SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JULY 18, 2017: ARMY ADVANCING ON ISIS-HELD TOWN OF SUKHNA

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

On Monday, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) repelled an attack of pro-Turkish militants in the direction of Ayn Daqnah in the northern part of Aleppo province.  According to pro-Kurdish sources, the attack was supported by Turkish artillery units.  The artillery shelling also targeted YPG positions in Herbel, Sheikh Issa, and Tel Rifat.  The YPG repelled the first wave of the attack and allegedly killed 20 pro-Turkish militants and captured a few vehicles.

On Tuesday, sporadic clashes continued in the area.  According to experts, pro-Turkish militants will not be able to break the YPG defense without direct assistance from the Turkish army.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed up by the US-led coalition airpower, recaptured the whole Yarmouk district from ISIS and entered the Nezle Shihade district in the city of Raqqah.  At the same time, US military sources denied reports that the SDF had allegedly halted its operations against ISIS because of tensions among Arab and Kurdish units of the group.

The Syrian Army Tiger Forces and Tribal forces captured the Deilla oil field south of the government-held town of Resafa in the province of Raqqah, according to pro-government sources.  The Tiger Forces and their allies are steadily clearing from ISIS key areas south of the Resafa-Ithriyah road.

Numerous pro-government sources are speculating about the expected government push from the Resafa area towards the ISIS besieged city of Deir Ezzor.  However, right now, this option looks unlikely.

In turn, government forces are developing momentum in the direction of Sukhna northeast of Palmyra.  According to local sources, the army and its allies have captured new points en route to the ISIS-held town.

Reports about alleged government forces progressing towards the ISIS-held T2 pumping station near the border with Iraq are fake.  Clashes are still ongoing in the area of Hamimah.

SYRIAN ARMY ADVANCES ON STRATEGIC ISIS-HELD TOWN OF SUKHNA, GETS CONTROL OVER HILLS NEAR IT (MAP)

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Liwa al-Quds, the National Defense Forces (NDF) and other pro-government factions have launched a push in order to reach the strategic ISIS-held town of Sukhna located at the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor road.

According to pro-government sources, the SAA, the NDF and their allies have advanced northeast of the al-Hail field and captured some hills allowing to overlook the vicinity of Sukhna.

Sukhna is surrounded by a number of hills that overlook the town. If government forces capture these hills, they will be able to establish a fire control over the town.

Syrian Army Advances On Strategic ISIS-held Town Of Sukhna, Gets Control Over Hills Near It (Map)

Pro-Syria forces advance in central Homs against ISIS

 

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:15 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have scored a big advance against ISIS in central Homs. The attack was made on a front that has been virtually inactive for months.

Today the SAA and allied outfits captured new points and hilltops from ISIS near the al-Tafha al-Janoubyah mountain chain to the northwest of the T-4 Military Airport. According to reports, pro-government forces advanced some two kilometers in the area.

The assault by pro-government forces was backed up by Russian airstrikes.

According to a post-operation assessment provided to Al-Masdar News, pro-government forces killed at least twenty (20) ISIS militants as a result of the firefight that took place.

With the advances achieved by the SAA and its allies today, the buffer zone along the section of highway linking Homs to Palmyra as been expanded. Furthermore, the push has also brought pro-government forces closer to the strategic Huwysis area.

Whether this was just a one-off advance in the area or part of a greater offensive action is currently unknown.

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The New Silk Road Will Go Through Syria

China and Syria have already begun discussing post-war infrastructure investment; with a ‘Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction’ held in Beijing

By Pepe Escobar

July 14, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Amid the proverbial doom and gloom pervading all things Syria, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune sometimes yield, well, good fortune.

Take what happened this past Sunday in Beijing. The China-Arab Exchange Association and the Syrian Embassy organized a Syria Day Expo crammed with hundreds of Chinese specialists in infrastructure investment. It was a sort of mini-gathering of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), billed as “The First Project Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction”.

And there will be serious follow-ups: a Syria Reconstruction Expo; the 59th Damascus International Fair next month, where around 30 Arab and foreign nations will be represented; and the China-Arab States Expo in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui province, in September.

Qin Yong, deputy chairman of the China-Arab Exchange Association, announced that Beijing plans to invest $2 billion in an industrial park in Syria for 150 Chinese companies.

Nothing would make more sense. Before the tragic Syrian proxy war, Syrian merchants were already incredibly active in the small-goods Silk Road between Yiwu and the Levant. The Chinese don’t forget that Syria controlled overland access to both Europe and Africa in ancient Silk Road times when, after the desert crossing via Palmyra, goods reached the Mediterranean on their way to Rome. After the demise of Palmyra, a secondary road followed the Euphrates upstream and then through Aleppo and Antioch.

