Saturday, 13 February 2016

Report from Syria - 02/12/2016

US A-10s bombed city of Aleppo on Wednesday, blames Russia

11 February, 2016

Two US Air Force A-10 warplanes carried out airstrikes on Aleppo Wednesday, destroying nine facilities, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported. The same day, the Pentagon accused Moscow of bombing two hospitals, despite no Russian flights over the city.

Yesterday, at 13:55 Moscow time (10:55 GMT), two American A-10 assault aircraft entered Syrian airspace from Turkey, flew right to the city of Aleppo and bombed targets there,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Thursday.

Also on Wednesday, Konashenkov referenced, the Pentagon’s spokesman, Colonel Steven Warren claimed that Russian warplanes allegedly bombed two hospitals in Aleppo.

In his words, some 50,000 Syrian have been allegedly deprived of vital services,” Konashenkov said, pointing out that Warren forgot to mention either hospitals’ coordinates, or the time of the airstrikes, or sources of information. “Absolutely nothing.”

No Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes in Aleppo city area yesterday. The nearest target engaged was over 20km away from the city,” Konashenkov stressed, adding that on the contrary, airplanes from the US-led anti-ISIS coalition were active over Aleppo, “both aircrafts and UAVs.”

I’m going to be honest with you: we did not have enough time to clarify what exactly those nine objects bombed out by US planes in Aleppo yesterday were,” Konashenkov said. “We will look more carefully."

However, a senior State Department official denied the allegations, saying that Russian reports are “false,” and that the US did not carry out any missions over Aleppo on Wednesday or Thursday, NBC reports.

On Wednesday, the US accused the Russian Air Force of targeting two hospitals in Aleppo.

"The situation in and around Aleppo has become, in our view, increasingly dire," Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, said Wednesday. "With the destruction of the two main hospitals in Aleppo by Russian and regime attacks, over 50,000 Syrians are now without any access to live-saving assistance."

Warren added, "There's little or no ISIL in the Aleppo area, so they're kind of, at this point, separate fights."

The spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry drew attention to the stunning similarity of the situation with the American airstrike on the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, and the US bombing of the positions of the Iraqi army in Fallujah.

What they do first is make unfounded accusations against us – to deflect blame away from themselves. If it goes on like this, we’re going to make two media briefings: one for ourselves, another for those coalition guys,” Konashenkov said.

Western countries never bothered to share intelligence on terrorists in Syria with Moscow, although they did accept Russian maps with terrorists’ positions marked, the Russian MoD’s spokesman said.

Now they criticize us, saying we fly wrong way and bomb wrong places. Should we send them more maps?” Konashenkov questioned.

He recalled what the Russian Defense Ministry had pointed out earlier – the more terrorists Russia destroys the more it is being accused of indiscriminate airstrikes.

If you look at how Western media presents information, it looks like the cities not controlled by the Syrian government are full of peaceful opposition and human rights activists,” the spokesman said.

The Russian Defense Ministry and its partners in Syria operate multilevel intelligence, maintaining unimpeachable target spotting, the MoD representative said, adding that all airstrikes are delivered only after repeated verification of a target to avoid civilian casualties. Konashenkov said intelligence also comes from the armed units of the Syrian opposition.

Konashenkov accused Western TV channels of presenting the ruins of the city of Aleppo, devastated long before the Russian Air Force was deployed to Syria, as the results of recent Russian airstrikes.

An experienced orchestrator has a finger in this pie,” the spokesman said. “The obvious trend is to trumpet about alleged Russia sins and be silent about the ‘effectiveness’ of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition in Syria.”

The Russian Air Force has performed over 500 sorties, eliminating nearly 1,900 terrorist facilities in Syria between February 4 and February 11. The Defense Ministry reports that two senior terrorist field commanders have been killed.

Over the past week, February 4-11, the planes of Russia's aviation group in Syria made 510 sorties during which 1,888 facilities of terrorists were destroyed in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Deir ez-Zor, Daraa, Homs, Al-Hasakah and Raqqah,” Konashenkov said.

The MoD spokesman shared with the media about wholesale desertion among the terrorists in Aleppo. The jihadists intimidate local civilians and force them to walk en masse towards the Turkish border, while the militants try to melt into the crowd.

