INTERNAL TENSIONS DO NOT STOP MILITANTS FROM PROVOCATIONS IN SOUTHERN IDLIB

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Late on June 30, fighting resumed near the villages of Kansafrah, Al-Ruwayha and Bayanin in southern Idlib between the Syrian Army and Turkish-backed militants. Intense artillery shelling also targeted positions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham across the Jabal Al-Zawiyah area. Pro-militant sources claimed that the Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces tried to advance there, but were forced to retreat after several hours of clashes. In their own turn, pro-government sources say that the fighting in southern Idlib came as a result of a provocation by militants. Nonetheless, by the morning of July 1 the situation on the frontline had stabilized.

During the past week, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its counterparts from Fa Ithbatu, also an al-Qaeda-linked coalition of militant groups, were too busy with infighting and accusing each other of undermining the values of the so-called Syrian revolution. So, they were not able to concentrate any significant strike force able to deliver real damage to the Syrian Army in southern Idlib.

The security situation remains complicated in the province of Daraa. Tensions there are a result of the conflict between the army and some of the former militants, who had reconciled with the Damascus government and formally joined the 5th Assault Corps. As a result, at least 5 soldiers were recently killed in the countryside of the provincial capital and the army withdrew from the village of Kahil Jizah. Local fighters seized all the checkpoints surrounding the village and removed pro-government banners from the area.

The situation in Daraa province showcases the existing difficulties in the ongoing reconciliation process in southern Syria. Some former members of militant groups still remain committed to their radical ideology and hard-core anti-government views. At the same time, they continue to demand protection and resources for their areas in the framework of the reconciliation. Actions like those in Kahil Jizah undermine the peace process and set conditions for a new round of violence.

In northeastern Syria, forces of Turkish-backed militant groups shelled positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces near Kashal Ubayd, northwest of Ayn Issa. However, no casualties were reported there. In a separate development, SDF security forces closed the perimeter of the prison for ISIS members in al-Hasakah city. Local sources speculate that several ISIS members may have fled there. These reports remain unconfirmed.

Russia has opted to quit the United Nations system of humanitarian deconfliction in Syria because some of the system’s facilities were used by terrorists, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said on June 29 at a meeting of the UN Security Council.

“Our own investigations have repeatedly shown that some of the objects [listed using the mechanism] were used as headquarters of terrorists, therefore they should not have been given humanitarian status,” he noted adding that “Russia will continue to fulfill its obligations under international humanitarian law.”

We suggest that from now on the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs settle the issue of deconfliction directly with the Syrian authorities. It would be right,” Nebenzya added.

It should be noted that during the active phase of the conflict, mainstream media and Western diplomats repeatedly accused the Russian Aerospace Forces of intentionally bombing civilian and humanitarian targets. Russian and Syrian sources say that these supposed humanitarian facilities were in fact a part of the military infrastructure of the terrorist groups.

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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Weapons, ammunition, left by terrorists before their defeat, found in Syria’s southern region

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 Saturday, 20 June 2020 

DAMASCUS COUNTRYSIDE, (ST)- Huge amount of weapons and ammunition, left by terrorists before their defeat, were found in Damascus Countryside and Syria’s southern region during mopping up operations in the areas liberated from terrorism.

Some of the weapons are Western-made ones.

A source from concerned authorities told SANA that the seized weapons included machine guns, Dushka machine guns, PKCs, RPG launchers, hand grenades, sniper rifles, military guns, advanced anti-armor missiles, advanced communication devices, night vision binoculars and thousands of bullets in addition to a large quantity of narcotic substances.

The source pointed out that cooperation with the locals as well as monitoring and follow-up operations have led to arresting a group of terrorists who have links to foreign parties that smuggle materials used for making explosive devices. Huge amounts of explosives were also found, the source added.

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Sayyed And Hajj: The Ones Who Left And The Ones Who Will Follow

Sayyed And Hajj: The Ones Who Left And The Ones Who Will Follow

By Wassim al-Hajj – Damascus

Location: The southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital Beirut

Time: Early 1998

The commander of the Quds Force in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Colonel Qassem Soleimani, who recently assumed his position, visits the military headquarters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement. He embraces each of its officers – some have since been martyred, and others are still fighting on the frontlines. It is a very warm embrace between Soleimani and his comrades in arms. The great jihadi leader, martyr Mustafa “Zulfiqar” Badreddine, rushes to embrace the man. Soleimani responds with a warmer hug.

