Very good thread from Iyad here:
Seen thanks. Interesting that ‘the deal’ apparently involves Israel helping Russia with the US, but can’t attack SAA positions. However, they already strike SAA positions that ‘lock on’ and fire SAMs at them:
Seen thanks. Interesting that ‘the deal’ apparently involves Israel helping Russia with the US, but can’t attack SAA positions. However, they already strike SAA positions that ‘lock on’ and fire SAMs at them:
Yup - thread mentions it. It also says that any threat to Assad will be internal.

Another thread said that they got zapped for painting the Israeli a/c after being told not to.
The following is a story from a CBC reporter on site in Syria. There is not a lot new in the story itself, but I thought the following picture is worth posting. It is a view of one of the tunnels in Douma. The size of the tunnel and the quantity of material that went into building it is quite impressive.
Where does Syria go from here? | CBC News

The story notes that the Syrian government wanted the CBC reporter to see it as it shows the amount of financial assistance the rebels were getting from outside sources.
"The Syrian government wanted us to see that because it's very sophisticated — and they say it shows the rebels must have had a great deal of financial assistance from outside sources backing them, like Saudi Arabia, for example."
Russia to host Syria peace talks in July
It would appear the tripartite powers of Russia, Syria and Turkey and their talks at Astana are being sidelined and they're going straight for Sochi in Russia. Rebels have already said they won't attend if asked:
“We understand that this looks rather strange, but ... taking into account the situation on the ground, the new realities, we would like to give new momentum to further work, shifting the focus more towards the political and humanitarian components,” Russia’s chief negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev told reporters in Astana.

Rebel negotiator Yasser Abdul Rahim said the move was unacceptable.

“If they invite us, we will not go to Sochi, the armed rebels will not go to Sochi because we must respect our people,” he told a briefing in Astana. “Russian forces have not stopped killing Syrian people.”
Turkey isn't happy about the forced confiscation of property legislation and enforced repatriation:
In a statement on this latest round, which ends on Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it had made clear its “reservations on the forced evacuation operations conducted in Eastern Ghouta and in the north of Homs, as well as on the law that paves the way for the confiscation of the properties of Syrian refugees and IDPs (internally displaced people).”
Syria's Ambassador to the UN is still pushing the 'to liberate every inch of our land, be it from terrorism or from states that are aggressors against our national sovereignty' line, meaning Turkey and the SDF will be on the cards, probably after rebel areas in the south and Idlib:
Damascus envoy Bashar al-Ja’afari, who also serves as Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, said his delegations was “content” with the results of the latest talks, but took a jab at Turkey and the United States who back the rebels.

“We confirm that … the Syrian Arab Republic will continue its struggle to liberate every inch of our land, be it from terrorism or from states that are aggressors against our national sovereignty,” he said.
The OPCW has said that their investigation of an incident in the town of Saraqeb in February has concluded that chlorine gas from gas cylinders was used. There was no conclusion drawn however as to who used it.
Chlorine gas likely used in Syria attack in February: chemical weapons watchdog | CBC News
The international chemical weapons watchdog said Wednesday that chlorine was likely used as a weapon in the Syrian town of Saraqeb in early February, the latest report of poison gas being unleashed in Syria's civil war.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons released details of a report into the chlorine use, but did not say which side in the fighting used it. The OPCW is not mandated to apportion blame for the attack.

