Syria Daily: Kurds-Led SDF Hands Over Villages to Regime

FILE PHOTO: Fighters of the Manbij military council, take an overwatch position in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo


The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have handed over territory in northern Syria to the Assad regime, in a deal brokered by Russia.

The handover of five villages west of Manbij, in Aleppo Province, is the first transfer in a developing alliance amid a frontline and clashes with a Turkish-rebel offensive.

“The handover has taken place,” Sharfan Darwish, the spokesman for the Manbij Military Council, an SDF element, said on Monday.

The SDF-regime alliance has been fostered by both pro-Assad and Turkish-rebel gains against the Islamic State since the start of the year. The Turkish-rebel offensive, launched last August and moving southwards through Aleppo Province, captured al-Bab, 30 km (19 miles) south of the Turkish-Syrian border and 40 km (25 miles) northeast of regime-held Aleppo city. Meanwhile, pro-Assad forces advanced south and east of al-Bab, linking with Kurdish-controlled territory for the first time.

Captured by the SDF from ISIS in June 2016, Manbij has been a likely point of conflict between the Turkish-rebel offensive and the Kurdish-led force, which has been supported by the US since its creation in autumn 2015. Turkey consider the Syrian Democratic Unity Party (PYD) and its YPG militia, the leading element in the SDF, to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has promised that Manbij will be taken as part of a drive on Raqqa, the Islamic State’s central position in northern Syria.

The US has been unable and/or unwilling to press the SDF to pull out of Manbij. Instead, Washington has provided small — but visible — reinforcements of armored vehicles and special forces in recent days.

Russia, the leading backer of the Assad regime, has also begun supplying military assistance to the SDF.

Turkey-Russia-US Military Discussions

Turkish, Russian, and US military commanders are meeting for the first time during the Syrian conflict.

The meeting is being held in Antalya in southern Turkey between Turkish Chief of General Staff General Hulusi Akar, the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, and Russian Chief of General Staff General Valery Gerasimov.

A statement said the three men discussed security issues concerning Syria and Iraq, without providing details.


Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım indicated late Monday that the conversation would be about an offensive to regain the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s primary position in northern Syria:

There is no point in doing an operation [on Raqqa] without coordinating with Russia and the U.S. It would be futile and the consequences may become more complicated. For that, there are military, technical negotiations going on.

Yıldırım repeated Turkey’s insistence that the Kurdish military YPG, the chief element in the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces, be excluded from the operations:

We have conveyed our offer to the U.S. There has not been a formal response yet. So it would not be right to say ‘they have other plans’ just by taking what has been written about the issue into account. But we will not be anywhere there are terrorist organizations. It is that clear.

He said Turkey’s main objective, in its offensive alongside rebels, is to push the YPG out of Manbij and any areas west of the Euphrates River.

TOP PHOTO: Fighters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces near Manbij, June 1, 2016 (Rodi Said/Reuters)

Rebels Shell Damascus Neighborhood in Retaliation for Pro-Assad Attacks

Rebels have been shelling a pro-regime neighborhood in Damascus on Monday in response to the pro-Assad offensive bombarding and trying to capture areas east of the capital.

Scores of mortars have reportedly struck the district of Dahiyat al-Assad in northeast Damascus since Sunday, killing up to four civilians and injuring dozens of others.

Dahiyat al-Assad was built in 1982 to create a new bastion of Alawite support for the regime of Hafez al-Assad, the father of the President, by housing new officers and their families.

The rebels are retaliating for a two-week regime assault on the opposition-controlled districts of Qaboun, Barzeh, and Tishreen. The pro-Assad forces have been trying for months to quell resistance in the East Ghouta area, taking much of the territory but struggling to conquer the rest.

Regime warplanes have hit Tishreen and Qaboun with more than 30 airstrikes and scores of mortars, artillery fire, and tank shells since Sunday, local opposition media said.

Up to 85T of Tishreen and 60% of Qaboun have been demolished since mid-February, said Eyad Abu al-Joud, head of the Syrian Civil Defense in eastern Damascus.

The attacks on Qaboun and Barzeh are being pursued even though the two areas signed truces with the regime in early 2014.

