will change the security situation in eastern Syria in any significant manner. To carry out attacks, ISIS is using small mobile groups that enjoy freedom of movement through the US-occupied area of al-Tanf on the Syrian-Iraqi border, where the US-led coalition and its proxies are fiercely opposing any anti-terrorism efforts by the Syrian Army. On several occasions in previous years, US-led coalition aircraft even struck Syrian convoys, which had allegedly moved too close to the US-controlled zone. ISIS terrorists moving through al-Tanf, however, do not seem to be causing such deep security concern to the US military and political leadership.

A day earlier, Iraqi government forces launched their own security operation against ISIS cells in the province of Anbar on the border with Syria. According to official statements, the operation is ongoing in the areas of Wadi al-Ghari, Wadi al-Awja and Wadi al-Malisi.

Another anti-ISIS operation is currently ongoing in the province of Diyala. It was launched on April 11 and involves the 20th, 23rd and 110th Brigades of the Popular Mobilization Forces as well as several units of the Iraqi Army. The main efforts are focused on the countryside of Sherk Zur.

According to ISIS’ newspaper al-Naba, the terrorist group killed 66 government fighters and civilians in Iraq in the first week of April alone. While this number could be overestimated, regular ISIS attacks on military and civilian targets in western Iraq are an open secret.

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This is what is going on now in liberated areas in Idleb

IDLEB, (ST)_The official in charge of Idleb governorate Mohammad Fadi al-Saadon has affirmed that there is cooperation with international organizations to rebuild Khan Sheikhoun city after the Syrian army liberated it from terrorist groups in August 2019. “The extent of the damage in Khan Shikhon , Maarret al-Noaman and  Taman’aa cities in Idleb has been evaluated and we are working on removing rubbles and repairing sewage pipes and main roads in order to facilitate the return of the displaced people to their homes,” al-Saadon said.He added that 2 schools were equipped in the city of Khan Shikhoun in order to receive the students, who returned with their families. 

The government will fund several development projects in liberated areas in Idleb, according to the official, who cited that several fuel stations will be put into service for vehicles passing through the  Hama-Aleppo international road . Moreover, municipalities will be provided with tractors and street sweepers to clean the roads. As for the current situation in Senjar village and nearby villages that were liberated last year, al-Saadon said that 48 schools and service centers were opened there . “Three health centers  will be opened in Hawwa, Senjar, Hmimat al-Dayer towns soon. And we are working now with international organizations to supply Hmimat al-Dayer area with water. ” Around 200 literacy courses plus awareness courses will be held in liberated villages by the Ministry of Labaour and Social Affairs in cooperation with international organizations. These courses aim at making the participants aware of the risks of explosive wastes and how to carry out small and micro projects. 

Basma Qaddour

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It’s time for Ankara to accept the realities of the Syrian war before it’s too late (UPDATED!)

February 28, 2020

By Aram Mirzaei for the Saker blog

The two months long Syrian Army offensive in the Idlib and Aleppo provinces culminated in Aleppo’s complete liberation from the jihadist terrorists of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) and their friends. In a matter of weeks, the Syrian Army, backed by the Russian Air Force managed to liberate hundreds of towns and cities across the two provinces, including the important cities or Saraqib and Maarat Al-Numan, while also fully securing the imperative M5 highway stretching from Damascus to Aleppo. These are areas that were considered untouchable only a year ago, but now they have all fallen like bricks, proving that the jihadist resolve is dwindling.

Naturally, tensions with Ankara, a key backer of the jihadist forces, have risen. The Russian-Turkish understanding has deteriorated over the past weeks as both sides accuse eachother of breaking their agreement. The Sochi agreement of 2018 stipulated that a demilitarized zone was to be created in Idlib and Ankara was tasked with separating the “moderate” rebels from HTS militants. After almost 18 months of stalling by the Turkish side and repeated attacks and violations of the agreement by the Jihadist forces, Moscow’s and Damascus’ patience finally ran out.

I have for long been a critic of these ceasefire deals in Idlib as I consider it a waste of time to negotiate with Jihadists since these are people that consider peace with the kuffars (Russians) and murtadeens (Shias, Alawites) to be a sin. Besides, what would be the purpose of a long term ceasefire with them? The Syrian jihadists will never participate in a political settlement, while the foreign jihadists have no right to be in Syria in the first place.

The jihadists have for long declared that they will not rest until the Syrian government is overthrown anyways. When two sides have such fundamental differences that can never be reconciled, there is no point in even trying. The reality is that the Syrian Army and the jihadists are locked in a battle of annihilation, no side can live comfortably as long as the other side still exists. Yes, the ceasefire deals were beneficial for a while in 2017 when the Syrian Army had the opportunity to shift focus from Idlib to central and eastern Syria in their campaign against the so called “Islamic State”. With Daesh defeated, the jihadists in Idlib were not just weakened but also isolated since the Syrian Army no longer had to fight on two fronts in the Aleppo and Hama provinces. While the Russian entry into the war in 2015, spelled disaster for the jihadists, the fall of Daesh as a territorial entity made it even more clear that the jihadist defeat was inevitable.

Still Ankara has thrown all its weight behind the jihadists, even going as far as threatening to launch an offensive to push back the Syrian Army gains. So far, Ankara has sent massive convoys to Idlib and set up new “observation posts” across the region and helped the jihadists to launch counter offensives on Saraqib- there are pictures and videos showing HTS militants using Turkish military vehicles, while Moscow also caught Turkish forces providing artillery cover to the jihadists. Moscow has responded by reassuring their commitment to stand by the Syrian Army and joined the Syrian Air Force in bombing the jihadists, striking Turkish forces embedded with them as well. Tensions rose to alarming levels when several Turkish soldiers were killed in Moscow’s bombings, naturally Ankara blamed Damascus rather than admitting that Moscow punished Ankara for crossing the line. Yet Erdogan continues to threaten Syria by demanding the Syrian Army withdraws from all liberated areas by the end of February.

It remains to be seen whether Ankara will make good on its promise of launching an offensive on Idlib, but history teaches us that making strategic moves out of desperation is never a good idea. Ankara is desperate to have the jihadists remaining in Idlib, because Erdogan knows what the other option means – 30 000 terrorists with nowhere else to go, flocking into Turkey and wreaking havoc inside the country. It’s a dangerous game that Ankara is playing here. Fighting the Kurdish led militias who have no airpower and capabilities to bring down Turkish warplanes is one thing, but fighting a Syrian Arab Army, with 9 years of battle experience, and two major players such as Iran and Russia backing them militarily and logistically, is a whole other thing.

One would think that it would be in Turkey’s best interest to see these terrorists eliminated. Logically, nobody would want terrorists as their neighbours, which makes me question whether or not Ankara is actually calling the shots here. There is another player in this war that has a history of using terrorism to achieve their goals – enter Washington. My gut feeling tells me that Washington is behind these tensions as it is Washington that benefits from a collapse in Russian-Turkish collaboration. I believe that Washington is fuming over the rapid advance of the Syrian Army, and seeing how Washington has lost influence over an ever more rebellious Ankara over the past few years, Washington sees a great opportunity to get Ankara back into the fold.

It is no coincidence that Secretary Pompeo immediately after the announcement of two slain Turkish soldiers took to Twitter express “solidarity with the killed Turkish soldiers” and declare Washington’s commitment to “stand by our NATO ally Turkey”. A few days ago, reports alleged that Turkey had asked Washington for support through the deployment of Patriot missile systems to counter Russian warplanes – this was supposedly in response to Moscow’s decision to impose a no-fly zone in north-western Syria. As mentioned, Washington is the player that benefits the most from a Turkish-Russian deterioration of relations, as Washington thrives in the chaos that would follow if Moscow and Ankara cannot find a solution and are forced to confront one another.

