Syria Daily: Turkey and Rebels Expand “Safe Haven” Near Border

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PHOTO:< Turkey sent in more tanks in its 11-day intervention on Saturday


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SUNDAY FEATURES

Russia Steps Back from Ceasefire Deal as It Bombs for Assad’s Recovery Near Aleppo
Analysis: In Trouble Elsewhere, Assad Finally Succeeds with “Starve and Surrender”


UPDATE 0815 GMT: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meets US counterpart Barack Obama on the sideline of the G20 summit in China:

ERDOGAN OBAMA

Turkey’s pro-Erdoğan Daily Sabah said the two delegations discussed issues such as “cooperation on regional terror threats, relations between Turkey and the EU [European Union], the refugee crisis, as well as the extradition of Fetullah Gülen”, the US-based cleric wanted by Erdoğan for supposed organization of the failed July 15 coup.

After the meeting, Erdoğan repeated his line on the intervention in Syria: “Turkey’s fight against all terror organizations, including Daesh [the Islamic State] and [the Kurdish militia] YPG, will continue with determination.”

The Turkish President also met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday.


ORIGINAL ENTRY: Bolstered by an expanded Turkish intervention, Syria’s rebels expanded an area of control near the Turkish-Syrian border on Saturday, capturing about a dozen villages from the Islamic State.

Turkey — which launched its intervention on August 24 with aerial operations, armored vehicles, and special forces along rebels who crossed the border — sent in more tanks yesterday to open a new front near al-Rai.

Al-Rai is about 55 km (34 miles) west of Jarablus, the town captured within hours of the initial Turkish-rebel operations.

The Turkish-rebel intention appears to be to close the gap between the two towns, securing more than half of a “safe haven” proposed by Turkey in 2014.

Ankara’s plan was checked since then by US objections, division within the Turkish system, and Russia’s intensive aerial intervention from September 2015.

The Turkish-rebel offensive has also moved south from Jarablus to the Sajur River, taking territory from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Both sides are still in a rhetorical battle, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promising to clear the border of the “terrorist” Kurdish militia YPG as well as the Islamic State. However, clashes have eased since the Turkish-rebel force reached the Sajur River last weekend.

Artur Rosinski’s map:

NORTH ALEPPO 04-09-16


Aleppo Front: Pro-Assad Forces Finally Regain Artillery Base

After weeks of assaults, pro-Assad forces have finally regained one of the regime’s largest artillery bases and an air force college, captured by rebels in their offensive southwest of Aleppo city.

A rebel commander confirmed that the Syrian military and foreign allies finally held the college on Sunday. He denied claims by Assad supporters that the assault has also retaken part of the adjacent artillery base; however, pro-opposition sites and activists later confirmed that the Jaish al-Fatah rebel bloc had withdrawn after a surge in Russian-regime airstrikes accompanying the ground assault.

The advance effectively reinstates the siege of opposition areas of Aleppo city, established in early July when pro-Assad forces took control of the al-Castello road north of Aleppo city.

Rebels launched a counter-offensive to the southwest at the end of July, quickly seizing territory and lifting the siege as they put pressure on the Syrian military and its foreign allies.

The pro-Assad units have sent in wave after wave of men and armor in attempts to retake the college, suffering heavy casualties. They briefly occupied part of the complex last week but withdrew under intense fire, leaving behind a “no-man’s land” of destroyed buildings.

Russia-regime airstrikes on the complex:


Jaish al-Islam Launches Another Phase in Counter-Offensive Near Damascus

The rebel faction Jaish al-Islam has launched the fourth phase in its counter-offensive near Damascus, hoping to push back pro-Assad forces.

The fighting is across a 12 square-km (4 square-mile) area (see map), with tires burnt to deter Russian-regime airstrikes. Jaish al-Islam said that it “killed more than 200 terrorists of the Assad regime and the Palestinian Liberation Army group” and destroyed “a number” of tanks while capturing two others.

Regime forces took much of the East Ghouta area this spring, as well as territory northeast of Damascus including a military base.

