Military Events in Syria and Iraq Thread #4

Discussion in 'World Events' started by Yazata, Apr 12, 2017.

  1. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    OK
    It seems that the current players are
    jockeying for position in a potential partition of Syria after ISIS falls.
    Iran, it seems, wants Assad to stay in power and control all of Syria including the eastern part.
    Russia, it seems, also wants to see Assad remain in control of a unified Syria, but, perhaps not to the same degree as Iran.
    The US seems to be stepping up attacks on Syria with the flimsiest of excuses. Do the US leaders think their rebels can control the country? Or just parts of it?
    Turkey, it seems, wants to keep control of that part of Syria that separates the eastern from the western Kurds.

    What do the other players want?
     
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  3. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    What Russia expects has been said by Russian Foreign Ministry’s Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova http://tass.com/politics/953841 "The current information campaign is a precursor of a new intervention in Syria," Zakharova stressed, saying that all facts point to this.
    The original, in Russian, see at

    between 15:00 and 34:05. It contains a detailed prediction what we have to expect: A gas attack, with terrorists playing the victims, with pictures of children (an interesting observation was that the victims are men and children, but not women), which later will be found to be faked, with official US information that they have secret evidence that Assad has done it, but without any presentation of these proofs (because this would endanger the sources), and a Western media campaign which does not care at all about proofs and supports war. And there is evidence that the pictures, high quality, have already been made.

    The hope is, of course, that such an open warning from such an official place will prevent the realization of this scenario. Last but not least, a fake attack needs at least some plausibility. We will see.

    Otherwise, not many news. Some progress in Ayn Terma. But I have learned that the map presented in #104 was completely wrong, the actual situation (after the latest progress) is close to the base of that map, and the progress given there is complete fake. The Syrian army also started to clean from Daesh the remaining regions in Aleppo, and have taken three villages near the road to Khanasser. And information that Humaymah, on the road between T3 and T2, has been taken. Which clarifies that previous claims that it has been taken were wrong. This new claim is not yet confirmed too.
     
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  5. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    So, the Syrian army has taken now complete control of the Itriya-Resafa part of the Hama-Raqqa road. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-syrian-army-encircles-isis-forces-khanasser-region/
    This gives the Syrian army much better communications toward Resafa, Moreover, for one half of the most problematic communications route Salamiya - Itriya-Khanasser-Aleppo, the part between Itriya and Khanasser, there is now a bypass. Moreover, it creates a yet quite big encircled area East of Khanasser, in South Aleppo, which is yet controlled by Daesh. Essentially, this would have been possible already a few days ago (I have to admit that I was already waiting for this news), but it made sense to wait, to give Daesh the possibility to leave the whole region without fight. If this invitation was used or not we will see, because it makes sense for the Syrian army to clean this region now. Encircling a large desert region requires a lot of forces, even if there are not many forces inside, and to clear large desert regions with superior forces and air support is not that problematic.

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    The other news is about large gains of the Syrian army near the Jordan border. There have been several unconfirmed news during the last days that the US has flown their FSA mercenaries from the Al Tanf region toward their bases in the Kurdish regions. Now I see http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/0...es-up-idea-of-occupying-south-east-syria.html as another confirmation of these rumors. So, behind these advances may be simply that the US has given up the now strategically useless occupation of the Al Tanf border region. Moon of Alabama illustrates this with the following fun map:

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    PS: It looks like the US is stepping back from its threat to fake another gas attack to start a war in Syria. http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/06/white-house-encouraged-after-elephants-did-not-climb-trees.html
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, I agree.

    As part of a larger partition of the Middle East between Iranian-allied Shi'ites and Saudi/Turkish/Egyptian-allied Sunnis. Syria doesn't exist in a vacuum.

    The Iranians want to create a corridor dependent on and controlled by them stretching from central Asia to the Mediterranean. The Sunnis want to prevent that link-up. Iran is very close to having nuclear weapons (if they don't already) and also hope to eventually control the Persian Gulf and all of its oil. European and Far Eastern economies are dependent on that oil. If all that comes together, Iran will become something like a new Islamic world super-power.

