Syria

Putin sees chance circumstances behind downing of Russian plane in Syria | Reuters
Putin’s puts it down to ‘tragic chance circumstances’. Our resident SMEs put it down to a number of factors on the other thread:
Putin’s comments, made after talks with Hungary’s prime minister in Moscow, appeared to somewhat defuse the situation though he said Russia needed to look further into what happened.

“I looks most likely in this case that it was a chain of tragic chance events, because an Israeli aircraft did not shoot down our aircraft. But, without any doubt we need to seriously get to the bottom of what happened,” Putin told reporters.
Any ‘retaliatory measures’ would be aimed at ensuring the safety of their military personnel and facilities that ‘everyone will notice’:
“As for retaliatory measures, they will be aimed first and foremost at further ensuring the safety of our military personnel and facilities in Syria. And these will be steps that everyone will notice,” Putin said.
The Russian Defence Ministry hold the actions of the IDF as being responsible:
“We view the actions of the Israeli military as hostile,” Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian state television. “As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian service personnel perished.”
 
Russian 'fake news' machine going mad, says French envoy to U.S. | Reuters
A bit more from the French denying any involvement in the IL-20 shoot down by their Ambo in Washington:
“Russian fake news machine getting mad: accusing the French to have shot down a Russian plane (in fact victim of a Syrian « friend(ly) » fire),” France’s ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud tweeted, in English.
French army spokesman Patrik Steiger denied that France had been involved in the incident or fired any missiles but several hours later Russian media continued to ask the question.
The French Presidency, ForMin and DefMin have still not responded to the accusations by TASS:
Quoting a military expert, Tass news agency said Paris was partly at fault after launching cruise missiles from the Auvergne.

France’s presidency, Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry had yet to respond officially to the Russian assertions.
 
Security services in Syria's Raqqa uncover Islamic State cell | Reuters
To use a phrase from elsewhere, ‘they haven’t gone away you know’. The Raqqa internal security forces set up by the SDF said:
“Special forces and explosives experts carried out a counter operation .. to confront plans which were about to be executed by a terrorist cell affiliated with mercenaries of Daesh in a neighborhood in Raqqa city,” the unit’s spokesman Mohannad Ibrahim said at a news conference.
 
Iran has conducted a missile strike on IS targets in eastern Syria. This is apparently in retaliation for the terrorist attack on a military parade in Iran.
Iran fires missiles into eastern Syria to retaliate against parade attack | CBC News
Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched six ballistic missiles early Monday toward eastern Syria, targeting militants it blamed for an attack on a military parade in Iran last month while also threatening regional adversaries as Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers unravels.
This was accompanied by the usual bragging of how great they are.
"This is the roaring of missiles belonging to the Revolutionary Guard of the Islamic Revolution," the state TV's reporter said as the missiles launched behind him. "In a few minutes, the world of arrogance — especially America, the [Israeli] Zionist regime and the Al Saud — will hear the sound of Iran's repeated blows." Al Saud is a reference to Saudi Arabia's royal family.
The missiles were launched from Kermanshah province in Iran and landed near the city of Boukamal in eastern Syria.
Iranian TV identified the area from where the missiles were launched as in Iran's western province of Kermanshah. It also aired a graphic, suggesting the missiles flew over central Iraq near the city of Tikrit before landing near the city of Boukamal in the far southeast of Syria.
Boukamal is held by Syrian government forces, but is under attack by IS. The SOHR claims that the missiles hit the IS held town of Hajin to the north of Boukamal.
Boukamal is held by forces loyal to Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad. However, the city has been targeted even now by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants who have lost almost all the territory they once held in both Syria and Iraq.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told The Associated Press that the Iranian missiles hit the ISIS-held town of Hajin, just north of Boukamal.
The following map shows the general area where the missiles hit.


The Iranian news agency said there were six missiles, of Zolfaghar and Qiam types.
The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the Guard, identified the six missiles used as Zolfaghar and Qiam variants, which have ranges of 750 kilometres and 800 kilometres, respectively. Those missiles can reach Emirati and Saudi targets, as well as U.S. bases.
 
Number of U.S. diplomats doubled in Syria as Islamic State nears defeat: Pentagon chief | Reuters
As the fight against IS by the coalition winds down, the numbers of diplomats seems to be rising:
The number of U.S. diplomats in Syria has doubled as Islamic State militants near a military defeat, U.S. Defence Secretary Mattis said on Tuesday.