JAISH AL-ISLAM OFFENSIVE 03-09-16

Overhead footage of the area:


Obama: “We’re Not There Yet” on Ceasefire Deal With Russia

President Obama said the US and Russia have not yet secured an agreement for temporary ceasefires to allow aid into parts of Aleppo city.

“We’re not there yet,” Obama told reporters on Saturday, cautioning that previous ceasefires have not been sustained.

A senior State Department official, with Obama’s delegation in China for a G20 summit, had said that a deal could be announced as early as Sunday.

American and Russian officials have been working for weeks on an arrangement for 48-hour ceasefires and aid along a route into parts of divided Aleppo. Diplomatic sources have talked up the prospects since technical meetings in Geneva on Wednesday.

See Syria Daily, September 3: US & Russia Close to Deal on 48-Hour Aleppo Ceasefire?

Despite the collaboration with Moscow — an essential backer of President Assad — Obama continued to insist on Saturday that the US is maintaining an independent line: “We have grave differences with the Russians in terms of both the parties we support but also the process that is required to bring about peace in Syria.”

However, he said, “But if we do not get some buy-in from the Russians on reducing the violence and easing the humanitarian crisis, then it’s difficult to see how we get to the next phase.”

The Syrian opposition and rebels are sceptical about the US-Russian ceasefire plan, noting that only the al-Castello Road from the north of Aleppo — a route taken over by pro-Assad forces, enabled by Russia’s airstrikes, in early July — would be used.

The opposition and rebels have proposed use of the Ramouseh corridor, opened by a rebel offensive early this month, from the southwest of Aleppo.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter is also reportedly concerned about a proposal to share intelligence with Russia on airstrikes, possibly enabling Moscow to strike rebels and opposition territory as well as the nominal targets of the Islamic State and the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra.

An official in the Defense Department said, “No one thinks that any of this is actually going to come to pass.”

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34 COMMENTS

    • I think this time it might be true although i dident see any other source reporting this. But as i said yesterday when JAF lost the hill on its left flank they ended up basically isolated in a pocket under fire from 3 sides. JAF should have tried to advance instead of playing the sitting duck part. Regime has many more resources to throw at the rebels than JAF on the regime. They did try to take cement factory but it went very wrong, and so did the counter attacks on the strategic hill. I said also that if this was the case JAF would be far better retreating totally from arty school. If you cant advance it makes no sense to deplete your already “lower” numbers by sitting still. And anyways, the siege was broken just the first days and it was never enough to secure anything.

      • I don’t think retreating is an option. It might seem to be a preferable choice when talking about preserving manpower and resources, but morale-wise it would be a disaster. Especially with all the hype and celebrations that accompanied the “lifting” of the siege. If JaF cannot wrestle back the academy in the next few days, it’s safe to say that the Axis siege is pretty secure. With the UN stamp of approval, no less!

        • Its costing to much to just sit there and repell regime attacks on Arty Base. Rebels started to loose the arty school when they lost Al Qarassi. Its pretty impossibile to keep it now with thermobaric bombs falling from the sky in a very tight pocket. Plus with Al Qarassi in regime hands they are fired from the back too. Now they should take back first Al Qarassi and repell again the regime which took half of the school. And even if they pull this of then? In one month they dident move foward an inch. I dont think JAF has enough men to break for real the siege in SW Aleppo. And if this is the case they should leave that area avoiding extra losses.

    • Even if it was true cant they read a map?
      Once the turk and fsa force get through with its stated goals and with isis collapsing in the north like a deflated balloon aleppo wont be long falling to rebels

      • Leeroy i dont think that force will ever be bound to take Aleppo once it has finished with Daesh. I think agreements were made to allow Turkish intervention. And Aleppo i fear it isnt a part of it.

        • Id doubt they will sit on their hands like the southern front do
          Plus you have thousands of anti assad military aged males being shipped back across the border by turkey now along with their families from refugee camps.