Erdogan is recognized as a mentally unstable player by many observers while others consider him a mastermind who has been playing both sides in this war and who is now trying to bluff his way into stopping the Syrian Army advance. Whether he is crazy or just bluffing I’ll leave for every person to decide for himself, but if he is crazy and wants to confront Damascus and Moscow on this matter, then we are about to enter yet another bloody chapter of this almost 9 years long great tragedy. By the end of this month, we will know if Erdogan is bluffing for not.

Update: Since writing this article, the situation has further escalated as last night at least 33 Turkish troops were killed by Syrian Army shelling. The Turkish military responded by reportedly striking Syrian Army positions all over the Idlib countryside, causing catastrophic damage to the Syrian military’s capabilities in northwestern Syria.

انتصار حلب بعشرة

انتصار حلب بعشرة


ناصر قنديل

في الظاهر يبدو انتصار الجيش السوري في أرياف حلب، واحداً من الانتصارات المتدحرجة التي بدأها الجيش السوري منذ تحرير أغلب أجزاء مدينة حلب قبل ثلاثة أعوام وبضعة شهور، لكن التدقيق سيكشف أهمية هذا الانتصار وتميّزه وتأثيره على المناخات السياسية والمعطيات العسكرية وتثبيته قواعدَ ستحكم كثيراً ما بعده.

انتصر أمن حلب أولاً وقد عانت العاصمة السورية الثانية لسنوات ما بعد التحرير الأول من القصف والاعتداءات اليومية، ونظراً للعمق التركي وراء مناطق سيطرة الجماعات الإرهابية كان التجرؤ أكبر مما كانت تفعله هذه الجماعات في استهداف أمن دمشق من الغوطة قبل تحريرها، ورد الاعتبار لأمن العاصمة الاقتصادية سيكون له مردود كبير على حياة الناس أولاً وعلى النشاط الاقتصادي ثانياً، وبالتالي على مجمل الوضعين الأمني والاقتصادي.

النصر الثاني هو بفتح الطريق الدولي الذي يشكل شرياناً حيوياً بين العاصمة دمشق وكل من مدينتي حماة وحلب، وبالتالي بين نصف سورية ونصفها الآخر تقريباً، وهذا الربط الذي يختصر الوقت والمخاطرات المرافقين للطريق المؤقت البديل، يعني عودة للحياة الطبيعية سكانياً واقتصادياً وأمنياً، وخصوصاً بعودة نسبة كبيرة من النازحين من أبناء المناطق التي شملها التحرير أو وفّر لها الأمن أو سهل الانتقال إليها، وهي عودة مرتقبة بعشرات الآلاف من أكثر من وجهة نزوح.

النصر الثالث هو بسقوط آخر واجهات الاحتلال التركي من الميليشيات التي ترفع علماً مزيفاً باسم “الثورة السورية”. والمعلوم أن أرياف حلب كانت المنطقة الجغرافية التي تتمركز فيها هذه الجماعات ضمن تقسيم أدوار بينها وبين جبهة النصرة التي تتولى منطقة إدلب، وفقاً لترتيبات القيادة التركية، وسقوط آخر معاقل هذه الواجهات التي كانت تستعمل العلم السوري وتسعى لتغطية الاحتلال التركي بواجهة سورية، لا يعني فقط أن الاحتلال صار عارياً فقط، بل أيضاً سيكون له تأثير على مسار العملية السياسية وعمل اللجنة الدستورية، حيث كان بعض رموز ما يُسمّى بالمعارضة يستند لهذا الوجود في رفع السقوف وممارسة التعطيل.

النصر الرابع هو في كون ما تبقى من معاقل للجماعات الإرهابية بات تحت وطأة مفاعيل النصر السريع للجيش السوري، في حال انهزام وتفكك وضياع، وسيكون لهذا النصر تأثيره في رسم إيقاع المواجهات اللاحقة بعدما تم تفكيك وإنهاء بنى وهياكل تحتل مناطق تقارب بحجمها المناطق المتبقية تحت سيطرة جماعات النصرة، وتضم بين صفوفها أعداداً من المسلحين تقارب عدد من بقوا في المناطق التي يستهدفها التحرير اللاحق.

النصر الخامس هو بتثبيت معادلة العلاقة بروسيا وإيران، كحليفين لسورية، لحقت بالعلاقة بينهما وبين سورية حملات تشكيك ومحاولات نيل من المصداقية، وكانت أصعبها هذه المرة لخصوصية المناطق التي تدور فيها المعارك وموقعها المصيري بالنسبة للدور التركي، وما قالته توقعات أصحاب حملات التشكيك بأن ما كان يصحّ في التزام روسيا وإيران قبل إدلب وريفها وريف حلب لا يصحّ الآن، وقد بدأت أم المعارك. وجاءت النتائج لتقول إن ما يصحّ في فهم الحلف المبني على المصداقية هو قانون لا استثناءات فيه.

النصر السادس هو بالرسالة التي وجّهتها العملية للقيادات الكردية، التي كان بعضها يراهن على ثبات كانتون تفرضه تركيا لجماعاتها في ريفي حلب الغربي والشمالي لأهميته وحيويته على حدودها، وأنه سيكون ذلك فرصة لطلب المثل. وجاء النصر يسقط هذه الفرضية ويسقط معها المعوقات أمام التفكير العقلاني الذي يشكل شرطاً لنجاح الحل السياسي مع هذه الجماعات.

النصر السابع هو في تثبيت قواعد حاسمة لمفهوم السيادة في العلاقة السورية التركية، التي دخلت عليها بعض الأوهام لدى القيادة التركية، من نوع التلويح بالاستنجاد بالأطلسي أو بابتزاز الحليفين الروسي والإيراني، أو بالرهان على التهويل والترهيب بفرضية الحرب المباشرة بين الجيشين السوري والتركي، وكلها اختبارات جدّيّة وقاسية خاضتها القيادة السورية وفاز بها الرئيس بشار الأسد وأثبت الجيش السوري أهليته لتخطّيها، وباتت الحقائق التي قالتها معارك حلب خصوصاً حاكمة لمضامين لاحقة للعلاقة بين سورية وتركيا، عنوانها أن السيادة السورية خط أحمر.

النصر الثامن هو في تأثير معركة حلب الحاسمة على مستقبل الحسابات الإسرائيلية التي كانت تبني على ثبات تركيا ومَن معها من جماعات إرهابية ومن جهّزتهم من جماعات تحت مسمّى المعارضة، حسابات تفترض أن استعادة سورية وحدتها تحت سيادة جيشها أمر دونه الكثير، وبالتالي فالتعامل مع ما تسمّيه “إسرائيل” بالفوضى السورية مستمرّ لأجل بعيد. وجاء النصر ينبؤها بالعكس ويفرض عليها حسابات من نوع مختلف فقريباً ستكون سورية متفرّغة للتعامل مع الاعتداءات الإسرائيلية، وقد استعادت وحدتها وسيادتها وعافيتها.

النصر التاسع هو في تأثير المعركة الفاصلة في حلب على مستقبل الحسابات الأميركيّة التي تنازلت عن الواجهة الكرديّة في المناطق الشرقية لحساب الأتراك كي يصمدوا ويثبتوا، ويؤخروا لحظة الاستحقاق عن الوجود الأميركي، وجاءت الساعات التي سبقت النصر لتحمل طلباً تركياً بالتدخل المباشر للأميركيين أو للناتو كشرط لخوض تركيا المعركة عسكرياً بجيشها، وأقام الجميع حساباته، وعندما قرّر الناتو عدم الدخول، فهذا يعني أن واشنطن هي التي قرّرت، وقرارها هنا هو نسخة عن قرارها اللاحق بالنسبة للمناطق الشرقية، وإلا لكان الأفضل دمج المعركتين معاً وكسب ما تؤمّنه شراكة تركيا من فرص أفضل.