“Our diplomats, they are on the ground (and) have been doubled in number,” Mattis said during a press conference in Paris with his French counterpart. “As we see the military operations become less, you’ll see the diplomatic effort now able to take (root),” Mattis added.
Germany to stop reconnaissance missions over Iraq, Syria - document | Reuters
Meanwhile, Germany are stopping their reconnaissance and refuelling flights in the fight against IS next year:
Germany will next year end its reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling missions that are part of U.S.-led operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the government decided on Tuesday, a document seen by Reuters showed.
31.10.2019 is the date mentioned, albeit there's a review on 30.04.2019 with the Bundestag having the final say on the deployment (or pullout):
Germany’s air force will end the flights by Oct. 31, 2019, the document showed, without giving a reason for the decision.

Parts of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who are junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, have raised scepticism towards the flights.

The German cabinet set no end date for a mission by German troops to train Iraqi military personnel, but it is due to be reviewed by April 30, the document showed.

The lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, will have the final say on the continued deployment of up to 800 German troops in the region.
 

FAL bargains from Idlib, should anyone wish to visit. Not sure about linking the FAL to LIbya - they were a common sight in the early years of the war so I guess are likely from SAA stocks.
 
Russia completes delivery of S-300 system to Syria | Reuters
Russia says S-300 (aka SA-10 aka Grumble) has been delivered to Syria. The US can't confirm the Russian statement. Israel says it will continue strikes against Iran (Quds Force and supported militia), not allowing them to open a 'third front':
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin during a meeting broadcast by Rossiya 24 TV: “The work was finished a day ago,” adding that the system would improve the security of Russian military personal in Syria.

Russia decided to supply the system after Moscow accused Israel of indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military jet near Syria in September.

Israel voiced regret at the deaths of 15 Russian air crew while saying Syrian incompetence was at fault and that it was compelled to continue taking action against suspected deployments of Iranian-backed forces across its northern border.

“We have not changed our strategic line on Iran,” Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said on Tuesday.

“We will not allow Iran to open up a third front against us. We will take actions as required,” he told Israel Radio.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert could not confirm reports that the S-300 had been delivered.

“I cannot confirm that that is accurate. I hope that they did not,” she told a press briefing. “That would be, I think, sort of a serious escalation in concerns and issues going on in Syria, but I just can’t confirm it.”
 
Russia's Putin says no major military action needed in Syria's Idlib | Reuters
For now, Putin sees no need for an offensive as the Tr backed rebels, Jihadi’s and everyone else appears to have withdrawn from the demilitarised zone. I do wonder what will lead to an offensive taking place based on previous ‘cease fires’:
“I have every reason to believe that we will achieve our goals,” Putin said, referring to the demilitarized zone set up by Russia and Turkey in Idlib.

“And that means, no large scale military actions are expected there,” he said. “Military action for the sake of military action is unnecessary.”
 
Syrian jihadists signal acceptance of Idlib deal | Reuters

Nice bit of understatement on the photo:
A rebel fighter carries his weapon as he walks past the turret of a damaged tank at the Mastouma military base, after they seized it, in Idlib May 20, 2015
TaS aka HTS aka aNF have agreed to pull back from the 'de-militarised zone and are calling Assad's Russian allies'the Russian occupier'. Tr sponsored rebels have previously agreed the withdrawal:
“We value the efforts of all those striving - at home and abroad - to protect the liberated area and prevent its invasion and the perpetration of massacres in it,” Tahrir al-Sham said in its statement.

“But we warn at the same time against the trickery of the Russian occupier or having faith in its intentions,” it added. The group also said it “would not forget” the foreign fighters who came to assist it.

Idlib’s other main rebel faction, a Turkish-aligned alliance of groups known as the National Liberation Front, has already expressed its support for the agreement.
The zone extends for some 15 to 20km into rebel/jihadi territory:
The deal sets up a demilitarised zone running 15-20 km (9-13 miles) deep into rebel territory that must be evacuated of all heavy weapons and all jihadist groups by Monday, Oct. 15.
Tale of two brothers reflects Syrian rebel unity and divisions | Reuters
Reuters article on two brothers in opposing anti Assad camps. Once with TaS aka HTS aka aNF, the other with a group which was once sponsored by the CIA. How they came to join their respective organisations, how they both fought against IS and how they are now ready to repel any Assad govt assault on Idlib.

