Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Wins Back More Strategic Regions Near Ancient Palmyra

Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Wins Back More Strategic Regions Near Ancient Palmyra

    (FNA)- The Syrian army and its allies made significant advances against the ISIL terrorists in the Central province of Homs after seizing back more key areas in the vicinity of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur).

The terrorists sustained heavy losses in fierce clashes with the Syrian government troops near Palmyra city.

Meantime, the Syrian army and popular forces continued their military advances in other parts of Syria, including Damascus and Deir Ezzur, over past 24 hours.

Homs

The Syrian Army troops, backed up by the Russian and Syrian fighter jets, started a fresh round of anti-ISIL operation to the West of ancient Palmyra (Tadmur), capturing more lands in the region.

The Army soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL near T4 airbase and al-Bardeh region, killing a large number of terrorists and driving the rest of them out of more positions in Eastern Homs.

The Syrian and Russian warplanes carried out tens of combat sorties over ISIL’s gatherings and movements near Palmyra and energy fields near the city and al-Bardeh.

Meantime, a military source said that the ISIL is after capturing T4 airbase and then the town of al-Quaryatayn, but the Syrian and Russian warplanes have foiled plans of terrorists in preemptive strikes.

According to another military source, the first phase of the army’s special operation in Eastern Homs is aimed at capturing the Jazal mountain and Al-Maher gas gields to liberate these sites from ISIL’s control.

Dara’a

The Syrian Air Force targeted one of the most important bases of the Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) in Northern Dara’a, and destroyed the base and militants’ equipment.

The army aircraft bombed Fatah al-Sham’s base to the West of the town of Dael, destroying the base and killing or wounding almost 45 terrorists.

After the liberation of the strategic town of Sheikh Meskeen, a preliminary agreement was concluded between the Syrian government and militants in the towns of Dael and Ibtta in the Southern side of Sheikh Meskeen in order to pave the ground for the militants to hand over their territories to the government without clashes, but differences among the militant groups pushed the agreement into failure and caused the army men to restart their military operation in the region.

Damascus

Syrian Army troops’ rapid advances against terrorists and wining back the villages of Basimeh and Ein al-Fijeh have paved the way for the reopening the flow of drinking water from Wadi al-Bardi to Damascus.

The army soldiers that engaged in fierce clashes with terrorist groups in Wadi al-Bardi region in Western Ghouta took full control over Basimeh and Ein al-Fijeh, while terrorists pulled back forces toward the village of Ein al-Khazra.

The army men were involved in an intense battle with terrorists in Ein al-Khazra, forcing the militants to leave their positions in the village.

The army troops’ advances will soon enable maintenance groups deployed in Ein al-Fijeh region to repair its water facilities.

Syrian Minister of Waster Resources Nabil al-Hassan underlined that maintenance groups had entered Ein al-Fijeh and would start fixing the water facilities in the region.

Local sources, meanwhile, said that water pumping operation have started after several hours of work by maintenance groups in Ein al-Fijeh, adding that water will soon come back to Damascus residents.

Meantime, the Syrian Army troops continued their advances against terrorist groups in Eastern Ghouta and won full control over a key town in the region.

The army soldiers engaged in hours-long clashes with terrorists and drove them back from the town of Hawsh al-Zariqiyeh.

Sources affiliated to militant groups disclosed that rebels in the region near Hawsh al-Zariqiyeh avoided sending reinforcement to the town after they were informed of the army advances.

A field source said that the terrorists have suffered a heavy death toll in Hawsh al-Zariqiyeh, adding that the army units are about to continue their advances towards Tal (hill) Farzat, while other units will move towards al-Nashibiyeh.

But, some reports said that terrorists have targeted the regions near water reservoirs halting repairing process.

The Syrian Army raised the flag of the Syrian Arab Republic over the al-Fijeh Springs on Saturday, marking the first time in 4 years that this site has been under government control.

Militant groups captured the Wadi al-Bardi region in 2013 after an attack on this water rich part of Western Damascus, and since then they have frequently blocked the water flow to nearly 5 million civilians in Damascus for living under the Syrian government’s protection.

