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From Egypt: Updates on Russian involvement in Syria

Lt. Gen. Ayoub, Syrian Flag

Here is the latest update as of October 13th, 2015 on Russian involvement in Syria, with a brief recap of October 4-9 before going into the great advancements made on the 10th and 11th:

October 4: The Russian Air Force surprised ISIS with a series of airstrikes inside the ISIS stronghold at Aqayrbat in the al-Salamiyeh district inside Hama province (south of Idlib). These are the first airstrikes inside this very strategic area of the countryside in which ISIS has hideouts. This is an important strike because it is near the Tabaqa Military Airport (ISIS’ main base in Syria).

As long as ISIS controls this part of al-Salamiyeh District, they have full access to northeastern Homs and the city of al-Salamiyeh, a densely populated city of Ismaeli civilians (Ismaelis are a minority religious sect that ISIS massacres). Since ISIS captured the Tabaqa Military Airport in 2014, they’ve been able to control the rural area in Hama’s countryside. It is also next to the major highways leading to Hama City and Homs City.

October 8: The Syrian National Army captured Kafr Ajouz after intense fighting with Islamists of the Free Syrian Army and al-Qaeda in Syria’s al-Nusra, who were fighting jointly together against the Syrian National Forces.

October 9: The Syrian National Army took full control of the strategic hilltop of Jub al-Ahmar and the important town of Kafr Dalbeh. This took place while Russian MI-24 Helicopter Gunships (alligators) pounded the Islamists, making them scatter.

Directly north of Kafr Dalbeh and Kafr Ajouz (captured on October 8) is the Islamist rebel stronghold of Salma, which is in northeastern Latakia, and has been under the control of the Islamist group, Free Syrian Army, since 2012. The capture of Salma is important in order to recapture Jisr Al-Shughour, in Idlib Province on the Latakia border. Salma overlooks the northeastern mountainside of Jabal Al-Akrad (Kurdish Mountains), which is the part of Latakia that leads to Jisr Al-Shughour and the Turkish border along the town of Al-Ghassaniyah. If Salma is taken, the Islamist forces are in big trouble!

OCTOBER 10: Within a 24 hour period of time, Russian airstrikes destroyed two terrorist command centers, 29 field camps, 23 fortified facilities and several troop positions with military hardware. The Russian Air Force conducted a total of 64 sorties and hit a total of 55 targets. This has considerably degraded the strength of terrorist forces in Syria.

During the first phase of air strikes on the 10th, Russian strikes destroyed the biggest and most important supply hubs of ISIS which will significantly reduce the mobility and offensive capability of ISIS in the future. Syrian and Russian intelligence reports indicate that the terrorists are suffering from a shortage of fuel and ammunition after the Russian bombings. Other reports indicate that some of the terrorist groups are demoralized and are actively leaving the battle zone, moving in eastern and northeastern directions.

Russia’s goal has been to provide air support to Syrian National Army ground troops fighting against various terrorist groups, primarily ISIS, but also al-Qaeda in Syria (al-Nusra). Russia’s involvement has allowed Syrian ground forces in Damascus to go on the offensive in Hama province. The Syrian Air Force launched air strikes on al-Ghab plain in the Hama countryside and also conducted air strikes on the terrorist group Jaish al-Fatah positions in Jabal al-Zawiya in the Idlib province countryside.

The Islamist rebels from the Free Syrian Army, Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, Liwaa Suqour al-Ghaab, and al-Qaeda in Syria, who were fighting jointly, were given a rude awakening from the Russian Air Force’s MI-24 Helicopter Gunships inside the cities of Kafr Zita, Kafr Naboudeh, Khan Sheikhoun, Qala’at al-Madayq, and Atshan (in Hama province, north of Hama city) on October 10th, as their powerful airstrikes left many terrorists dead and their equipment destroyed.

The Russian Air Force also relentlessly targeted the Islamists at the city of Khan Sheikhoun inside Idlib province’s southern countryside (near the border of Hama), killing large numbers of Islamists inside this rural area. Russian Air Forces also destroyed six of the terrorist’s armed vehicles. The Russian Air Force continued the aerial onslaught for 72 hours which weakened the Islamist defenses, while at the same time has protected the advantages Syrian National Forces gained in Hama.

Despite the capture of the towns of al-Mughayr, Lahaya, Markabah, Tal Sikeek, Tal Sakhar, Tal ‘Uthman, and a major advance in Latmeen, the Syrian National Forces lost 33 soldiers and 10 tanks in the process of this large-scale assault. But had it not been for the help of the Russian Air Force, Syrian National Forces would not have been able to make any advances at all at regaining territory lost to Islamists.

For the first time since 2012, Syrian National Forces are close to fully re-capturing Kuweires Military Airport in the eastern countryside of Aleppo province. The main unit leading this massive operation is the Syrian National Army’s Cheetah Forces. At present, they are under the direction of Col. Lu’ayy Sleitan and military advisors from the Russian Marines.

