Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Preparing for Major Battle in Idlib

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Damascus Army dispatched fresh military convoys to Northern Hama to further reinvigorate its forces for massive operations against the terrorists in Idlib province amid militants' continued attacks from the demilitarized zone in Northern Syria.

"The Syrian Army has dispatched new convoys to Southern Idlib and Northern Hama to be prepared for imminent military operations in Northern Syria," the Arabic-language website of Sputnik reported.

Meantime, the Syrian army continued its military advances in other parts of Syria over past 24 hours.

Tens of terrorists were killed and dozens more were injured during the Syrian army's operations in provinces across Syria.

Hama-Idlib

The Syrian army sent new military convoys to Northern Hama to further reinvigorate its forces for massive operations against the terrorists in Idlib province amid the militants' continued attacks from the demilitarized zone in Northern Syria.

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik reported on Wednesday that the Syrian army has dispatched fresh convoys to Southern Idlib and Northern Hama to be prepared for imminent military operations in Northern Syria.

It added that extensive military equipment has been sent to the Northern fronts of Hama to Sahl al-Qab region in Northwestern Hama.

Meantime, a military source said that the terrorists launch repeated attacks from the demilitarized zone on safe zones and military positions, adding that cleansing operations in the region should be prioritized.

Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorists targeted the town of Salhab and Mahradeh in Northern Hama by heavy rocket attacks which were responded by the artillery and airstrikes of the Syrian army against their positions and movements in the towns of al-Latamineh, Kafr Zita, Kafr Naboudeh, Rasm al-Ahmar, al-Hawijeh, Qalat al-Maziq, al-Sakhar and al-Sahriyeh in Northern and Northwestern Hama.

The attacks destroyed several hideouts, vehicles and military equipment of the terrorists and killed and wounded a large number of them.

Aleppo

Reports from local media said nearly two dozen Turkish soldiers have been killed and wounded in heavy clashes with the Kurds in Northwestern Aleppo.

The Kurdish-language Hawar news reported on Thursday that the so-called 'Afrin Liberation Forces' targeted two armored vehicles of the Turkish army in the village of Qatmeh in Shara region in Afrin on April 30, killing 7 Turkish soldiers, wounding 5 others and destroying their vehicles.

It added that another group of Turkish soldiers were trapped and engaged in clashes with the Kurds in regions near Qatmeh, noting that 6 Turkish military men were wounded.

Also, 2 Turkish military commanders were killed and 3 others were severely wounded in operations launched by 'Afrin Liberation Forces' against a Turkish army vehicle on the road linking Shara region to the town of A'azaz in Northwestern Aleppo.

Reports from Afrin and A'azaz regions in Northern Aleppo said that heavy clashes had erupted between the Kurdish fighters and the Turkish army and its affiliated militants in the past two days, adding that the Turkish army has pounded the Kurdish positions in Northern Aleppo with artillery fire.

Eastern Euphrates

Over 900 trucks carrying new US military and logistical aid have been sent to the regions occupied by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Eastern Syria after Washington's declaration of the ISIL collapse, media reports said.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Thursday that the US coalition has only in a recent case sent nearly 65 trucks loaded with weapons and military equipment from Iraq to the SDF-occupied areas in Eastern Euphrates.

It added that a least 945 trucks carrying military equipment have entered Eastern Syria after the US and Washington-backed SDF declared the end of ISIL rule over the region.

Damascus-Quneitra

The Syrian army found a large cache of weapons, including US and Israeli missiles as well as West-made arms, during cleanup operations in areas formerly held by the terrorists in Southern Syria.

The engineering units of the Syrian army discovered underground weapons caches during purging operations in the towns and villages of Southern Syria.

A military source said that they found several US TOW missiles, Israeli LAV missiles, shoulder-launched missiles, US-made M-16 guns, West-made sniper guns, machine-guns and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, artilleries, mortars, TNT and advanced goggles.

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Islamic State Group Begin to Surrender Last Territory in Syria

Thousands of people, including armed Islamic State Group members, have surrendered to U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in eastern Syria.

In a report from Al Jazeera, thousands of people, including armed fighters, have left the last area held by ISIL in Syria, a spokesperson for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said.

RELATED: Islamic State Group Faces Final Defeat by Kurdish-Led Force

Mostafa Bali of the SDF tweeted that about 3,000 people had come out of the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria on Monday through a humanitarian corridor established by the Kurdish-led group for those who choose to leave or surrender.

Bali said among those who left was a large number of fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group who "surrendered to our forces."

According to a report from Reuters, "around 200 Islamic State members surrendered in Baghouz after a ferocious battle at the weekend, but around 1,000 may still be holding out, a spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian force battling them said on Monday."