Idlib

Terrorist groups have increased attacks on each other across Idlib province, while terror operations against commanders have been on the rise in recent weeks in the militant-held regions in the province, local sources said.

The sources said that senior Commander of Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) Abu Ali al-Tunisi was killed in a terrorist attack on a road to the town of Qemaynas in Southeastern Idlib.

At least 20 Turkistani terrorists were killed in an attack by rival terrorists on a building in Jabal al-Arbaeen in the town of Ariha, they added.

Ahrar al-Sham and Fatah al-Sham are accusing each other of being the main cause of disunity and insecurity in Idlib and its countryside.

Ahrar al-Sham believes that Fatah al-Sham’s opposition to merging militant groups is the cause of disunity and insecurity.

Al-Omar, one of the commanders of Ahrar, said those members of ISIL that are now among Jund al-Aqsa and have made allegiance to Fatah al-Sham are in charge of insecurity and terror in Idlib.

Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Repels Major Attack on Gov’t Positions Near Aleppo’s Kuweires Airbase

Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Repels Major Attack on Gov't Positions Near Aleppo's Kuweires Airbase

    (FNA)- The Syrian army troops repelled the terrorists’ attack on their positions South of the Kuweires airbase in the Eastern part of Aleppo province after hours of clashes, inflicting major losses on them.

The ISIL’s offensive to capture the government forces’ positions near Kuweires airbase was fended off by the strong defense of the Syrian military men.

Meantime, the Syrian army and popular forces continued their military advances in other parts of Syria, including Damascus and Homs, over the past 24 hours.

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

Aleppo

Syrian Army troops fended off ISIL’s large-scale offensive in a military base East of Aleppo, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.

The army soldiers repelled ISIL’s assault on the Air Force Academy South of Kuweires airbase, killing and wounding a number of militants.

The army men also destroyed eight military vehicles of ISIL in the villages of Rasm al-Harmal al-Imam and Harmaleh in Deir Hafer region.

A field source said the army has been monitoring ISIL’s movements, communication lines and gatherings in recent weeks and picked up good information about the imminent plans of the terrorists.

The sources added that that the Syrian pro-government forces are about to carry out an imminent operation in Northern Aleppo to liberate the towns of al-Bab and Deir Hafer from ISIL control.

Meantime, Syrian Army’s engineering units continued their demining operation in the Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, discovering another depot of arms and ammunition that belonged to Jeish al-Fatah terrorists, a military source said.

The source said that terrorists had turned people’s houses in Bostan al-Qasr (Bustan al-Kaser) into arms depots and after forcing them out.

The depot in Bostan al-Qasr was reportedly also used as a workshop for building weapons and munitions.

Russian sappers are also defusing bombs and mines planted by terrorists in Aleppo’s neighborhoods.

Damascus

Syrian Army troops intensified offensive on centers of Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) and other terrorist groups in Western Ghouta, killing a number of militants, including a senior commander of Jeish Tahrir al-Sham.

The army soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with Tahrir al-Sham militants in al-Hosseiniyeh front in Wadi al-Bardi, killing Abu al-Nimr al-Talfiti, a senior field commander of the terrorist group.

Meantime, scores of Faylaq al-Rahman terrorists, including one of their field commanders, were killed in Syrian army’s counterattack in Eastern Ghouta.

Terrorist groups carried out a very heavy attack on the army positions near the missile battalion in Hazarma region, forcing the army soldiers to retreat temporarily from four positions.

Then, the Army men in a rapid counterattack inflicted heavy damage on the terrorists’ vehicles and killed a number of them, recapturing all the lost positions.

Over 10 terrorists, including field commander of Faylaq al-Rahman Hamza al-Asali known as Abu al-Abbas were killed and several more were wounded while repelling terrorists’ attack.

Over 25 militants were killed or wounded in the second wave of clashes.

The rest of the terrorists fled the battlefield.

Also, the army men targeted the movements and positions of the terrorists in the villages of Basimeh and Ein al-Fijeh in Wadi al-Bardi region, killing a number of them.

A field source said that bad weather conditions have prevented the army aircraft from conducting raids on terrorists’ targets in the region, and the terrorists are only under attack by ground and artillery troops.