The OPCW said that its Fact-Finding Mission probing alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria "determined that chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighbourhood of Saraqeb."
This was based on finding two empty chlorine cylinders, environmental samples, and witness reports.
The OPCW said its team based its findings on evidence including "the presence of two cylinders, which were determined as previously containing chlorine; witness testimony; environmental samples that demonstrated the unusual presence of chlorine in the local environment; and the number of patients at medical facilities shortly after the incident who showed signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine and other toxic chemicals."
This is not related to the incident at Douma, which is still being studied.
Putin says Russian frigates in Mediterranean on standby over Syria...
There was me thinking Assad had 'won', or at least now had the majority of the populated areas (apart from Yarmouk) to the west. There's obviously the enclaves to the south and of course Idlib, plus the Tr sponsored FSA areas along with the SDF controlled areas. Russia feels it needs to keep a couple of cruise missile destroyers on permanent standby 'due to the remaining terrorist threat in Syria'. :
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russian military vessels with Kalibr cruise missiles would be on permanent standby in the Mediterranean to counter what he said was the terrorist threat in Syria.
The S-300 supply is apparently not a u-turn:
Last month Russia hinted it would also supply advanced S-300 ground-to-air missiles to Assad despite objections from Israel, which has lobbied Russia hard not to transfer the missiles.

On Friday, however, in an apparent U-turn following a visit to Moscow by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russia said it was not in talks with Syria about supplying the missiles. It said it did not think they were needed.

The Kremlin denied it had performed a U-turn on the missile question or that any decision was linked to Netanyahu’s visit.
Syrian rebels pull out of their last besieged area
The last rebels from areas between Homs and Hama are being evacuated in another deal. Yarmouk remains the only area held by IS near Damascus:
The last besieged rebel area, being fully evacuated on Wednesday, is the large enclave located between the cities of Hama and Homs around the towns of Rastan, Talbiseh and Houla.

Rebels still hold large swathes of northwest and southwest Syria that are not besieged because they border Turkey and Jordan, which have at times backed the insurgents and are guarantors of limited truces in those areas.

The only other area still surrounded by the Syrian army, in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp south of Damascus, is held by Islamic State fighters who look unlikely to agree to withdraw to the patch of desert they still hold in east Syria.
The MSR between Homs and Hama is crucial. 27,000 from that area have already left for Idlib. 66,000 from E Ghouta have already gone to Idlib:
Having held the area being evacuated on Wednesday for years, rebels agreed earlier this month to withdraw along with their families and other civilians who did not want to come back under Assad’s rule.

Since the enclave straddled Syria’s main north-south highway in the stretch between Hama and Homs, recapturing it will significantly ease communication lines in government areas.

Some 27,000 people have left the enclave already since the evacuations began earlier this month, a local government official said. The last convoy of buses began to leave on Wednesday, according to state media.

Last month, 66,000 people left Eastern Ghouta under similar agreements, the U.N. has said. Other major evacuations have included from east Aleppo in late 2016, when more than 30,000 people left.
There's an estimated 2M people now in Idlib:
Tens of thousands of other people have left smaller pockets in recent years. It has added to a humanitarian crisis in northwestern Idlib province, where the pre-war population of about 1 million people has been doubled by those fleeing other parts of the country.
Chlorine likely used in February attack in Idlib, Syria - weapons...
OPCW say chlorine used in Idlib. There's no independent mechanism to attribute blame due to the four Russian vetoes. Mention is made in this report of them being dropped, rather than 'appearing out of thin air' or 'already in place':
The report by the OPCW’s fact finding mission for Syria “determined that chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighbourhood of Saraqib.”

About 11 people were treated after the attack on Feb. 4. for mild and moderate symptoms of toxic chemical exposure, including breathing difficulties, vomiting and unconsciousness, the report said.
Hamish talks about 'markers' and precursors:
Samples taken from the soil, canisters and impact sites tested positive for other chemicals, bearing the “markers of the Syrian regime,” said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a biological and chemical weapons expert working in Syria.

The samples tested positive for precursors needed to make the nerve agent sarin, he said.

“These chemicals were detected in previous sarin attacks, Khan Sheikhoun, East Ghouta and no doubt Douma,” Bretton-Gordon said.
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Russia's Putin says Europe should leave politics out of Syria...
Classic. Leave politics out of the reconstruction of Syria. How can the externally (and internally) displaced return if the govt has taken their homes? Europe is supposed to just throw a blank cheque at Assad who is (according the four times vetoed JIM) responsible for using CW on his own population, both chlorine and sarin?

