Russian Defense Ministry sets up possibility of attacks with claims of SDF firing, collaboration w ISIS near Deir ez-Zor
- Syrian Dissident and Daughter Found Dead in Istanbul
- Hundreds of Russian and Regime Airstrikes on Idlib Province This Week
Russia has raised the prospect of a new phase in Syria’s 78-month conflict with battles between pro-Assad units and the US-supported, Kurdish-led forces in the east of the country.
Moscow warned the US on Thursday that it may carry out further attacks against the Syrian Democratic Forces near the flashpoint of the city of Deir ez-Zor, held by the weakening Islamic State and now surrounded by both a pro-Assad offensive and the SDF.
The Russian Defense Ministry cloaked the threat in the pretext that it would be returning SDF fire on the banks of the Euphrates River, claiming the forces — led by the Kurdish militia YPG — had twice shot at the Syrian military and its foreign allies, including Russian special forces.
Major-General Igor Konashenkov said:
A representative of the U.S. military command in Al Udeid (the U.S. operations center in Qatar) was told in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down.
Fire points in those areas will be immediately suppressed with all military means.
In fact, the most serious incident near the city so far was a Russian airstrike last Saturday which injured six SDF fighters, according to the SDF and the Pentagon. Moscow later denied the strike.
The SDF had told the pro-Assad offensive, which entered Deir ez-Zor Province at the start of September and is in western sections of Deir ez-Zor city, not to cross the Euphrates. Two days after the claimed Russian airstrike, the pro-Assad forces defied the warning and moved to the eastern bank.
US military officials said on Thursday that American and Russian generals met this week to discuss the situation.
Baghdad-based spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said, “They had a face-to-face discussion, laid down maps and graphics.”
But Russia has stepped up its propaganda, asserting that US “spies” assisted attacks by rebels and the jihadist bloc Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in northern Hama Province in northwest Syria on Tuesday.
The Defense Ministry declared that 29 Russian military policemen were surrounded and had to be resues in a special forces operation backed by air power.
“According to our information, US intelligence services initiated the [northern Hama] offensive to halt the successful advance of government troops to the east of Deir al-Zor,” Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi said.
The Defense Ministry also said on Tuesday that the waters of the Euphrates rose as soon as the pro-Assad forces crossed, suggesting this could only have happened if the SDF opened upstream dams.
Russian Government outlets, including Embassies, circulated the Ministry’s declaration that the SDF — even as it has pushed back ISIS to move north and east of Deir ez-Zor city — is collaborating with the Islamic State:
— Russia in RSA 🇷🇺 (@EmbassyofRussia) September 21, 2017
Syrian Dissident and Daughter Found Dead in Istanbul
Syrian dissident Aroubeh Barakat and her daughter Halla have been found dead in Istanbul.
Turkish authorities confirmed the deaths on Thursday. Aroubeh Barakat was a member of the opposition Syrian National Council and Halla Barakat a journalist for the pro-opposition Orient News.
No information on cause of death has been released, but Aroubeh Barakat’s sister is claiming assassination by Assad regime security services.
Regime operatives are accused of a series of murders and kidnapping in Turkey of opposition figures and defecting military officers.
Hundreds of Russian and Regime Airstrikes on Idlib Province This Week
For the fourth straight day, Russian and regime warplanes have pounded opposition-held Idlib Province despite Moscow’s declaration of a “de-escalation zone” last week.
The latest wave of attacks have included the bombing of the White Helmets civil defense center in Khan Sheikhoun, the town where hundreds were killed or wounded by a regime sarin attack in April:
Our center in Khan Sheikhoun in Idleb now out ot service after 5 airstrikes targeted the center just a few minutes ago. pic.twitter.com/botAAbiR5s
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) September 22, 2017
Using the pretext of a response to attacks by rebels and the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham on regime positions in northern Hama Province on Tuesday, the Russian-regime strikes have attacked civilian sites, including several medical facilities. Commanders of rebel factions who are not involved in the Hama offensive have also been targeted.
Friday prayers were cancelled today in many mosques throughout the province.
One US-based analyst, Charles Lister, claims:
New on-ground reports suggest not 200+ airstrikes, but now a total of 500+ strikes in last 2-3 days.
Extraordinary lack of media coverage. https://t.co/Od9Xj8GFHT
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) 21 September 2017
A burning electricity substation in Khan Sheikhoun: