PHOTO: Russian warplanes have been bombing inside Syria since September 30



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    BREAKING 2045 GMT: Pro-regime activists are reporting that rebels have captured the key town of Morek, on the Hama-to-Aleppo highway, in their counter-offensive in northern Hama Province.

    Rebels closed on Morek soon after the start of their counter-offensive two weeks ago and reported further gains on Tuesday. However, the capture of the town came quickly — the assault was only reported this afternoon.

    The Syrian military had regained Morek from the opposition in October 2014.

    ORIGINAL ENTRY: US and Russian warplanes have conducted communication tests over Syria, according to American officials.

    Since Russia began its bombing — mainly of rebels, including those nominally supported by the US — on September 30, Moscow and Washington have discussed cooperation to prevent accidental clashes. On several occasions, Russian jet fighters were well inside a 20-mile zone set by the Americans, establishing visual contact.

    In a series of conferences, the two sides discussed guidelines for their respective areas of operation over Syria. On October 20, Washington and Moscow signed an agreement laying out the rules.

    Russian officials also said on Tuesday that “opposition representatives” are now working with their airstrikes, providing coordinates for 12 sorties on 24 “terrorist targets”.

    The Russian military did not name the cooperating groups, but pro-opposition Syrian journalists suggested that it was the Kurdish YPG militia.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov praised the supposed cooperation, linking it to last Friday’s international talks in Vienna and Moscow’s proposal on Tuesday for a meeting between representatives of the regime and opposition:

    The Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation knows about these contacts, we confirm their fruitful nature.

    These contacts of the Russian military department with representatives of moderate Syrian opposition look extremely timely and useful to us, both from the viewpoint of fight against terrorists and for promotion of the political process.

    Spokesman Andrey Kartapolov said warplanes said 1,631 sorties have hit 2,084 targets, including 52 training camps and 287 command posts.

    Despite Moscow’s declaration that its bombing is focused on the Islamic State, more than 80% of attacks have been on rebel-controlled areas, many in support of a six-front ground offensive by the Syrian military supported by units from Iran, Hezbollah, and Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani militia.

    State Media: Syrian Military Regains Control From Islamic State of Main Road Into Aleppo

    State media said on Tuesday that the Syrian military has regained control over the main road into Aleppo city.

    The reports said the army had retaken the Khanasir-Aleppo road, captured by the Islamic State last month.


    The ISIS advance was an embarrassment for the Assad regime, which had launched an offensive to lift the siege of the Kweires airbase east of Aleppo. The cut-off threatened up to 1 million people in regime-held areas of Syria’s largest city, with shortages of food and essential supplies.

    “Field sources” said the road will be reopened on Thursday morning after repair and maintenance.

    Russia Gives False Date on Image to Say Its Warplanes Did Not Damage Hospital

    The Russian Defense Ministry has put a false date on an aerial image to “prove” that its warplanes did not damage a hospital in northwest Syria, according to an investigation by the Bellingcat site.

    The Ministry denied earlier this week that Russian bombing had damaged six hospitals, saying five of them did not exist and the other — in Sarmin in Idlib Province — was intact.

    See Syria Feature: Russia — The Hospitals We Attacked Don’t Exist

    To back up the claim over Sarmin, the Ministry issued an aerial photograph which it said was taken on October 31:


    However, using videos and images of the destruction from the October 20 attack, Bellingcat established that the Russian photograph was taken before that date. For example, a school and other buildings which were destroyed or damaged in the airstrike are shown as intact on the Defense Ministry’s picture.

    Bellingcat emphasizes that, while the Sarmin hospital was not destroyed, it was damaged in the attack.

    At least 12 medical staff and patients were killed, according to witnesses, doctors, and activists.

    Aleppo Electricity Cut Since October 24 Because of Fighting in Northern Hama

    Much of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has been without electricity since October 24 because of fighting between the Syrian military and rebels to the south in Hama Province.

    “There is no electricity in Aleppo,” said Hanaa al-Qassab, the president of the Aleppo-based Syrian Women’s Association. Both regime-held and opposition-controlled areas are affected.

    The rebels’ General Management of Services, which works to maintain and repair water, electricity, and sewage services in opposition-held areas reported “the continuation of the power outage in the city of Aleppo and its southern and western countryside for the 10th day in a row” on Tuesday.

    The GMS said regime forces in northern Hama Province prevented repair teams from service of the 230 kilovolt Hama-Zurbah high-voltage power line, which runs from the regime-held Mahardeh power plant 110 km (68 miles) southwest of Aleppo to the rebel-held Zurbah substation 12 km (7.5 miles) outside the city.

    Zurbah stopped operations in late October.

    The regime’s Electricity Ministry said its personnel had replaced a tower last Thursday along one Hama line supplying Zurbah.

    Even before the current loss of power, residents reported regular power outages lasting 20 hours a day and longer.

    The Syrian military launched an offensive across northern Hama Province on October 7. Rebels checked the offensive and then launched counter-attacks later in the month, recapturing almost all territory and moving into regime-held areas.

    Leading Rebel Group in Aleppo Disband Security Services After Protests over Abuses

    Al-Jabha a-Shamiya, the largest group in the rebel Aleppo Victory Army, said on Tuesday that it has disbanded its security services after sustained protests over its abuses.

    Spokeswoman Misa Mahmoud told Syria Direct that there had been “general failure of these security services as certain factions dominated and nepotism had spread”.

    Mahmoud noted that, with the need to send fighters south of Aleppo to hold off the Syrian miltiary’s offensive, “it was better to dissolve the security services rather than trying to hold them accountable and searching for a replacement later, because at this moment we are fighting both the regime and the Islamic State”.

    The spokesman acknowledged that “there isn’t an alternative” to the security force: “What there is are individual groups, each accountable to a different faction — as for neutral security services, there are none.”

    Video: Rebels Advance in Northern Hama Province

    Continuing their advance in a counter-offensive in northern Hama Province, rebels capture the hilltop Tel Othman on Tuesday:

    One of three regime tanks which rebels say they took:

    Having checked the Syrian military’s offensive that began on October 7, rebels launched a counter-attack later in the month. They have retaken all but one village and are now moving into regime-held territory.

    The rebel coalition Jaish al-Fateh said on Tuesday that it had also taken more areas around the town of Morek, on the Hama-to-Aleppo highway.