النصر العاشر سياسيّ ودبلوماسيّ في علاقات سورية العربية والدولية، فالمتأخّرون عن دقّ أبواب دمشق، أو الذين فعلوا ذلك بتردّد وبالنقاط، باتوا يدركون أن عليهم مسابقة الزمن لفعل ذلك بصورة جدّية وسريعة وفعّالة، لأن الدولة السورية تُنهي آخر معاركها بسرعة، وتسابق الوقت بالمفاجآت، وعليهم أن يلاقوا ساعة النصر النهائي من سفاراتهم وقد استعادت كامل جهوزيتها ودورها في دمشق.

نصر أخير لا رقم له هو انتقام رفاق السلاح للقائد قاسم سليماني الذي أقسم لأهل حلب بأن يكون معهم في التحرير الثاني الآتي بلا ريب، فكانوا معه يهدونه نصرَهم العظيم في ذكرى الأربعين.

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SYRIAN WAR DIARY – DECEMBER 2015

Dear friends, SouthFront is now offering a new video product: “Syrian War Diary“. Over the past several years, the Syrian conflict has passed through several turning points. Now the military and diplomatic situation is quite different to what we observed before the start of the Russian military operation in 2015. “Syrian War Diary” videos unite SouthFront’s War Reports produced during this period and provide a retrospective of these developments.

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Syria Repels Militant Drone Attack on Army Air Base in Hama

December 28, 2019

Source

Syrian air defense forces have reportedly managed to foil an attack by foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants against an air base in the country’s west-central province of Hama.

Sham FM radio station reported that the country’s anti-aircraft defense systems intercepted unmanned aerial vehicles attacking Hama Military Airport, located more than 210 km (130 miles) north of the capital Damascus, late on Friday.

The development took place less than a week after Syrian government forces captured and dismantled an unmanned aerial vehicle rigged with explosives in the same Syrian province.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that air defense units managed to intercept and shoot down the drone as it was flying in the skies over the city of al-Skailabiyeh on Tuesday morning.

The report added that the aircraft had been launched by foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants operating in the area, and was armed with six missiles.

The projectiles were recovered by Syrian government forces and later defused.

Meanwhile, an unidentified unmanned aerial aircraft on Saturday bombarded a prison run by Turkish-backed Takfiri militants in northwestern Syria.

Local sources said the unknown aircraft conducted an airstrike against the jail in the village of Sajou, which lies near the city of A’zaz and 43 kilometers (26 miles) north of Aleppo.

“The Good Terrorists”: How U.S. Airstrikes Helped Prop Al-Qaeda in Syria’s Idlib?

Global Research, December 14, 2019
Marines

Al-Qaeda in Syria has two noteworthy apologists. One is the jihadist propagandist Bilal Abdul Kareem, a former correspondent for CNN, often seen in videos sporting a long beard and reporting from the ground in the al-Nusra Front strongholds in northwestern Syria, and the other is Syria analyst and the fellow of the Middle East Institute Charles Lister.

Recently, Lister has written a research paper for the Hudson Institute, titled “The Syria Effect: Al-Qaeda Fractures,” [1] in which he has tried to prove that militants of al-Qaeda in Syria are not “bad guys” per se, rather they are “good terrorists” whose ambitions are restricted to fighting the Syrian government, and they don’t intend to mount terror attacks in the Western countries.

In conclusion of the lengthy screed, he has craftily proposed “Gaza-fication” of Syria’s northwestern Idlib, where like the Hamas in Gaza, the so-called “Salvation Government” of the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda, can be recognized as a legitimate government administering the northwestern enclave under the tutelage of Ankara.

Unwittingly, however, Charles Lister has spilled the beans in the article about a July 30 American airstrike in rural Aleppo that killed several high-profile jihadist dissidents, who had challenged the unity of the Washington-backed insurgency against the Syrian government offensive in northern Hamah and Idlib in late April.

Before getting into details, it’s worth noting that Hurras al-Din is a small radical outfit in Syria’s northwestern Idlib that split in 2018 from al-Qaeda in Syria, which was formerly known as al-Nusra Front until 2016, and now as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

An excerpt from Charles Lister’s research paper reads:

“When the Syrian regime and Russia launched their all-out military offensive on northwestern Syria in late-April 2019, a debate ensued within Hurras al-Din – a breakaway faction of Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front – should they assist Tahrir al-Sham and other opposition groups by reinforcing their frontlines in northern Hama?

“Given al-Qaeda Central chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s public directives indicating the importance of Islamist unity and sustaining the armed struggle against the regime, the leader of Hurras al-Din Abu Hammam al-Suri and his deputy Sami al-Oraydi emerged as tacitly supportive of helping other jihadist groups, including Tahrir al-Sham, wherever necessary.

“The debate over Hurras al-Din’s role on Tahrir al-Sham’s opposition frontlines spilled out into the open in late June of 2019, when Hurras al-Din leader Abu Hammam al-Suri expelled two prominent Hurras al-Din clerics, Abu Dhar al-Masri and Abu Yahya al-Jazairi, for having issued non-sanctioned rulings forbidding fighting in northern Hama. Some alleged Abu Yahya had gone as far as pronouncing takfir on Tahrir al-Sham, thereby excommunicating them from Islam and labeling them apostates and legitimate targets for attack.

“Abu Hammam’s dismissal of Abu Dhar and Abu Yahya sparked an uproar within Hurras al-Din. The group’s internal judicial court, led by Abu Amr al-Tunisi, issued a petition signed by more than 300 members on June 23 demanding an arbitration involving Abu Hammam and his deputy, Sami al-Oraydi.

“However, neither Abu Hammam nor Oraydi turned up at the planned arbitration on June 25, leading the court’s chief, Abu Amr, to issue a furious five-minute audio statement accusing HaD’s leaders of nepotism. Abu Amr was swiftly expelled from Hurras al-Din, and this led another senior leader, Abu Yaman al-Wazzani, to declare in exasperation ‘the jihadist project over.’ Later that day, a statement confirmed that Wazzani and another fellow critic, Abu Musab al-Libi, had also been expelled from Hurras al-Din.

“Tensions persisted through the summer of 2019, albeit less intensely. But in a mysterious twist on June 30, 2019—just days after the above-mentioned crisis—Abu Amr al-Tunisi, Abu Yahya al-Jazairi and Abu Dhar al-Masri were all killed, along with three other allied hardliners (Abu al-Fid’a al-Tunisi, Abu Dujana al-Tunisi and Abu Ibrahim al-Shami) in an American airstrike that targeted a meeting of Hurras al-Din detractors in rural Aleppo.

“That was the first American strike in northwestern Syria in more than two years and it was followed up two months later by another on August 31, 2019, targeting Hurras al-Din ally Ansar al-Tawhid. Al-Qaeda veteran Abu Khallad al-Mohandis was also killed in an improvised explosive device attack that targeted his personal vehicle in Idlib city on August 22, 2019.”

It becomes abundantly clear after reading the excerpts from Charles Lister’s article that not only has Washington provided weapons and training to militant factions battling Damascus but it has also conducted airstrikes eliminating jihadist dissidents who dared to threaten the unity of large militant outfits in northwestern Idlib, such as Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

During the eight-year proxy war in Syria, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, the leader of al-Nusra Front, has emerged as the second most influential militant leader after the Islamic State’s slain chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In fact, since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in August 2011 to April 2013, the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front were a single organization that chose the banner of Jabhat al-Nusra.