How much money is Russia putting towards the reconstruction effort?
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that European countries should help Syria rebuild if they want refugees to return to the country.

Speaking alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the southern Russia city of Sochi, Putin called for the reconstruction of Syria to be depoliticised.

Russia has challenged the EU’s stance that the West would only focus on humanitarian assistance but provide no money for Syria’s reconstruction as long as President Bashar al-Assad fails to share power with the opposition.
Another of those pesky unanimous Resolutions that get ignored: Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2254 (2015), Endorsing Road Map for Peace Process in Syria, Setting Timetable for Talks | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases

E2A: That's a fair few health workers killed this year according to the UN. Most E Ghouta and Idlib. 92 between 01.01.2018 and 04.05.2018 compared with 73 for the whole of last year:
“We see in 2018 the humanitarian situation inside Syria being the worst we have seen since the war started: a very dramatic deterioration, massive displacement, disrespect of protection of civilians and people’s lives still being turned upside down,” Panos Moumtzis, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria crisis, said in Beirut.

Syria is the worst place in modern history in terms of attacks on healthcare workers and facilities, accounting for 70 percent of all such attacks worldwide, he said.

U.N. data shows 89 healthcare workers died in 92 confirmed military attacks on healthcare facilities between Jan 1 and May 4, compared to 73 killed in 112 attacks in the whole of 2017, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria crisis.
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There should be no international effort to reconstruct Syria or provide humanitarian aid. Let Russia ruin itself by bearing the full cost of the gay commissar’s vanity project.
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Syrian army takes last insurgent area near Damascus
According to Syrian state TV, Yarmouk and surrounding areas have fallen to the SAA and allies. There was a 'ceasefire' of sorts allowing women, kids elderly to leave. SOHR reporting that buses turned up and IS fighters were leaving to join their fellow fighters to the south east, west of the Euphrates. This is denied by Assad's govt:
In a televised statement Syria’s army high command said al-Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk had been cleared of militants.

“Damascus and its surroundings and Damascus countryside and its villages are completely secure areas,” the statement said, adding that the army would continue to fight “terrorism” across Syria.

With its complete capture of the environs of the capital, the government of President Bashar al-Assad is now in by far its strongest position since the early days of the war, which has killed more than half a million people and driven more than half the population from its homes since 2011.
The coalition are aware of the evacuation and are monitoring. Obviously, any (alleged) deal with Assad's govt wouldn't apply to the coalition but they're unlikely to strike buses full of civilians in which IS fighters are sat, as per previous relocation deals:
On Sunday, a war monitor said fighters had begun withdrawing from the area towards Islamic State territory in eastern Syria under a surrender deal, but state media said fighting continued.

The war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said on Monday that buses had already started leaving south Damascus for Islamic State areas in eastern Syria.

A U.S.-led military coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq said in an emailed statement to Reuters it was “aware of reports of an evacuation near Yarmouk and south Damascus” and was monitoring the situation.
At least 30 killed in Islamic State attack on Syrian army near Palmyra
IS attacked a SAA outpost near Palmyra. A local resident says at least 30 killed:
At least 30 Syrian army troops and Iranian-backed militiamen were killed on Tuesday when Islamic State fighters attacked a military outpost near Palmyra in eastern Syria, a monitor and residents from the area said.

They said the militants used suicide bombers and armoured vehicles in the dawn attack near a dam southeast of the ancient Roman city.

The attack came a day after government forces drove the jihadists out of their last enclave in southern Damascus after weeks of relentless bombing.
SOHR reportedly say 26 killed, including 17 who aren't Syrians including Iranians. Pro Assad's govt sources say 16 killed:
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the conflict, said at least 26 people fighting on the Syrian government side were killed, including 17 non-Syrians, among them Iranians.