“Blood for blood, destruction for destruction…in response for the massacres in Ghouta and the east Damascus neighborhoods,” Ali Abdulbaqi, chief of staff for East Ghouta’s largest rebel faction, Jaish al-Islam, wrote. “God willing, the fortress of the tyrants is going to shake.”

Local pro-opposition media said “mortar fire targeted positions of regime militias”.

“There have been at least five shells falling every day since the start of military operations in Qaboun,” Nour, a member of the Dahiyat al-Assad News Network, told Syria Direct on Monday. “Previously, we could go a day or two without any.”

Russia Confirms Death of Another Soldier Near Palmyra

The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed the death of another soldier near Palmyra in central Syria.

The Ministry said:

Contract soldier Artyom Gorbynov was conducting a mission in the Syrian Arab Republic to protect a group of Russian military advisors. Gorbunov died on March 2 in the area of Palmyra, rebuffing an attempt by a group of Islamic State militants to attack positions of Syrian troops, where Russian military advisers were at the moment.

The Ministry said another soldier, reportedly killed in action in Syria, was not on active duty. Russia’s RBC news site said that Slyshkin was in Syria with a private Russian security company, the Wagner Group.

Russian media reported last week that Major General Pyotr Milyukhin lost both legs and an eye when the Islamic State blew up his vehicle with a remotely-controlled land mine on February 16 in Homs Province. He is the highest-ranking Russian casualty since Moscow’s military intervention with airstrikes and “military advisors” in September 2015.

Four servicemen were killed in the attack.

Russia has acknowledged the deaths of 28 of its troops in Syria in the past 18 months.

More Fighting Between Anti-Assad Factions in Northwest Syria

There was more fighting between anti-Assad factions in northwest Syria on Monday.

The leading bloc Ahrar al-Sham issued a statement accusing the bloc Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, led by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), of attacks and propaganda threatening unity.

Clashes were reported yesterday between an HTS group and Ahrar al-Sham, with casualties on both sides, in the town of al-Mastumah in Idlib Province.

Rebel factions say Jabhat Fatah al-Sham has been carrying out attacks throughout the winter against their headquarters, positions, and storage facilities in Idlib and Aleppo Provinces. Ahrar al-Sham has taken in some factions, guaranteeing their protection, while others have joined the HTS bloc.

Monday’s statement by Ahrar al-Sham said HTS was trying to block an anti-Assad merger. It called on the bloc to go through Sharia court with any grievances.

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  1. Since Caligola asked for my thoughts on this article:
    “Suicide” wouldn’t be the word I’d use. It suggests to me that with HTS usurping the revolutionary mantle, the rebellion is headed for a thorough and complete annihilation in a way that makes them unable to pose any sort of challenge – however small – to Assad’s hold on power. That said, I don’t think that even the united rebellion can ultimately stand against the Axis forces when they commit themselves fully to neutralizing Idlib.
    Now, two things need to be taken into account here:
    – Jihadist groups are insanely resilient. By 2011, ISI got booted into the desert. Nothing indicated this was a major threat to Iraq, let alone beyond. It was peripheral – something to be managed as it eventually fizzled out. Fast-forward 3 years later and you have a jihadist behemoth rampaging across two countries, branching out elsewhere in the Middle East. Afghanistan in 2010 saw US troops surge to their peak, with the number reaching to over 100,000 by August, putting enormous strain on the Taliban. Fast-forward 7 years and 50% of the country is out of Kabul’s hands, and this is with foreign troops still in the country!
    Ash-Shabāb? Well, you can read about the present situation here. AQIM is no different, although still less powerful than their ideological kinsmen elsewhere. The same pattern can be observed in all of these cases: a foreign-led coalition expels jihadists from major holdings, leading them to regroup in rural areas, from which they slowly regenerate and expand to challenge the state, its military, and its ability to govern.
    – The Syrian state is very weak and completely reliant on foreign backing. Russia and Iran, while more then adequate in providing military backing, simply cannot translate their success in waging the war on behalf of Assad into enabling Syria to recover from the toll that the war has taken on it.
    Rebels will continue for now to fight the war as a conventional military force, and they’ll continue to lose barring some unforeseen event. Were it not for the jihadists and their uncompromising backbone, FSA, and likely Ahrār too, would eventually settle for a peace of some sort. I think they would sound the death knell of the rebellion much sooner than HTS, though it would be at the negotiating table instead of a “one last kamikaze charge.” As the rebellion recedes and its military capabilities diminish, HTS will have its old AQ insurgent instincts kick in again, leading to a traditional insurgency of eroding the state’s institutions. In this stage, HTS couldn’t ask for better conditions. A brutal, but weak regime that’s too toxic for the West to get overtly into bed with it, and which cannot hope for an endless stream of foreign financial backing that US vassals in Kabul do. That Homs attack is a nice preview of what this war is heading to.