  1. HAMA FRONT

    1. Hezbollah deployed some hundreds fighters in Syria’s Hama province to assist Syrian army retaking some areas captured by rebels-shiapulse.
    2. Both curdistani and Markito0171 report a grad rocket downed another regime copter today at Hama airport, killing the pilot. Apparently this would be in addition to the copter destroyed by a TOW two days earlier.
    3. Rebels captured a new Assad regime’s checkpoint, al-Noqeteh Qamseen (The point 50). Meanwhile, the opposition’s Jund al-Aqsa made some progress towards the village of Alexandria to the south of Tal Ma’adas in the same area—Orient News.

    • Can a grad rocket really target a flying helicopter? Was this a fluke hit? Was the helicopter shot down by something else? This news does raise a lot of questions.

        • Well, technically a Grad could hit and destroy a chopper low in the air, but that would be a pure fluke as Ben surmised, unless SAA has developed a new technology to track the rocket in real-time and fly the machine into its path. Counter-intuitive as it may at first seem, they are actually quite likely to have done this, since their GCHQ are such sticklers for fair play and living on the edge that they usually give away large quantities of armaments to the JI-Joes and/or severely handicap themselves before any major battle, to even up the odds, thus ensuring the scrap will be made more interesting for everyone. That’s how they have clinched the ‘Most Sportsmanlike Army in the World’ award for the past 5 years running.

  2. Syrian Troops Advance Near Aleppo in Attempt to Impose Siege
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/09/04/world/middleeast/ap-ml-syria.html?_r=0

    “The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that government troops captured the Armament academy, adding that insurgents have launched a counteroffensive…..Al-Manar TV, which is run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, said troops are now pushing toward the nearby Artillery Academy. Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to bolster President Bashar Assad’s forces.”

  3. NOT SO FAST IN REGIME’S ALEPPO CLAIMS! (From World on Alert):
    .
    ALEPPO FRONTS: Inghimasi rebel fighters repelling pro-#Assad forces in Artillery Base now. Rebels killed 50+ pro-Assad forces and wounded 100+ in Southern #Aleppo since the morning. The rebels have no choice. They must repell the #Assad regime offensive in Southern #Aleppo and start a counter-offensive. Rebels have declared Castillo road & surrounding areas as a military zone & give civilians 72 hours before offensive starts.
    .
    DAMASCUS FRONT: Video shows rebels advancing in Eastern #Ghouta and many killed pro-#Assad forces. https://twitter.com/worldonalert/status/772374424758718464

    • ALEPPO: Armament college is with the regime after high casualties. Air Technical college is with rebels – regime are at outskirts only. JFS, Turkestani and Ahrar Inghimasi fighters have entered & regained parts of Armament college now in counterattack. Fierce fighting ongoing. –ahlalsham,

      .
      FURTHER NORTH: Rebels are close to linkup. Last ISIS pocket along Turkish border is only 10 km wide. ISIS would then be cut off from the world.–Markito0171. Once linkup occurs I think rebels will go after Al Bab.

    • NORTH OF ALEPPO: With capture of Al-Wardah on Turkish border. only 3 villages remain in ISIS hands before rebels link up. http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=36.725126&lon=37.627831&z=13&m=b
      .
      E. QALAMOUN: Jaish Al-Islam counter-attacking after assault by ISIS. 1 tank, one 14.5 mm gun & ammo seized.–Qalaat Al Mudiq. This is another instance of ISIS teaming up with regime when the latter is endangered by rebels. Assad nursed ISIS from its infancy while Obama, wearing a blindfold, allowed it to happen.

  4. JARABLUS FRONT
    .
    FSA rebels have captured Silsilah, Khalīlīyah, Bab_Laymun and #Hajj_Wali villages from #ISIS. Also, rebels advancing south of Al Rei where they captured Tuwayran village. Rebels also captured Qebbet_al_Turkmen village west of Sajur River as well as the entire area north of #Sajur River from #ISIS and #YPG. Jarabulus –WorldOnAlert.

