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Thread: Syrian Civil War Developments

  1. #2821
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43821844

    Mohammed Zammar: German jihadist 'detained by Syrian Kurds'

    A Syrian-born German jihadist linked to the 11 September 2001 attackers has reportedly been detained by Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

    A commander of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance told the AFP news agency that Mohammed Haydar Zammar was in custody and being questioned.

    He handed over to Syrian intelligence agents, who allegedly tortured him in detention. The agents are reported to have allowed their US and German counterparts to provide a list of questions to ask him and passed on the answers.

    In 2007, a Syrian court sentenced Zammar to 12 years in prison for four offences, including membership of the outlawed Syrian Muslim Brotherhood organisation.

    Six years later, after Syria had descended into civil war, he was released as part of a prisoner exchange between the Syrian government and the hardline Islamist rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham.

    It is not clear what happened to Zammar afterwards, but in early 2014 he was pictured attending a meeting between IS militants and Syrian tribal leaders.

    One unconfirmed report from late 2014 said he was sent to Egypt by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to persuade a jihadist group operating in the Sinai peninsula to swear allegiance to Baghdadi.

    The commander did not say whether Zammar was suspected of fighting for the Islamic State group (IS).

    The US-led global coalition against IS said it could not confirm the report.

    The SDF has detained hundreds of foreign IS militants as it drives the jihadist group from tens of thousands of kilometres of northern and eastern Syria.

    The arrested militants are reportedly being held at camps near Raqqa, a city that served as the de facto capital of the IS "caliphate" until it fell to the SDF in October.

    Zammar's detention was first reported on Tuesday by the German newspaper, Bild. The newspaper cited Kurdish sources as saying he was in a prison run by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, which dominates the SDF.

    Zammar moved from Syria to Germany in 1971. By the late 1990s, he was a prominent Islamist in the German city of Hamburg.

    He is reported to have encouraged the lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and other members of the "Hamburg cell" to participate in violent jihad, and convinced them to go to Afghanistan to attend an al-Qaeda training camp, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. There is no indication however that Zammar was aware of the plot to attack the US.

    The German authorities investigated Zammar after 9/11 on suspicion that he had "supported a terrorist organisation", but he was released and left the country.

    In December 2001, he was seized in Morocco and transferred to Syria, apparently as part of the US Central Intelligence Agency's so-called "extraordinary rendition" programme.
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  2. #2822
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    pure balm for the soul.

    "“The Russian high command in Syria assured us it was not their people,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senators in testimony last month. He said he directed Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “for the force, then, to be annihilated.”

    “And it was.”

    ====

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/24/w...ies-syria.html

    How a 4-Hour Battle Between Russian Mercenaries and U.S. Commandos Unfolded in Syria

    By Thomas Gibbons-Neff

    May 24, 2018

    WASHINGTON — The artillery barrage was so intense that the American commandos dived into foxholes for protection, emerging covered in flying dirt and debris to fire back at a column of tanks advancing under the heavy shelling. It was the opening salvo in a nearly four-hour assault in February by around 500 pro-Syrian government forces — including Russian mercenaries — that threatened to inflame already-simmering tensions between Washington and Moscow.

    In the end, 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters were killed. The others retreated under merciless airstrikes from the United States, returning later to retrieve their battlefield dead. None of the Americans at the small outpost in eastern Syria — about 40 by the end of the firefight — were harmed.

    The details of the Feb. 7 firefight were gleaned from interviews and documents newly obtained by The New York Times. They provide the Pentagon’s first public on-the-ground accounting of one of the single bloodiest battles the American military has faced in Syria since deploying to fight the Islamic State.

    The firefight was described by the Pentagon as an act of self-defense against a unit of pro-Syrian government forces. In interviews, United States military officials said they had watched — with dread — hundreds of approaching rival troops, vehicles and artillery pieces in the week leading up to the attack.