Beijing always plans years ahead. And the government in Damascus is implicated at the highest levels. So, it’s not an accident that Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Moustapha had to come up with the clincher: China, Russia and Iran will have priority over anyone else for all infrastructure investment and reconstruction projects when the war is over.

The New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road Initiative (Obor), will inevitably feature a Syrian hub – complete with the requisite legal support for Chinese companies involved in investment, construction and banking via a special commission created by the Syrian embassy, the China-Arab Exchange Association and the Beijing-based Shijing law firm.

Get me on that Shanghai-Latakia cargo

Few remember that before the war China had already invested tens of billions of US dollars in Syria’s oil and gas industry. Naturally the priority for Damascus, once the war is over, will be massive reconstruction of widely destroyed infrastructure. China could be part of that via the AIIB. Then comes investment in agriculture, industry and connectivity – transportation corridors in the Levant and connecting Syria to Iraq and Iran (other two Obor hubs).

What matters most of all is that Beijing has already taken the crucial step of being directly involved in the final settlement of the Syrian war – geopolitically and geo-economically. Beijing has had a special representative for Syria since last year – and has already been providing humanitarian aid.

Needless to add, all those elaborate plans depend on no more war. And there’s the rub.

With the demise of Daesh (ISIS), or at least its imminent loss of any significant urban center, no one knows in what manner a fragmented, phony Caliphate “Sunnistan” might be manipulated into cutting Syria from its New Silk Road future.

Qatar has already provided a game-changer; Doha has gotten closer to Tehran (common interests in South Pars/North Dome gas-field oblige), as well as Damascus – much to the despair of the House of Saud. So, unlike the recent past, Qatar is not engaged in regime change anymore. But still there are the diverging interests of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and, of course, Washington, to accommodate.

A possible scenario out of what Putin and Trump negotiated in Hamburg – that was not relayed by either Lavrov or Tillerson – is that the ceasefire in southwestern Syria, assuming it holds, could mean US peacekeeping forces in effect sanctioning the creation of a demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the Syrian Golan and the rest of the country.

Translation: the Golan de facto annexed by Israel. And the “carrot” for Moscow would be Washington accepting Crimea de facto re-incorporated into the Russian Federation.

That may sound less far-fetched than it seems. The next few months will tell if this is indeed a plausible scenario.

The other big sticking point is Ankara against the YPG Kurds. Contrary to the ominous and quite possible Balkanization scenario, Washington and Moscow might well decide, in tandem, to let them sort things out by themselves. Then we will inevitably have the Turkish army occupying al-Bab for the foreseeable future.

The bottom line: that Saudi Arabia gets nothing. And Israel and Turkey get political/military “wins”. It’s hard to imagine how Moscow could possibly sell this arrangement to Iran as a victory. Still, Tehran may not have a free flow Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah route totally back in action, but it will maintain close relations with Damascus and be engaged in the expansion of the New Silk Roads.

The key question from now on seems to be whether Washington will follow the deep state “Syraq” policy – as in “Assad must go” mixed with support or weaponizing of non-existent “moderate rebels”; or whether Trump’s priority – to eliminate Daesh/ISIS for good – will prevail.

Beijing, anyway, has made up its mind. It will work non-stop for the Iran-Iraq-Syria triumvirate to become a key hub in Obor. Any bets against a future, booming Shanghai-Latakia container route?

Pepe Escobar is correspondent-at-large at Asia Times.

See also – ‘The Media Coverage on Syria is the Biggest Media Lie of our Time’ — Interview with Flemish Priest in Syria

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JULY 14, 2017: RACE TO DEIR EZZOR

On Thursday, the Syrian Arab Army Tiger Forces and tribal forces, backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, have launched a military operation against in the southwestern part of Raqqah province. Initially, pro-government troops advanced south of Resafa and liberated Bir al Zenati, Bir Itaw and Bir Hiwaran villages. On Friday, they captured Ridgem-Abe el-Kalat Hills and deployed in a striking distance from the Dubaysan oil field and the Bir al-Zamlah crossroad.

According to pro-government sources, the ongoing anti-ISIS operation involves about 6,500 fighters from Raqqah tribes loyal to the Syrian government. However, this number cannot be confirmed independently.

When the Tiger Forces and their allies secure the Bir al-Zamlah crossroad, they will have 3 options:

1. To develop momentum southwest of Resafa, capturing oil fields in the area, steadily recapturing the ISIS-held area south of the Ithriyah-Resafa road. The goal of this advance is to secure the western flank of the military grouping that will push to the ISIS-held town of Sukhna from the Resafa direction.