    That's why Turkey and Saudi Arabia are so concerned. It's why they might soon decide to pursue nuclear weapons themselves in a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race, a new mini-Cold War. It's also why the US is so interested in turning away from Middle eastern petroleum imports towards domestic fossil fuels.

    The Russians have traditionally been allied with Syria, dating back to the Cold War. And more recently, they seem to have been snuggling up to the Iranians (the Chinese have been too), probably because they see Iran as the rising new power in the region. The growing Chinese economy really needs Middle Eastern oil as well. But both of them obviously want to be associated with what they perceive will probably be the winning side.

    That's the larger context.

    Yes, definitely. The difficulty for that plan is that Assad's Alawites along with the other Shi'ites are only a relatively small fraction of Syria's population. Christians are another chunk, and they tend to support Assad too. So Assad rules with a coalition of religious minorities. But Syria is a mostly Sunni nation and most of the Sunnis seem to have turned on Assad. So he can only survive by maintaining his tyranny, and that is always going to be unstable.

    What's more, the parts of Iraq that border Syria are all Sunni populated. The Iraqi Sunnis are famously unwilling to submit to Shi'ite rule. That's a big part of why Iraq fell apart after 2003. The Shi'ite dominated government in Baghdad can be expected to become an Iranian ally, but extending that into Syria might be more difficult if the Iraqi Sunnis aren't on board. And there are the Iraqi Kurds (Sunnis) to factor in too.

    Russia want to side with what might be the eventual winner (Iran). But more than that, Russia is hugely nostalgic for the days when it was a world superpower. In those days, it was the major player in the Middle East. Today, Syria is all that remains of those Russian client-states. So Russia has to exert itself in Syria if it wants to remain a player in the region.

    The US is the sworn enemy of ISIS. And my guess is that the US is trying to side with Turkey and Saudi Arabia in opposing growing Iranian influence. Since Assad is turning into an Iranian client, that means opposing Assad. The whole thing is hugely complicated by the pervasive neo-Puritan moralism that dominates contemporary American (and European) elites. Every action has to be presented to the public as an expression of superior morality, as part of a grand historical battle of good vs evil. (The contemporary Western academic and media elites wouldn't know 'real-politik' if it kicked them in the butt.) So all the moves that are really being made out of national-interest have to be wrapped up in often phony moral excuses.

    Which rebels? The Sunni Arab rebels (most of whom are now extremely radical Islamists almost as bad as ISIS) don't even border on ISIS controlled territory. They are the green guys on this map. While they might arguably represent the wishes of the majority of the Syrian population, they are pretty much a lost cause militarily speaking. I don't expect them to be major players on the big game-board in any partition of Syria.

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    The US has discovered that the only battle-capable and decently organized rebels that they can count on are the SDF. (The yellow guys in the north.) The problem with them is that they are predominately Kurds. Neither the Kurds or the Arabs want the Kurds to occupy large areas populated by Arabs. The Kurds are more interested in independence for the yellow area that they already hold, which they call Rojava. The US has successfully prevailed on them to attack Raqqah, the ISIS capital, which is underway as we speak.

    The question then is what happens in the Euphrates valley to the southeast. That's becoming the bastion of the last remnants of ISIS. The black guys on the map.

    The two main options for this area seem to be

    1. Assad pushing east and taking the area. Except that most of the recent spread of red in the Syrian desert consists of pushing small military columns down undefended desert roads and then suddenly recoloring large areas red. It's less clear that Assad's forces are ready to fight for the more heavily populated river valleys. That will take time.