Although the current al-Nusra Front has been led by Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, he was appointed[2] as the emir of al-Nusra Front by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the late leader of Islamic State, in January 2012. Thus, al-Jolani’s Nusra Front is only a splinter group of the Islamic State, which split from its parent organization in April 2013 over a leadership dispute between the two organizations.

In August 2011, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was based in Iraq, began sending Syrian and Iraqi jihadists experienced in guerrilla warfare across the border into Syria to establish an organization inside the country. Led by a Syrian known as Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, the group began to recruit fighters and establish cells throughout the country. On 23 January 2012, the group announced its formation as Jabhat al-Nusra.

In April 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio statement in which he announced that al-Nusra Front had been established, financed and supported by the Islamic State of Iraq. Al-Baghdadi declared that the two groups were merging under the name “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” The leader of al-Nusra Front, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, issued a statement denying the merger and complaining that neither he nor anyone else in al-Nusra’s leadership had been consulted about it.

Al-Qaeda Central’s leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, tried to mediate the dispute between al-Baghdadi and al-Jolani but eventually, in October 2013, he endorsed al-Nusra Front as the official franchise of al-Qaeda Central in Syria. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, however, defied the nominal authority of al-Qaeda Central and declared himself the caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Keeping this background in mind, it becomes abundantly clear that a single militant organization operated in Syria and Iraq under the leadership of al-Baghdadi until April 2013, which chose the banner of al-Nusra Front, and that the current emir of the subsequent breakaway faction of al-Nusra Front, al-Jolani, was actually al-Baghdadi’s deputy in Syria.

Thus, the Islamic State operated in Syria since August 2011 under the designation of al-Nusra Front and it subsequently changed its name to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in April 2013after which it overran Raqqa and parts of Deir al-Zor in the summer of 2013. And in January 2014, it overran Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in Iraq and reached the zenith of its power when it captured Mosul in June 2014.

Excluding al-Baghdadi and a handful of his hardline Islamist aides, the rest of Islamic State’s top leadership is comprised of Saddam-era military and intelligence officials. According to a Washington Post report [3], hundreds of ex-Baathists constitute the top- and mid-tier command structure of the Islamic State who plan all the operations and direct its military strategy.

It is an indisputable fact that morale and ideology play an important role in battlefield, and well-informed readers must also be aware that the Takfiri brand of most jihadists these days has directly been inspired by the puritanical Wahhabi-Salafi ideology of Saudi Arabia, but ideology alone is not sufficient to succeed in battle.

Looking at the Islamic State’s astounding gains in Syria and Iraq in 2013-14, a question naturally arises that where did its recruits get all the training and state-of-the-art weapons that were imperative not only for hit-and-run guerrilla warfare but also for capturing and holding large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

According to a revelatory December 2013 news report [4] from a newspaper affiliated with the UAE government which supports the Syrian opposition, it is clearly mentioned that along with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and other military gear, the Saudi regime also provided machine gun-mounted Toyota pick-up trucks to every batch of five jihadists who had completed their training in the training camps located in Jordan’s border regions along southern Syria.

Once those militants crossed over to Daraa and Quneitra in southern Syria from the Jordan-Syria border, then those Toyota pickup trucks could easily have traveled all the way to Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria, and thence to Mosul and Anbar in Iraq – the former strongholds of the Islamic State.

It is clearly spelled out in the report that Syrian militants got arms and training through a secret command center known as the Military Operations Center (MOC) based in the intelligence headquarters’ building in Amman, Jordan, that was staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations, Israel and the Gulf states to wage a covert war against the Syrian government.

*

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Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and Middle East regions, neocolonialism and petro-imperialism. He is a regular contributor to Global Research.

Notes

[1] The Syria Effect: Al-Qaeda Fractures

[2] Al-Jolani was appointed as the emir of al-Nusra Front by al-Baghdadi

[3] Islamic State’s top command dominated by ex-officers in Saddam’s army

[4] Syrian rebels get arms and advice through secret command center in Amman

Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again

Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again

September 20, 2019

By Aram Mirzaei for The Saker Blog

August was an eventful month for the Syrian Army and its allies as the battle for northwestern Syria saw a breakthrough after months of static frontline movements. Just like in the previous 3 years, the month of August has been one accompanied by important victories for Damascus. The Syrian Army managed to break through the jihadist lines at the Khan Sheikhoun front and from there steamrolled through the entire frontline, eventually encircling and trapping the jihadist militants in a pocket in northern Hama. Despite counteroffensives launched by Tahrir Al-Sham and their allies from the “Rouse the believers” operations room, the SAA managed to hold on to the newly liberated areas.

With this development, Hama city and Christian towns such as Mhardeh are now safe from the encroaching jihadist threat. This offensive should be expanded now that the Syrian Army still has the initiative, especially with the jihadist morale still shaken by the loss of their doorway into Hama. It is important for Damascus to clear out the remainder of the Latakia province as well as western Aleppo since both these areas are heavily populated and hold strategic value. If Latakia and Aleppo are cleared, then the jihadist threat will be contained to a single province in the country, leaving them pretty much besieged in Idlib as Ankara’s support seems to be fading, as evident by their passiveness during the Syrian Army’s August offensive.

Since the conclusion of the offensive, with a new ceasefire having been declared and expired, the Syrian Army is said to be amassing troops near the Al-Ghaab front in a potential move to completely kick the jihadists out of Hama and thereby finally paving the way for the liberation of Jisr Al-Shughour. This news seems to have been expected by the Jihadists as the Jaysh Al-Izza terrorist outfit has already begun making preparations for the upcoming battle, reportedly sending over 2000 men to the Western Hama countryside. The Syrian Army would do well to be careful here as the key hilltop town of Kabani, overlooking Jisr Al-Shughour still hasn’t been liberated.

Meanwhile, last weekend saw more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production go down in flames as the Saudi Aramco oilfields and refineries came under heavy drone attacks. The attacks caused the greatest drop in oil production in history, prompting oil prices to jump 19 percent. If oil prices rise further, the world will inch closer to a global recession, which, among other things, could cost Trump his reelection. Immediately after the attacks, the Yemeni Houthis issued a statement where they took responsibility for the attacks with the movement’s spokesperson General Yahya Sare’e adding that 10 drones were deployed against the sites at Khurais and Abqaiq. “This was one of the largest operations which our forces have carried out deep inside Saudi Arabia. It came after careful intelligence and cooperation with honorable and free people inside Saudi Arabia,” he said without elaboration.

Washington was quick to dismiss the Houthi claim of responsibility when Trump said that Washington has “reason to believe that we know the culprit,” noting that Washington is “locked and loaded depending on verification” and is waiting to “hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack.” The same response was voiced by Pompeo and Lindsey Graham who called for Washington to strike Iran in an attempt to “break the regime’s back”.

Surely Washington understands how embarrassing this debacle is for them. The Saudis have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on purchasing US military equipment and weapons. Equipment and weapons that Washington has spent quite some time claiming is superior to anything else the world has to offer. Last week, a Saudi prince took to twitter and claimed that Saudi Arabia could “destroy Iran in 8 hours”, adding that Iran’s military technology belong to the “museum”.