They know for sure that neither the Russian Air Force nor the Syrian government troops ever deliver strikes on non-combatants,” Konashenkov said.

Elaborating on some details of the latest Russian airstrikes in Syria, he related how Sukhoi Su-25 ground-support fighters eliminated three terrorist convoys on the highway connecting Homs and Al-Qaryatayn. A reconnaissance check revealed that airstrikes destroyed nine trucks loaded with munitions, two armored vehicles and over 40 jihadists.

In Daraa province, a Sukhoi Su-34 bomber wiped out a hardened terrorist position near Ghariyah settlement. The strike that destroyed the fortified strong point also eliminated two armored vehicles parked nearby

They know for sure that neither the Russian Air Force nor the Syrian government troops ever deliver strikes on non-combatants,” Konashenkov said.

Elaborating on some details of the latest Russian airstrikes in Syria, he related how Sukhoi Su-25 ground-support fighters eliminated three terrorist convoys on the highway connecting Homs and Al-Qaryatayn. A reconnaissance check revealed that airstrikes destroyed nine trucks loaded with munitions, two armored vehicles and over 40 jihadists.

In Daraa province, a Sukhoi Su-34 bomber wiped out a hardened terrorist position near Ghariyah settlement. The strike that destroyed the fortified strong point also eliminated two armored vehicles parked nearby.

Listen especially from the 4 minute mark. Maj Gen Konoshenkov doesn't mince words about the western "colleagues"

Russia/Syria Combat Report - 11Feb, 2016

Major General Igor Konashenkov: During last week, February 4th thru 11th, aircraft of the Russian aviation group in the Syrian Arab Republic have performed 510 combat sorties engaging 1,888 terrorists objects in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Deir ez-Zor, Daraa, Homs, Hasakah and Raqqah. 

6:41 - Yesterday at 13:55 (MSK), two A-10 attack aircraft of the U.S. Air Force entered the Syrian air space from the territory of Turkey and reaching Aleppo by the shortest path made strikes against objects in the city so that one wouldn't wish for more. Colonel Warren, for some reason, did not make this mission public in the literal and even figurative sense.

10:34 - In recent five years, the Russian party has been observing the results of the Washingtonian strategies of “political transitions” in the Middle East and near the Russian borders. Instead of the “triumph of democracy” – devastation, blood, refugees. Is that not the reason the transatlantic “strategists” have started talking about the necessity of “ground operations” in Syria and Libya? Perhaps, the advisers should stop stepping on the same rake?


 On February 11th in Munich, Germany, prior to the traditional security summit, will hold international talks on Syria. In particular, there will be meeting of the international support of Syria group with the participation of representatives of the United States, China, the United Nations and Russia. In addition, bilateral meetings will have place. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, will meet with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Zone of the expected Turkish military invasion
Zone of the expected Turkish military invasion
12 February, 2016