Homs

Syrian Army troops, backed up by the Russian Air Force, repelled one of ISIL’s heaviest attacks on the T4 airbase West of Palmyra, inflicting major casualties on the militants.

The ISIL carried out a massive attack on army position at T4 airbase with hundreds of forces, but government troops and Russian choppers fended off their attack after killing and wounding tens of terrorists.

A field source said that the army units that repelled ISIL’s attack carried out an immediate counter assault on ISIL’s movements from the Southern side of T4, capturing several small hills.

Also, the Syrian air force targeted the movements and gatherings of Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) at al-Quneitrat Ezzeddeen in Eastern Homs, leaving 24 terrorists dead.

Hama

Several members of Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front), including Saudi militants, were killed in Syrian air and artillery attacks in Eastern Hama.

The army aircraft and artillery units targeted the gatherings and movements of Fatah al-Sham in Taloul al-Hamar West of al-Salamiyah town near the provincial border with Homs province, leaving at least seven militants dead, including several Saudi nationals and destroying three vehicles.

Reports said, at least, 30 militants were also injured in the attacks.

Also, the army troops and National Defense Forces repelled terrorists’ offensive on their positions near the city of al-Salamiyah, killing at least 25 militants and wounding several more.

Senior Commander, Tens of Terrorists Killed in Clashes with Syrian Soldiers in Eastern Damascus

Senior Commander, Tens of Terrorists Killed in Clashes with Syrian Soldiers in Eastern Damascus

       Scores of Faylaq al-Rahman terrorists, including one of their field commanders, were killed in Syrian army’s counterattack in Eastern Ghouta.

Terrorist groups carried out a very heavy attack on the army positions near the missile battalion in Hazarma region, forcing the army soldiers to retreat temporarily from four positions.

Then, the Army men in a rapid counterattack inflicted heavy damage on the terrorists’ vehicles and killed a number of them, recapturing all the lost positions.

Over 10 terrorists, including field commander of Faylaq al-Rahman Hamza al-Asali known as Abu al-Abbas were killed and several more were wounded while repelling terrorists’ attack.

Over 25 militants were killed or wounded in the second wave of clashes.

The rest of the terrorists fled the battlefield.

Syrian Army troops continued their advances against the terrorist groups in Eastern Ghouta on Monday and took full control of a key town after hours of non-stop battle.

The army men pushed militants back from the town of Harazma, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.

Field sources said that the army men started carrying out mop-up operation in the newly-freed town and its surroundings, adding engineering units started defusing bombs and landmines planted by the militants across the town.

The remaining pockets of terrorists fled towards adjacent towns.

The sources added that fierce clashes were underway between the army soldiers and militants near the strategic Farzat hill that overlooks the towns of al-Nashabiyeh and Hawsh al-Salehiyeh.

Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Repels Attacks on Gov’t Positions in Homs

Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Repels Attacks on Gov't Positions in Homs

     Syrian army soldiers repelled terrorists’ massive attacks on their positions in Homs province after hours of clashes, inflicting major losses on them.

The ISIL terrorists’ large-scale attacks to capture the government forces’ positions near T4 airbase were fended off by the strong defense of the Syrian military men.

Meantime, the Syrian army and popular forces continued their military advances in other parts of Syria, including Damascus and Aleppo, over the past 24 hours.

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

Homs

The ISIL terrorists launched a fierce attack to occupy the strategic T4 airbase in Western Palmyra (Tadmur) but failed again after the Syrian army forces repulsed their offensive rapidly and inflicted heavy casualties on them.

The Syrian army’s rapid reaction could kill and injure 115 ISIL militants and destroy 9 tanks and military vehicles of the terrorists.

The army troops deployed in the Southern parts of T4 airbase also started operations to purge the terrorists from Sharifah town.

Military sources said that the Syrian army troops have fully liberated the Northern, Western and Eastern heights of the town so far.

Reports from Homs also said earlier on Thursday that the Syrian ground and air forces continued military operations against the ISIL in the province, inflicting heavy casualties and damage on the terrorists.

The Syrian fighter jets targeted the ISIL gathering centers and moves in Jazal, Sha’er, Mehrtan, West al-Buwaida and al-Bayarat in Western Palmyra, killing dozens of militants and smashing their military convoys.