That same claimed superior weaponry failed to stop a single attack that took out half of the kingdom’s oil production. This makes me wonder if they’re laying the blame on Iran in order to cover up the even greater embarrassment, that American and Saudi military forces and their networks of advanced air defenses never detected the Yemeni drones that were launched on Saturday to strike oil facilities deep inside Saudi Arabia, proving futile the billions of dollars that the Riyadh regime has spent on them to protect its territories. What message does this send to US vassals around the world? In an attempt to downplay the uselessness of the Patriot system, Pompeo, sounding surprised by the vastness of the operation, said: “This is an attack of a scale we’ve just not seen before.”

Really? Never seen before? So the thousands of drone strikes that Washington has launched across the Islamic world is something that they’ve never seen before?

In any case, Pompeo immediately traveled to Riyadh to assure Washington’s vassals that everything is under control, and to discuss “potential responses”, calling the incident “an act of war”. By now, this blame game has become routine, Washington keeps using the same miserable strategy of intimidation, thinking it will work at the 500th attempt.

So here we are again, another dubious incident in which Tehran is held responsible, without any evidence presented. Of course, Tehran didn’t just stand idly by while Washington made these threats, both Ayatollah Khamenei and foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued separate responses, vehemently denying Iran’s role in the attack and warning that any attack on Iran would spark an all out war. Khamenei also went on to talk about the importance of not falling for the failed US maximum pressure campaign, which this is all about. Speaking on Tuesday, Khamenei said entering talks with the US under the current circumstances would be tantamount to surrendering to Washington’s pressure campaign. “Negotiating would mean Washington imposing its demands on Tehran. It would also be a manifestation of the victory of America’s maximum pressure campaign,” he noted.

Thus, the Islamic Republic has correctly calculated that Washington’s maximum pressure campaign is nothing but a bluff to intimidate Iran into entering negotiations. Khamenei said “I had already said that America’s objective of [pursuing] talks is to impose [its demands], but they have become so insolent that they even speak about this openly.”

“The US regime is after making its domestic rivals and the Europeans accept this as a definitive policy that maximum pressure is the only way to confront Iran,” added Ayatollah Khamenei. “Their objective in [offering to hold] talks is to prove to everyone that the policy of maximum pressure has yielded results, and that Iranian authorities were forced to come to the negotiating table despite what they said.”

The most probable conclusion is that there won’t be a war. Washington knows very well that it cannot afford a regional war, especially not now when Washington has been exposed for not being able to defend its vassals. If indeed Iran was behind this attack, then one can imagine that if a single drone strike took out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, imagine what an all-out war would result in for Washington and its vassals. The consequences of this debacle can be very severe for Washington in the future as Moscow has already offered the Arab states to purchase Russian weaponry instead, slowly outmanoeuvring Washington as was the case with Turkey and the S-400 deal. It is a real pathetic mess that Washington has got itself into. Washington’s own allies won’t even back their lies. “We are not aware of any information that points to Iran,” Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.

“We believe the Houthis carried out the attack based on the statement claiming responsibility,” he added, referring to the Yemeni group incorporated into the armed forces fighting back a Saudi-led war on Yemen.

Washington’s list of options grows thin, the US better retract its words, repent and return to the nuclear accord that it has violated or see itself fall even further into decay as Washington’s days of being the sole unipolar power that everyone used to fear are quickly fading away.

SYRIAN WAR REPORT – SEPTEMBER 12, 2019: RUSSIA RESUMES STRIKES ON TERRORISTS IN IDLIB

South Front

On September 11, the US-backed Revolutionary Commando Army claimed that it had repelled a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) attack in the 55km zone surrounding the US military garrison in al-Tanf. The militant group said that SAA units advanced using a Red Cross visit to civilians in the area.

A Syrian military source, stationed around the 55km zone, denied these claims. The source told SouthFront that no clashes happened in the area. There are about 300 Revolutionary Commando Army militants stationed in al-Tanf. They receive training, weapons and supplies from the US-led coalition despite multiple scandals surrounding this cooperation. Earlier in 2019, the group’s spokesperson, Mohamad Mostafa al-Jarrah, was caught raping a 10-year old girl from the nearby refugee camp.

A prominent Hayat Tahrir al-Sham commander, Abu Abd al-Ashda, left the militant group accusing its current leadership of massive corruption, and failing to defend militants’ territories in northern Hama during the recent SAA advance. According to him, millions of dollars that HTS had for rearmament simply disappeared.

Meanwhile, another key Hayat Tahrir al-Sham commander, Abu Abdul Mohsen al-Jazrawi, was assassinated in southeastern Idlib. The incident happened near the town of Saraqib on September 10. Al-Jazrawi, a Saudi citizen, was reportedly a close aide of the terrorist group leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani.

In the last few months, several prominent foreign terrorists were assassinated in Greater Idlib. The perpetrators of most of these attacks remain unknown.

On September 11, Syrian and Russian warplanes bombed positions of terrorists near the towns of Kafar Takharim and Darkush. The airstrikes were likely a response to the recently increased number of violations by militants in southern Idlib.

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Political analyst to ST: The so-called US-Turkish “Safe zone” means nothing in strategic terms

ST

The researcher in political and military affairs Basem al-Shihawi has underscored that there are both political and military reasons behind the terrorist organizations’ repeated drone attacks against Syrian military posts in Hama and Hmeimim airbase in Lattakia.

He told the Syria Times e-newspaper that terrorists groups holed up in Idlib province would never launch such attacks without Turkey’s permission.

“First of all, it is needless to say that terrorist groups in Idlib province are controlled by Turkey, and that they would never launch such attacks without it’s permission, this is a key point in order to analyse those attacks,” he said.

The researcher added: “Ankara wants those attacks to take place in order to blackmail Moscow politically since it demonstrates Ankara’s influence over terrorists, and Ankara hopes that the drone attacks will force Russia to yield to Erdogan’s demands regarding the awaited constitutional committee and other political goals in Syria.”

He made it clear that the military reasons for the terrorists’ drone attacks are to limit the Russian Air Force’s ability to conduct efficient airstrikes against Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, to hinder Hmeimim’s role in supporting Syrian Air force, to force the Russian military command to focus more on protecting its military base, and to put more pressure over Russian and Syrian anti-air defences.

“As for the continuous attacks being carried out by terrorists despite the de-escalation zone agreement, let’s all remember that the terrorists never abided by it, and this is the reason the Syrian army launched a military operation in order to liberate northern Hama in the first place,” al-Shihawi stressed.

He referred to the fact that suicide drone attacks never stopped since the very arrival of the Russian Air Force to Syria.

“Time and again the attacks became more intense as the terrorists not only started to launch more drones, but more sophisticated ones according to the Russian Defence Ministry who declared, after examining shutdown drones, that they are based on western technology,” the researcher stated.

Erdogan wants to achieve victory over the Kurds in Syria

Regarding the so-called American-Turkish “Safe zone”, al-Shihawi declared that besides being illegal, it means nothing in strategical terms.

“Considering the fact that this region is under American occupation with the help of the so-called ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’, Washington can give whatever promises to Turkey, but is that what Erdogan actually wants?”

He believes that Erdogan’s goal is not a “safe zone”.

“What Erdogan really wants, in order to secure his position against his political rivals inside Turkey and the unsatisfied Turkish military, is a clear victory over the Kurds in Syria, a victory that allows Erdogan to conduct a demographic change in northern Syria, planting pro-Turkey Syrian refugees all over the area, which is something neither Washington is able to give, nor Turkey is capable to achieve,” the researcher affirmed.

He concluded by saying: “The most important factor is neither of the above mentioned, the most important factor is the Syrian Arab Army and its allies that are getting closer from ending Idlib issue, and the moment Idlib is liberated, the occupied east and north will be the focal point for the Syrian Army, a game changer that is going to hinder all Turkish and American plans very soon.”