Pro-government social media sites gave lists of 16 officers and soldiers killed or injured and said it was verifying names of others who were killed.
Irrespective of how many were killed, IS still have their eyes on Palmyra and can obviously inflict cas.[/quote]

E2A: Reportedly IDF have now used their F35s in combat: World's most advanced jet in first combat
Maj Gen Amikam Norkin told heads of 20 foreign air forces meeting in Israel: "We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts." He did not specify the targets.
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The Syrians held a flag raising ceremony over Yarmouk on Tuesday to celebrate the elimination of the last of the rebels from the Damascus region.
Syrian forces celebrate reclaiming of Damascus after 7 years | CBC News
Syrian government forces raised their flag over the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus on Tuesday as state media promoted what it said was the "liberation" of the last quarters of the capital from rebels and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants.
The ceremony was televised and intended to reassure residents that the Damascus region was secure for the first time since 2011.
The ceremonies, broadcast on state-affiliated al-Ikhbariya TV, were meant to assure residents that Damascus was secure for the first time since protests broke out against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011. The government cracked down violently on the demonstrations, igniting the ongoing civil war.
This puts the capital out of range of rebel shelling and motars for the first time in seven years.
The advance put the capital out of range of insurgents' mortar fire and shelling for the first time in nearly seven years.
The government announced that they had recaptured Yarmouk from IS on Monday.
Syria's military announced it had recaptured the camp and surrounding neighbourhoods from ISIS militants on Monday, bringing the entire capital and its suburbs under full government control for the first time since the 2011.
Apparently, Daraa will be one of the next targets. Daraa is to the south, closer to the Israeli border.
But after the ceremony, the soldiers erupted in a cheer and let off bursts automatic gunfire into the air. They promised the cameras they would be heading to Daraa, a city near the border with Israel, which was the first to revolt against Assad in the Arab Spring protests earlier this decade.
Only Syrian army should be on country's southern border: Russia
As mentioned earlier, rebel enclaves to the south may be up next. It seems the most logical. The rhetoric is being pushed. Lavrov saying only SAA troops should be on the Syrian/Jordon border. Israel saying Iranians shouldn’t be in Syria. Jordan hopeful it can be resolved.

One of the few ‘de-escalation zones’ left and the US has mentioned it will respond to ‘breaches’ of the ceasefire as they and Jordan I understand are guarantors:
“Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis, this should be a two-way street,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference in on Monday.

“The result of this work which should continue and is continuing should be a situation when representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic’s army stand at Syria’s border with Israel,” he said.

Jordan said on Monday it was discussing south Syria with Washington and Moscow, and all three agreed on the need to preserve the ceasefire, which reduced violence since they brokered it last year.
Leaflet drops and ‘army movements’. Two precursors to assaults:
Syrian state media has reported leaflet drops on rebel territory there urging fighters to accept government rule, and a UK-based monitor has reported army movements into the south - two signs of a potential military offensive.

Interesting ANNA "after the battle" piece from Yarmouk - good footage inside the Syrian armour and an impression of just how difficult a FIBUA environment this was....
An excellent video, and well worth watching to see the tunnels and defensive works used by the rebels. The drone video is excellent as well and really shows what can be done with this technology.

A very interesting point in the video is the scene which shows the defensive position where the rebels have blocked off the stairwells with grids of iron reinforcing rod and cut holes in the ceiling through which to throw grenades and fire rifles. If government soldiers stormed the ground floor they would find they could not advance up the stairs because they were blocked, and were exposed to fire from above. This has fascinating parallels with medieval gatehouses which used portcullises and "murder holes" for the same purpose. It is definitely worth watching the video even if just to see this part alone.

On an amusing note, if you turn Google translate on, machine gun fire is sometimes translated as laughter, main gun fire as laughter or music, and tank engine noise as music. I'm sure that @ObnoxiousJockGit would approve of this.
Watching again you're right - didn't notice at first..

The beards and leather helmets also bring to mind Oddball in Kelly's Heroes - possibly even more when the two T-72 guys light up what appears to be spliffs inside the tank....
Georgia to sever diplomatic ties with Syria after recognition of...
Georgia’s upset Syria has recognised the ‘breakaway regions’ of South Ossetia. Probably quid pro quo for Russia:
Georgia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that recognition of its breakaway regions by Syria was an illegal move and disregarded international law.