Originally appeared at Katehon

On the eve of the summit, Russia said it was ready to provide a ceasefire parties to the conflict on March US insists on an immediate cessation of Russian operations in Siria, fearing that this time the official Damascus troops backed by Moscow will complete elimination of a large group of militants in northern part of the country and block the border with Turkey
The stalemate of the peace process
Inter-Syrian negotiations, where serious efforts were made to start them on January 30, are at an impasse at the level of prior consultation. The opposition could not unite. Syrian Kurds were not allowed to participate in the negotiations, but Turkey and Saudi Arabia tried to legitimize a group of Islamic extremists.
Peaceful” US goals
The United States, in contributing to the negotiations, intended to stop the Russian military campaign in Syria, which threatened the existence of militias under their control and the “Islamic State.” The main objective was to achieve a political victory over Russia and Iran at the negotiating table. After inter-Syrian negotiations have failed Americans continued pressure on Russia, demanding to immediately stop the offensive against the rebels, threatening to start direct military invasion.
Preparing for an invasion
In case of failure, the US prepared a backup plan, which has intensified since the middle of last week. In essence it is a direct military intervention in Syria, with the US’ allies being supported by the US itself. The leadership of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain said there is a possibility of such a plan. The armed forces of Turkey are also preparing for a military invasion, and there is possibility of the British involvement too.
Kurdish card
By negotiating with Turkey on military operations in Syria, the US is attempting to strengthen its influence among the Kurds. The visit of Obama‘s envoy to Rojava caused a negative reaction from Ankara. At the same time, Russia decided to play the Kurdish card too. On 9th February, an embassy of Syrian Kurdistan opened in Moscow. The region of Kurdish resettlement plays an ever-increasing importance in the geopolitics of the Middle East. The reasons for this: the geographical position (output to several key areas – Levant, South Caucasus, Iraq), high potential of very active Kurdish ethnic group who created the influential military-political structure and the ability to use the Kurds in the internal geopolitics of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.
Although both Russia and the United States are trying to enlist the support of the Kurds and the Kurdish factor in the use of its geopolitical interests, in a conflict with Russia, Turkey will have to continue to move in the wake of the US if they do not want to remain in isolation. Agents of the US’ influence continue to prevent the rapprochement of both countries.
The probability of an invasion increases
A successful offensive of the Syrian army, with the support of Russia and Iran, in the region of Aleppo in northern Syria increases the probability of an invasion by the Turks and allied Gulf states, which could end in a military confrontation with Russia and Iran. US commandos are already in northern Syria, which increases the risks of a major war involving Russia and the United States.
The US and its allies will continue to put pressure on Russia with demands to stop the military campaign. The British Foreign Office is actively working in this direction. Russia is trying to gain time and to delay the invasion, using “peaceful” democratic rhetoric, but it will not stop the hostilities. The outcome of such a decision will only appear when a direct threat to the US’ entry into the war emerges, but it will not necessarily be realized.
Compromise with the Americans and peacemaking with the terrorists will greatly complicate the situation in Syria, the rebels will be allowed to rest, regroup, and get reinforcements. As a result, all the successes, made by Russian military in Syria, will come to naught.
Related links

Zakharova on Syria Talks: "I Don't Envy the State Department"

Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
13th February, 2016

Official representative of Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, commented on her Facebook on the outcome of the negotiations of the International support group in Syria.

"Well, now it begins. Yesterday till 2 am not the last people of this world have been working on Syria's ceasefire. The statement clearly states: Damascus and the opposition should stop the violence, the fight against terrorism will continue", — said the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Then, Maria Zakharova commented on the statement by the representative of the Higher Committee on negotiations  of Riyadh.

"Today, after sleeping on it the representative of the Higher Committee on Negotiations of Riyadh said it would accept a truce in Syria only if the actions of the RuAF are terminated, otherwise it is unacceptable. In his words, "without stopping Russian airstrikes, a truce in Syria will not be stable". 

I don't envy the state Department right now — yesterday they tried really hard," wrote Maria Zakharova on Facebook.

Maria Zakharova
Ну, вот, начинается. Вчера до двух часов ночи не последние в мире люди работали над сирийским перемирием. В заявлении четко сказано: Дамаск и оппозиция должны остановить насилие, борьба с терроризмом будет продолжена. 

Сегодня хорошо выспавшийся представитель Высшего комитета по переговорам Рияд Ага заявил, что примет перемирие в Сирии только при условии приостановки действий ВКС РФ, в ином случае оно неприемлемо, заявил агентству Sputnik официальный представитель ВКП Рияд Ага. "Оно устраивает нас, если включает (приостановку) российских авиаударов, и неприемлемо, если не включает этого", — отметил Ага. По его словам, "без прекращения российских авиаударов в Сирии не будет стабильности и не будет достигнуто перемирие".
Не завидую сейчас Госдепу - они вчера действительно очень старались.

Syrian Army enters the Al-Raqqa Governorate
By Leith Fadel

12 February, 2016

For the first time since August of 2014, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has reentered the Al-Raqqa Governorate in northern Syria after a successful past few days of fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) along the Salamiyah-Raqqa Road that flows through much of east Hama. 

The Syrian Arab Army’s 555th Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division – alongside Liwaa Suqour Al-Sahra (Desert Hawks Brigade), the National Defense Forces (NDF), Fouj Al-Joulan (Golani Regiment), and the pro-government Palestinian militia “Liwaa Al-Quds” (Jerusalem Brigade) – have captured the entire part of the Salamiyah-Raqqa Road in the Hama Governorate, leaving only 35 km of territory between their positions and the strategic Tabaqa Military Airport. 