This came after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched air strikes against the Islamic State Group in central Syria, the pro-Damascus al-Watan newspaper reported on Tuesday.

According to TeleSUR, the Islamic State Group have been using "guerilla-warfare tactics" for four years, while the U.S.-led coalition (SDF) described them as the "most-hardened militants."

AlJazeera reported that suspected fighters were moved to detention facilities for where they will be investigated.

Slowing down the offensive in yesterday, we managed to evacuate about 3.000 ppl from ISIS pocket through the corridor we opened. A large number of Daesh jihadists surrendered to our forces among the same group overnight.

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Archaeologists restore ancient Palmyra artifacts in Damascus museum

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - In the National Museum of Damascus, archaeologist Muntajab Youssef works on an ancient stone bust from Palmyra, one of hundreds of artifacts his team is painstakingly restoring after they were damaged by Islamic State.

Centuries-old statues and sculptures were wrecked by the jihadists when they twice seized control of the old city in central Syria during the country’s war, which will go into its ninth year in March.

The 1,800-year-old bust of a bejeweled and richly clothed woman, The Beauty of Palmyra, was damaged during the first offensive on the city by Islamic State fighters in 2015.

After Syrian government forces took back the city with Russian military support in March 2016, the bust, alongside other damaged ancient monuments, was taken to Damascus and archived in boxes. When restoration work on it began last year, Youssef said it was in pieces.

“The hands and face were lost completely, also parts of the dress and there are areas that are weaker,” Youssef, who has been working on the bust for two months, said.

Youssef is one of 12 archaeologists working on the arduous restoration job, which first began with the of moving the damaged pieces to Damascus.

Mamoun Abdulkarim, the former Head of Syrian Antiquities, said that in some cases broken artifacts were transported in empty ammunition boxes provided by the Syrian army in Palmyra.

How many artifacts there are in total is difficult to say, given the state they were found in.

The lack of documentation for the artifacts also adds to the restoration challenge.

“A big part of the documentation in the Palmyra museum, was damaged with the antiquities and computers,” archaeologist Raed Abbas said.

“A statue needs pictures ... in order to be rebuilt.”

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Nearly Half a Million Displaced People Return to Syrian Province

Damascus, Aug 18 (Prensa Latina) Nearly half a million displaced persons have returned to their houses in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor since the beginning of this year, today confirmed local administration sources.

The number of citizens who returned to their homes in the province reached 489,531 from the beginning of 2018, which shows a total number of residents of up to 1,37,000 people, according to the latest statistics.

After the Syrian army restored security in most of the province's countryside and secured thousands of kilometers of main roads to other regions, the first sector that was rehabilitated was transport.

Likewise, work was carried out on the resumption of the operations of offices for civil affairs, banks, post offices, fire stations and municipal councils, in parallel with the start of work to eliminate debris, repair streets and infrastructure in general, including water services and electricity.

The director of the Deir Ezzor Health Department Abdul Najem al-Obeid said that 26 medical centers and two medical centers were opened, as well as hospitals that provide services to citizens, which include equipment, general supplies, ambulances and mobile clinics.

The sources indicated that the food, scarce under the blockade imposed by the terrorists of the Islamic State (Daesh) for almost three years, was guaranteed a few days after breaking the siege through convoys and prices fell and returned to normal levels. They also stated that several institutions and departments of services are working to complete the rehabilitation of the infrastructure of different sectors in Deir Ezzor within the context of a work program integrated by all the society's forces.

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ISIS Suicide Blasts Kill More Than 220 Dead In Southern Syria

Beirut, Lebanon: A string of suicide blasts and raids claimed by the ISIS killed more than 220 people in southern Syria on Wednesday, in one of the terrorist group's deadliest ever assaults in the country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attacks hit several areas of the largely government-held southern province of Sweida, where ISIS retains a presence in a northeastern desert region.

The bloodshed came almost a week into a Russia-backed regime campaign to oust ISIS fighters from a holdout in a neighbouring province of the country's south.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the violence, saying "soldiers of the caliphate" attacked Syrian government positions and security outposts in Sweida city, then detonated explosive belts.

The Britain-based Observatory said four suicide bombers targeted Sweida city while others hit small villages to the north and east and shot residents in their homes.  

At least 221 people were killed, including 127 civilians, the Observatory said.

The remaining 94 dead were pro-regime fighters, mostly residents who took up arms to defend their homes, it said.

The overwhelming majority of the dead "were in (Sweida's) northern countryside, where the bodies of civilians executed inside their homes were found," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Sweida, whose residents are mostly from the Druze minority, has been relatively insulated from the war that has ravaged the rest of the country since 2011.