Interviewed by: Basma Qaddour

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – SEPTEMBER 6, 2019: US SEEKS TO DESTABILIZE SOUTHERN SYRIA

South Front

The US is seeking to reanimate insurgency in southern Syria. According to the pro-militant Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a number of Free Syrian Army commanders that fled Syria in 2018 are now working to form a new militant group, the Army of the South, to attack “Iranian militias” in the region. The allegedly closed U.S. Military Operation Center in Jordan will reportedly support the new group.

Over the past few months, the security situation in southern Syria became more complicated with an increasing number of IED attacks and assassinations aimed against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

The SAA uncovered loads of weapons during a search operation in the newly-captured town of al-Lataminah in northern Hama. The discovered weapons included several mortar cannons of different calibers, at least two Grad 122mm rockets, RPG-18 and RPG-26 anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades as well as a RPO-A thermobaric rocket launcher.

Militants of Jaysh al-Izza, a close ally of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, apparently left behind these weapons. The group’s members fled the town last month following a successful attack by the SAA.

On September 5, the Russian Defense Ministry denied recent reports claiming that several Russian service members were killed in a blast near the town of Jurin in northwestern Hama. These false claims were first published by Vedomosti business daily before being picked up by multiple Russian and Syrian media outlets.

Such reports appear to be a part of new propaganda wave aimed against the SAA and Russia. Such propaganda campaigns are often being launched amid important military or diplomatic developments in Syria, and the Middle East in general.

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In-depth footage of Syrian Army’s operation that led to capture of Khan Sheikhoun

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:45 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army began their long-awaited attack on the key city of Khan Sheikhoun ten days ago.

This operation would result in the capture of Khan Sheikhoun and the eventual encirclement of the militants in the northern Hama pocket.

Khan Sheikhoun was previously captured by the militant forces during their 2014 southern Idlib offensive; it would later become a stronghold for the jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham.

Not long after cutting the road between Ta’manah and Khan Sheikhoun, the Syrian Arab Army managed to establish full control over the northern Hama pocket, putting an end to the militant presence in the area.

Since capturing Khan Sheikhoun and northern Hama, the Syrian Arab Army has moved their forces to the Al-Ghaab Plain and Ta’manah axes; these two areas are expected to be the next targets for the military.

Below is 30-minute-long video from the Anna News Agency that chronicles the entire operation and the eventual capture of Khan Sheikhoun and northern Hama:

ALSO READ  Syrian Army seizes rocket launchers, tank left behind by jihadists in Hama: video

Russian Air Force eliminates several militant sites, vehicles in southern Idlib: video

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:00 A.M.) – The Russian Air Force played a crucial role in the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) advance in southern Idlib recently, as their aircraft repeatedly struck the militant positions across the governorate.

In particular, the Russian Air Force’s heavy strikes on the city of Khan Sheikhoun and its surroundings helped pave the way for the Syrian Arab Army to capture the key hilltop of Talat Al-Nimr and eventually the whole area.

The Anna News Agency captured footage of the Russian strikes on the jihadist sites, including the destruction of militant convoys and their bases.

The Russian Air Force is still launching airstrikes over the southern countryside of Idlib; however, their strikes are now focused on preventing the militants from regrouping and launching a counter-offensive.

At the same time, the Syrian Arab Army has nearly finished their combing operations around Khan Sheikhoun and northern Hama; they still need to clear some areas that are believed to have explosives that were left behind by the militant forces.

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Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

By Mohammad Eid

Syria – It was not long before the Syrian Arab Army’s Political Administration invited journalists to visit Khan Sheikhoun and the rest of the liberated areas in the northern Hama countryside. The invitation coincided with a statement from the army regarding its military operation and the strategic importance of the liberated towns and cities.

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

However, that did not diminish our interest in visiting towns that were until recently fortified fortresses, which the terrorists thought would protect them before they took on a definite loss.

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

Journeying through the destruction

Despite the vast destruction along the way to Khan Sheikhoun, the largest town in the southern countryside of Idlib, there remained remnants of beauty that were clearly visible through the plains and fields linking these beautiful rural towns. The expulsion of terrorists from these towns, including Mahrada and al-Suqaylabiyah, was the first step. These towns paid the price for the inability of the terrorists to hurt the army. The terrorists instead chose to target civilians who they viewed as the soft side in the military operation that was launched in April. The outcome of the operation exceeded all expectations from a military standpoint.

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

The car drove us from Hama countryside towards the towns of Kafr Zita, al-Hobeit and then Khan Sheikhoun, which is the jewel of the Syrian army’s definitive victory. It was remarkable how the degree of destruction diminished as we approached Khan Sheikhoun. The reason, as explained by the military commander who accompanied us, was that the terrorist groups attempted to defend this area through their advanced lines of defense in Hama’s northern countryside where the fiercest battles took place with the terrorists opening heavy fire.

“With the fall of the first lines of defense, the terrorists realized that their hope for resilience had begun to fade despite Turkish support. So they began to flee, lessening the intensity of the clashes as the rest of the areas were liberated by the army,” a field commander tells al-Ahed News Website.

A short stop in the town of al-Hobeit, captured by the Syrian Arab Army before paving the way to travel full speed ahead towards Khan Sheikhoun, allowed us to verify what the Director of the Political Administration in the Syrian Arab Army, Major General Hassan Hassan, told us when he visited the town accompanied by the Syrian Minister of Defense Ali Ayoub.

“I saw tunnels and massive fortifications in al-Hobeit. They formed an entire underground city. Were it not for the firmness and will of the men of the Syrian Arab Army, the liberation of this town would have required an unknown period of time,” Major General Hassan said.

This is how the troops advance

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

The extent of destruction in Khan Sheikhoun was indicative of the army’s ability to select a bank of targets with high accuracy. “The airstrikes paralyzed the coordination operations between the terrorists inside the city. This paved the way for the Syrian forces to enter it from the northwestern axis. The forces advancing from the east met with the forces advancing from the west. They took control of the Aleppo-Hama international road starting from Khan Sheikhoun. The militants, then, chose to escape before they were completely besieged. However, they left behind large amounts of mines and booby-traps, which would be handled by the engineers as required,” says the field commander.

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

The fall of Khan Sheikhoun led to the siege of the last terrorist enclave in the northern countryside of Hama, the so-called Triangle of Death in Murk, al-Latamneh, and Kafr Zita. We asked the Syrian officer about the total area recovered by the army. He said it was “427 square kilometers, comprising a harsh and complex geography. And it was liberated in record time.”

Regarding the strategic dimension of the victory, the Syrian field commander pointed out that Khan Sheikhoun became a springboard for the Syrian army in Idlib Province after it reached it for the first time since 2014.

“It is an achievement that carries a lot of significance since Idlib itself is very close to liberation, especially since the army succeeded in isolating Khan Sheikhoun from Maarat al-Nu’man, which may be its first future destination. Most importantly, the morale of the terrorists has reached rock bottom. We have noticed this as they fled and avoided clashing with us in recent battles,” the Syrian field commander explained.

Wide-range advance options

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

While we toured, some soldiers found an opportunity to rest following the recent battles. Before taking a small nap, one soldier whispered that sleep has a different taste after victory, “but we sleep with both eyes open.”

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

After Khan Sheikhun, the Syrian army seemed to have more choices. When we told the officers and soldiers about Sochi, the famous agreement, the buffer zone and other political outcomes, the smile on their faces told the whole story. One of the soldiers put those smiles into words.

“What we know is that only strength and strength alone is what is allowing us to talk together in Khan Sheikhoun. Idlib is all of our land and we know how to regain it.”