    The prospect of Russian military forces and American troops colliding has long been feared as the Cold War adversaries take opposing sides in Syria’s seven-year civil war.

    At worst, officials and experts have said, it could plunge both countries into bloody conflict. And at a minimum, squaring off in crowded battlefields has added to heightened tensions between Russia and the United States as they each seek to exert influence in the Middle East.

    Commanders of the rival militaries had long steered clear of the other by speaking through often-used deconfliction telephone lines. In the days leading up to the attack, and on opposite sides of the Euphrates River, Russia and the United States were backing separate offensives against the Islamic State in Syria’s oil-rich Deir al-Zour Province, which borders Iraq.

    American military officials repeatedly warned about the growing mass of troops. But Russian military officials said they had no control over the fighters assembling near the river — even though American surveillance equipment monitoring radio transmissions had revealed the ground force was speaking in Russian.
    EDITORS’ PICKS
    Image
    Syrian fighters who support the government of President Bashar al-Assad at a hospital in the eastern city of Deir-al Zour in February. The fighters were reportedly wounded in a United States airstrike near the city.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

    The documents described the fighters as a “pro-regime force,” loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. It included some Syrian government soldiers and militias, but American military and intelligence officials have said a majority were private Russian paramilitary mercenaries — and most likely a part of the Wagner Group, a company often used by the Kremlin to carry out objectives that officials do not want to be connected to the Russian government.

    “The Russian high command in Syria assured us it was not their people,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senators in testimony last month. He said he directed Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “for the force, then, to be annihilated.”

    “And it was.”
    Amassing forces

    The day began with little hint of the battle that was about to unfold.

    A team of about 30 Delta Force soldiers and Rangers from the Joint Special Operations Command were working alongside Kurdish and Arab forces at a small dusty outpost next to a Conoco gas plant, near the city of Deir al-Zour.

    Roughly 20 miles away, at a base known as a mission support site, a team of Green Berets and a platoon of infantry Marines stared at their computer screens, watching drone feeds and passing information to the Americans at the gas plant about the gathering fighters.

    At 3 p.m. the Syrian force began edging toward the Conoco plant. By early evening, more than 500 troops and 27 vehicles — including tanks and armored personnel carriers — had amassed.

    In the American air operations center at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, and at the Pentagon, confounded military officers and intelligence analysts watched the scene unfold. Commanders briefed pilots and ground crews. Aircraft across the region were placed on alert, military officials said.

    Back at the mission support site, the Green Berets and Marines were preparing a small reaction force — roughly 16 troops in four mine-resistant vehicles — in case they were needed at the Conoco plant. They inspected their weapons and ensured the trucks were loaded with anti-tank missiles, thermal optics and food and water.

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    At 8:30 p.m., three Russian-made T-72 tanks — vehicles weighing nearly 50 tons and armed with 125-millimeter guns — moved within a mile of the Conoco plant. Bracing for an attack, the Green Berets prepared to launch the reaction force.
    Image
    Russian trucks heading to Deir al-Zour, an oil-rich Syrian province that borders Iraq, last year.CreditOmar Sanadiki/Reuters

    At the outpost, American soldiers watched a column of tanks and other armored vehicles turn and drive toward them around 10 p.m., emerging from a neighborhood of houses where they had tried to gather undetected.

    A half-hour later, the Russian mercenaries and Syrian forces struck.

    The Conoco outpost was hit with a mixture of tank fire, large artillery and mortar rounds, the documents show. The air was filled with dust and shrapnel. The American commandos took cover, then ran behind dirt berms to fire anti-tank missiles and machine guns at the advancing column of armored vehicles.

    For the first 15 minutes, American military officials called their Russian counterparts and urged them to stop the attack. When that failed, American troops fired warning shots at a group of vehicles and a howitzer.