During the operations, one of the most important bases of the ISIL was fully blown up and 45 terrorists were killed.

Meantime, the Syrian army units attacked the ISIL centers in the Eastern parts of Station 4, Tala al-Awamid, al-Mohsa and al-Bareda in Tadmur, destroying several military vehicles and inflicting several casualties on the terrorists.

The Syrian troops also targeted the ISIL positions in the two villages of al-Shandakhiyeh and North al-Mushrefiyeh villages in Job al-Jarrah region, killing and wounding at least 20 militants and smashing their weapons and equipment.

Aleppo

The Syrian army and its allies’ liberation of Eastern Aleppo districts has doubled differences and clashes among the terrorist groups.

Al-Mayadeen news channel reported that the terrorist groups are now assassinating, attacking and detaining members of rival groups, accusing each other of betrayal and fleeing the battleground.

Meantime, the militant groups’ commanders and members don’t trust each other, fearing that the Aleppo scenario might be repeated in Idlib.

Reports also said last month that the aggressive behavior of terrorists in Idlib towards the militants who have left their regions under a ceasefire deal with the government and relocated to this city is deteriorating to critical levels, members of the latter group said on their social media pages.

The newcomers said they are called by Idlib militants as traitors and cowards.

They said they have been given forms to apply for residence and introduce sponsors and references, describing the move as the worst type of insult to them.

The newly-arrived terrorists are also humiliated when they ask for housing and food.

Idlib

The terrorists who have surrounded Fua’a and Kafraya in Idlib province pounded the two towns heavily, killing and wounding the army forces and civilians and violating the ceasefire in Syria again.

The terrorists targeted Fua’a and Kafraya towns with missile and artillery fire which killed and wounded a number of Syrian army forces and injured 8 civilians.

Media sources disclosed on Tuesday that terrorist groups are still preventing exit of hundreds of injured and patient civilians from the besieged towns of Fua’a and Kafraya in Idlib, breaching an agreement with the Damascus government.

Deir Ezzur

The Syrian army launched heavy ground and air strikes against the ISIL terrorists in Deir Ezzur, smashing their command centers and hideouts.

The Syrian army forces engaged in intense clashes with the terrorists in al-Jafrah village in Southeast Deir Ezzur, regions near Panorama region South of Deir Ezzur, along with the Eastern wall of Deir Ezzur airbase and in al-Jabiliya, al-Roshdiyeh, al-Hawiqa, al-Sana’a, al-Rasafa, al-Baliqiya, Northwest of Tal Barouk, al-Janinah and al-Hosseiniyeh regions, destroying their command centers and armored vehicles.

The army’s artillery units also targeted the ISIL moves and gathering centers in these regions, smashing the terrorists’ weapons cache near Deir Ezzur airbase and killing tens of militants.

Meantime, the Syrian fighter jets launched airstrikes against the ISIL hideouts near Deir Ezzur airbase and Jabal al-Thardah which killed and wounded several terrorists.

Syria in Past 24 Hours: Several Notorious Fatah Al-Sham Commanders Killed in Idlib

Syria in Past 24 Hours: Several Notorious Fatah Al-Sham Commanders Killed in Idlib

    (FNA)- At least 25 Fatah al-Sham Front (formerly known as al-Nusra Front) militants, including several notorious field commanders, were killed in an airstrike in Northwestern Idlib.

Aleppo

Syrian Army dispatched hundreds of fresh forces to areas South of Aleppo city to take part in an imminent operation against terrorist groups if they refuse again to leave their positions.

The General Command of the Syrian Army had warned Jeish al-Fatah coalition of terrorist groups deployed in the districts of al-Rashedeen 4 and 5 to hand over these two districts to the army soldiers.

It is widely believed that the army soldiers, the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and Iraqi al-Nujaba combatants are readying to kick off a large-scale operation to capture al-Rashedeen 4 and 5 and then start another operation to seize the key town of Khan Touman.

Damascus

Syrian Army troops continued to advance against Fatah al-Sham Front in Western Ghouta, capturing more positions in Wadi al-Bardi region.