The sweep up operations as well as the victory celebrations were still ongoing in Khan Sheikhoun. But dusty faces and looking at the horizon were preparing for something more. Something that says that Khan Sheikhoun was an important juncture, but no doubt there is more to come.

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

Al-Ahed News in Khan Sheikhoun: This Is How the Terrorists Fled

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أهمّ دروس تحرير خان شيخون

 

أغسطس 24, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– أما وقد حسم الأمر فقد صار وقت التقييم واستخلاص العبر، فلا ينكرنّ أحد أن الرهانات على تعثّر الدولة السورية توزعت على مشارق الأرض ومغاربها، وأنه حيث لا رهانات كانت هناك تساؤلات وانتظارات. فالكل يُجمع على أن إدلب ليست كسواها، وان تجمع عشرات آلاف المسلحين الذين رفضوا التسويات في مناطقهم التي تحرّرت، يجعل الحرب لتحريرها شديدة الضراوة والقسوة محفوفة بالمخاطر والتضحيات والتساؤلات، وأن وجود آلاف الإرهابيين المقطوعي الجذور اليائسين من أي أفق بعد إدلب يمنح كل هذا المشهد القاتم مزيداً من السواد، وأن الحلف المناوئ للدولة السورية مهما ابتعد أو اقترب عن التشكيلات الإرهابية التي تقاتل في إدلب قد اجتاز الخط الأحمر للتعاون معها سابقاً وما عادت لديه مشكلة بإمدادها بكل أسباب الصمود، وأن تركيا التي لانت وتموضعت بعد معارك حلب إنما فعلت ذلك ليس فقط لأنها حسمت أمرها بالعجز عن المضي في المواجهة الكاملة، بل لأنها أرادت الحفاظ على دورها وحضورها في إدلب، وعندما يصبح مصير إدلب في الميزان يجب التريث في إصدار الأحكام حول كيفية تصرف أنقرة، ولا أيضاً في كيفية تصرف موسكو الحريصة على علاقة مميّزة مع أنقرة تبدّلت بين التصادم والتفاهم، واستقرت على سياق إيجابي رغم الخلاف لزمن غير قصير، لذلك كان الانتظار سيد الموقف.

– في كل معارك المنطقة حيث التكامل بين الجبهات واضح، وحيث التداخل بين تأثيرها على بعضها وموازينها أشد وضوحاً، كانت المواجهات ساخنة في الخليج مياهاً ويابسة، وفي اليمن، وفلسطين، ودخل على الخط تسخين العراق من دون مقدّمات، وتمّ بصورة مفاجئة تسخين لبنان، لكن المكان الوحيد الذي بدا أنه سيقول الكلمة الفصل هو خان شيخون، حيث مفتاح الجغرافيا في مصير إدلب،، حيث يمكن تحقيق تغيير في خطوط الجغرافيا من دون سائر جبهات المنطقة. وأما وقد وقع الأمر وانتهى، فمعادل التأثر والتأثير والأوعية المتصلة سيحضر بقوة. وهذا هو التفسير لحركة الرئيس الفرنسي للمسارعة للقاء الرئيس الروسي ومن بعده وزير الخارجية الإيرانية، وزيارة الرئيس التركي القريبة المرتقبة إلى روسيا، والتراجعات الأميركية عن تهديدات الويل والثبور وعظائم الأمور بحقّ لبنان، والجواب بكلمتين، إنه خان شيخون.

– السياق الجديد بات واضحاً بعد الذي جرى وحسم التساؤلات حول الإمكان، ودليل الإمكان هو الوقوع. وما وقع في خان شيخون قابل للتكرار، ولا حاجة لتجارب أخرى للإثبات، فإن عُرض على الطاولة ما يفي بالغرض من التسليم بمكانة روسيا إلى التعامل مع إيران وملفها النووي والعقوبات والملاحة النفطية، إلى الحل السياسي في سورية ومشاريع الحل وإعادة الإعمار، إلى اليمن، إلى العراق، إلى لبنان، إلى فلسطين، ولا أوهام لدى أحد بحلول جذرية بل اعتراف بحقائق القوة التي يتم على أساسها التفاوض، وإلا فالكلمة للميدان كما قالت خان شيخون.

– سيكون صعباً على البعض الاعتراف لكنها الحقيقة المرة عليهم، إنه الجيش السوري الذي لا يُقهر، ومحور المقاومة الذي لا يهزم، وروسيا التي لا تبيع ولا تشتري في المبادئ.

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Militant group once supported by US is rumored to be dissolving itself after Hama losses

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By News Desk

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:00 A.M.) – The militant group, Jaysh Al-Izza, is allegedly dissolving itself after suffering a series of losses at the hands of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in northern Hama and southern Idlib.

According to reports, the once U.S.-backed group is dissolving itself because they lost a great deal of fighters and most of their weapons as a result of the recent Hama battle.

h Al-Izza was primarily headquartered in the northern Hama towns of Kafr Zita and Al-Latamnah before the Syrian Arab Army announced the capture of these areas on Friday.

If these reports prove true, this would be a major loss for the militant forces, as Jaysh Al-Izza was once one of the most powerful groups in the northwestern region of Syria.

Previously, Jaysh Al-Izza was one of the few militant groups that was armed with the U.S.-made anti-tank TOW missiles; however, Washington later withdrew their support for these militants.

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KHAN SHAYKHOON LIBERATED IN FORMIDABLE PINCER MOVEMENT; ALL HAMA LIBERATED!!!

Syrian Army General Command vows to liberate all areas from terrorists

The General Command of the Army and Armed forces announces : Khan Sheikhon city and the towns and villages of Morke, Latamneh, Kafer Zeitta, Latmin, M’arkabeh, Lahaya and Kaeb al-Fars plus strategic hills are now cleansed from terrorists.

“With strong determination to achieve victory, our armed forces positioned in the north of Hama and in the south of Idleb continued to advance on the ground and to defeat armed terrorist groups holed up in the region after inflicting heavy losses upon them,”the Command’s statement said today.

It went on to say: “After intensive strikes carried out over the past days and cordoning off the northern countryside of Hama, our brave soldiers have managed to clean the following towns: Khan Sheikhoun, Morek, Latamneh, Sayad hill, mostawda’at, Wadi Anz, Wadi Asal, Kafer Zetta, Latmin, M’akrabeh, Lhaya , Fares hill, Latmin, hill, Wadi Hasmin, Wadi Qesmin and Kaeb al-Faras.”

The statement affirmed the continuity of military operations against terrorist organizations till the liberation of all areas.

It stressed that operations will go ahead to remove the huge number of landmines planted previously by terrorists in the liberated areas in order to allow civilians to return to their homes in the region as soon as possible.

Basma Qaddour

KHAN SHAYKHOON LIBERATED IN FORMIDABLE PINCER MOVEMENT; ALL HAMA LIBERATED!!!

August 23rd, 2019

للمرة الأولى منذ 2013.. الجيش السوري يستعد لإعلان حماه وريفها مدينة خالية من الإرهاب والإرهابيين (صور)

It had to happen sooner or later, the Turk plan to sever Idlib has flopped miserably.  Abu Muhammad Al-Jawlaani’s plan to create a new all-Sunni Salafist Idlib nation is now at the very bottom of the abyss.  American planners had better reckon with their own feckless plans to redefine the Middle East.  Syria has won.  Russia has won.  Iran has battered all comers in a fight of the century.  Technology, tactics and resilience marked this glorious day when the terrorists and their propagandists had to eat crow once and for all.  I hope the dish was small and tasty.