    Still the troops advanced.
    From the horizon, a barrage of artillery

    American warplanes arrived in waves, including Reaper drones, F-22 stealth fighter jets, F-15E Strike Fighters, B-52 bombers, AC-130 gunships and AH-64 Apache helicopters. For the next three hours, American officials said, scores of strikes pummeled enemy troops, tanks and other vehicles. Marine rocket artillery was fired from the ground.

    The reaction team sped toward the fight. It was dark, according to the documents, and the roads were littered with felled power lines and shell craters. The 20-mile drive was made all the more difficult since the trucks did not turn on their headlights, relying solely on thermal-imaging cameras to navigate.

    As the Green Berets and Marines neared the Conoco plant around 11:30 p.m., they were forced to stop. The barrage of artillery was too dangerous to drive through until airstrikes silenced the enemy’s howitzers and tanks.

    At the plant, the commandos were pinned down by enemy artillery and burning through ammunition. Flashes from tank muzzles, antiaircraft weapons and machine guns lit up the air.

    At 1 a.m., with the artillery fire dwindling, the team of Marines and Green Berets pulled up to the Conoco outpost and began firing. By then, some of the American warplanes had returned to base, low on either fuel or ammunition.

    The United States troops on the ground, now roughly 40 in all, braced their defenses as the mercenaries left their vehicles and headed toward the outpost on foot.

    A handful of Marines ran ammunition to machine guns and Javelin missile launchers scattered along the berms and wedged among the trucks. Some of the Green Berets and Marines took aim from exposed hatches. Others remained in their trucks, using a combination of thermal screens and joysticks to control and fire the heavy machine guns affixed on their roofs.

    A few of the commandos, including Air Force combat controllers, worked the radios to direct the next fleet of bombers flying toward the battlefield. At least one Marine exposed himself to incoming fire as he used a missile guidance computer to find targets’ locations and pass them on to the commandos calling in the airstrikes.

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    An hour later, the enemy fighters had started to retreat and the American troops stopped firing. From their outpost, the commandos watched the mercenaries and Syrian fighters return to collect their dead. The small team of American troops was not harmed. One allied Syrian fighter was wounded.
    Who led the ill-fated attack?

    The number of casualties from the Feb. 7 fight is in dispute.

    Initially, Russian officials said only four Russian citizens — but perhaps dozens more — were killed; a Syrian officer said around 100 Syrian soldiers had died. The documents obtained by The Times estimated 200 to 300 of the “pro-regime force” were killed.

    The outcome of the battle, and much of its mechanics, suggest that the Russian mercenaries and their Syrian allies were in the wrong part of the world to try a simple, massed assault on an American military position. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States Central Command has refined the amount of equipment, logistics, coordination and tactics required to mix weapons fired from both the air and ground.

    Questions remain about exactly who the Russian mercenaries were, and why they attacked.

    American intelligence officials say that the Wagner Group, known by the nickname of the retired Russian officer who leads it, is in Syria to seize oil and gas fields and protect them on behalf of the Assad government. The mercenaries earn of a share of the production proceeds from the oil fields they reclaim, officials said.

    The mercenaries loosely coordinate with the Russian military in Syria, although Wagner’s leaders have reportedly received awards in the Kremlin, and its mercenaries are trained at the Russian Defense Ministry’s bases.

    Russian government forces in Syria maintain they were not involved in the battle. But in recent weeks, according to United States military officials, they have jammed the communications of smaller American drones and gunships such as the type used in the attack.

    “Right now in Syria, we’re in the most aggressive E.W. environment on the planet from our adversaries,” Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of United States Special Operations Command, said recently, referring to electronic warfare. “They’re testing us every day.”
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  3. #2823
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    pure balm for the soul.
    Indeed!

  4. #2824
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    "“The Russian high command in Syria assured us it was not their people,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senators in testimony last month. He said he directed Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “for the force, then, to be annihilated.”

    “And it was.”