The army men hit Fatah al-Sham’s defense lines in the villages of Basimeh and Ein al-Fijeh, driving out militants of al-Tout farms, al-Tout square and the entire residential complexes in the village of Basimeh.

The army is trying hard to purge terrorists from Wadi al-Bardi region and reopen flow of drinking water to Damascus.

Reports also said on Wednesday that the army troops allowed tens of militants to leave their positions in six towns and villages in Western Ghouta to be relocated to militant-held regions in Idlib province.

The sources said that after arrival of a number of green buses to Sa’asa’a region, at least 135 militants, who had not applied for government amnesty, along with their families were evacuated from the towns and villages of Sa’asa’a, al-Khazrajiyeh, Hasnou, Beir Timah, Kafr Hours and Beit Seber.

In the meantime, the government officials have given three days to militants in the towns of Yalda, Bebayla and Beit Saham in Southern Damascus to join the peace agreement.

Also, Damascus officials are carrying out final negotiations with the representative of militant groups in Beit Jin, Kanakar and al-Zakiyeh to take control of these towns without engagement in clashes.

Also reports said in the past 24 hours that militants in Western Ghouta are about to hand over three villages to Syrian Army troops to be then relocated to militant-held regions in Idlib province, a military source said.

“Militants in the villages of Beir Timah, Beit Saber and Kafr Hour have agreed to hand over their villages to the government forces,” the source said, and added, “In return, the Damascus government is to provide a safe passage for the militants and their families to move to Idlib province.”

Also on Wednesday, the Syrian army sent more soldiers and military hardware to Wadi al-Bardi region in Western Ghouta to reinvigorate its front for the final phase of a large-scale operation against Fatah al-Sham Front.

The army forwarded more troops and military equipment to Wadi al-Bardi region to kick off the final phase of a massive operation to liberate the region from Fatah al-Sham if the terrorists refuse to surrender.

According to reports, fierce clashes are underway between the army and Fatah al-Sham fighters in Wadi al-Bardi region, while other units of the army and the country’s air force are pounding terrorists’ movements and gatherings in the villages of Basimeh, Ein al-Khazreh and Ein al-Fijeh and their surroundings.

Fatah al-Sham Commander in Wadi al-Bardi Abu Hashim al-Tali confirmed in his tweeter account that Fatah al-Sham is still in the region, calling on them to resist, while other terrorist groups in a statement denied presence of Fatah al-Sham militants in Wadi al-Bardi.

Senior commander of Jeish al-Islam terrorist group Ali Abdul Baqi also said that his forces will be dispatched to Wadi al-Bardi to back militants in this region.

Homs

Military sources said ISIL has started retreating from large swathes of land in Eastern Homs after its militants came under massive artillery and missile fire and sustained heavy casualties.

The sources said that the army’s artillery and missile attacks inflicted a large number of casualties on ISIL in T4 airbase and its nearby region, causing the militant group to withdraw its forces from the battlefield to evade more casualties.

The sources further added that the army soldiers continued heavy artillery attacks on ISIL’s retreating forces as they were withdrawing to regions deep in Eastern Homs and inflicted a growing number of casualties on the terrorists, forcing the militants to move further back to regions West of Palmyra (Tadmur).

Russian and Syrian fighter jets also launched continued airstrikes on ISIL’s movements on roads from Homs to Raqqa.

Also in the past 24 hours, a number of militants of Fatah al-Sham Front, including a notorious field commander, were killed in Syrian Army troops’ offensives on terrorist centers in Northwestern Homs.

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with terrorists in the villages of Jawalik, Seneisel and al-Mahatah, while the army’s artillery units shelled the movements and gatherings of militants, killing at least seven militants in the villages of Jawalik and al-Mahatah and destroying a vehicle.

A military source said that Mohammad Qasim al-Hajj, the senior commander of terrorists, was killed in the clashes.

The army soldiers also targeted terrorists’ centers in Qarnateh in Northern Homs and Borj Qaei in the Western part of the province, inflicting major losses on the militants.

Idlib

Over 20 Fatah al-Sham militants, including several notorious field commanders, were killed in an airstrike in Northwestern Idlib.

