Syria Daily, Jan 14: Russia — Rebels Should Be Labeled As “Terrorists”


PHOTO: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov



  • Report – Russia Damages Mosque, Kills 10 Worshipers

    Russia has pressed again for prominent rebel factions in Syria to be labeled as “terrorists”, in a dispute which is likely to block the start of opposition-regime negotiations.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Wednesday that further consultations with the members of the International Syria Support Group are needed for the appropriate lists of terrorists to be concluded:

    We deem it necessary to exchange views with our partners on resumption of negotiations among the Syrian delegations. We are determined to have a constructive exchange of views with our partners in a bid to search for solutions, which could give a kick-start to the intra-Syrian talks.

    The list of terrorist organizations needs to be finalized and approved by the International Syria Support Group.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin also pushed the line in a telephone conversation with US counterpart Barack Obama on Wednesday.

    Moscow and Iran, the main allies of President Assad, have insisted that rebel factions such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam must be called “terrorist” and thus excluded from any discussions for a political resolution.

    Jaish al-Islam, the largest rebel group near Damascus, has a representative on the opposition-rebel negotiating team established last month. Its leader, Zahran Alloush, was assassinated in a Russian-regime airstrike on December 25.

    Moscow tried at the third set of international talks in mid-December to obtain its preferred list of “terrorists”. However, the effort collapsed when the Jordanian Foreign Minister, commissioned to produce the document for discussion, also included groups allied with the Assad regime including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s Qods Force.

    The International Syria Support Group is seeking the launch of opposition-regime negotiations on January 25.

    “An Appropriate Opposition”

    Gatilov also indicated that Russia is trying to define an appropriate “opposition” for the discussions, rejecting the bloc established last month in a conference hosted by Saudi Arabia.

    He said he had spoken
    with a number of opposition representatives in Geneva:

    If, as they told us, they are excluded from the negotiating process they will not be able to support decisions taken without their say. They all said they were ready to take part in the negotiating process, so they demonstrated political will for participation.

    Russia has promoted domestically-based groups such as Building the Syrian State and the Movement of the Pluralistic Society. Russian officials had talks with MPS founder Randa Kassis earlier this week.

    On Wednesday, Gatilov met both Salih Muslim, the head of the Syrian Kurdish party PYD, and Haitham Manaa, the co-President of the Syrian Democratic Council.

    Assad Regime Gave “Free, Unlimited” Use of Airbase to Russia

    The Russian Government has published the agreement with the Assad regime for the use of the airbase from which Moscow is conducting its bombing campaign.

    The agreement was signed on August 26, more than a month before Russia launched its airstrikes.
    It stipulates that, with “the necessity of consolidating forces to oppose the terrorist threat”, Russia can have unlimited use of the Hmeimem base in Latakia Province in western Syria.

    No fees will be levied by Damascus and the Russian military has “full immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction of the Syrian Arab Republic”.

    2nd Aid Convoy Reaches Madaya

    A second aid convoy has reached besieged Madaya, northwest of Damascus, on Thursday.

    Six white trucks of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent entered the town, where an estimated 60 people have died of starvation since December 1. They carried flour and other foodstuffs, medicine, and a range of basic supplies.

    More trucks were on the edge of Madaya after arriving from Damascus.

    Madaya has been cut off by the Syrian military since last July, with only one convoy of aid reaching the town in mid-October.

    On Monday, a four-truck convoy reached Madaya after the Assad regime relented in the face international attention to the town’s plight. Assistance was delivered at the same time to the regime enclaves of al-Fu’ah and Kafraya in northwest Syria.

    See Syria Daily, Jan 12: 1st Aid Reaches Starving Madaya

    Video: Rebels — We Repelled Latest Regime Offensive South of Aleppo

    Rebels claim that they have repelled the latest regime offensive — covered by Russian airstrikes and including Iranian troops, Hezbollah fighters, and foreign militias — south of Aleppo city.

    The offensive was launched earlier this from Khan Tuman (see map) towards al-Rashidin. Rebels claim that they inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers.

    Video with a captured Hezbollah flag and graphic images of slain fighters:

    A similar video from Jabhat al-Nusra has a shot of one of its elite units (at 1:50):

    Turkey Confirms Attacks in Support of Rebels v. Islamic State

    Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has confirmed Turkish attacks inside Syria, supporting rebels in their fight against the Islamic State.

    Addressing Turkey’s ambassadors, Davutoğlu said on Thursday that Turkey had killed 200 ISIS members along the borders with Syria and Iraq.

    The Prime Minister framed the attacks as retaliation for Tuesday’s suicide bombing in Istanbul which killed 10 people and wounded 15. However, Syria’s rebels have been in a long-running battle with the Islamic State in northern Aleppo Province.

    “From now on, any threat directed against Turkey’s guests [tourists] will be retaliated in kind,” Davutoğlu said.

    See Turkey Developing: 10 Killed, 15 Wounded by Istanbul Suicide Bombing

    Schools Closed in Opposition-Held Idlib Because of Russian Bombing

    The Education Ministry in opposition-held Idlib Province in northwest Syria has closed schools for a week, saying they are being targeted by Russian airstrikes.

    About 70,000 students will be affected.

    See also Syria Feature: Report – Russia Damages Mosque, Kills 10 Worshipers

    Earlier this week authorities in Aleppo Province said classes would be held underground following Russian attacks on schools, including one last weekend that killed eight children and a teacher in the town of Anjara. Exams have been postponed.

    Elections in Opposition-Held Damascus Suburb of Erbin

    The opposition site Zaman al-Wasl reports on elections for a local council in Erbin, northeast of Damascus.