    2. The SDF pushing south and taking the area. I expect that's the one the US would prefer to see. The US is pushing the SDF to become more of a multi-ethnic coalition that includes Arabs as well as Kurds. We've seen that in Manbij, which is occupied by the SDF-alligned Manbij military council, a predominately Arab militia. So the Kurds might push ISIS out of the Euphrates valley, and install local Arabs in charge, returning its attentions once again to creating its Rojava. The Arabs in the southeast might welcome that, if it means escaping the choice between Assad's renewed tyranny and the radical Islamists. (They've already experienced that with ISIS.) The SDF controlled areas are currently the best ruled parts of Syria and many of the Arabs can see that.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
  8. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    The Assad regime is secular, and in no way anti-Sunni. In particular, Assad's wife is Sunni. The Sunni jihadists have, of course, tried hard to present Assad as anti-Sunni, but this strategy has failed. Of course, the jihadists, of all sorts, are Sunni, but this does not make all Sunni jihadist supporters.
    Who populates the whole Southern part of the Iraq-Syria border does not matter at all, because it is desert, and the belief of the de facto non-existing population does not really matter. Of course, for the Iraq to become a stable country, they have to find a way to make peace with the Sunni population. But even if there will be no improvement, to hold the control of the desert in the South-West of Iraq up to the Syrian border by military means would not that problematic.
    This nostalgic mem is anti-Russian propaganda. There are, surely, some parts of the population where such a nostalgia has played some role in Yeltsin time. But these parts are already quite satisfied with the actual situation. Jihadi terrorism is a big issue for Russia, given the large Muslim population in Russia itself and even more in the other former Soviet republics, where Russia is interested in stability.

    In the domain of politics, Russia follows more czarist traditions than Soviet ones. It has no ideology to distribute in vassal states, thus, has no need for such vassal states. The colonial regime created by the czarist regime, which continued during the Soviet time, has been given up, and there is no interest to revive it (except in anti-Russian propaganda tales). The foreign policy of the czar have been quite peaceful, with a good reason: If the empire is as big as the czarist one, you cannot handle wars on many fronts, so, you have to be sure that there will be no big alliances against Russia attacking together at the same time. If you are peaceful yourself, the wars will not be against big alliances, but against single attacking states. And to fight a single state, Russia is able to manage. So, Russia does not start wars, it finishes them.
    Not really. The sworn enemy in Syria is Assad. ISIS gives, once it is named a terrorist organization, the US a justification to enter Syria and to support other quite similar gangs with weapons if they claim, officially, to fight ISIS.
    And my guess is that the US is trying to side with Turkey and Saudi Arabia in opposing growing Iranian influence. Since Assad is turning into an Iranian client, that means opposing Assad. The whole thing is hugely complicated by the pervasive neo-Puritan moralism that dominates contemporary American (and European) elites. Every action has to be presented to the public as an expression of superior morality, as part of a grand historical battle of good vs evil. (The contemporary Western academic and media elites wouldn't know 'real-politik' if it kicked them in the butt.) So all the moves that are really being made out of national-interest have to be wrapped up in often phony moral excuses.
    That argumentation would be problematic. In 2011 this would have had some plausibility. But not now. Without the support of the majority of the population Assad would not have had any chance to survive, given that the West, Turkey and SA have heavily supported the "green guys". Of course, some point is that, whatever they thought about Assad, all the non-Sunni population had to fight for him simply for survival. But if the Sunni would have been really united behind these "rebels", that would not have been enough. Say, Aleppo is Sunni, but has always been and remained a stronghold for Assad.
    Al Qaida is also battle-capable, arguably even much better than the Kurds, and better organized. The problem with Al Qaida was that it was too problematic to support them openly. So, most of the time, they were the main US force, but only inofficially, with support being organized via lots of small gangs named "moderate rebels" which were 50% simply criminal gangs and 50% Al Qaida pretending to be "moderate" to get weapons. It was Russia which has, essentially, destroyed this game.
    It will take some time even going through the desert. But that Assad forces can go, and even sufficiently fast, through more heavily populated Sunni areas they have shown in the Deir Hafer and Maskana plains. And don't forget that the most important weak point of the Syrian army is Deir Ezzor. If they succeed to connect with Deir Ezzor, this will become a stronghold and a starting point for finishing Daesh all around. And to connect with Deir Ezzor one can do via the desert. Essentially, they have now three directions to go to Deir Ezzor through the desert.

    BTW, AFP https://twitter.com/AFP/status/880758441937178625 claims that Daesh has fully withdrawn from the South Aleppo region, but it is not clear how reliable this information is. I have seen now already several maps of the Aleppo region which paint a similar picture, namely quite a lot of the desert region already painted red, but also a whole region East of Khanasser yet painted black:

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    Given that many maps give the same picture, there should be some reliable source behind this, but I have not yet seen this source. Whatever, some source claims that a lot of villages in the desert have already been taken by the Syrian army, but some others not yet. Maybe this is simply because they need time to clean the area. Maybe some Daesh forces remain there. Not clear.
     