Since capturing the Tabaqa Military Airport in August of 2014, ISIS has turned this site in the Al-Raqqa Governorate as their primary base and training grounds in northern Syria; it is constantly targeted by the U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition and Russian Air Force. 

While the next 35 km along the Salamiyah-Raqqa Highway will no doubt be an arduous journey for the Syrian Armed Forces, they have ensured the safety of their only supply route to the Aleppo Governorate. 

With the Khanasser-Ithriyah Road being free of any ISIS presence, the Syrian Armed Forces can continue to concentrate their soldiers at the Raqqa-Hama axis without having to fear another disruption along their primary supply route to Aleppo

Syria ceasefire deal doesn't stop Russia’s air task force operation — official
The ceasefire accords of the International Syria Support Group relate to the conflict between the Syrian government and opposition rather than the struggle against terrorists

12 February, 2016

MOSCOW, February 12. /TASS/. Russia will continue its anti-terror operation in Syria despite the ceasefire accords of the International Syria Support Group as they relate to the conflict between the Syrian government and opposition rather than the struggle against terrorists, a Russian senator said on Friday.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the committee for international 
affairs at the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, thus commented on the ceasefire agreement reached at a meeting of the International Syria Support Group in Munich.

"Despite these accords, Russia will continue its counter-terror operation of the 
air task force because the places of the location of militants from the IS [the Islamic State terrorist organization outlawed in Russia] and the routes of their supply with ammunition, cargoes and manpower are well-known," the senator said.

"As far as I understand, these accords relate only to the warring groupings in Syria but do not relate to terrorists who are staying on the territory of Syria and partially on the territory of Iraq," he added.

Opposition says will attend Geneva talks if plan to break Syria deadlock is implemented

Russia FM: Syrian army backed by Russian planes unblocked Aleppo from east
Deputy PM: Russia is not going to expand air operation in Syria to neighboring countries

"We’re working at the request of the Syrian president and are struggling against the terrorists who represent the IS on the territory of Syria," the parliamentarian said.

The Russian senator praised the ceasefire accords reached in Munich.

"The ceasefire between the warring groupings in Syria will always be welcomed because innocent people are dying and the situation in the country is being destabilized," he noted.

The senator said, however, that the prospect of the truce observance "does not inspire much optimism."

"There are too many groupings, which position themselves as anti-governmental and anti-Assad forces, on the one hand, and some of them are of clearly terrorist nature, on the other hand," Dzhabarov said.

Russia’s advanced Su-35S fighter jet: premier performance over Syrian skies
The senator said he was confident that it was necessary to clearly separate opposition forces in Syria from terrorist groupings.

"This should be agreed by the leading world powers, which are fighting against the IS," the senator said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier on Friday the Munich meeting of the International Syria Support Group had agreed that "the working group co-chaired by Russia and the United States will work out the modalities of the ceasefire in Syria over a week."

Also, "this group’s mandate includes determining the areas, which are under terrorists’ control," the minister said.

According to US Secretary of State John Kerry, all the group’s participants expressed their readiness to work with Russia in a way, which covered the political, humanitarian and military aspects of the problem.

And appear to be poised to take Azzaz - an important 
Turkey border crossing
Earlier this week, the Levantine Front, an Islamist faction that holds a small 
amount of territory in northern Aleppo Province, began complaining that they are
 fighting on several fronts, facing the Syrian military advance, along with ISIS and Kurdish pressure on their respective frontiers.
While most of their focus in recent days has been on the Syrian military’s 
offensive in the area, today it’s the Kurdish YPG that is moving against them, taking advantage of Russian airstrikes and an off-balance rebel force to attack the Mannagh Air Base.
The reports indicate that while pushing toward the base, the YPG is also aiming for the village of Kfar Naya. Kurdish officials have suggested their goal is to take more or less the entire Aleppo Province border with Turkey, which mostly belongs to ISIS, but which includes this strip of territory as well.
Russian warplanes are said to be providing air support for the YPG offensive, a 
shift since the group usually depends on the US coalition for help. With Russia’s 
focus on helping the Assad government, however, they likely figure that 
bolstering the Kurds at the expensive of Islamist factions is a step in the right direction.
Syrian offensive has secured the flank of Kurdish Afrin enclave

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