    ====

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/24/w...ies-syria.html

    How a 4-Hour Battle Between Russian Mercenaries and U.S. Commandos Unfolded in Syria

    By Thomas Gibbons-Neff

    May 24, 2018

    WASHINGTON — The artillery barrage was so intense that the American commandos dived into foxholes for protection, emerging covered in flying dirt and debris to fire back at a column of tanks advancing under the heavy shelling. It was the opening salvo in a nearly four-hour assault in February by around 500 pro-Syrian government forces — including Russian mercenaries — that threatened to inflame already-simmering tensions between Washington and Moscow.

    In the end, 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters were killed. The others retreated under merciless airstrikes from the United States, returning later to retrieve their battlefield dead. None of the Americans at the small outpost in eastern Syria — about 40 by the end of the firefight — were harmed.

    The details of the Feb. 7 firefight were gleaned from interviews and documents newly obtained by The New York Times. They provide the Pentagon’s first public on-the-ground accounting of one of the single bloodiest battles the American military has faced in Syria since deploying to fight the Islamic State.
    citanon and I were discussing this incident back in February as details were just emerging.

    Many details of what transpired leaked into the public domain in the coming days through open source channels, and as it turns out, the details that emerged then have mostly been verified.

    I really don't know what the Russians were thinking when they launched the attack on the Conoco Plant in the Omar Oil Field on the night of Feb 7/8, but I have my guesses.

    My theory regarding why the Russians threw those 200-300 men at the plant was to test our resolve, gauge our reaction, and see our capabilities.

    I don't know this for a fact, but this is my takeaway.

    These Russian men ended up as chunks of meat, ground up, barbecued, and strewn across the Syrian desert by the inevitable US airpower and artillery counterstrike. What was left of these Russian mercs was then shipped back home in refrigerated trailers and as mixed cremation ash. Sent to their deaths by an inhumane regime that saw fit to send them up to slaughter like animals, to conduct an experimental operation.

    Sending up light infantry and unsupported mechanized and motorized forces in a semi-disjointed attack against US forces which have, compared to everyone else in the world, combat capabilities that may as well be straight out of a science fiction novel, this was not bound to end up well for the OPFOR.

    If anybody has differing theories or explanations as to Russian motivations regarding the incident on Feb 7/8, feel free to share. I think this is one of the more interesting incidents to have occurred in the 21st century, or even since the Cold War began. Definitely worthy of being discussed, analyzed, and picked apart. I think deserves its own thread.

    This Wikipedia article on the battle:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Khasham

    Wiki article on the Wagner Group, Russian PMC:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagner_Group

    Evro-Polis oil/gas contract with Syrian government (some machine translation errors):
    https://pastebin.com/zGbu1piK (translated from the original Russian-language contract)

    The battlefield:
    Last edited by Ironduke; 27 May 18, at 15:10.
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  5. #2825
    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    It was only when I read that article that something hit me. This popped up as an awkward election issue for Putin, who was after a thumping victory. Slightly less than a month later the Skripals get poisoned and there is a mass of media attention on that. Putin gets to play 'victim of Western lies', something guaranteed to get support in Russia. The perfect distraction, and if a former spy happens to die all the better.

    This is all speculation, and it could be pure coincidence, but it also makes perfect sense.


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  6. #2826
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    It was only when I read that article that something hit me. This popped up as an awkward election issue for Putin, who was after a thumping victory. Slightly less than a month later the Skripals get poisoned and there is a mass of media attention on that. Putin gets to play 'victim of Western lies', something guaranteed to get support in Russia. The perfect distraction, and if a former spy happens to die all the better.

    This is all speculation, and it could be pure coincidence, but it also makes perfect sense.
    Maybe. I thought that the "Wünderwaffen" that Putin "unveiled" on Mar 1 had perhaps more to do with the Khsham/Conoco Incident than any of the other things that transpired afterward.

    http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone...-fiery-address
    Last edited by Ironduke; 26 May 18, at 18:08.
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  7. #2827
    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    Maybe. I thought that the "Wünderwaffen" that Putin "unveiled" on Mar 1 had perhaps more to do with the Khsham/Conoco Incident than any of the other things that transpired afterward.

    http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone...-fiery-address
    Skripals were poisoned a couple of days after that. Not an 'either/or' situation.