2. To launch a rapid push towards the ISIS-held town of Taybah north of Sukhna. The goal of this move is to increase pressure on ISIS units in the eastern Palmyra countryside and to attempt to isolate Sukhna from the northern and southwestern direction.

3. To push towards Deir Ezzor. This version was widely promoted by some pro-government media. However, if government forces attempt to reach the ISIS-besieged city, their advance may end as the attempt to reach Tabqah from the Ithriyah direction in 2016. In other words, government forces will retreat after a series of flank attacks from ISIS terrorists.

In any case, the government advance in southern Raqqah will also lead to intensification of clashes between the army and terrorists east of Salamiyah. If government forces capture the whole Resafa-Palmyra road, ISIS units remaining west of the road will be cut off from supplies and reinforcements from Deir Ezzor province and the Iraqi border area.
Meanwhile, government forces made notable gains in the southern desert, recapturing Abu Khashbah, al Ghudaht, at Tayyar and Ard Umm ar Rumum and deploying closer to the full encirclement of the area formally controlled by US-backed militants. Clearing this pocket, the Syrian command is seeking to shorten the frontline in southern Syria in order to free additional forces for operations against ISIS.

Next 7-10 days will be very important for the army and show if the Iranian-Syrian-Russian alliance is able to achieve their key goals, including the lifting siege from Deir Ezzor, on the Syrian battleground before US-backed forces capture the city of Raqqah.

 

SYRIAN ARMY ADVANCES ALONG RESAFA-SUKHNA ROAD, REACHES BIR AL-ZAMLAH CROSSROAD (MAP UPDATE)

On Thursday, the Syrian Arab Army Tiger Forces and tribal forces, backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, have launched a military operation against in the southwestern part of Raqqah province. Initially, pro-government troops advanced south of Resafa and liberated Bir al Zenati, Bir Itaw and Bir Hiwaran villages. On Friday, they captured Ridgem-Abe el-Kalat Hills and deployed in a striking distance from the Dubaysan oil field and the Bir al-Zamlah crossroad.

According to pro-government sources, the ongoing anti-ISIS operation involves about 6,500 fighters from Raqqah tribes loyal to the Syrian government. However, this number cannot be confirmed independently.

 Syrian Army Advances Along Resafa-Sukhna Road, Reaches Bir al-Zamlah Crossroad (Map Update)

DAMASCUS,SYRIA (3:30 P.M.) – On Friday around noon, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) liberated two more desert areas in Raqqa province from the Islamic State.

Pushing further south of the M-42 highway after the liberation of four neighbouring points the day before, the SAA’s Tiger Forces took control of Khirbel Al-Halul and Al-Hagl Al-Kabeer earlier today.

Leaving over a dozen ISIS militants dead in the wake of the attack, government assault troops have pushed their advanced positions within 60 kilometers’ range of Sukhna’s northern gates.

This ISIS-held junction city lies in central Syria and plays an instrumental role in connecting areas under Islamic State control.

Meanwhile, SAA divisions stationed further south on the Palmyra axis have begun a thrust of their own as the pincers ultimately hope to meet around Sukhna, thereby slicing adrift the Islamic State’s territories in Syria.

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JULY 12, 2017: ARMY SEEKS TO DIVIDE MILITANT-HELD AREA IN EASTERN DAMASCUS

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) are attempting to separate Jobar and Zamalka areas in eastern Damascus countryside. They have advanced along the M5 highway and claimed capturing some buildings in the process. Clashes have also continued in Ayn Tarma. Faylaq Al-Rahman and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are two militant groups opposing the SAA and the NDF in the area.

The SAA, the NDF and other pro-government factions have fully liberated the al-Hayl gas field area, including hills near the gas field, from ISIS terrorists in the countryside of Palmyra.

The SAA and its allies entered the al-Hayl gas field area earlier this month, captured the al-Hayl gas station, and engaged ISIS units in an intense fighting in the area. On Tuesday, government forces got a full control over the area and seized hills overlooking the gas field. However, ISIS launched a counter-attack in an attempt to the field. An intense fighting is now ongoing.

ISIS had set up a series of strongpoints in the mountain area along the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway. These strongpoints became an obstruction for the government forces attempting to reach the strategic town of Sukhna.

The video has appeared online showing a large convoy of pro-government tribal fighters allegedly moving to participate in the expected government operation against ISIS in Deir Ezzor. According to the report, some 4,000 tribal fighters will participate in the advance. However, this number looks overestimated.