It's worth reading the article in full imho, as it gives an idea why people fought/fight against Assad and even after seven years of Civil War, they still hold on to their views despite everything that has happened to them:
“The important thing is we fight the same enemy,” said Abu Eliyas, 40, a member of the Turkey-backed Failaq al-Sham group. “At home, we exchange military skills and information, and discuss the Syrian scene.”

Abu Yousef, 27, belongs to the jihadist Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front. He believes the brothers’ “points of agreement are greater than the points of division.”

“We are members of one religion, one country and one goal”, he said.
One was a lawyer and joined the early protests in 2011. He's now a member of one of the groups encompassed by the Tr sponsored NLF (National Liberation Front). His house was blown up by IS in Deir al-Zor when they took much of the city. He then (later in the article) joined Failaq al-Sham which has links to the Muslim Brotherhood and were once in receipt of CIA aid:
Abu Eliyas is a trained lawyer with seven children who was working as a government employee when the conflict began. He took part in the first protests against Assad in the brothers’ home town of Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria.

“They were unforgettable days. The feeling was very strange for us – that we are in Syria and going out in protest against the regime and the Assad family,” he said.

Abu Eliyas took up arms with a Free Syrian Army group early in the war.

After seizing the area, Islamic State militants destroyed his house in Deir al-Zor by rigging it with explosives and then blowing it up in what he described as an act of revenge.
His brother joined aNF, drawn by their piety. They both fought IS in 2014:
Abu Yousef, who is not married, was a student when the conflict began. He joined Nusra Front when it first emerged in Deir al-Zor, drawn by what he saw as the piety of its members, including foreigners.

Both fought Islamic State when it attacked eastern Syria in 2014 and went north with their family when IS conquered the area. Once there, Abu Eliyas joined Failaq al-Sham, and cited its standing in Turkey as one of the attractions.

Failaq al-Sham has ties to the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which mounted an uprising in the 1980s and is deemed a terrorist group by the government.

Close to Turkey, Failaq al-Sham was also one of the recipients of aid channelled through a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency programme that was shut down by President Donald Trump.
In Idlib, there seems to be a fair bit (as happened in Aleppo) of 'my enemies enemy', as they have set up a joint operations room:
Tensions in Idlib have eased of late. Rebels formed a joint “operations room” in anticipation of an offensive by Syrian government forces that had been expected until Turkey and Russia struck their agreement last month.

Tahrir al-Sham, with which Abu Yousef fights, has widened contacts with other groups and been visiting their rivals, an official in a rival faction said.
Erdogan thinks the 'moderate rebels' could be used for 'international CT ops'
Writing in the Wall Street Journal last month, Erdogan said “moderate rebels” should be part of an “international counterterrorism operation” that would target “terrorist and extremist elements” and “bring to justice foreign fighters”.
Yousef (aNF) thinks it's a 'divide and rule' tactic:
Abu Yousef sees a conspiracy to weaken the rebellion by dividing opposition forces.

“The Russian-Turkish agreement is a tactic to finish off what remains of the areas held by the revolution,” he said. “We must depend on ourselves, and nobody else.”
Whilst his brother Eliyas thinks the Turks will fall into 'the Russian trap' to disarm the Jihadi's:
Despite his faith in Turkey, Abu Eliyas is also worried.

“Failaq al-Sham’s relationship with Turkey secured many benefits for the region ... but we fear the Turks will fall into the Russian trap that aims to disarm Tahrir al-Sham,” he said.
 
Putin says Islamic State has seized 700 hostages in Syria | Reuters
Putin reckons IS have taken 700 hostages from a refugee camp in the coalition controlled area of Syria near Deir al-Zor. I haven't seen it independently on western media yet, just what RT, TASS and now Reuters are reporting and western press picking up on Putin's speech.

He hasn't said what their demands are, just that they'll execute 10 people every day until their demands are met and they've already executed 10 hostages:
“They have issued ultimatums, specific demands and warned that if these ultimatums are not met they will execute 10 people every day. The day before yesterday they executed 10 people,” Putin told the Valdai discussion forum in Sochi.