“With this act the Assad regime declared its support for Russia’s military aggression against Georgia, the illegal occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions (South Ossetia) and the ethnic cleansing that has been taking place for years,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia calls on the international community to duly assess the illegal decision of the Assad regime made as a result of manipulation by the Russian Federation and to undertake the relevant steps in response.”
Assad’s govt in the same space as Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru (allegedly after $50M in aid)
Assad says U.S. must leave Syria, vows to recover SDF areas
Assad has said again the US should leave Syria and he wants the SDF controlled areas back. They are apparently ‘opening doors’ for negotiating with the SDF but if the talks fail, Assad’s forces (and presumably allies) will use force. Foreigners aren’t welcome. Presumably it doesn’t apply to Russians, Iranians or Lebanese foreigners:
In an interview with Russia Today, Assad said the government had “started now opening doors for negotiations” with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish dominated militia alliance that controls parts of northern and eastern Syria where U.S. forces are stationed.

“This is the first option. If not, we’re going to resort to ... liberating those areas by force. We don’t have any other options, with the Americans or without the Americans,” he said. “The Americans should leave, somehow they’re going to leave”.

“They came to Iraq with no legal basis, and look what happened to them. They have to learn the lesson. Iraq is no exception, and Syria is no exception. People will not accept foreigners in this region anymore,” he said.
A bit of playground name calling on Trump. Denies Douma or any other CW use:
Responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s description of him as “Animal Assad”, the Syrian leader said: “What you say is what you are”. Trump called Assad an animal after a suspected poison gas attack on a rebel-held town near Damascus in April.

Assad reiterated the government’s denial that it carried out the attack in the eastern Ghouta town of Douma, saying that the government did not have chemical weapons and it would not have been in its interest to carry out such a strike.
Says Iran’s help is limited to officers, that only Syrians died in Israeli strikes, no Iranians, and the only option to stop Israeli strikes was to improve his AD which he is doing and thanked Russia for that help:
Iran-backed militias including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have played a big role in support of Assad during the conflict. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have also deployed in the country.

Assad said Iran’s presence in Syria was limited to officers who were assisting the Syrian army. Assad, apparently referring to the May 10 attack, by Israel said “we had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian” casualty.

Asked if there was anything Syria could do to stop Israeli air strikes, Assad said: “The only option is to improve our air defense, this is the only thing we can do, and we are doing that”. He said that Syria’s air defenses were now much stronger than before thanks to Russia.
He doesn’t appear to mention the IS controlled areas east and west of the Euphrates. The rebel held areas on the border of Jordan and Israel, Idlib and the Tr sponsored FSA areas in the north of Syria. Nothing on reconstructing those areas taken recently or the return of displaced internally and externally. It all appears to be anti US and Israel.
Syrian government seeks to recapture southwest: foreign minister
Looks like it’s the south and south west who will be next. Assad’s govt is asking for rebels to accept govt control or leave as per previous agreements with rebel enclaves. There’s US sponsored FSA around al-Tanf (stopping the IS ‘rat runs’) and other rebels on the Jordan and Israel borders who are in a Jordan and US sponsored ‘de-escalation zone’:
“We seek, initially, to solve this issue in the ways we have got used to working with, which are reconciliations. If it does not work, that’s a different conversation,” he told a news conference in Damascus.
He’s also stating Assad’s govt is talking to the SDF and Raqqa to be “rebuilt and liberated” from any foreign presence:
Moualem added that that Damascus had communicated with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces but no negotiation process had started over the fate of their territory in the north and east.

He said Raqqa city, which the Kurdish-led SDF militias seized from Islamic State with U.S. support, “must be rebuilt and liberated” from any foreign presence.
Syria's Assad says will visit North Korea, news agency reports
Single source reporting from KCNA that Assad will be the first foreign head of state to visit Tubby III in the DPRK. Mentioned on the current N Korean thread.