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  8. #2828
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    Skripals were poisoned a couple of days after that. Not an 'either/or' situation.
    Yeah, you're right, it's not a binary.

    I should know better when it comes to these sorts of things, after all, it's the story of my life. :-)

    Full article: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44271676

    Syria war: Russians killed in militant raid in Deir al-Zour

    At least four Russian combatants have been killed by militants in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zour.

    Two military advisers died when the Syrian army battery they were directing was attacked. Five other Russians were injured and two died later of their wounds, the defence ministry said.

    Syria's army took Deir al-Zour city last November but Islamic State fighters remain active in the province.

    Officially Russia has lost about 90 personnel in the Syrian civil war.

    Scores of military contractors have also died since Moscow began its intervention in support of President Bashar al-Assad in September 2015.

    The RIA Novosti agency said that "a few mobile terrorist groups" had attacked the Syrian army's artillery battery during the night.

    The injured are being treated at a Russian military hospital.

    The defence ministry in Moscow said its forces had killed 43 militants in the fighting.

    The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the attacks had been carried out by Islamic State fighters and that 35 pro-government troops were killed, including nine Russians.

    As well as holding pockets of IS fighters, Deir al-Zour province also marks a division between areas held by Syrian government forces and Syrian Kurdish units, including the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

    After seven years of war, the Syrian government, backed by Russian and Iranian military muscle, now controls much of central Syria, including the second city, Aleppo.

    Rebel forces are now concentrated in Idlib.
    Last edited by Ironduke; 27 May 18, at 15:37.
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  9. #2829
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    citanon and I were discussing this incident back in February as details were just emerging.

    Many details of what transpired leaked into the public domain in the coming days through open source channels, and as it turns out, the details that emerged then have mostly been verified.

    I really don't know what the Russians were thinking when they launched the attack on the Conoco Plant in the Omar Oil Field on the night of Feb 7/8, but I have my guesses.

    My theory regarding why the Russians threw those 200-300 men at the plant was to test our resolve, gauge our reaction, and see our capabilities.

    I don't know this for a fact, but this is my takeaway.

    These Russian men ended up as chunks of meat, ground up, barbecued, and strewn across the Syrian desert by the inevitable US airpower and artillery counterstrike. What was left of these Russian mercs was then shipped back home in refrigerated trailers and as mixed cremation ash. Sent to their deaths by an inhumane regime that saw fit to send them up to slaughter like animals, to conduct an experimental operation.

    Sending up light infantry and unsupported mechanized and motorized forces in a semi-disjointed attack against US forces which have, compared to everyone else in the world, combat capabilities that may as well be straight out of a science fiction novel, this was not bound to end up well for the OPFOR.

    If anybody has differing theories or explanations as to Russian motivations regarding the incident on Feb 7/8, feel free to share. I think this is one of the more interesting incidents to have occurred in the 21st century, or even since the Cold War began. Definitely worthy of being discussed, analyzed, and picked apart. I think deserves its own thread.
    ]
    The oil fields.https://www.thedailybeast.com/comrad...-debts-already The Russians were six miles away and heard nothing. I believe that is deniability.

    Agree with the, "test our resolve, gauge our reaction, and see our capabilities." I think the Russian were confident in their EW and capabilities, I don't think they were expecting that response.

    Putin from his national call-in show is the man, I think he has to be concern with the rising body count even with the news blackout, https://www.polygraph.info/a/russian.../29255329.html Not to mention the cost, as well as the inability to srop US activity in Syria. Isreal SEAD of Syrian AD.