  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    In Mosul, ISIS is reduced to a handful of small pockets in the old city. They are reported to be trying to hide among the civilians they have been using as human shields. In some cases those civilians have pointed them out to Iraqi security forces, in other cases the ISIS fighters trying to escape were wearing suicide vests and blew themselves up along with everyone near them. It's street by street, building by building and room by room now.

    The little black area under the 'o' in Mosul and snaking south from there.

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    Last edited: Jul 3, 2017
  10. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    Not much news from Syria. There was a claim by joepistole's friends that Syria has done another gas attack, but the big Western media reaction is missing yet. So, it looks like the media campaign has been given up as too implausible even for the sheeple, after the detailed description how it would like like by Sakharova.

    The South Aleppo pocket has been finally cleared. I post here an already old map to illustrate it, because it shows the first day of this clearing. Other, less reliable sources have simply painted the whole area red after vague claims that no Daesh remains there. This source has used information about which places really have been cleared:

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    In the actual version, the whole area is red too. In https://www.almasdarnews.com/articl...isis-khanasser-region-final-victory-imminent/ there is a video which show some part of how this clearing looks like: A lot of trucks driving from village to village through the desert, then stopping at villages and looking at the situation in this village.

    The other news is some small but steady progress on the way from Palmyra to Deir Ezzor.

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    Sukhnah, in the North of this map, is the next big point to be taken in this direction. This is considered to be a very hard job. The region is mountainous, thus, easy to defend, the local tribe counts as supporting Daesh. But Sukhnah is the last big place to be taken on the road to Deir Ezzor. The region is also important for Syria because there are several gas fields.
     
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Battle for the ISIS capital of Raqqah continues.

    Here's a map from Wikipedia from around July 1. It's already a bit out of date. The newest developments have been large-scale SDF penetrations of the Yarmouk neighborhood in the southwest. ISIS now only fully controls the SE quadrant of this neighborhood (around where the name 'Yarmouk' is) and much of the rest is contested. The short-term objective here seems to be the green highway labeled '6' on the map. The SDF has also penetrated into the eastern half of the Hasham Abdelmalik neighborhood south of the old city, partially flanking the old city from the south. And lastly, the SDF has penetrated the old city's medieval walls and a short distance into the old city itself from the east. Reports of heavy fighting, frenzied ISIS counterattacks and heavy airstrikes and shelling by the US and allied forces throughout Raqqah. (ISIS isn't surrendering their capital quietly.) The US Marines have artillery batteries providing fire support for the SDF and US special forces are known to be embedded with the SDF, providing on-scene advising and calling in airstrikes and artillery. The British are believed to be active in the battle as well, flying airstrikes and there's speculation that SAS special forces are on the ground directing airstrikes and advising.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Raqqa_(2017)#/media/File:Battle_of_Raqqa2.svg

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    Given the ferocity of the resistance, I wonder if a lot of these defenders might be foreign fighters, the kind of alienated and/or fanatic Muslims from Europe or elsewhere in the Islamic world that rushed to join ISIS, hoping to fight on the side of God in Islam's seemingly inevitable victory, back in 2014 when Mosul was newly taken and ISIS seemed to be spreading all over the map with little resistance (just like Islam did in the 600's). Now these foreign fighters must realize that they can't return to their former homes and have no other option but to die for God and trust in heaven.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2017
  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    In Mosul, ISIS is reportedly cornered in a tight collection of buildings only about 300 by 500 meters in extent, with their backs to the Tigris river. They also seem to retain a few pockets elsewhere in the old city as well. The Iraqis are preparing a victory celebration.
     
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Unconfirmed reports that all of the ISIS held areas of Mosul are retaken.
     
  14. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    Small progress of the Syrian army mentioned on several fronts. One of the more important would be the Hail gas field East of Palmyra:

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    How the typical other advances look like can be illustrated with the following map of the regions Jobar and Ain Terma where the fighting is ongoing:

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    So, these are fighting house by house, and taking one house is somethere mentioned as progress.
     
