The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Russian intervention in Syria 56 months on | Moscow sticks to “M4”, Movements in Al-Badia undermining “Tehran”, and Continuous airstrikes on ISIS positions  

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

May 2020

At a time when Syria experiences new developments on the ground, Russia’s plans are proceeding in the 56th consecutive month of its involvement in the Syrian crisis. On September 30, 2015, the Council of the Russian Federation granted Russian President Vladimir Putin the mandate to militarily engage in the Syria crisis. At that time, Putin announced that Russian intervention would be limited to airstrikes in order to defeat the “Islamic State” and other extremists in the legitimate war of the Syrian army against these groups, upon the request of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Despite this announcement,  Russian operations continued during the past five years, not differentiating between civilians and combatants.


As Russian forces have launched series of strikes and raids, in addition to Russia’s continuing military and political aid to Assad’s regime, the Syrian regime managed to regain control of about 72.8% of the total territory of Syria after having controlled  no more than 20% previously.

With 56 months of the Russian intervention in the Syrian war, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights continues to document and monitor the repercussions of Russia’s intervention and the development of political and military scenes since the first raids of that Moscow launched in Syria.



New positions and strikes .. Russia steps up operations exploiting the world’s  preoccupation with Covid-19 pandemic


At a time when the whole world pays full attention to the new coronavirus pandemic, it seems that Russia is trying to accelerate its operations in order to end the Syrian war in  favour of its major ally “the Syrian regime”. Despite the relative calm in terms of the military operations in the area of “Putin-Erdogan”, violations have  been a continuous feature,  as all sides attempt to impose their influence.


Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has not documented any civilian fatalities by Russian airstrikes in May.

On the other hand, Russian forces have conducted more joint patrols with their Turkish counterpart on Aleppo-Latakia international highway (M4). In May, those patrols  were able to reach further areas and tour larger swaths, after being able to only roam  an area of three-kilometre long.

Furthermore, Russia continues its movements to undermine the Iranian presence in Syria and put an end to the battle with ISIS which recently stepped up its operations against regime forces. A few days ago, reliable sources informed the Syrian Observatory that Russia brought in military reinforcement of the “5th Corps” to north-eastern Syria, in order to be stationed in positions of the Iranian-backed militias in the Syrian desert. The arriving forces were getting ready to launch an attack against ISIS in the area.


According to SOHR sources, forces of the Russian-backed “5th Corps” arrived at the headquarters of “137th Brigade” in the south-western countryside of Deir Ezzor and other areas in Homs desert, in order to be deployed in positions of Iranian-backed forces in the Syrian desert and to prepare for  a military operation against ISIS which is active in this area. This development came as a part of the Russian efforts to dominate the entire Syrian desert and undermine the Iranian-backed militias in the area.

Russia’s efforts have not only been confined to the new deployments, but also Russian jets executed several airstrikes on May 27, targeting positions of “Islamic State” in the Syrian desert. The Russian raids were concentrated in Al-Raqqah desert. ISIS unleashed an attack in the previous night on regime positions in the south of Al-Raqqah province, followed by fierce clashes between both sides. The clashes and Russian airstrikes left eight regime soldiers and 11 ISIS members dead.


It is worth noting that the Russian airstrikes came a few days after ISIS had executed seven regime-backed militiamen in Deir Ezzor desert in the area between Deir Ezzor countryside and Al-Sukhnah in the far eastern Homs desert a few hours after ISIS blocked Damascus-Deir Ezzor road near Kabajib area.

Aleppo-Al-Hasakah highway .. Russia’s continuous efforts to exert more influence


In north-eastern Syria region, Russia is attempting to impose its control on Aleppo-Al-Hasakah international highway (M4) and reopen it. SOHR sources reported on May 27 that convoys of civilian cars and commercial trucks passed on the Aleppo-Al-Hasakeh highway. Commercial vehicles entered from crossings in the regime-controlled areas in eastern Aleppo countryside, passing through Al-Raqqa province to Al-Hasakah . While civilian vehicles used a  road which passes through areas under the control of the “Autonomous Administration”.

According to Observatory sources, Russian military vehicles escorted oil trucks belonging to  al-Qatirji business, traveling on the “M4” road, while a dispute occurred between Russian forces and SDF over the passage of these trucks.