"It's the bloodiest death toll in Sweida province since the start of the war" and one of the deadliest ever IS attacks in Syria, the Observatory chief said.

He said regime forces eventually ousted ISIS from several villages its fighters had seized and put an end to the attacks.

"Some residents who fled the attacks on their villages are returning and finding people dead in their homes," Abdel Rahman said.

At least 38 ISIS fighters were also killed, including the suicide attackers.

Abandoned Shoes

State media confirmed the attacks had killed and wounded people in Sweida city and villages to the north and east but did not give a specific toll.

"Today's crime shows that countries supporting terrorism are trying to breathe life back into the terrorist organisation to keep it as a card in their hand that they will use to achieve political gains," Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he received Russia's envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev.

"These attempts will only succeed in... shedding more innocent blood," he added, in comments carried on his social media accounts.

Omar, a resident of Sweida city, told AFP explosions began rocking the city around 5:30 am local time.

"The blast was sudden and unexpected. Never in its history has Sweida seen such a tough day," he told AFP.

State news agency SANA published images from the city of the attack's aftermath, showing a victim's remains sprawled on a staircase near a damaged wall.

Abandoned shoes lay in the middle of the road among fruit that had spilt out of cartons.

An eyewitness said Sweida's national hospital was "packed".

He said he saw "people bringing in a lot of wounded in their own private cars.. Others were coming to the hospital to ask if loved ones they had lost track of were there".

The UN's humanitarian coordinator in Syria Ali al-Zaatari condemned the "terrorist bombing in Sweida city", saying all civilians should be protected.

Government ally Russia said the IS attacks "confirm the need for energetic and coordinated efforts by the international community to eradicate this universal evil from Syrian territory".

Pro-government forces ousted ISIS from urban centres in eastern Syria last year, but ISIS raids in recent months have killed dozens of regime and allied fighters.

The terrorists still hold some territory in Syria's south, including in Sweida and another isolated but larger patch in neighbouring Daraa province, to the west.

That pocket is held by Jaish Khaled bin al-Walid, a jihadist faction whose 1,000 fighters have pledged allegiance to ISIS.

After ousting mainstream rebels from most of the south, Assad's troops backed by his Russian allies are now closing in on the ISIS pocket in Daraa.


SANA said the attacks on Sweida were an attempt to relieve pressure "on ISIS remnants facing their inevitable end in the western Daraa countryside".

Desert Holdouts

On Wednesday, Russia-backed regime forces pressed their heavy bombardment of ISIS territory in Daraa.

At least 41 civilians have been killed in air strikes on the jihadist holdout since July 19, while clashes have killed 49 regime fighters and 67 terrorists, says the Observatory.

Last month, Assad's forces launched a lightning assault that battered rebel areas in the south and brought most of Daraa province under his control.

They then moved on to Quneitra, the neighbouring province which borders the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.

On Tuesday, a Syrian military source accused Israel of firing at one of its warplanes as it carried out operations against jihadists in Quneitra.

Israel's army on Tuesday said it had shot down a Syrian fighter jet that had infiltrated Israeli airspace, risking another escalation around the sensitive buffer zone.

The Damascus regime has long accused Israel of backing ISIS, which overran large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014 but has since lost most of that territory.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

 

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ISIS-linked militants show up in Syrian refugee camp under US control – Lavrov

Militants linked with the terrorist group Islamic State are feeling increasingly comfortable in a refugee camp located near a US military base in southern Syria, the Russian foreign minister said.

“We have plenty of reports about strange things happening in the Al-Tanf area,” Sergey Lavrov said on Monday. “This area has no particular military value in terms of fighting terrorism. And in practical terms, we see a rise of presence in the region of militant groups, including those we believe to be connected with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in this or that way, including in the Rukban refugee camp.”

Located on Syria’s border with Jordan, Al-Tanf was captured last year by the US, which declared it under its protection and attacked pro-government forces showing up there. Russia has repeatedly expressed concern about the presence of US troops in the area and their refusal to allow access to it, including for humanitarian convoys to the Rukban camp.

READ MORE: Militants get R&R in US-guarded part of southern Syria – Lavrov

Asked by a journalist during a media conference if Russia was aware of US plans to withdraw from Al-Tanf, Lavrov said he has not seen any reports indicating such an intention, but would welcome such a move.

“This zone was created under manufactured justification with no military necessity,” he said. “If [the Americans] are arriving at the same conclusions, I expect this to translate into a practical implementation.”

The US put troops on the ground in Syria, stating that their goal was to defeat IS. The military intervention was carried out with no mandate from the UN Security Council, and against the objection of the Syrian government. The threat of IS has since been greatly diminished, but the US shows no intention of withdrawing from Syria. Instead, it is using its foothold in the north of the country to prop up the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia.