  15. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    Some interesting news from the South: It looks like the US-backed joepistole comrades in the East of Suweida leave the entire region:

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    Essentially all the remaining villages near the desert have been taken by the Syrian army. And, even more, news about several villages taken also comes from the Northern part of this part:

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    In principle, it may be part of the ceasefire agreement between Trump and Putin for the South-Western provinces.

    So, the whole Eastern part of Suweida comes under Syrian government control. The interesting question during the next days will be how far East this will continue. It seems quite possible that the US no longer cares about holding useless desert (without oil, and anyway encircled by the Syrian army) and gives up the whole Al Tanf pocket. Another possibility would be that the US preserves the occupation of Al Tanf and some 55 km or so around it. We will see.
     
  16. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    That might have been very slightly premature. As of Monday, there's still shooting coming from several buildings and air strikes have been taking place along the west bank of the Tigris river. It doesn't sound like a contiguous ISIS-held piece of territory any longer, but rather holdouts in a few separate buildings. These last ISIS fighters seem to be fighting to the death. (It's reminiscent of Berlin on April 30 and May 1, 1945, when Hitler committed suicide and Goebbels did the same the next day.)
     
  17. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
  18. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    After several days with almost no news, something has started again.

    First, in the desert in the South the advance against joepistol's comrades continues. The open question is if the remains in the Western part of this enclave are already encircled, close to be encircled, or have completely left that part of the pocket, but nobody really cares, this is a question of a few days to clear this desert region.

    Then, the Tiger forces became, again, active in the environment of Resafa, South-West of Raqqa, cleaning the environment of Resafa from Daesh. The probable direction of movement seems to be South toward Suchna.

    Then, several points have been taken in the most Western part of the Daesh-controlled area, near Akerbat:

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    This seems quite important, given that these are the regions most dangerous for the Syrian army communications: The road 42 is the only road connecting Damaskus with Aleppo, and smuggling something over that road between Daesh and joepistole's comrades in Idlib has been possible, was done, and becomes more difficult with these advances. Moreover, advances at three different places is promising.

    Interesting news also about some split in Daesh has been reported: Tal Afar, an ISIS-hold town in Iraq, has declared himself independent on the caliphat, and the local powers are reported to arrest Al Bagdadi supporters in the town.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  19. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    Here an actual map from the region around Resafa, the movement actually goes South, but it is not yet clear what follows if the Zamlah junction is reached.

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    A quite interesting map about the regions where Al Qaida rules in Idlib:

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    There are actually almost every day some claims about fighting between Al Qaida (Hatesh) and other, pro-Turkish groups.
     
  20. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Unconfirmed reports that the SDF has completely taken the entire Yarmouk neighborhood in Raqqah west of the green vertical highway labeled '6' on this map.


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    About half of the old city has been taken. Advances are slow both because ISIS resistance is ferocious and because the relatively small number of SDF attackers are getting worn down by constant fighting and little rest or sleep. Distrust between Arabs and Kurds on the SDF side doesn't help. But slowly and surely, it's getting done.

    ISIS fighters often counter-attack and the same streets have sometimes switched hands several times.
     
  21. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    The Syrian army Tiger forces in Raqqa attack in several directions, so that it remains unclear what is the main direction:

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    And there is much more interesting progress North of this, near Raqqa: While yesterday there have been several claims about some mystical progress, about which they are not yet allowed to talk, and today several infos have appeared that the Syrian army controls some Al Itihad university, which is close to the N4 road along the Euphrat to Deir Ezzor. So, a map may look now like this:

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  22. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    Now it is official, the Syrian army has reached the Euphrat, and the actual map may now look like this:

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    The villages Dalhah as well as Ukayrishha are located around the M4 highway toward Deir Ezzor, no more Kurdish (US) forces on the way to disturb or prevent this.

    While the Syrian army in Deir Ezzor is yet in defense, they observe that the intensity of Daesh attacks against them has seriously decreases. Up to now, there have been daily attacks. Now, the number of attacks has decreased, and the attacks themselves are reduced to hit-and-run attacks.
     
  23. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    The news about the two villages at the Euphrat taken by the Syrian army seems untrue.

    Some operation has started in West Qalamoun, an area around the border between Lebanon and Syria, which is now attacked by a coordinated action between Syrian and Lebanese forces (Hisbollah):

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