    • Dunno i wouldnt diminish the rebels remaining conventional fighting capabilities esp in the face of a broken regime and its increasingly weary foriegn backers
      The rebellion should def have shifted to mixing up between guerilla and conventional warfare though ages ago when russia entered…esp focus on infiltrating consript ranks.

      Theres also the remaining x factors which could really affect things
      -trumps safe zones and how the u.s decides to act in general…..currently rudderless about syria as trump deals with domestic stuff but could start to take a hard anti iran stance soon

      -collapse of isis,lotta fighters and weapons could be up for grabs not to mention oil revenue

      – israels increasing displeasure with irans pressence in syria …a more pro israeli whitehouse is prob why old net is meeting putin to arrange more bombing missions on hez

      -turks…not finished up north yet and if the us and russia do lock them out id expect the turks to retaliate indirectly somehow

      As well as the always looming prospect of a period of bad weather grounding airplanesa dna dozen other things

  2. #International: Normally I don’t normally mention non-middle eastern related news but seeing as the Ukraine is an area of interest for Russia I’ve included, as this story shows the longer Ukraine stays in the conflict the more limited Russia’s involvement in the middle east can be so therefore it follows that if the Gulf Arab states won’t to undermine Russian military presence in Syria they/Gulf Arab state should provide cheap energy to Ukraine as well as set up some kind of weapons for cheap-oil deal with the Ukraine this way not only does Ukraine stay in a war with Russia using more sophisticated weapons from Saudi generousity the more Russia must pull back from Syria in order to maintain current Russian pressure on the Ukraine.

  3. #International: Iraqi police force using (see below link) weaponised drones.
    Odd that rebels in Deraa/Latakia/Aleppo don’t use weaponised drones in very large numbers.
    #National: This is hilarious and higlights again why rebels should target important regime infrastructure “You know everything is going well when #Damascus says it will give a preference to diesel buyers paying in USD.” – Jacm212
    Bashar Assad’s money is so worthless that his officials prefer payments in US Dollars.
    #Aleppo: “FSA retaliates for Regime attacks on civilians by firing Grad missiles at their Neyrab Airbase and achieved direct hits.” – CombatChris1
    I hope the FSA studied the map of Nayrab airbase they last time shelled it to see if they can improve their accuracy, the last time I checked the FSA missed Nayrab by 5KM/10KM north-westwards.
    #Observation: 1) If the rebels in Euphrates Shield don’t capture Arimha then they’ll be making as much of a strategic blunder as Turkey did when it decided to go after Al-Bab ahead of Manbij/Afrin. And here’s another prediction – if rebels don’t start doing regular mobile guerrilla warfare operations in the Khanassir area and attempt to destroy the Tishreen dam on the Euphrates then the regime’s position in Aleppo will become even more entrenched.
    2) I mentioned this yesterday and I’ll say it again – The regime right now is busy with 3 major offensives – 1) Damascus area. 2) East Aleppo area. 3) Palmyra. Therefore regime right now doesn’t have the resources to take the fight to rebel units in Deraa (and possibly Hama?) and is relying entirely on airpower to stop rebel offensives there.
    So it follows that now is the time for rebels in Deraa and Hama to ramp up but they/rebels should do much of their fighting during night-time (and as well as adopting more mobile warfare approach) when there is fewer Russian/regime jets and at multiple locations. For rebels in Hama the town of Suqaylabiyah/Morek as well as mobile warfare operations around Salamiyah area (in particular depots and check-points) should obviously be their targets but as for rebels in Deraa the two locations they should be targeting is Ataman (to infiltrate with rebel sleeper cells?) as well as Elmah (a village just to the east of Khirbet Al-Ghazalah) whilst rebels inside Deraa continue their fight? Why? Rebels surround Elmah from their areas in the north, east and the south of Elmah from where rebels can launch a quick night-time multi-axis (ie from more then one direction: north/east/south) offensive against that town (and might I add ideal for VBIEDs attacking under the cover of drone-guided mortar shelling) whilst rebels are also simultaneously blockading the roads around Khirbet Ghazaleh. Furthermore, even if rebels don’t capture Elmah it will at least force regime to send troops to defend Elmah from other areas rather then re-enforcing their positions in Deraa city that rebels are now attacking and thereby give rebels more time to capture more of Deraa. And IF rebels do capture and hold Elmah for long that village/town can be used as base to launch a future assault on Khirbet Ghazaleh.
    As for the place of Elmah – the area of that village/town is smaller then Fua/Kafraya and has the potential to be capture in a quick surprise night-time offensive on multiple fronts if such an offensive can be organised. Use weaponised drones (see the above warisboring article) even as well as following up VBIED attacks with sniper’s targeting from a horizontal direction to finish off regime machine-gunners that haven’t been taken out by the VBIEDs.

  4. I’m coming now to the view that as long as Trump is in the White House (won’t be for long though if the CIA/FBI continue exposing Trump’s shady connections to the Kremlin via Russian gangsters: Recommend people follow @Khanoisseur to find out what crook Trump is) rebels will be entirely (Turkey excluded and even then help will be limited until Erdogan wins his presidency referendum) on their own and will probably have to rely on their weapons productions (just like Jaish Al Islam did under Zahran Alloush) as well as raids on regime depots to continue their fight against Assad.

    • Uh, you are mistaken. The Trump bulldozer is just getting warmed up. As soon as he gets his full team in place, its going to be brutal. President Trump has at his disposal the most powerful reigns of power ever in the history of humanity. He cannot be bought, like Bush/Obama/Clintons. He will begin to engage those resources systematically to implement his agenda. Like it or not. Trump’s hands are on the most potent military/economic machine ever. Its not what/who disagrees with him, its who can stop him.

      • In addition, there will be changes of personnel in this process. Don’t believe that this is a sign of weakness or disarray. Trump is an alfa male, he will replace anyone who will not or is incapable of implementing his program. There is a new sheriff in town.

        • In the last analysis, Trump is an isolationist and since he is confronting the Russians whom he has a warm spot in his heart for, I doubt he will take decisive action in Syria. Against ISIS yes. Iran? That would be tough because Iran is intertwined with Russia. Would Trump commit to a US hegemony in Syria? Does not look like it. As long as he gets what he wants there (ISIS, some Iran and maybe Hezb pushback, AQ, Israeli security), Trump may not mind Russian presence there as long as the US has influence and it comes for cheap to the US. Syria for the Russians is not strategic – more for domestic consumption and fanning the flames of nationalism. And Syria is not cheap for Russia. So they will limit their activities to propping up a despised and bloodthirsty regime (loved alike by communists, leftwing regressives, anti-imperialists, and authoritarian rightists/supremacists) and refrain from interfering in Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or Iraq. Russia can also get some economic concessions out of Turkey by rattling the YPG/PKK bogeyman at Turkish nationalists/Islamists.

          Trump is consumed by his domestic and trade agenda. US security is paramount, but Syria is not a threat. International order is not on top of his agenda. Does Trump care about Ukraine? The jury is still out.

          • Trump will confront the Iran nuclear program, and how this program is now being run by North Korea. But as far as Iran in Syria, as long as it does not directly threaten US interests, he will not lose sleep on it.

            • the Iran nuclear program … is now being run by North Korea.” — LOL, link to evidence please? [i.e. *not* a plot-line cribbed from the Netanyahudnik influence operation Homeland] Or is this just like your amazing GPS-MANPADS myth, something you sincerely wish has happened and are now trying to will into existence by the Power of Grey-Skulls?

              • Barbar – GPS enabled Manpads have been reported in the press. But barring that, why do you think it is a bad idea? Because it makes your core argument, that anti-Russia/Assad Manpads will finds its way to Paris and New York airports, redundant and in fact comical? Can you explain why you are in favor of Manpad proliferation and like to see commercial airliners brought down? Besides, you do not need a GPS to control a Manpad remotely. It can be done by requiring a code to enable the device. The code changes periodically and the new code can only be obtained from the supplier (Yankistan).