    The site describes the establishment of an electoral law, registration, and distribution of election cards. The successful candidate will meet on Saturday to elect the President of the Council and members of the Executive Office.


    Ahrar al-Sham: Salma Was Lost Because Of “Lack of Available Fighters”

    The leading rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham has said that the village of Salma in northeast Latakia Province was suddenly lost this week because of a “lack of available fighters”, amid internal disputes over the priority of different fronts.

    Ali al-Halfawi, Ahrar al-Sham’s spokesman for Latakia, said, “We requested many times that the other brigades send reinforcements to the Latakia coast front… [but other rebel groups] are giving priority to the Aleppo front because of the importance of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing [with Turkey].”

    Salma, held since July 2012 by the opposition, was the most significant rebel position in Latakia. The village was the entry into the rebel-held Jabal al-Akrad mountain range.

    Abdullah al-Moheisini, a prominent cleric with the Jaish al-Fateh rebel bloc, said rebels in the north are not “spineless” but “made an error in ordering their priorities” over Salma.

    Rebel spokesmen said the village could still have been held if it had not been for more than 200 Russian airstrikes in support of the Syrian military’s offensive, which attacked Salma from four sides.

    “The regime used a scorched-earth policy to clear the area,” citizen journalist Ammar Ibrahim said.

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  1. I think a government which assassinates its enemies in other countries, and bombs market places, can equally be called “terrorist”.
    Terrorism is a tactic used in low-budget warfare, in contrast to the very costly pitched battles between large armies which are used in a full scale war. It has the same aim — to force your enemies to surrender.

  2. (I accidentally a longer version of this under the Syria Feature Today. This version is slightly revised).

    Militarily the Assad Regime, is doing better for now but not because of the SAA which continues to be a joke. Aided by Obama’s passive collusion, Putin and Khamenei have massively stepped up help, land and air, more often teaming up with ISIS than fighting it. How long would the SAA had lasted if it had to fight as man as six well-equipped, air assisted enemies as the rebels have done for four plus years? The answer is obvious and demonstrates who has popular support (aka legitimacy) and who does not.

    Collusion between ISIS and the Bad Guys extends beyond Syria’s borders into attacks on the West and Turkey that play into Putin’s hands. Note how Russia, so vulnerable, is left alone….for now. Even Putin must know, as Assad should have known before D-17, that this “truce” won’t last. If ISIS is building up resources south of Russia, you bet it intends to use them when the time is right, posing as the champion of Sunnis. There’s a huge harvest of manpower and resources soon ripe for reaping here, and ISIS had no intention of sharing leadership with JAN/Al Queda or anyone else. Thus, the temporary alliance helps ISIS in another way, as Putin’s Air Force pounds JAN in Latakia and Obama’s Coalition Air Force also helps elminate that rival as well. Meanwhile Al Queda can’t match ISIS when it comes to attracting volunteers or promoting lone wolf attacks.

    Let there be no doubt: ISIS intends to open its attack on Russia’s south, consisting of simultaenous, massive and widely dispersed, high casualty attacks and even Putin knows it. Just as when it backstabbed Assad at D-17 and Tabqa, timing is all important. Wait awhlle and ISIS draws more manpower, financing and other resources, while a potential rival (JAN) takes a pounding and well publicized Russian atrocities in Syria draw more recruits. Yet wait too long and Putin may be able to free up resources presently engaged in Syria and the Ukraine and sucker Obama or an equivalent (
    (Trump, Cruz, Sanders, Rand Paul), into “working with Russia” against ISIS.

  3. Interesting to see the reason given for the fall of Salma.

    A lack of manpower and rebels choosing to defend South Aleppo first. Not only they don’t get annything back in South Aleppo, but in order to prevent further advances from the governement, they have to weaken their other fronts.

    Rebels are spread thin in Northern Syria. What a complete reverse in comparison to the first half of last year.

  4. Also, the race is on!!!

    What will happen first?

    SDF reaching Manbij or SAA reaching al Bab? Both stands at less than 10kms than their objectives.

    This is the two forces that will stay and negociate when everything else will have be eliminated.

  5. We don’t need to be military geniuses to understand that ISIS is facing a decisive defeat in Northern Aleppo.

    The Kurds are coming from the east, the syrian governement from the south and the islamists rebels from the west.

    The question is more how many months it will take?

  6. Turkey basically admitting they have been no fly zonized by Russia in Syria

    “The Turkish Prime Minister accused Russia of supposedly striking at civilian targets in Syria, the newspaper Vzglyad reports.

    “Some countries have hampered Turkey’s air operations (in Syria),” said Ahmet Davutoglu, the prime minister of Turkey. “The Russian Aerospace Forces bomb civilians, hospitals and schools under the pretext of its fight with ISIS. It would be better if they hit ISIS in the airspace of Syria or let them leave and we’ll fight (ISIS) by ourselves.””

    That’s what happen when you shot down a plane so stupidily….. Now they are reduced to a few artillery shells.

  7. Decades ago the major terrorist groups were…… Haganah, Irgun, Stern gang, etc.

    Today we have ISIS, al Nusra, al Qaeda, Al shazam, etc.

    All terrorist groups are Jews and Muslims.

    Today, Israel works with al Nusra in Syria.

    No surprise there.

  8. Nice “resistance” of Israel by Hezbollah. 1,000 km from Israel’s borders, next to Turkey! The funny thing is that Hezbollah’s supporters have such low IQ, that they actually buy that Hezbollah is “resisting” Israel.

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