    The Revolutionary Guard decided to allow some unrest to pressure Hassan Rouhani. He returned the favor by publishing how much Iran is spending in Syria. Israel striking with impunity against Iranian assets in Syria

    Neither Iran or Russia share a border with Syria, they are dependent on Iraq for Transit,

    Turkey shares a border and looks to stay. After seven years of war it looks like Assad will still be the Mayor of Damacus.


    I have a Syrian acquaintance who now lives in Germany, his 90-year-old mother from Ohio is living in Damascus. He knew Assad's older brother in the same Mig 21 squadron. His take, I don't see it happening. Assad goes and it all ends
    Last edited by Dazed; 29 May 18, at 07:39.

  10. #2830
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Excerpt from the Der Spiegel article on the Battle of Khsham:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/...a-1196074.html

    Video from the article: http://www.spiegel.de/video/syrien-m...-99013702.html
    The Truth About the Russian Deaths in Syria

    Hundreds of Russian soldiers are alleged to have died in U.S. airstrikes at the beginning of February. Reporting by DER SPIEGEL shows that events were likely very different.
    A team of DER SPIEGEL journalists spent two weeks interviewing both witnesses to, and participants in, the battle. The team also spoke to a staff member at the only hospital in Deir ez-Zor as well as an employee of the local military airport in an attempt to get a clear picture of exactly what took place during the three-day battle.

    The accounts largely corroborate each other and the image of events that emerges is one that contradicts what has been reported in the Russian and international media.

    At 5 a.m. on Feb. 7, around 250 fighters south of Deir ez-Zor attempted to cross from the west bank of the Euphrates to the east using a military pontoon bridge. They included members of the militias of two tribes, the Bekara and the Albo Hamad, who are fighting for Assad's regime with Iranian backing, soldiers of the 4th Division as well as Afghan and Iraqi fighters with the Fatimiyoun and Zainabiyoun brigades, which are under Iranian command. A soldier with the 4th Division recounted that the units had spent a week gathering on the property of the military airport. Witnesses say that no Russian mercenaries took part in the attempted crossing.




    The Americans and the Russians agreed last year to make the Euphrates River a "deconfliction" line. Assad's troops and its allies are west of the river while the east side is controlled by SDF under the protection of the Americans. The east side is home to a chain of productive natural gas fields generally known as the Conoco field.

    As such, the Americans on the eastern banks viewed the advance as an attack and fired a series of warning shots toward to bridge. Nobody was injured and the attackers withdrew.

    But they didn't give up. Long after darkness, around twice as many men from the same groups crossed another makeshift bridge a few kilometers north, close to the Deir ez-Zor military airport. They drove without their lights on to prevent U.S. drones from spotting them. Undetected this time, they made it to the village of Marrat on the eastern side. When they advanced further south at around 10 p.m., toward the SDF base in Khusham, the Americans, whose special forces were also stationed there, once again opened fire. And this time they weren't warning shots. The U.S. said in a statement given to CNN that after "20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters" of the SDF headquarters, the coalition forces "targeted the aggressors with a combination of air and artillery strikes."

    That was putting it mildly. Because right around the same time late that night, another group of Syrian tribal militia members and Shiite fighters came from the village of Tabiya to the south and also attacked the SDF base. And the Americans struck back with their entire destructive arsenal. They deployed rocket-equipped drones, combat helicopters, heavy AC 130 aircraft, nicknamed "gun boats," to fire on targets on the ground, rockets and ground artillery.

    They struck in the night, followed by an attack the next morning on a group with a tribal militia in Tabiya that had only come to retrieve the bodies. And on Feb. 9, they once again attacked a unit of the same fighters who had popped up on the eastern side of the river.