Within a period of 24 hours, the Cheetah Forces, in coordination with the al-Baqeer Brigades of the National Defense Forces and the Russian Air Force, liberated the crucial city of Jabboul (6km from the Kuweires Military Airport). Intense fighting took place with ISIS before being able to capture the city. With the capture of Jabboul, and an advancement to Ain Sabil, the Syrian National Army is just three villages away from the Kuweires Military Airport, about 6.2km (3.7 miles) from the front lines of this strategic location. The success at this location in east Aleppo is due to the Russian Air Force’s participation, who is easily visible directly above the advancing Syrian National Army. Around 300 soldiers have been trapped inside the Kuweries Military Airport since 2011 when Islamists seized the airport.

October 11: The Russian Air Force continued its massive aerial campaign over the al-Rastan Plains in the northern countryside of Homs Province, targeting both al-Qaeda in Syria and their allies from the Free Syrian Army inside the cities of Talbiseh, Al-Rastan and Um Sharshouh.

The Russian Air Force carried out five airstrikes this morning, October 11, as the Syrian National Army continued to concentrate their soldiers along the western axis of the al-Rastan Plains (between Hama and Homs). The Syrian National Army fired mortar shells and rockets into the cities of Talbiseh and al-Rastan in order to weaken the defenses of the joint forces of al-Qaeda in Syria and the Free Syrian Army inside the Islamist strongholds.

When the Syrian National Army begins their full-scale attack on the al-Rastan plains, the Russian Air Force will play an integral role because of the rugged terrain surrounding the Islamists defenses and the anti-tank TOW missiles in the possession of the Free Syrian Army. If the Syrian National Army captures the al-Rastan plains this will leave the al-Wa’er district of Homs city completely isolated from any Islamist supply lines in the province.

BREAKING NEWS—just in and confirmed–Update to October 11:

The Syrian National Army’s 45th Regiment began a new operation inside the strategic town of al-Sirmaniyah after two straight days of wins, including the capture of Fawru and al-Bahsa in the al-Ghaab Plains of Hama province.

Russian Air Force MI-24 Helicopter Gunships (alligators) started the operation with an effective assault on the defensive positions of Ansar al-Sham, Harakat Ahrar al-Sham, and al-Qaeda in Syria. Many of the Islamist groups’ military installations were destroyed which will pave the way for the Syrian Armed Forces to attack.

Following the air strikes from the Russian helicopter gunships, the Syrian National Army fired into al-Sirmaniyah. A ground assault followed, targeting the Islamist frontline positions at the southern sector of the town. Al-Sirmaniyah is strategically located in the countryside.

This past weekend has been full of fantastic surprises, including the resurgence of the Syrian National Army in northern Syria after six months of consistent losses to the Islamists. These losses had included the Idlib province and the al-Ghaab Plains of Hama province, so these are huge gains. Because of dozens of Russian airstrikes each day, the Syrian National Army has been able to take advantage of the Islamist groups’ losses, most especially in Latakia and Hama provinces in northern Syria.

Oct 12 (See more details for this date at CheriBerens.)

Atshan was re-captured in the Hama countryside (north of Hama, just east of the Idlib-Hama highway—a strategic highway)

Today, October 13 (See more details for this date at CheriBerens.)

During the last 24 hours, Russia’s air force made 88 sorties. At least 86 ISIS targets were hit in the provinces of Latakia, Raqqa, Idlib, Hama and Aleppo. Latakia is important. It has been the site of ongoing massacres of Christian and Alewite civilians starting in 2012. Major massacres occurred in 2013 as well, and continuous killings of civilians by the hands of rebel groups have been ongoing. It was in Latakia that the kidnappings of 100’s of women and children took place, and later the children were murdered and taken to Damascus to be filmed in the propaganda films that were used to accuse Syrian forces of using chemicals (there is a link on the webpage for further details on that).

Syrian Forces take Salma (in Latakia province):

The re-capture of Salma today was of great importance in order to re-capture both Idlib and Latakia provinces (Salma is situated directly between the ‘cities’ of Latakia and Idlib—there is a map on the webpage).

A group effort, but led by a Syrian Army Special Forces team, entered the village of Tartiyah inside Latakia province’s northeastern countryside, after advancing from their positions at the town of Kafr Dalbeh. On October 9th, with the help of Russian air strikes, Syrian forces took full control of the hilltop of Kafr Dalbeh (directly north of Salma).

The Syrian Forces broke through the al-Qaeda in Syria (al-Nusra) frontline defenses and entered Tartiyeh. This advance was followed by Russian airstrikes. Russian fighter jets and helicopters could be seen flying above the advancing Syrian Forces on the ground. While the strikes were taking place on Tartiyeh, other Syrian Forces were advancing on Salma. They captured some buildings before destroying an al-Qaeda hideout in the southern part of Salma. During these advances, Syrian Forces killed approximately 34 Islamists from al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra. Some of those killed were ex-members of the Free Syrian army (a ‘rebel’ Islamist group backed by the US) who joined forces with al-Qaeda in Syria. Three of those killed were Turkish citizens.

If you go directly to the link, you will get a more detailed description starting from September 30th. These were the most recent updates added to the webpage

Cheri Berens

Cheri Berens

Cheri Berens lives in Egypt working as a researcher for the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. She experienced Egypt’s 2011 and 2013 revolutions and witnessed the Muslim Brotherhood takeover and violence that followed.

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