Russia says the continued presence of US troops is a sign that Washington may still be seeking to topple of the Syrian government or at least aiming to partition Syria.

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Moscow slams ‘illegal’ US presence in Syria as Pentagon reserves right for ‘defensive’ attacks

Russia has reminded the US that its presence in Syria is illegal after the coalition struck pro-government militias. Washington however reserved the right for “defensive” attacks to achieve peace “from a position of strength.”

The US presence in Syria is “actually illegal,” the Russian Ambassador to the UN reminded his Western counterparts on Thursday at a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council. “Nobody invited them there,” Vasily Nebenzya stated, emphasizing that a hard fought for stability in Syria is being jeopardized by US actions.

On Wednesday, the US-led coalition said it carried out several “defensive” airstrikes on Syrian forces in Deir Ez-Zor province in retaliation for what they described as an “unprovoked” attack on the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and foreign military “advisers.”

 
FILE PHOTO. Oil well on the outskirts of the city of Deir ez-Zor. © Mikhail Voskresenskiy

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Syrian militia unit was advancing against a “sleeper cell” of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists near the former oil processing plant of al-Isba, when it suddenly came under massive air strikes. At least 25 militiamen were injured in the attack, the Russian MoD noted, clarifying that pro-government troops targeted by the coalition did not coordinate their operation with the Russian command.

The US, however, maintains that the militia attacked the SDF. The Pentagon said Syrian forces moved “in a battalion-sized unit formation, supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars.” The battle which lasted over three hours, the US claims, began after 30 artillery tank rounds landed within 500 meters of the SDF unit’s location.

“At the start of the unprovoked attack on Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition advisers, coalition aircraft, including F-22A Raptors and MQ-9B Reapers, were overhead providing protective overwatch, defensive counter air and [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] support as they have 24/7 throughout the fight to defeat ISIS,” Air Forces Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told Military.com.

“Following a call for support from Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, a variety of joint aircraft and ground-based artillery responded in defense of our SDF partners, including F-15E Strike Eagles,” he said in a statement Thursday. “These aircraft released multiple precision-fire munitions and conducted strafing runs against the advancing aggressor force, stopping their advance and destroying multiple artillery pieces and tanks.”

@RT_com 'Actions of the US coalition do not comply with legal norms. Beyond all doubt, it is aggression' https://on.rt.com/8yo4

Damascus called the attack a “war crime,” while the Russian military asserted that Washington’s true goal is to capture “economic assets” in Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova affirmed that the US military presence in Syria poses a dangerous threat to the political process and territorial integrity of the country, while Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the strike another violation of Syria’s sovereignty by the US.

The US, however, remained unmoved, promising to continue to support the US-allied forces in Syria at any cost. “We continue to support SDF with respect to defeating ISIS... ISIS is still there, and our mission is still to defeat ISIS,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday. “We will continue to support them. Our goal is to ensure that our diplomats can negotiate from a position of strength, with respect to the Geneva process.”

@RT_com 'What right does the US have to defend illegal formations in Syria?' - former US diplomat @JimJatras https://on.rt.com/8yow

“They [US] constantly assert that they are fighting international terrorism there, but we see that they go beyond this framework,” Nebenzya told the UNSC. He warned the US-led coalition members that it is “criminal” to engage the only forces “who actually fight” international terrorism in Syria.

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US anti-ISIS Coalition Claims to Have Killed 800 Civilians

The coalition, which has been operating in Syria in breach of international law, has claimed responsibility for around 800 civilian deaths.

The U.S.-led international anti-Islamic State coalition acknowledged that its attacks in Syria and Iraq against the so-called Islamic State group have killed 801 civilians since 2014.

ANALYSIS: Raqqa Offensive Highlights US Human Rights Hypocrisy

A coalition report found that at least 801 civilians were killed inadvertently during operations in the two countries. The coalition is allegedly investigating the deaths of 695 more civilians.

The U.S.-led coalition includes more than 70 members and has been operating against the Islamic State group since 2014 without the approval of the Syrian government.

Along with this, the coalition operates a military base in the Syrian city of al-Tanf near the Jordanian border to “fight the terrorists.” The coalition also holds positions in Iraq to assists in operations in the country, which borders Syria.

On November 19, the United Nations (UN) coordinator for Syrian humanitarian affairs, Ali al-Zaatari, asked the participants in the conflict to stop bombings in residential areas where civilians have seen massive casualties.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has loosened the rules of engagement, making bombings less discriminate in both Iraq and Syria, with many blaming his administration for a spike in civilian casualties, particularly in Raqqa and Mosul.

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