    HAMA FRONT: Rebels advancing & destroyed 1 Assad tank with ATGM at Kafraa town. FSA forces announce the start of a battle to liberate Maan town in northern rural #Hama from regime forces. http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=35.358956&lon=36.797676&z=13&m=b

  5. I think this was the most probable outcome considering the amount of firepower the regime has thrown at them in more than a month and when you are unable to advance. Its rumored that one other reason might be that many fighters involved in breaking the siege were relocated to Jarablus op and Hama. Anyways situation is still evolving. JAF might even counter back.

    https://twitter.com/QalaatAlMudiq/status/772439809432363008

  6. I personally think by delaying launching a new offensive further east of Rammouseh and watching how the Hama front unfolds was a potentially grave error by rebel leadership because by doing so it gave the regime to re-organise the men and equipment to re-take lost areas. If regime is kept on the backfoot and rebels constantly surprising is what kept the situation in rebel favour and furthermore I don’t think rebels realise how strategically important Nayrab airbase is to the regime, by not pushing eastwards in order to capture Mount Idris (so as to bring Nayrab airbase within shelling distance for rebel artillery) and Mount Azzan (so as to isolate Haider and the regime fighters there from the rest of Aleppo) rebels are giving the regime time to implement it’s favourite tactic (used in Darraya, Madaya, Ghouta and now Aleppo) of ‘starving rebels into surrender’. Finally it doesn’t help that though rebels are learning how to use reserves (ie brigades of spare manpower) at a strategic level (ie sending men to Hama to open up an extra front to exploit regime manpower shortages there) and have attempted to do it in a belated (ie not a serious attempt) haphazardly (ie inconsistently and often times improvised) at an operational level (e.g. opening up another front inside Aleppo province at the regime’s rear/logistical-supply centre whilst continuing the fight at regime staging centres at the front line) by the FSA in attempting to capture some parts of Safiraa-Ithriya route and threaten the regime supply routes there whilst rebels fight the regime in Ramouseh, they/rebels still have learnt to use reserves at a tactical level (ie rebels don’t keep a third of troops in reserve to either offensively exploit an unexpected regime weakness or to re-enforce vulnerable rebel positions or to send in extra troops to areas where there is unexpected regime resistance to an area being stormed by rebels). Why? I suspect because of the regime’s ability to import (ie through Nayrab airbase) larger and larger foreign shiite fighters the some rebel leaders think they can’t afford to create a reserve at an operational or tactical level as rebels need every fighter they have but if they do believe that then that’s a mistaken believe they can if rebels change their man-power heavy tactical philosophy (e.g. the way it uses it’s infantry and armour to attack regime positions) and move towards a more fire-power (e.g just take alook at the way the Turks are carrying out their operations – for every 10/12 men they have a tank, every company [80+ men] has heavy several heavy-machine guns, even more lighter machine guns and that’s not overlooking how many light artillery pieces a battalion [300+ men] has and how many heavy artillery pieces [as well as rockets] a brigade [3000+ men] has) heavy approach. Nor does it help that with what existing fire-power rebels do have (e.g. rifles, machine-guns, artillery) that the training (e.g. accuracy of firing) of many rebel units (rebel assault/storm troops aside) still hasn’t moved beyond a basic level (e.g. many rebel machine-gunners still don’t know how to do ‘interlocking’ machine-gun fire, the marksmanship of their ordinary infantry still hasn’t improved in accuracy as rebel infantry just spray their rifle fire randomly). All this I believe is also down to the fact the position of ‘general military commander’ is not a full time post (the person at this role doesn’t have to be a ‘general military commander’ all the time individual rebel leaders can be rotated into it – just look at the tactical ability of JaI under Alloush) or that they have a ‘general artillery commander’ with the power and the resources to both train and supply artillery groups to a higher standard or that rebels have an officer training school to teach young officers which tactics (e.g. in storming a position, in entrenching a position) work and don’t or that they give much time and resources to train recruits into how accurately use a rifle/mortar/machine-gun and not just under peaceful conditions but night-time fighting (e.g. how to move and target rifles/machine gun at night) also and finally also because 5 years into the conflict rebels have neither built an engineering infrastructure (e.g. tunnels and bunkers) or technical infrastructure (e.g. full time counter-espionage and communication surveillance and jamming units – such as surveillance balloon with industrial thermal imaging cameras) or organise the local public living in their areas into a war-economy (e.g. assisting in creating ammo, digging tunnels/bunkers, helping to grow food, instructing families what to do during a Russian air-raids, giving basic training to head of family in case a WhiteHelmet might not get to them during a Russian/regime air attack). But all this goes back to rebels not being unified enough, because if you’re not sufficently large and organised enough you will never have enough manpower or resources to create these full-time specialised units (e.g. counter-espionage units) or full-time specialised leaders (e.g. general artillery commanders).

