Heavy Weaponry is… Heavy

6 May 2018

Syrian armed opposition factions in the countryside of Homs started to hand in their heavy and medium weapons to Syrian government forces as per an agreement with Russian forces.

“A number of factions in the northern countryside of Homs and the southern countryside of Hama have handed in seven tanks, in addition to dozens of pieces of medium and heavy weapons and dozens of ammunition boxes to the Syrian army on Sunday,” a Syrian military source told a German news agency, adding that “the armed groups are burning their headquarters before leaving the towns of al-Hawleh and al-Taibah and a number of villages in the northern countryside of Homs.”

The agreement provides for government forces’ control over the countryside of Homs after they previously controlled opposition-held neighborhoods in the city.

 

Displacement and Control

5 May 2018

The third installment of militants and their families left towns south of Damascus and headed towards the city of Jarablus in the eastern countryside of Aleppo on Saturday.

“Sixty-three buses carrying militants from the towns of Yalda, Bibila, and Beit Saham left Damascus at midnight and headed for Jarablus in the eastern countryside of Aleppo, after inspection and verification of all the names,” a security source in Damascus said adding, “the reason for the delay in the departure of the third installment is the great number of militants and their families.”

During the previous two days, forty-six buses carrying militants and their families left Yalda, Bibila, and Beit Saham according to an agreement declared on Sunday that provides for the exit of militants and their families who wish to leave the three towns and settling the situation of those who wish to stay after they hand in their weapons.

This coincided with the bombardment of al-Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian Refugees south of Damascus by government forces and their advance towards al-Hajar al-Aswad.

An agreement between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, which includes Fat’h al-Sham (previously Nusra), and Damascus provides for a trade-off that included the exit of militants from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham to the countryside of Idlib, in exchange for the exit of Shiites loyal to Iran and Damascus from the towns of al-Fou’a and Kfaryeh, which are besieged by Islamic factions in Idlib.

This agreement means that the battles in al-Yarmouk Camp are now restricted to government forces and ISIS.

 

ISIS… The Last Breath?

6 May 2018

Iraqi air forces launched an air strike on Sunday, the second in one week, against an ISIS position east of Syria, according to a statement from the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

The statement said: “Following the orders of the Iraqi Prime Minister the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, Iraqi air forces launched a painful strike against a terrorist ISIS leadership site south of al-Dshaisheh inside Syrian territories.” The strike was carried out by a US F-16 jetfighter.

Al-Dshaisheh is located in a desert area in al-Hasakeh governorate, where the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces are engaged in a military operation against ISIS.

“The strike was carried out in cooperation with the Syrian government and in coordination with the US-led Global Coalition forces,” the military advisor in the Iraqi Defense Ministry Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Askari said.

In 2017, the Iraqi government declared the end of its war against ISIS after recapturing the last city it occupied. However, according to experts, there are still some armed Islamic fanatics hidden along the open borders between Iraq and Syria and inside enclaves within the vast Iraqi desert.

President Donald Trump’s administration rushed to defeat ISIS in preparation for the withdrawal of two thousand US soldiers from east of Syria.

 

Fighting Amongst US Allies

5 May 2018

US Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurck intervened to stop the fighting between the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces and the Elite Arab Forces (EAF) in areas controlled by US allies in eastern Syria.

This fighting revealed the dangers in the next phase should President Trump’s administration implement its decision to withdraw two thousand soldiers from east of the Euphrates.

An armed unit of fifty soldiers from the Arab-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes sixty thousand fighters, advanced towards the town of Abu Hamam, east of Deir Azzour two days ago. They called on Abu Imad, a leader in EAF, which includes three thousand fighters, to surrender weapons. It is worth mentioning that the latter participated in the battles against ISIS and the liberation of Raqqa.

Sources said that another force from the Syrian Democratic Forces, made up of four hundred fighters, advanced the previous night towards the town of Abu Hamam to strip Abu Imad of his weapons, prompting McGurck’s intervention between the two parties to quell the confrontation after he was informed of the “dangers of an Arab-Kurdish strife” in areas under US influence. The US presence in Syria is expected to be a topic in the talks that the British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson will hold in Washington tomorrow.

 

Afrin and Beyond Afrin

6 May 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey will launch new military operations on its borders following its two previous assaults in Syria.

Turkey is currently engaged in an assault in Afrin, north of Syria, against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers a terrorist organization affiliated to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party that is waging an armed rebellion in Turkish territories.

The Afrin campaign is the second operation launched by Turkey across its borders with Syria. The first operation, Euphrates Shield, targeted ISIS and Kurdish fighters further east of Afrin, and was concluded in the beginning of 2017.

The Turkish operations will go on “until there is not a single terrorist,” Erdogan said in front of thousands of his supporters in Istanbul, where he announced his electoral program ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next month, adding “We will not stop cracking down on terrorist organizations. In the new phase, Turkey will add new operations to the Euphrates Shield and the Olive Branch to clear our borders.”

Turkey considers the YPG as an extension to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party and it was angered by the United States’ support to this faction. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara and Washington reached an agreement on a road map in Manbej, by which Kurdish militants leave the area, adding that details are being discussed with the new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

 

Damascus is Changing the “ID”!

2 May 2018

The Syrian Interior Minister Mohammed al-Sha’ar said that his ministry is working on a project to change the personal ID cards for Syrians “so that they cannot be forged” and that “draft cards and weapons licenses will be changed to enable the ministry to fight and overcome all counterfeit situations.”

A rumor circulated last year about the parliament adopting a law to change the appearance of the ID card only for citizens who reside within the country. This was accompanied by rumors of withdrawing citizenship from people who do not renew their ID cards in person, raising the fears of millions of refugees outside of Syria.

The Interior Minister’s statement stirred the fears of dissident Syrians who fled abroad and are wanted by the security services. Their numbers are estimated to be one and a half million people. The new ID card mentioned by al-Sha’ar “will include an electronic chip that requires fingerprints and the presence of the person himself to obtain it.”

Sources in the opposition linked these statements to Law Number Ten of the year 2018, which practically means confiscation of the property of the displaced and refugees, because changing the ID cards in the manner declared by the Interior Minister “will facilitate the extraction of property belonging to refugees and missing people under Law number 10 of the year 2018.”