A Russian military adviser, Nikolay Afanasov, has been killed as a result of mortar shelling from militants in Hama province, the Russian Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday. The captain was tasked with training Syrian ground forces. He was granted a state decoration posthumously. According to official statements, 34 Russian military servicemen have been killed since the start of the operation in Syria.

An intense fighting continued between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and ISIS inside the city of Raqqah. SDF units, backed up by the US-led coalition airpower and artillery, are pressuring on ISIS defense lines in western and eastern Raqqah in an attempt to reach the city center and divide it into two parts via the al Firdaws street. ISIS uses snipers and suicide bombers countering the US-backed advance.

Meanwhile, the SDF has established of the first female Arab battalion within the US-backed group. The recently created battalion was named the Battalion of Martyr Amara for Arab Women. The declared aim of the move is to fight ISIS terrorists in eastern Syria and to protect women rights. The creation of the Battalion of Martyr Amara for Arab Women was officially announced by Rojda Seyar, an SDF field commander, on Monday.

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SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JULY 12, 2017: ARMY SEEKS TO DIVIDE MILITANT-HELD AREA IN EASTERN DAMASCUS

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) are attempting to separate Jobar and Zamalka areas in eastern Damascus countryside. They have advanced along the M5 highway and claimed capturing some buildings in the process. Clashes have also continued in Ayn Tarma. Faylaq Al-Rahman and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are two militant groups opposing the SAA and the NDF in the area.

The SAA, the NDF and other pro-government factions have fully liberated the al-Hayl gas field area, including hills near the gas field, from ISIS terrorists in the countryside of Palmyra.

The SAA and its allies entered the al-Hayl gas field area earlier this month, captured the al-Hayl gas station, and engaged ISIS units in an intense fighting in the area. On Tuesday, government forces got a full control over the area and seized hills overlooking the gas field. However, ISIS launched a counter-attack in an attempt to the field. An intense fighting is now ongoing.

ISIS had set up a series of strongpoints in the mountain area along the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway. These strongpoints became an obstruction for the government forces attempting to reach the strategic town of Sukhna.

The video has appeared online showing a large convoy of pro-government tribal fighters allegedly moving to participate in the expected government operation against ISIS in Deir Ezzor. According to the report, some 4,000 tribal fighters will participate in the advance. However, this number looks overestimated.

A Russian military adviser, Nikolay Afanasov, has been killed as a result of mortar shelling from militants in Hama province, the Russian Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday. The captain was tasked with training Syrian ground forces. He was granted a state decoration posthumously. According to official statements, 34 Russian military servicemen have been killed since the start of the operation in Syria.

An intense fighting continued between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and ISIS inside the city of Raqqah. SDF units, backed up by the US-led coalition airpower and artillery, are pressuring on ISIS defense lines in western and eastern Raqqah in an attempt to reach the city center and divide it into two parts via the al Firdaws street. ISIS uses snipers and suicide bombers countering the US-backed advance.

Meanwhile, the SDF has established of the first female Arab battalion within the US-backed group. The recently created battalion was named the Battalion of Martyr Amara for Arab Women. The declared aim of the move is to fight ISIS terrorists in eastern Syria and to protect women rights. The creation of the Battalion of Martyr Amara for Arab Women was officially announced by Rojda Seyar, an SDF field commander, on Monday.

Syrian Army Closing Militant Pocket In Eastern Damascus Desert Area

Syrian Army Closing Militant Pocket In Eastern Damascus Desert Area

FILE IMAGE

Pro-government forces, led by Syrian army and Hezbollah units, have launched an advance in order to capture the Abu Khashbah area in the eastern Damascus desert.

Government troops have advanced in the area south of Ar-Ruhba in order to close encircle the area controlled by US-backed militants south of the al-Seen military airbase. This desert area is not fully controlled by US-backed forces. However, it cannot be secured while the army and its allies are not in control of Abu Khashbah.

If government troops liberate the Abu Khashbah area and clear the militant pocket west of it, they will significantly shorten the frontline in southeastern Syria and make another important step in isolation of the US-held garrisons at the border with Iraq.

Syrian Army Closing Militant Pocket In Eastern Damascus Desert Area

Click to see the full-size map

Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra Refues To Work Alongside Syrian Democratic Forces – Media

Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra Refues To Work Alongside Syrian Democratic Forces - Media

Jaysh Maghawir Al-Thawra members alongisde with US-led coalition forces are in southeastern Syria

The US-backed Jaysh Maghawir Al-Thawra militant group operating in southeastern Syria has refused to work alongside another US-backed faction branded as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), according to the pro-opposition Qasion News Agency.