  7. Finally why did rebel fighters not rig the artillery college with IEDs? If they know they’re going to lose it then why give that building intact to regime?
    .
    The bad news from Aleppo aside.
    .
    #Hama: It seems another break through might happen too “Jund al-Aqsa destroyed regime tank in Kafraa’ 5km north east of #Hama” – markito0171
    .
    If Kafraa and Mount Kafraa falls then rebels will be able to shell Mount Zayn Al-Abideen from the east as well as the north (and the east too if Arzeh [sp?] falls too) and with both Mount Zayn Al-Abideen and Mount Kafraa under rebel control Hama itself will be within shelling distance. That said rebels need to capture and hold Maardeh if they don’t want to be vulnerable to flanking (and subsequent encirclement?) from the west.
    .

  8. EUPHRATES SHIELD
    .
    Reports differ on FSA progress north of Aleppo. Sami has rebels two villages away. World on Alert has them 4 km away. Qalaat Al Mudiz writtes: “on 11th day #FSA seized whole #Jarablus countryside & linked it w/ Al-Rai after #ISIS left last villages on Turkish border.”
    .
    WHAT NEXT? Rebels must take Al Bab, letting Turks man borders inside Syria and letting Kurds fight ISIS east of the Euphrates. That done, they’ve got to strike rebels from the north and probably the Kurds (backstabbers/Assad allies) in Afrin to protect their rear. Cutting regime supply line near Al Safira or further south would help. They may have to slow down their offensive in Hama to reopen southern Aleppo. After more than 30 failed offensives and loosing 1200 fighters in 30 days, pro #Assad Shia militiamen finally take Artillery Academy.–TaziMorocco.

  9. OBAMA AND KERRY SUCKERED ONCE AGAIN BY PUTIN, KHAMENEI AND ASSAD. HOW MUCH MORE WILL OBAMA SELL OUT BEFORE HILLARY TAKES OFFICE?
    .
    Suckered into fighting ISIS by pro-Iran, pro-Assad, pro-Putin, genocidal, Sunni-hating Obama, rebels pay high price in Aleppo while Obama’s blunders seem as if they were purposely designed to empower Hezbollah by creating branches in Syria and Iraq. As for Trump, he’s unlikely to win but if he did it would be a huge victory for Putin, who has half a dozen tools among Trump’s advisors and an adoring puppet in that candidate.
    .
    Sunni powers worldwide must counter Obama’s assistance to Russian and Iranian empire building and Sunni gerocide. They need to arm and assist Sunni volunteers for asymmetrical warfare inside Iran and Russia both and on Russia’s southern borders.

    • Sunni powers … must arm and assist Sunni volunteers for asymmetrical warfare inside Russia and on Russia’s southern borders.” — LOL, do you really believe post-Syria that Putin will sit back relaxing and allow that to happen with impunity? Believe me, there would be a veritable hailstorm of Kalibr cruise missiles taking out the top anti-Russia terror plotters/financiers in Riyadh before very long, combined with a plethora of other punitive/retaliatory measures designed to bring them to see some better sense, such as vulnerable oil terminals or well-heads going boom in the night, and the gutless clique of Saud princelings know this only too well. Snap your head and realise they are not suicide-bombers themselves, being rather more attached to mundane affairs, such as maintaining their parasitical position in the lap of luxury instead of dooming themselves utterly.
      .
      That’s without even getting into what Iran would do to them for this offence, which would for starters include repayment in the same coin by supporting Iraqi, Saudi, Bahreini and Yemeni Shia militias to take literal lumps out of them.
      .
      Taken together, it would undoubtedly be fatal to the Saud régime, which IMHO makes the likelihood of it ever starting minimal.