“At least 25 Nusra terrorists, including their senior commanders attending a meeting in their command center, were killed in an airstrike by unidentified fighter jets on a main military base of Fatah al-Sham near the town of Sarmada in Northwestern Idlib,” several local and media activists reported on Wednesday.

Raqqa

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued to hit ISIL’s positions West of Ein Issa town, driving the terrorist group back from five more villages in the region.

The SDF advanced against ISIL near Tal al-Saman West of Ein Issa and drove ISIL out of the villages of Shali, Dahlan, Ariv and Arbu after hours of non-stop clashes and killing tens of militants.

The Kurdish fighters also advanced against ISIL near the villages of Qaderiyeh and Kardoshan and captured the village of Hanhoud in the Northern side of these two villages.

Kurdish sources said that the SDF had driven ISIL out of 110 villages in the course of the Euphrates Rage Operation in Raqqa province from November 5 to Tuesday.

Lattakia

Militants in two more towns laid down arms and joined the nationwide peace agreement with the Syrian government in the last 24 hours, the Russian Peace Coordination Center in Syria announced in a statement on Wednesday.

“Militants in two more towns in Lattakia province inked reconciliation agreements with the Syrian government,” the Russian Center said.

“Now the total number of the cities, towns, regions and villages that have thus far joined peace plan stands at 1,086,” it added.

US-led coalition targeted Syrian infrastructure but not IS oilfields – Russian general

 

January 04, 15:27 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman thus commented on a statement by CIA Director John Brennan alleging that Russia was using a “scorched-earth policy” in Syria

MOSCOW, January 4. /TASS/. The US-led international coalition was bombing the entire Syrian infrastructure, except for oil extraction facilities seized by militants of the Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia), Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman thus commented on a statement by CIA Director John Brennan alleging that Russia was using a “scorched-earth policy” in Syria.

“Outgoing CIA Director Brennan knows well that long before the operation of the Russian air task force in Syria, the international coalition had been methodically and consistently destroying the entire economic infrastructure of Syria since 2012 to maximally weaken its legitimate government, in spite of all the ensuing hardships for civilians that resulted in the flows of millions of refugees. Surprisingly, the bombings by the United States and the coalition did not target oil extraction facilities already seized by the ISIL and allowing militants to earn tens of millions of US dollars monthly from the illegal sale of oil and use this money to recruit mercenaries from all over the world,” he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman also noted that US planes had used nuclear munitions in Japan in 1945, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Apart from that, the US military carried out Operation Ranch Hand in Laos and Vietnam in 1962-1971 with the use of chemicals, “which were really scorching everything alive there,” he said.

“Moreover, no one in the United States has been punished for this gravest war crime,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

“I also want to mention that the largest wars of the past few decades unleashed by the United States due to false CIA data in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya started, continued and ended everywhere with the destruction of these countries’ economic infrastructure by the US Air Force,” he added.

“And it is hardly accidental that major US companies close to the CIA and the Pentagon strangely turned out to be the first in the line for contracts for restoring the largest facilities of the economy and infrastructure,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The real results of Russia’s operation in Syria were outlined at a final board meeting of Russia’s Defense Ministry at the end of 2016, the spokesman said.

Thus, it was with the assistance of the Russian air task force that the Syrian government troops liberated over 12,000 sq. km. of the Syrian territory, 499 communities and eliminated 35,000 militants, including 204 field commanders, the general said.

“But the main result is that it has become possible without the incumbent US administration and, to be more exact, without the CIA, to conclude for the first time jointly with Iran and Turkey an agreement with the Syrian opposition on the ceasefire that has come into force from December 30 and on preparations for negotiations in Astana on settling the Syrian conflict,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

Uninvited Saudis, Qatar Behind Syrian Rebel Groups Boycotting Peace Talks

 

 A rebel fighter carries his weapon inside a damaged building on the forth day of the truce, on al-Rayhan village front near the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria January 2, 2017

    Commenting on reports that several Syrian opposition groups have threatened to boycott the upcoming political settlement talks in Kazakhstan due to claimed ceasefire violations, Middle East expert Danny Makki explained to Sputnik that those rebels are backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which have been sidelined from the Turkish-Russian agreement.