As of this morning, Damascus time, the Syrian Army, its allies and supporters, have established full hegemony over all Hama Province for the first time since 2013.  Khaan Shaykhoon, is now completely liberated.  Don’t believe any of the propagandists who tell you there are “pockets of stiff resistance” in the south of the town.  Don’t believe them.  My source in Latakia whose wife has sent me his messages says he is there and is watching as engineers defuse explosive devices left behind by the cowering enemy in Khaan Shaykhoon itself.

Here are the towns that were liberated in both Hama and Idlib as of this morning:

Khaan Shaykhoon

Al-Mawrek (Mork)

Al-Lataamina

Tallat Al-Sayyaad

Ma’aar Kabba

Waadi ‘Anz

Waadi Al-‘Asal

Kafr Zaytaa

West Lahaayaa

East Layaayaa

Tal Faas

Tal Latmeen

Waadi Husmeen

Waadi Qismayn

Ka’ab Al-Furs

I just received a report that an entire garrison of Turks has been surrounded near Al-Mawrek. With the new T-90s and their home-built Sarab 1 and 2, the Turks will find it somewhat challenging to break the siege that’s tightening around them.  It is a glorious day for the SAA.

MAP UPDATE: GOVERNMENT TROOPS FULLY LIBERATED NORTHERN HAMA POCKET

23.08.2019

Map Update: Government Troops Fully Liberated Northern Hama Pocket

Click to see the full-size image

On August 23, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies fully libearated the northern Hama pocket, including the towns of Kafr Zita, Lataminah and Morek.

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SYRIAN ARMY DEPLOYS TROOPS, BATTLE TANKS METERS AWAY FROM TURKISH POST AFTER CAPTURING MURAK (VIDEO, MAP)

The Syrian Arab Army inside of Khan Sheikhoun after declaring full control over the city on Thursday, August 22nd, 2019.

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:40 A.M.) – On Thursday, the Syrian Arab Army’s High Command announced that the strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun was under the military’s control after a short battle.

The Syrian Arab Army was able to fully secure Khan Sheikhoun after entering the city from all axes on Wednesday; this was followed by a thorough combing operation to ensure that Khan Sheikhoun was cleared of all explosives and militants.

While Khan Sheikhoun was not declared under the Syrian Army’s control until Thursday, all of the militants from Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and Jaysh Al-Izza had already withdrawn from the southern part of the city by Wednesday.

One of the major reasons Khan Sheikhoun fell so quickly to the Syrian Army was due to the military’s capture of the strategic hilltop of Talat Al-Nimr.

Talat Al-Nimr is a large hilltop that overlooks both the northern sector of Khan Sheikhoun and the Hama-Idlib Highway (var. M-5 Highway).

Syrian Army cuts the last militant supply lines to the northern countryside of Hama; thus, leaving the militants fully besieged.Al-Masdar News

Following the loss of their most important supply line to Khan Sheikhoun, most of the militants inside the city abandoned their posts and fled to the Ta’manah area, where they exited the pocket before it was closed by the Syrian Army on Wednesday.

The Syrian Arab Army would follow up this advance by seizing several areas south of Khan Sheikhoun on Thursday.

With virtually nowhere to retreat, the remaining militants in northern Hama will likely rely on the Turkish Armed Forces for protection and a potential exit from this pocket.

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – AUGUST 22, 2019: KHAN SHAYKHUN LIBERATED, NORTHERN HAMA POCKET – NEXT

South Front

On August 21, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Tiger Forces liberated the town of Khan Shaykhun and the areas of Khazanat and Tal Taeri, thus fully encircling remaining militants in northern Hama.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham strong points of Kafr Zita, Lataminah, and Morek, as well as the nearby settlements of Lahaya, Markabah, Latmin and Sayad are now fully cut off from their radical counterparts in the Idlib zone. A Morek observation post, where Turkish troops are deployed, is also encircled.

Khan Shaykhun, located on a highway linking Damascus with Aleppo, is one of the biggest urban centers in southern Idlib. For years, it had served as the key stronghold of al-Qaeda-linked militants. Currently, SAA troops are working to secure their recent gains and preparing for a further push to clear the rest of northern Hama.

Reacting to the Syrian military advance, a Turkish presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, saidthat all observation posts, including the one near Murak, will remain in their positions in Greater Idlib. He also revealed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will speak with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the phone over the situation in Idlib in the next couple of days.

These remarks were accompanied with common Turkish media propaganda accusing the SAA of violating the ceasefire regime and oppressing so-called moderate rebels. But in fact, Turkey just admitted its tactical loss and inability to rescue militants in this part of Syria.

Another important point of Kalin’s statement was dedicated to the US-Turkish ‘safe-zone’ agreement on northern Syria. According to the Turkish side, joint partrols US and Turkish forces will soon be launched east of the Euphrates, within the area controlled by US-backed Kurdish groups. Ankara see these groups as terrorist organizations and has repeatedly shelled their positions. So, it will be interesting to look how this claim will be implemented if US-backed formations remain deployed in the areas of supposed joint patrols.

Latest map and field update from southern Idlib battle

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:10 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) scored a major victory in the southern countryside of the Idlib Governorate this week when the jihadist rebels abandoned several areas, including the strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun.

Since the militant withdrawal from Khan Sheikhoun, the Syrian Arab Army has moved into the city and begun clearing the empty neighborhoods, while also securing other areas east of the city.

According to a military source near the front-lines, the Syrian Arab Army has completed the siege of northern Hama after capturing several points near the town of Al-Ta’manah in the southern countryside of Idlib.

While Al-Ta’manah has not been captured, the Syrian Army has seized most of the points south and east of the town, leaving only a small area left under the control of the jihadist rebels.

At the same time, with the Ta’manah-Khan Sheikhoun Road closed off, the Turkish Armed Forces now find themselves encircled by the Syrian Arab Army at the town of Morek.

Turkey has already announced that they will not abandon their observation post at Morek, despite the recent militant setbacks.

The Turkish regime has also warned the Syrian military about “playing with fire” in this area, especially after the Syrian Air Force almost hit their military convoy in southern Idlib.

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Syrian War Report – August 20, 2019: Khan Shaykhun Is About To Fall Into Hands Of Syrian Army

South Front

Militants’ defense in southern Idlib and northern Hama has collapsed.

On August 19, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies backed up by Syrian and Russian air power cut off the M5 highway north of Khan Shaykhun capturing several hills and checkpoints in the area. Late on the same day, government forces overrun militants’ fortifications entering the town.

On August 20, units of the SAA and the Tiger Forces continued clashing with militants in the area. The town is about to fall into the hands of government forces.

According to pro-government sources, militants are currently fleeing their positions in Kafr Zita, Lataminah, Moerk and nearby areas.

Turkey attempted to prevent this scenario by sending a large military convoy (28 pieces of military equipment, including at least 7 battle tanks) accompanied by Turkish-backed militants towards Khan Shaykhun. The plan was to establish so-called observation point near Khan Shaykhun and use Turkish troops as human shields to defend militants there. However, the convoy was not able to reach the target.

The Syrian Air Force carried out several strikes on the convoy path near Heish killing at least one militant field commander and destroying a vehicle armed with machine gun. The Turkish Defense Ministry officially condemned the strikes claiming that 3 civilians were killed and 12 others were injured as a result of the action. Ankara claimed that the convoy was initiated to ensure the safety of Observation Point No. 9, to keep supply routes open and prevent civilian casualties in the region.

Turkey even sent F-16 warplanes to Syrian airspace to defend the convoy, but they were welcomed by Russian fighter jets hovering over the same area and retreated.

The deep cooperation of so-called moderate opposition with terrorist groups like Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and their unwillingness to participate in a proposed peace process predetermined a new round of escalation in the Idlib zone. In the near future, government troops will likely focus on clearing northern Hama.

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