  10. Once Al Babs falls, rebels must waste no more time fighing ISIS for backstabbing Obama. While they were crushing ISIS for him, Obama was scheming with Putin and Khamenei as usual to help the latter in Aleppo. How many times must President Red Line ( Mr. No NFZ), demonstrate he is on the side of the Genocide Alliance? What a disgrace and disappointment this president has been in foreign policy–a total disaster!

  11. It’s obvious that ex-Nusra/JFS are too ideologically toxic for many rebel factions for them to want to merge full time with but what puzzles me is why Faylaq Sham, Zengi and Ahrar haven’t permanently merged both militarily and politically considering these 3 latter groups are different factions of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood? And what’s puzzles me even more why aren’t the northern FSA permanently merged both politically and militarily also?

    • Only a minority of Ahrār can be considered to be Ikhwāni. Ahrār as a whole is closer to JFS ideologically than any MB branch.

      • Tundra: I was lead to believe it was more evenly split with some of the Hamawi Ahrar members being Ikhwani and it would certainly explain why the Erdogan (member of the Turkish branch of the MB movement) is so favourably disposed towards them.

        • The group’s official position rejects democracy and argues that the Afghan Taliban is a role-model. If Ikhwānis constitute a half of its total numbers, it certainly doesn’t show. Ahrār’s ideology draws from multiple Islamist currents to combine it into its own blend, but I’d say the Salafi-Jihadist influence is much stronger than that of the Brotherhood.

  12. The plot intra-rebel rivalry re-ignites? “Clashes reported between Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa fighters in Ariha” – JohnArterbury
    .
    A background detail (ie why there were substantially fewer rebel fighters defending the Artillery College then there was in attacking/capturing it) into the collapse of rebel defence of Ramouseh? There’s lot more to the rebel collapse story then meets the eye. In fact I wonder whether regime has informants and spies leaking information from one rebel faction to another so as encourage splits within rebel groups because the large (brigade sized?) rebel groups are perceived by the regime to be a long-term threat.

  13. There’s lot more to the rebel collapse story then meets the eye” — yes, certainly, though there’s no reason to think there are more spies and informants in JI-Joe ranks than previously. Here are a few more pertinent factors for which there are indications:
    .
    1. A surge of government forces to the area.
    2. An uptick in RuAF targeting of the JI-Joe logistics supply chain from the Idlib/Turkish border to Ramouseh Gap itself.
    3. The siphoning off of JI-Joe forces from this front into expanding Tayyip’s Nusra Nature Reserve in the North, with no way back but at Tayyip’s pleasure.
    4. A congealing understanding between Russia, Turkey, Iran and Damascus [with possibly the churlish, begrudging acquiescence of Senile Uncle Sam, through enjoying a hot cup of STFU while this happens] on how to settle the war, which includes *not* handing Aleppo to Al Nusra and its near affiliates but allowing/aiding the Syrian government to reclaim it.
    .
    As for developing ‘rebel’ splits, these are as nothing compared to what is yet to come when the program, to be built upon the FSA betrayal of their erstwhile comrades-in-arms en masse, for rooting out the Nusra ideology begins in ernest. That will be another tragic and ugly phase of the whole disaster.

    • Also, #5: 600 Russian SF troops recently reported arriving at the Aleppo battlefront, to
      A) oversee UN aid delivery through Castillo Road [IMHO this is a mere pretext … not what SF are about].
      B) act as a tripwire against any temptation for Tayyip’s Nusra Nature Reserve to expand too far South.
      C) assist SAA in the rapid recapture/pacification of now re-besieged ‘rebel’ East Aleppo.

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