The video clip reflects an exceptional relationship between two revolutionaries, whose joint struggle transcended the borders of Lebanon and occupied Palestine. Syria, from north to south, passing through its desert and levant, is the scene of qualitative achievements and successive victories. It is hard to deny this. But to distort this conception, the Saudi media machine created rumors and lies about the tense relationship between the two martyrs. It held Soleimani responsible for the assassination of Badreddine and accused him of masterminding it.

How can men embracing gunpowder and fire every day – with one foot on the brink of death – possess all this passion? A mujahid recalls the two great martyrs. Those who look closely at their videos during operations to secure Damascus at the “Triangle of Death” (the southern countryside of Damascus-Daraa- Quneitra) in the winter of 2015 feel the warmth of their embrace and realize the scope of the relationship that was greatly distorted. The faces, known in the Western media as a threat to global security, display feelings that are difficult to decipher or put in a single sentence. But in a single moment they mobilize multiple phases of love, determination, and valor.

Comrades close to the martyrs report how Sayyed prepared to meet Hajj Bozork (the great hajj in Farsi). He liked calling him that. He rushed to receive him at the gate with a smile that seldomly appeared on his face. A strong hug. An extended meeting and insistence of fruits being cut and placed before the dear guest, despite his refusal and coyness.

People close to them also recount novels of passion during the battles. One of its chapters involves martyr Ali Fayad aka Alaa Bosnia. In the battles of Sahel Al-Ghab, in the north of the country, he carried out a tight ambush – an art he excelled in. He recorded it and quickly sent it to Sayyed. His voice could be heard in the recording.

Someone asked him: “Is x person there, behind the lines?”

He tries to hide it and eventually says “yes”.

The mediator insists on letting Sayyed know that Alaa sent x person to the ambush. For his part, Sayyed insisted that the video reach Hajj Bozork, saying, “He will be very happy with what Alaa did. Send the video and tell him what happened … Tell him that there are lovers among us who are racing to offer sacrifices for the sake of this nation’s pride.”

Another person who attended one of the last meetings recounted that Sayyed whispered to Hajj Qassem when he was bidding him farewell. “Send my regards to the Leader (the leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Grand Ayatollah His Eminence Sayyid Ali Khamenei) … Tell him your son Mustafa sends his regards and is telling you that the load on Hajj Qassem is great, so pray for him.”

As for the last meeting, at the Damascus airport the night Sayyed was assassinated (May 2016), the farewell lasted for about a quarter of an hour. They were supposed to go out together and meet later that same night. Sayyed insisted on staying for a while, and Hajj insisted on staying with him.

“It is not polite of me to leave and you are still here,” Hajj said. Sayyed insisted that Hajj leave. He returned less than an hour later as the sound of the explosion that killed Sayyed roared. That day, Hajj Qassem cried a lot – not for missing the “sword of the resistance”, but for missing the moment and an opportunity to reach the “goal”.

On that morning, he said, “Sayyed Mustafa’s name was written on that projectile for him to go alone, and God chose for him the best conclusion.”

Those who look at the faces of these two men, see the dark nightmare they represent to their enemies. Those who look carefully at the stillness of their eyes and the estrangement of their spirits which is apparent on their faces when they stand on the berms, realize very well that this axis has enough love to stock up on for the major battles.

ISIS REARS ITS UGLY HEAD IN SOUTHERN SYRIA AND CENTRAL IRAQ

South Front

Tensions between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Syrian Army are growing in southern Idlib. Recently, government forces repeatedly shelled positions of the terrorist groups in the Zawiya Mountain area. The most intense shelling targeted Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists near Fatterah and Sufuhon.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the al-Qaeda-affiliated “Wa Harid al-Muminin” operations room described this as a blatant violation of the ceasefire regime and announced that they’d killed several pro-government fighters in retaliatory strikes.

At the same time, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham blocked several Turkish military vehicles near the town of Darat Izza in western Aleppo. According to local sources, the group is opposing the growth of the Turkish military presence there because earlier Turkish-backed forces opposed its attempt to reopen commercial crossings with the government-held area in western Aleppo and eastern Idlib.

Contraband traffic and various fees on commercial activities are an important source of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s income. Therefore, despite the public declarations to defeat the Assad regime, the group is interested in trade between the militant-held part of Greater Idlib and the government-controlled part of Syria.