The agency reported that Jaysh Maghawir Al-Thawra has denied that it intends to redeploy to the Shadadi area in the northern Syrian province of Hasaka and to participate alongside with the SDF in the expected US-backed advance on Deir Ezzor.

Earlier this month, reports appeared that the US is gouing to build a military garrison at Shadadi with the aim to use it as a foothold for the anti-ISIS operation in the province of Deir Ezzor.

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Syrian War Report – July 4, 2017: Army Reportedly Receives Russian-made BMPT Terminator Combat Vehicles

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

Syrian government forces, led by Liwa al-Quds and Hezbollah units, have further advanced against ISIS northeast of the Arak gas field in the eastern part of Homs province. Army troops and their allies have captured a number of hills and reached the important Rammim Hill west of the Hail gas field.  By controlling the Rammim Hill, government forces will be able to establish fire control over the vicinity of the Hail gas field and thus soon to retake the field from ISIS.  Doing so will also contribute to a wider effort aimed at liberating the strategic town of al-Sukhnah.

According to reports, government forces received an unknown number of Russian-made BMPT Terminator combat vehicles.  The vehicles will allegedly be used during the upcoming advance on Deir Ezzor.  If confirmed, this will be the first usage of the Russian-made armoured vehicle in a combat environment.

The US-led coalition has airdropped about 100-150 members of US-backed groups of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) from the US-held Al-Tanf area in southeastern Syria to the Al-Shaddadi area in northeastern Syria, according to pro-militant media activists and media outlets.

According to reports, the goal of this move is to set a foothold for a US-backed advance on the government-held city of Deir Ezzor, besieged by ISIS terrorists.  Some sources suggest that the US is going to establish a coalition garrison in the border area. Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra even declared the start of the offensive on Deir Ezzor.  However, without direct support from US-led coalition ground forces this seems as merely a PR move. Another obvious target for the US-led operation is the ISIS-held border town of al-Bukamal.

If reports are confirmed, this move will be considered as a common part of a wider US effort aimed at building a buffer zone between Syria and Iraq by seizing as much border area as possible, the goal being to prevent any cooperation between the Syrian and Iraqi militaries.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed up by the US-led coalition, continued storming the ISIS-held part of Raqqah. Slow progress inside the city might be one of the reasons behind the US attempt to launch a separate operation in the border area with Iraq.

SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JULY 3, 2017: ISIS COLLAPSED IN EASTERN ALEPPO

03.07.2017

Pro-government forces, led by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces, have fully expelled ISIS terrorists from the area east of the Khanasir-Ithriyah road. Initially, the Tiger Forces took control over the entire Ithriyah-Resafa road, including the Habbari oil field and nearby points. Then, after a series of firefights with ISIS terrorists, government troops cleared the remaining ISIS-held pocket in eastern Aleppo.

With this advance, the SAA shortened the frontline with ISIS in the area and got a useful supply line to its strong point of Resafa. In the current situation, government forces will likely develop momentum against ISIS terrorists east of Salamiyah. If the SAA and its allies secure the road between Salamiyah and Palmyra, they will further shorten the frontline and repel any possible ISIS counter-attack on the Tiyas Airbase that may threaten the supply lines of government forces operating against ISIS east of Palmyra.

Faylaq Al-Rahman has followed the White House’s advice and blamed the Syrian government for using chemical weapons against its members in the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus. The militant group accused the SAA of using chlorine gas at the Ayn Tarma front after it had failed to advance in the area. Faylaq Al-Rahman said that 30 of its fighters were poisoned and added that the SAA once again used chlorine at the Zamalka front north Ayn Tarma. The Syrian Defense Ministry released a statement denying those claims and saying these reports are a pure propaganda.

In late June, the White House launched a large-scale media campaign preparing public opinion for further attacks against the Syrian government. The Trump administration claimed that it had some secret evidence that the Assad government was preparing for a chemical weapons attack in the country. The UK and France added that they would support any US military action against Syria.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured Hussainiya and Kasrat Mohamed Ali, and advanced on Ratlah in the southern Raqqah countryside. The US-backed force expanded its operations in the area after it failed to weed out the ISIS resistance insider Raqqah despite a desperate bombing campaign by the US-led coalition. The SDF is attempting to enter the Old Raqqah area, but this is a complicated task because clashes in al-Sinaa and Rawdah are still ongoing. ISIS claimed that 74 SDF fighters have been killed and 12 others wounded by its snipers so far in the city.

The US Marines have released a video showing its artillery unit supporting the SDF advance in Raqqah. Some people suggested that the video allows seeing alleged phosphorus shells prepared for usage.

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