   Several Syrian opposition groups have signed a statement declaring boycott of the upcoming political settlement talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, citing alleged ceasefire violations.

    Their statement was widely reported by the western mainstream media on Tuesday, elaborating that 10 rebel factions said they were suspending discussions regarding the Astana conference or the cease-fire “until it is fully implemented.”

   The groups cited alleged “major and frequent violations” in the rebel-held areas of Wadi Barada and Eastern Ghouta outside the Syrian capital Damascus.

    Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with London-based media analyst and researcher, specializing in the Middle East security, Danny Makki.

   First of all, he said, it goes against the UN resolution which was unanimously voted on by all of the countries just on Saturday.

   On December 31, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a Russian-Turkish resolution on a ceasefire regime in Syria, as well as on holding political talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups in Astana, Kazakhstan in January 2017.

   A day earlier, on Friday, a nationwide ceasefire between Syrian government troops and several opposition factions came into force. Russia and Turkey serve as guarantors of the deal which paves the way for negotiations between the warring parties.

   Danny Makki also noted that initially, Wadi Barada was not part to the ceasefire agreement, it was not considered as an area to the ceasefire. Hence for those rebel groups to say that it was a violation of a ceasefire by the government is incorrect.

    Most of the rebel groups who have issued the statement are on the side of jihadists, he added.

   “Conspicuously, there are some problems from backers such as Qatar or Saudi Arabia who have been sidelined from the Turkish-Russian agreement and perhaps are seeking some sort of revenge by pressuring these groups to pull out of this agreement,” he explained.

    In addition to this, he said, the statement is aimed to derail the process which was started by one of the opposition significant backers, Turkey.

   “It remains to be seen what Turkey makes out of all of this because this have been seen as a diplomatic victory for the Turks in some sense,” he told Sputnik.

   The initial agreement was signed by about 8 major groups and these major groups represent around over 20 or 30 different small groups, the expert said. All in all, there are hundreds of different rebel groups in Syria, at least two thirds of them were signed up to this agreement, totaling to 60,000 fighters.

   The groups which have recently stated that they would not continue the process constitute around 20 or 30,000 soldiers on the ground, he explained. Most of these groups are funded either by Saudi Arabia or have Gulf sponsorship in terms of finance and support. The Turkish-backed groups have not pulled out of the agreement, all of the Turkish groups stayed in.

   “You have so many warring groups and so many different backers that it is almost impossible to get all of them to agree on one thing at one particular moment of time,” Danny Makki noted.

   Most of the groups around Damascus, who have rejected the ceasefire, are the groups which consider themselves on the threat by recent Syrian army offensive around Wadi Barada. But Wadi Barada was never part of the ceasefire plan, he reiterated. It is Gulf States’ attempt to undermine Russian and Turkish agreement, he noted.

    He further elaborated that these groups are relatively influential. They are mainly located in Damascus and around however they already have a huge presence in the north.

    Even though, they haven’t posed a very significant threat to the overall ceasefire plan because the plan has been supported by Turkey’s reputation.

   “You’ve got to remember that many of the groups and movements who have signed up to this agreement are currently fighting with the Turks around the city of Al-Bab against ISIS (Daesh),” he said.

    “Turks have essentially put their necks out on the line and attempted to say to the Gulf countries: you’ve been supporting the opposition for huge amount of time but because we have a border with Syria, because we have better and closer credibility among the Syrian rebels, we can force them into a ceasefire,” he suggested.

   “You can clearly see a fact that Saudi Arabia is not even involved in this peace agreement which would create a problem to most of the jihadist groups being funded by Saudi Arabia,” he said.

    ‘It just shows how significantly Russia has changed the dynamics of the Syrian crisis’

   The expert also noted that the current developments in Syria only prove how significant Russian presence in the region has been and how significantly it has changed the internal dynamics of the Syrian crisis.

    “Who would have thought in 2015 when the government was facing almost breaking point that the Russians would be celebrating at least a moral victory in an international struggle against the US in Aleppo after signing a peace agreement for the rebels with Turkey, one of the main countries and backers of the opposition,” he finally stated.

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