Aftermath of pro-Assad shelling on Jarjanaz in northwest Syria, November 24, 2018
- Turkey “Discomfort” Over US Observation Posts on Border
UPDATE 1545 GMT:
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman has tried to justify today’s strikes on opposition-held parts of Aleppo Province as attacks on “terrorists who shelled Aleppo [city] with chemicals, killing all [of them].Their artillery was discovered in demilitarized zone of #Idlib province & was hit just as they were preparing for new attacks. Turkey was pre-informed.”
Russian State outlet Sputnik appears to be making up fatalities:
This headline says 12 civilians were killed while the article itself says no civilians were killed. There should be an abundance of available video evidence of casualties + munitions. The OPCW is authorized to assign blame + could easily determine if extremists used Chlorine. https://t.co/zq2RFaUnUU
— (((Pat Hilsman))) (@PatrickHilsman) November 25, 2018
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has joined the propaganda campaign:
Where is the West in condemning the chemical attack in Aleppo by terrorists? West’s pattern: chemical weapons only condemned if alleged to be used by an enemy; not an ally. A blind eye turned when Saddam used them against Iran, but war waged to destroy them when he was an enemy.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 25, 2018
UPDATE 1100 GMT:
Russian warplanes are carrying out their first airstrikes in northwest Syria since Moscow and Turkey announced a demilitarized zone on September 17.
The attacks are outside the zone, on opposition-held areas of Aleppo Province.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) November 25, 2018
Stepped-up regime shelling is also reported.
Russia will likely use the pretext of rebel attacks on Aleppo city — with unsubstantiated claims of chemical use (see below) — for the strikes.
Pro-Assad attacks have again broken a demilitarized zone and killed civilians in Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
In the village of Jarjanaz, nine people, including three children and two women, were slain by shelling. Several others were wounded.
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) November 24, 2018
#Syria: rarely documented, seems Assad forces used heavy “240 mm rocket-assisted projectiles” to shell #Jarjanaz in #Idlib “demilitarized zone” (3 children & 2 women killed). ID h/t @AbraxasSpa @obretix. Cc. @MarkHiznay @RogueAdventurer. pic.twitter.com/d175TcltxJ
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) November 24, 2018
Russia and Turkey declared a demilitarized zone around Idlib and northern Hama Provinces on September 17. The accord suspended a planned Russian-regime offensive.
The Assad regime has objected but — so far — has been unable to push Moscow into defiance of Ankara, breaking the agreement.
Meanwhile, pro-Assad forces have periodically shelled the periphery of the zone and attacked rebel checkpoints. Rebels have responded with fire on regime positions, and a coalition of three groups has declared that they will carry out guerrilla warfare.
The Russian Foreign Ministry warned on Thursday, “Despite Ankara’s significant efforts…difficulties persist in setting up a demilitarized zone.”
Today has been one of the most bloodiest days in #Idlib, for a while. The regime has bombed #Jarjanaz, killing 3 women and 4 children. As always, this coward regime attacks women and children. It seems, that an all-out war in #Idlib is approaching soon… please pray for us. pic.twitter.com/FThJZiiUfY
— Dr Shajul Islam (@DrShajulIslam) November 24, 2018
Regime Claims “Chemical Attack” on Aleppo City
The Assad regime has claimed a rebel “chemical attack” on Aleppo city, wounding dozens of people.
State media posted photos of civilians with breathing difficulties. All have reportedly been released from hospital.
No evidence of chemical use was produced, although Russian State media proclaimed that “chemical specialists” have arrived to look for signs of chlorine.
Damascus pushed the line of “facilitating terrorists’ access to chemical substances by some states”, while Russia put pressure on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons — saying that the OPCW, prevented by Moscow from attributing responsibility for attacks by the Assad regime, should investigate this incident.
A rebel commander, Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razak — who served in the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program before defecting — said rebel forces do not possess “poisonous gases” or the capabilities to fire them into regime areas.
Rebel spokesman Mustafa Sejari said the claims were trying to distract from the pro-Assad shelling on Idlib Province.
The incident came amid exchanges of artillery fire between rebels and pro-Assad forces after the latter’s attacks on Jarjanaz in Idlib.
#Syria: following killing of civilians in #Jarjanaz by Regime, Rebels & (pro-)Assad forces are exchanging artillery fire in #Aleppo province: Nubul-Zahraa-Bayanoun & Hader axes. pic.twitter.com/IJwvoJAJ4n
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) November 24, 2018
The Assad regime and its Russian ally have often made unsupported and false claims of rebel operations with chemical weapons — often to cover up preparations for Russian-regime offensives.
No rebel chemical attacks have been verified in Syria’s 92-month conflict.
Turkey “Discomfort” Over US Observation Posts on Border
Turkey’s Defense Minister says Ankara has repeatedly conveyed its “discomfort” to US officials over Pentagon plans to establish observation posts on the border in northern Syria.
Gen. Hulusi Akar said on Saturday that he told Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other Americans about Turkey’s concerns, during Canada’s Halifax International Security Forum last week.
“I think actions like this will make the complicated situation in the region even more complicated,” Akar told reporters.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis confirmed the plans. He presented them as part of the American effort against the Islamic State, including support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
But the step is widely seen as US reassurance for the SDF following Turkish shelling in late October of positions of the Kurdish militia YPG, the leading faction in the Forces. Ankara considers the YPG part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has pledged to “wipe out” the “terrorists” from the border area, including east of the Euphrates River in the Kurdish cantons of Cezire and Kobani.
Akar said yesterday:
We have stated that the observation points to be established by the U.S. troops on the Syrian border will have a very negative impact…and in the course of our discussions we expressed that it could lead to a perception that US soldiers are somehow protecting terrorist YPG members and shield them.
Nobody should doubt that the Turkish Armed forces and the Republic of Turkey will take the necessary steps against all kinds of risks and threats from across its borders.
We expect our US allies to immediately cut their ties with the terrorist YPG, who are not in the slightest bit different from the PKK.
Turkish officials said Akar discussed the situation in northern Syria with Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu by phone on Saturday.