SDF and coalition says force close to link-up in center of Raqqa
The US-supported, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are claiming a further advance inside Raqqa after weeks of stiff Islamic State resistance inside its central position in Syria.
A Kurdish official said on Tuesday that the SDF, which have pushed ISIS back across northern Syria since late 2015, are on the verge of seizing full control of the southern neighborhoods of the city:
There is a fierce resistance from Daesh, so we can’t determine when exactly we’ll take [full control]. Around 90% of the southern neighborhoods are liberated.
After a seven-month campaign in Raqqa Province, the SDF launched the final offensive for Raqqa city in early June. It has captured more than 40% of the city, but has struggled to take ground after breaching the wall of the Old City earlier this month.
Brett McGurk, the US envoy for the campaign against the Islamic State, said last week that the SDF forces from the western and eastern axes of the offensive are close to meeting in central Raqqa. A spokesman for the US-led coalition repeated the claim yesterday, saying the SDF are making “consistent gains” each day and within 300 meters of linking up.
The World Health Organization said that up to 50,000 civilians left in Raqqa face critical shortages of medical supplies. Medecins Sans Frontières said many sick and wounded people re trapped.
The Islamic State has held Raqqa since pushing out Syrian rebels in late 2013.
Report: 40 Russian Troops Killed This Year, 4 Times Official Figure
Reuters, updating its regular report of Russian casualties in Syria, says 40 have been killed this year — four times the official figure from the Defense Ministry.
Reuters derived its total from accounts from families and friends of the slain and from local officials, with most confirmed by more than one person. It exceeds the 36 armed personnel and contractors killed from the start of Russia’s intervention in late September 2015 until the end of 2016.
Reuters’ figure may be conservative, as commanders encourage the families of those killed to keep quiet.
Russian military casualties in peacetime was decreed by President Vladimir Putin in June 2015 to be a state secret.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov portrayed Russian involvement on the ground as private citizens fighting alongside the Syrian army as volunteers: “If there are Russian citizens in Syria as volunteers and so on, they have nothing to do with the state.”
Reuters has evidence that 21 of those killed were private contractors and 17 soldiers. The status of the remaining two is unclear.
Russia Deploys Advanced Warplanes at Hmeimim Base
New satellite images indicate Russia has upgraded its deployment at the Hmeimim airbase in western Syria, with at least 20 of its most capable fighters — Su-27/30/34/35s — on the runways. at the base.
Since its military intervention in September 2015, Russia’s largest deployment was of older attack aircraft such as Su-24 Fencers and Su-25s Frogfoots.
latest sat image (15 Jul 2017) shows 33 jets at the Russian Air Base in Latakia: 11 Su-24, 3 Su-25, 3+6 Su-27/35, 4 Su-30 and 6 Su-34 pic.twitter.com/BrVaSsAL5z
— Samir (@obretix) July 31, 2017
Tyler Rogoway summarizes for The Drive:
The fairly drastic reformation of Russia’s aerial combat capabilities in Syria is another reminder how much the conflict has modernized — and become more internationally volatile —s ince Russia arrived in September of 2015, not to mention since the civil war broke out in 2011. It also underlines how Russia sees the US-led coalition as a real threat to its aims and ambitions in Syria and the region as a whole.
The fact of the matter is that those fighters jets won’t be going anywhere soon. Just as we predicted years ago, part of the deal the Kremlin worked out for saving Assad from immanent defeat was a long-term military presence in the country, which is strategically placed in the Middle East and also on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Confirmed: Computer Programmer Safadi Executed by Regime
The wife of computer programmer Bassel Khartabil Safadi has received confirmation that he was executed by the Syrian regime days after he was taken from Adra Prison in October 2015.
Safadi was detained on March 15, 2012, the one-year anniversary of the Syrian uprising.
The Palestinian Syrian open-source software developer was project lead Creative Commons Syria, opening up the internet in the country and extending access.
Foreign Policy magazine named Safadi as one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2012 “for insisting, against all odds, on a peaceful Syrian revolution”. In March 2013, Index on Censorship awarded Bassel the 2013 Digital Freedom Award for his work using technology to promote an open and free internet.
RIP Syrian-Palestinian activist Bassel Safadi, genius open-source programmer, executed by Assad regime after 5 years of detention & torture. pic.twitter.com/xvDJuE2oST
— Kenan Rahmani كنان (@KenanRahmani) August 1, 2017
Creative Commons issued a statement:
Around the world, activists and advocates seek the sharing of culture, and open knowledge. Creative Commons, and the global commons of art, history, and knowledge, are stronger because of Bassel’s contributions, and our community is better because of his work and his friendship. His death is a terrible reminder of what many individuals and families risk in order to make a better society.