On the other hand, reliable sources informed the Syrian Observatory of further details about the agreement between “Putin” and “Erdogan” on the opening of Aleppo-Al-Hasakah international highway (M4). According to SOHR sources, the agreement’s second phase stipulates for Turkish-backed factions to pull-out from the frontlines of Tal Tamr and Abu Rasin in northern Al-Hasakah, seven km towards Turkey border, in addition to the full suspension of military operation in the area.

“The implementation of Russia-Turkey agreement means that Syria Democratic Forces accept the recent advancement on the ground by Turkish forces and their proxies during ‘Peace Spring’ operation in north-eastern Syria,” the sources added.


NE Syria: tense calm follows U.S.-Russia skirmishes and tension in the region

Since Turkey launched its operation “Peace Spring” in northern Syria on October 9, Turkish forces and Turkish-backed factions advanced inside the SDF-held areas with an extensive air and land cover in a total area of ​​4875 km2 (9.2% of the total area previously controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces), which is more than a quarter of the area of ​​Lebanon. At the same time, regime forces deployed in the region under an agreement between SDF and the regime through Russian mediation, into an area estimated at 18,821 km2 (35.6% of the total area of the SDF), which means that the SDF lost control of 23,641 km2, after it has been in control of an area of ​​52,916 square kilometers (28.6% of the total area of ​​Syria) before the start of the Turkish military operation, meaning that “SDF” now only controls 15.7% of the total Syrian territories.

US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from northern Syria on October 6 marked a green light for the Turkish military operation and a green light to redraw the map of alliances and influence in the entire region. The US withdrawal led the SDF to resort to Russia and the regime to deploy regime border guards on the borders with Turkey in exchange for the withdrawal of SDF forces from that region. With the successive withdrawal of the Syrian Democratic Forces in accordance with the Russian-Turkish agreement reached in “Sochi” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the areas of control began to be clear and take shape. For now, the area from Qamishli to Ain Dewar is under US influence, while the region from Qamishli to Ras Al-Ain (Sri Kaniyee) and from Tal Abyad to Ain Al-Arab (Kobani) is under Russian influence. Meanwhile, the area from Ras al-Ain To Tal Abyad is subject to Turkish influence and the Turkish-backed, at a time when areas in “Abu Rasin” and “Tal Tamr” countryside, which connects to Ras Al-Ain, witness renewed clashes between SDF and the Turkish-backed factions, as the case for the area between Ain Issa And Tal Abyad.

According to SOHR observations over the past month, tense calm continued in the north-eastern Syria region after months of skirmishes and tussles  took place between U.S. and Russian troops. On May 27, SOHR sources confirmed that a large Russian convoy, escorted by U.S. patrol, headed to “Dirna Aghi” area of “Jal Agha/Al-Jawadiyah” district, east of Al-Qamishli, for the first time since Russian forces entered the region of northern and north-eastern Syria. According to SOHR sources, eight Russian vehicles headed to Dirna Aghi, then a Russian-American joint patrol caught up with the first Russian convoy to the area where a farmer was shot dead by the Turkish Jandarma ten days earlier.


While on May 29, Russian forces ran a military patrol in the northern countryside of Al-Hasakah. The patrol set off from Tal Tamr area to Abu Rasin town (Zarkan). It is worth noting that tension rose  between Russian and U.S. forces on May 28, after two military vehicles affiliated to U.S. forces intercepted a Russian military patrol while passing on Aleppo-Al-Hasakah international highway (M4) in Tal Tamr area in the northern countryside of Al-Hasakah. Children attacked the two American vehicles, while the Russian patrol continued its journey to Ain Issa area.

As months pass, the Syrians suffer the scourge of the Russian intervention, which seems to resemble a kind of revenge and retaliation against Syrians for protesting against the regime that committed the worst violations against its own people. At a time when the map of alliances and power balances is changing, Russia has become the ultimate winner, succeeding in helping the Syrian regime regaining control over about two-thirds of the country after losing control of most of its territory. Moscow used the pretext of “the war on terror” to commit massacres against civilians, and sponsored and struck agreements which soon after abandoned. Moscow and its war machine spilt in the blood of Syrians despite claiming to be “political mediator” or “broker” that can deal with all parties to the conflict.

With all recent changes in the balance of powers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renews its appeals to the international community to put pressure on Russia to stop its aggression against the Syrians, and to find a political solution to end the Syrian crisis that is nearing its tenth year.