    A Different Version of Events

    It was primarily the second night-time attack from the village of Tabiya that triggered the American paroxysm, said two men belonging to the al-Baqir militia of the Bekara tribe. Because in addition to the deconfliction line, there was also a second agreement which allowed up to 400 pro-Assad fighters, who remained on the east side of the Euphrates following the 2017 battle against Islamic State, to remain. At least as long as their weren't more than 400 of them and they remained peaceful. But exactly that was no longer the case.

    Among those stationed in Tabiya was a small contingent of Russian mercenaries. But the two militia sources said they did not participate in the fighting. Still, they said, 10 to 20 of them did in fact lose their lives. They said a total of more than 200 of the attackers died, including around 80 Syrian soldiers with the 4th Division, around 100 Iraqis and Afghans and around 70 tribal fighters, mostly with the al-Baqir militia.

    It all happened at night, and the situation became extremely complicated when the fighters from Tabiya entered the fray. A staffer at the only major hospital in Deir ez-Zor would later say that around a dozen Russian bodies were delivered. An employee at the airport, meanwhile, later witnessed the delivery of the bodies in two Toyota pickup trucks to a waiting Russian transport aircraft that then flew to Qamishli, an airport near the Syrian border in the north.

    In the days that followed, the identities of the Russians killed would be revealed -- first of six and ultimately nine. Eight had been verified by the Conflict Intelligence Team, a Russian investigative platform, and another was released by the radio station Echo Moscow. All were employees of the private mercenary company Evro Polis, which is often referred to by the nom du guerre of its head: "Wagner."

    At the same time, however, a completely different version of events has gained traction -- disseminated at first by Russian nationalists like Igor "Strelkov" Girkin, and then by others associated with the Wagner unit. According to those accounts, many more Russians had been killed in the battle -- 100, 200, 300 or as many as 600. An entire unit, it was said, had been wiped out and the Kremlin wanted to cover it up. Recordings of alleged fighters even popped up apparently confirming these horrendous losses.

    It was a version that sounded so plausible that even Western news agencies like Reuters and Bloomberg picked it up. The fact that the government in Moscow at first didn't want to confirm any deaths and then spoke of five "Russian citizens" killed and later, nebulously, of "dozens of injured," some of whom had died, only seemed to make the version of events seem more credible. It has generally been the case, after all, that when something in the Syrian war is denied by the Kremlin, or when the Russians admit to it bit by bit, then it is probably accurate. Besides, Russian losses in Syria are constantly played down.
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  11. #2831
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Full article: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-m...-idUSKBN1JH0YE

    Assad presses assault in southwest Syria, civilians flee

    BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian government forces pounded rebel-held areas of the southwest with artillery on Thursday, in a steady escalation by President Bashar al-Assad who has vowed to win back the area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12,500 civilians had fled the town of Busra al-Hariri and nearby areas of Deraa province in the last two days. Rebel officials gave conflicting assessments of the scale of displacement.

    A major government offensive in the southwest risks further escalating the seven-year-old war. The United States has warned it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to government violations of a “de-escalation” deal it brokered with Russia last year to contain the conflict in the southwest.

    The conflict has pivoted toward the southwest since Assad, with critical help from his Russian and Iran-backed allies, crushed the last remaining pockets of rebel-held territory near Damascus and the city of Homs.

    Although he has vowed to win back the area, a military campaign to recover it is set to be complicated by the interests of both U.S.-allied Jordan and Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Iran’s role in Syria.
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  12. #2832
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    Full article: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-m...-idUSKBN1JR182

    Jordan seeks truce for southwest Syria after army gains

    AMMAN/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Jordan stepped in to try to avert further violence and stem another wave of displacement across its border with Syria on Sunday, mediating new talks between rebels and the government’s main ally Russia for a truce in the southwest.

    Talks in the town of Bosra al-Sham on Saturday broke down as the army seized more ground in its offensive, with insurgent lines in some areas collapsing, and a string of towns and villages accepting the return of government rule after intense bombardment.