The TASS news agency reported on Wednesday that IS militants had taken around 700 hostages in Syria’s Deir-al Zor province after attacking a refugee camp in an area controlled by U.S.-backed forces on Oct.13.

TASS said the militants had kidnapped around 130 families and taken them to the city of Hajin.
If it's 'gen' then I assume the military prepare to do what they do. What is interesting is Putin mentioning it today when it allegedly happened on 13th October 2018.

Just for 'interest' SAA Ops around al-Safa against IS: As-Suwayda offensive (August–September 2018) - Wikipedia
 
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Macron, Merkle, Putin and Erdogan will be holding a meeting on Syria next week.
Macron, Merkel, Putin and Erdogan to hold Syria summit next week | CBC News
The leaders of Turkey, Russia, Germany and France will hold a summit on the Syrian conflict in Istanbul next week, officials said on Friday, a month after Ankara and Moscow brokered a deal to create a demilitarized zone in the northwest Idlib region.
On the 27th they will discuss Idlib and also how the overall Syrian war can be resolved.
The four countries will hold the talks on Oct. 27 and will discuss Idlib, and the political process for the resolution of the Syrian conflict, the spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted by state-owned media as saying.
 
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Turkey's Erdogan issues 'final warning' on Syria | Reuters
Looks like Erdogan is going ‘east of the Euphrates’ to attack areas held by the SDF which includes the YPG. No longer interested in just Manbij, he wants to go further east. Obviously this brings him again into a possible conflict or at least a possible confrontation with coalition forces who support the SDF:
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday issued what he said was a “final warning” to those who would endanger Turkey’s borders, saying Ankara was determined to focus its attention on Syrian Kurdish fighters east of the Euphrates.

Erdogan, who was speaking to a group of provincial leaders of his AK Party in Ankara, said Turkey would focus its attention east of the Euphrates in Syria, rather than the Manbij area, citing the presence of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist group.
 
Syria pushes back on U.N. role in constitutional talks: U.N. envoy | Reuters
De Mistura, the outgoing envoy has briefed the UNSC that Assad’s govt will only accept facilitation in any redrafting of the constitution and they won’t accept 1/3 of the Cttee doing the drafting being chosen by him. He also accuses Assad’s govt of delaying the process:
Syria wants the United Nations to simply facilitate efforts to rewrite the country’s constitution and not choose a third of the committee that will undertake the job, outgoing U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura told the Security Council on Friday.

De Mistura briefed the 15-member body after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in Damascus this week. De Mistura wants to convene a constitutional committee in November before he steps down at the end of the month, but he has accused the Syrian government of delaying the process.
He’ll apparently keep working until the end:
“We do have a serious challenge, let’s be frank. It is my intention to spare no efforts to address this challenge during the forthcoming weeks,” de Mistura told the council.
The agreement is reportedly 150 people to form the Cttee (seriously?) 1/3 chosen by Assad’s govt, 1/3 by the opposition and 1/3 by the U.N. Now Russia and Syria have moved the goalposts and want Iran, Turkey and Russia to choose the last third:
Participants at a Syrian peace conference in Russia in January agreed to form the 150-member committee to rewrite the Syrian constitution with a third chosen by the government, a third by opposition groups and a third by the United Nations.

“Minister Moualem did not accept a role for the U.N. in general in identifying or selecting the ... third list,” de Mistura said. “He underlined that the Syrian constitution is a highly sensitive matter of national sovereignty.”

He said Moualem indicated that Syria and Russia had recently agreed that the third list of participants should be decided by Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran - the three countries pushing separate Syria political talks known as the Astana process - and then given to the United Nations for facilitation.
Brit Ambo gave the Russians a hard time, “Either Russia has given the U.N. and this council assurances it has proved too weak to deliver on, or it was all a cynical smokescreen designed to divert attention and energy while Russia, Syria and Iran prosecuted the military campaign,” and Russia responded with “no grounds for establishing artificial deadlines for the establishment of the constitutional committee.”:
British U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce questioned Russia’s motives in trying to negotiate a political solution given Syria’s efforts to stall a constitutional committee meeting.

“Either Russia has given the U.N. and this council assurances it has proved too weak to deliver on, or it was all a cynical smokescreen designed to divert attention and energy while Russia, Syria and Iran prosecuted the military campaign,” she told the council.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said there were “no grounds for establishing artificial deadlines for the establishment of the constitutional committee.”