              • I agree with Kazemi that the North Korean nuclear program is intimately intertwined with the Islamic Republic of Iran and overall analysis. Iran has a working nuclear device IMO. No “”proof”, but a knowledgable educated guess. Now building an arsenal is another matter. This all happened under Obama and the far left EU. Most likely any kinetic conflict with North Korea will do nuclear very quickly. Leaving North Korea in radioactive rubble. Japan and south Korea would approve of such a robust response because they don’t want to have a major metropolitan center destroyed. This situation should also be a clear warning to Tehran, Israel isn’t the only country that can be “wiped off the earth”.

              • 1. Did that ‘press’ perchance state who manufactures/fields this Wunderwaffe?
                2. I never said it’s a bad idea, just that the product is currently nonexistent.
                3. I never made the claimed argument and indeed very much favour the use of MANPADS around NY airports as a form of environmental pest control.
                4. “Can you explain why you are in favor of Manpad proliferation and like to see commercial airliners brought down?” — Yes, they shit out fucktonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere so shooting them down is the most satisfying way to thin out the population and thus save the whales.

              • Barbar, a Google search will discover the source(s) of reports of GPS enabled Manpads.
                But given the fact that you wish to bring down airliners in Yanikstan, due to the postcolonial tosh cornfed to you since your early schooldays, may I ask why do you think GPS enabled Manpads will not prevent terrorists and communists from bringing down civilian airliners? What is your objection and what kind of technical knowledge do you possess that makes you think it is not workable?

            • PS enabled Manpads have been reported in the press.

              Only insofar as the press have confirmed they are a myth.

              Besides, you do not need a GPS to control a Manpad remotely. It can be done by requiring a code to enable the device. The code changes periodically and the new code can only be obtained from the supplier (Yankistan).

              Which surely can be hacked easily enough

              • Please explain how do you hack a military microcontroller where the security function and the missile homing function is integrated on the same chip? Russia with a budget a many millions of dollars could hack it, but only one missile at a time. But how can ISIS hack it?

            • 1. To clarify, for the irony-deficient who failed to detect the heavy sarcasm in my previous comment at points 3&4, I neither wish to bring down civilian airliners in Yankistan or elsewhere nor have heard of any Communists proposing such a criminal and politically counter-productive course of action. If you have, Kazemi, please link, as I’d be fascinated!
              2. “why do you think GPS enabled Manpads will not prevent terrorists and communists from bringing down civilian airliners?” — You mean apart from the fact that such weapons don’t yet exist? Because presumably anyone employing MANPADS to blow airliners out of the NY skyline won’t have those supplied by the CIA, therefore the Pentagovernment can’t be controlling where these are fireable via a theoretical GPS-keyed ignition system, and even if it were, there is every reason to believe any at least moderately intelligent and technically competent group, such as IS, AQ, et al, would be delayed no more than half a morning in bridging out the geo-boxing circuit, thus rendering the tweaked weapon to unlocked free-fire mode before taking the pot-shot to mightily grieve the dirty Kuffaar by Allah’s permission.
              3. I never object to Pentagovernment idiots wasting their time and money, as every little diversion of their criminal energy helps keep them out of some mischief against others.
              4. “what kind of technical knowledge do you possess” — The sufficiently qualified kind … more info than that is strictly ‘need to know’ when conversing with the enemy.

              • Well obviously you are ignorant of electronic technology to claim that it is impossible to put a GPS receiver on a missile. Any 2-bit subsystem integrator will explain to you that you can easily have a GPS receiver and a homing microcontroller on the same board. If you wish to make the system foolproof against hacking, you will need to integrate homing and security functions on the same chip. A simple step for any of the military hardware suppliers for the US military machine. So unless you have valid documents that scientifically explain why you can’t put two chips on the same board (which there is no such thing), your claim otherwise is simply cornfed feel-good tosh.

                Obviously you are not versed technically and you do not posses any information that says you can’t put a GPS receiver inside a missile. Said chips may only be mask programmable thus making them impossible to hack.

    • Not all bad the pro israeli white house seems to have emboldened the israelis again(meeting putin to no doubt spell out more bombings of hezbollah are gonna happen )
      Plus the trump whitehouse seems to want to take a harder line with iran aka assads ground forces

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