    Fighting and bombardment calmed overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, but reignited on Sunday around Tafas, northwest of Deraa, along with heavy air strikes.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s offensive in the southwest aims to reclaim one of two remaining rebel strongholds in Syria, the other being Idlib and adjacent areas in the northwest. Assad’s forces captured the last enclaves near Damascus and Homs earlier this year.

    Southwest Syria is a “de-escalation zone” of reduced warfare and bombardment agreed by Russia, Jordan and the United States last year. Washington warned it would respond to violations of this agreement, but has done nothing so far. Last week, rebels said the United States had told them not to expect any American military support.

    The opposition’s chief negotiator in wider U.N. peace talks, Nasr al-Hariri, last week accused the United States of complicity in Assad’s southwest offensive, saying American silence could only be explained by “a malicious deal”.

    Peace talks in the town of Bosra al-Sham, home to a UNESCO world heritage site, failed on Saturday when insurgents rejected Russian terms for their surrender, but began again on Sunday under the auspices of Jordan, rebel spokesman Ibrahim al-Jabawi said.

    Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the kingdom was engaged in intensive diplomacy with all parties in the conflict to help broker a ceasefire that would ease plight of displaced civilians.

    “We are moving in all directions and with all the parties to bring a ceasefire and protect civilians,” he said in a Tweet on Saturday.
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  13. #2833
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Map source: Deutsche Welle

    Full article: https://www.dw.com/en/in-syria-rebel...ion/a-44628323
    In Syria, rebel defeat marks 'end of revolution'

    In a defeat steeped in symbolism, Syrian regime forces have ousted rebels from parts of Deraa, considered the birthplace of the country's uprising. Deraa was where peaceful protests erupted in 2011, in what would eventually lead to a bloody regime crackdown that triggered a war.

    Seven years later, armed opposition groups in the area agreed to surrender and handover heavy arms under a Russia-brokered deal, even while regime forces continued to bombard rebel-held pockets in and around Deraa city.

    Losing Deraa marks a significant blow to Syria's rebel movement. While under previous surrender deals, opposition fighters unwilling to make peace with the government would be transferred to Idlib, their last bastion in the country, this time regime negotiators have reportedly rejected such a compromise, a sign of how Damascus views its newfound position.

    "Deraa is the end of the Syrian revolution," Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and editor of Syria Comment blog, told DW.

    "All of Syria's remaining 'independent' rebel militias are in the southeast. Once they are dismantled, the only region where rebel militias will hold sway is in the north … But the militias that hold sway in the north are under direct US and Turkish control."

    'In the works for years'

    In June 2011, opposition to the regime of President Bashar Assad culminated in the founding of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), bringing together military officers who defected from the armed forces and rebel groups willing to take up arms against the state. In its infancy, the FSA was widely seen as the armed "moderate opposition" in Syria.

    While it enjoyed popular and international support at its onset, including receiving aid from the US and European allies, the alliance of armed opposition groups began to splinter a year later, most notably under the weight of hard-line Islamist elements. Some FSA members even defected to the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group in 2014.

    Since then, the opposition movement has further fractured into various factions, witnessed Islamist militant groups rise to the forefront and seen major losses in its former strongholds, most notably in Aleppo and eastern Ghouta.

    "The end of the armed opposition has been in the works for at least the past three years in my view, if not longer," Yezid Sayigh, senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, told DW.

    "Any doubts on this score should have been dispelled following their major losses of eastern Aleppo and eastern Ghouta, and in light of their continuing inability to take advantage of the [Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces'] expansion and US deployment in other parts of Syria in order to rebuild or regain some initiative."

    Indeed, the fractured rebel movement has been unable to fend off the regime's latest offensives, aside from in Idlib in northern Syria, where experienced militant groups such as the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham have effectively taken control.
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  14. #2834
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Map Source: https://syria.liveuamap.com

    1/1/2018


    13/7/2018
    What I don't want to see is the Bills winning a Super Bowl. As long as I'm alive that doesn't happen.

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