Militant groups directly controlled by Turkey also faced a series of attacks. On May 2, a prominent commander of the Sham Corps, known as Haj Talib al-Khatib, survived an assassination attempt receiving light injures. Unknown gunmen on a motorcycle fired on his vehicle on the road linking the towns of al-Nerab and Sarmin. Late on the same day, Abu ‘Arib, a field commander of the Ahrar al-Sham, died from a land mine explosion on the frontline in southern Idlib. A part of Pro-Turkish sources accuses Hayat Tahrir al-Sham of staging such attacks in order to undermine the influence of its Turkish-controlled counterparts even further.

ISIS cells assassinated two Syrian intelligence officers and a supposed Hezbollah member in the province of Daraa in attacks on April 30 and May 2. These assassinations became the latest in a series of ISIS attacks on government forces. Using the instability on the frontline in Idlib, the terrorist group expanded its operations southern Syria.

The ISIS activity is also growing in Iraq.

Early on May 2, ISIS cells carried out coordinated attacks on positions of the Popular Mobilization Forces in the province of Saladin. Nine fighters of the Tigris Regiment were killed near Mukeshefah and a member of the 41th Brigade was killed near Balad. ISIS militants also briefly seized the PMF positions in the Mukeshefah area.

Later on the same day, ISIS terrorists armed with machine guns and sniper rifles fired on a police station in the village of Zaghinah in Diyala province. Four police officers were killed and nine others were injured.

In a separate development, ISIS units detonated an improvised explosive device on the route of a PMF convoy in the district of Udhaim, and then attacked the convoy’s vehicles with machine guns. A soldier was killed and 3 others were injured.

The increasing number of ISIS attacks in late April and early May even drew the attention of the US-led coalition. On April 29, coalition warplanes bombed the ISIS stronghold in the Hamrin Mountains. The strikes followed a PMF security operation in the area. Nonetheless, the following developments in the provinces of Saladin and Diyala demonstrated that the ISIS threat remains an important factor of the security situation in the country.

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ISRAELI MILITARY BUILDUP NEAR GOLAN HEIGHTS FOLLOWS STRIKES ON SYRIAN CAPITAL

Israel has deployed additional units of the Iron Dome and Patriot air defense systems near the borders of Lebanon and Syria. Pro-Israeli sources claim that the country’s military is preparing to repel possible retaliatory strikes from Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed forces following the recent airstrikes on alleged ‘Iranian targets’ near Damascus.

Over the past year, the Israeli Defense Forces have been steadily increasing their military presence in the area of the occupied Golan Heights under pretext of combating the so-called Iranian threat. Syrian sources describe these developments as a part of preparations for wider aggressive military actions against forces of the Damascus government and its allies in southern Syria.

Late on April 27, Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles dropped leaflets calling on Idlib residents to support actions of the Turkish Army in the area of the M4 highway. Such actions by the Turkish military likely demonstrate that the negotiations with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which were held after a military incident between the sides on April 26, likely ended with no real progress. If the Turkish Army continues its efforts to de-block the part of the M4 highway near Nayrab by force, it may find itself in the state of an open military confrontation with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

2 US soldiers were abducted after an attack on their vehicle near the Omar oil fields, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Syrian state media said on April 27. Arab media regularly report about security incidents involving US-led coalition forces and their proxies in eastern Syria. Earlier in April, Syria’s SANA claimed that a US soldier and 2 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in an attack near the village of al-Wasia in Deir Ezzor province.

On top of this, ISIS via its news agency Amaq regularly reports successful attacks against personnel of the Syrian Democratic Forces and civilians in the US-controlled area. For example on April 21, Amaq announced that ISIS forces had killed a “sorcerer” in the town of al-Sabhah. The victim was identified as Hassan Ghanem al-Osman. He became the third “sorcerer” killed by ISIS in eastern Deir Ezzor during the last two months.

The US-led coalition prefers to remain silent regarding the ISIS terror campaign, which is ongoing under the nose of its forces. However, it found time to comment on the April 27 report about the supposed casualties among US personnel calling it fake.

The Russian Military Police established a new observation point near the town of Tell Tamir in northeastern Syria. Kurdish sources claim that Turkish-backed militants regularly shelled the town and the surrounding areas during the past few weeks. They expect that the deployment of the Russians there should help to put an end to these regular ceasefire violations.

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