De Mistura said he would attend a summit with the leaders of Russia, Turkey, France and Germany in Istanbul on Saturday.
De Mistura’s successor likely to be Norway’s Ambo to China, Geir Pedersen. He’ll be the fourth in the seven year civil war and it looks like western aid on reconstruction is still dependent on a political deal being reached:
De Mistura’s successor faces a tough battle to negotiate a political deal, which the West has said is needed to unlock its reconstruction support and to encourage the bulk of the millions of refugees in Europe and the Middle East to return.

Diplomats say Norway’s Ambassador to China Geir Pedersen has emerged as a front-runner to become the fourth U.N. Syria envoy during the more than seven-year-old war.
 
Turkish forces bombarded Kurdish YPG militia positions east of Euphrates: Anadolu | Reuters
Further to the above, Turkey is shelling YPG positions east of the Euphrates:
Turkish forces bombarded Kurdish YPG militia positions on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Sunday.

The bombardment targeted the Zor Magar area to the west of northern Syria’s Ayn al-Arab region and was aimed at preventing “terrorist activities”, Anadolu reported.
U.S.-backed Syria group says 14 of its fighters killed in clashes with Islamic State | Reuters
All while the SDF are fighting IS still:
“Daesh terrorists continue to launch counter attacks, taking advantage of the bad weather conditions.... Due to fierce clashes 14 of our fighters were martyred,” Kino Gibrail, the spokesman said in a statement. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
 
This is a follow up to the "White Helmets" rescue story posted earlier here.
Former White Helmets, resettled in Canada, worry about fellow rescuers left behind in Syria | CBC News
Canada has accepted 117 of the 420 as refugees.
CBC News has learned Canada has accepted 117 Syrian refugees — former White Helmet emergency volunteers and their families, rescued in a dramatic international evacuation in July.
Several other countries have agreed to accept the remainder.
Several Western countries, including Canada, agreed to resettle the volunteers, who have waited months in a United Nations refugee camp in Jordan.
They arrived in Canada last week and are being sent to new homes in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
The now-former White Helmets destined for this country arrived quietly last week and will find new homes in four provinces: British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia.


Hundreds of others were not able to escape through the route provided into Jordan. Some who tried to take the buses to Idlib (in northern Syria) were turned in by other rebels who reported them to the Syrian authorities.
Hundreds remain trapped in Syria. Some of those who tried to escape through other means were betrayed by their neighbours — and even by rebels who had been granted safe passage out of the area by the Russians.
"There were people from the neighbourhoods that knew us," she said. "Rebels would go talk to them when buses would come up to checkpoints. The rebels would get on the bus and anyone that they knew worked for the White Helmets, they would take them away."
The news story itself is worth reading as it provides a lot of detail including first hand accounts of the rescue and background information.

Those who have come to Canada will join tens of thousands of other Syrian refugees in Canada. I have not seen any news reports about the existing refugees having problems fitting into Canadian society. The previous refugees were all vetted while in the Middle East and family units were selected rather than single men. I suspect these newest ones will fit in well in Canada also.
 
Israel has struck in Syria since Russia plane downed-Israeli official | Reuters
Looks like Israel is continuing strikes against Iranian targets supplying Hezbollah, despite S-300 supplies:
“The IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) have attacked in Syria, including after the downing of the Russian plane. Military coordination with the Russians continues as before,” said the senior official, who could not be named.

Israel’s Channel 1 television said one air strike was aimed at an Iranian shipment for Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas of equipment intended to greatly increase the accuracy of their rockets and missiles.
 
U.S.-backed Syrian force resumes ground assault on Islamic State | Reuters
SDF resuming ops against as IS. Temporary halt due to the Tr Army shelling. Seems to be a common occurance, Tr attacks Kurd/SDF held areas and the reason for their existence gets put on hold:
The Kurdish-led SDF said its operations in the Deir al-Zor area had restarted as the result of “intensive contacts between our forces’ leadership and the international coalition and active diplomatic efforts aimed at defusing the crisis on the (Turkish-Syrian) border”.

In a statement, the SDF said it was committed to continuing operations “to eliminate (Islamic State)”.

The U.S.-led coalition kept up air strikes in the Deir al-Zor area despite the pause in SDF operations.
 

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