Russian intervention in Syria 60 months on | Routine movements in north-east of the country, and a major escalation in al-Badia to minimise growing ISIS influence
Russia’s plans are proceeding in the 60th consecutive month of its involvement in the Syrian crisis since September 30, 2015.
With 60 months of the Russian intervention in the Syrian war, Russian forces continue their direct and active involvement in the Syrian territory through military patrols.
Recently, on September 28, Russian troops conducted a military patrol near al-Qamishli city in Hasakeh province, as part of the frequent and routine movements by the Russians in the area. In addition to their own patrols, Russian troops are conducting joint patrols with their Turkish counterparts.
On September 24, a joint patrol with Turkish forces took place in the areas of eastern rural Ain al-Arab (Kobane).
These joint patrols are part of the Russian-Turkish agreements on sharing out the areas of influence and “de-escalation zones” in northern and north-eastern Syria.
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.
On the other hand, Russian forces continue their joint patrols with the SDF as well. On September 12, SOHR activists monitored a Russian patrol of six armoured vehicles, escorted by an SDF vehicle, touring Rubariyah, Hayaka villages in the south of Al-Malikiyyah, and Samarsakh village to the west, then the patrol headed to Alayan area in Ma’badah countryside in the western of Al-Malikiyyah in Al-Hasakah countryside.
Russian forces are also actively strengthening their military presence in northern and north-eastern Syria by continuously bringing in new columns to Ain Issa. : two columns were brought in, one on sep 19 and another on 27, to al-Qamishli airport which hosts a Russian military base in north-eastern Syria.
The biggest achievement of Russian forces in Syria in the last month is the reopening of the Hasakeh-Aleppo international road.
On September 12, reliable sources told SOHR that Russian forces reopened Al-Hasakah-Aleppo international highway (M4) highway from Tal Tamr in the northern countryside of Al-Hasakah, to Ain Issa town in the northern countryside of Al-Raqqah.
This development came after the highway was closed for more than two months due to the coronavirus. Tens of commercial trucks and vehicles were seen traveling on the M4 highway.
Reliable sources have informed the Syrian Observatory that the people of the villages of “Karki Laki” district in the countryside of Al-Qamishli city rejected the setting up of a Russian military base in their areas.
According to SOHR sources, residents from Hayaka and Sermasakh Tahtani villages of “Karki Laki” district headed to the tent where Russian forces were stationed, and expressed their rejection of establishing a Russian military base in their villages.
Under the residents’ pressure, the Russian forces reversed their decision and returned to Al-Qamishli city, in what could be seen a clear sign of popular rejection of the Russian presence.
Despite tension and skirmishes in recent months between Russian and U.S. forces, last month saw a decrease in incidents of interception or clashes between the two sides.
On the other hand, the Syrian desert is witnessing daily intensive airstrikes by Russian jets targeting ISIS strongholds in an attempt to minimise the group’s escalating activities. The group is attacking regime forces and allied militias in various parts in the Syrian desert.
Russian jets have continued to intensify their airstrikes on the Syrian desert, stepping up their strikes on ISIS-held areas, particularly in Deir ez-Zor desert and the Aleppo-Hama-Raqqa triangle. The Syrian Observatory has documented the death of 99 ISIS members in Russian airstrikes over the last month.
The death toll since late March 24, 2019 to date has risen. SOHR has documented the death of at least 781 members of regime forces and loyalists of Syrian and non-Syrian citizens, including at least two Russians.
Also, 140 members of Iranian-backed militias of non-Syrian citizens were killed in ISIS attacks, IEDs and ambushes in the western Euphrates, and the desert of Deir ez-Zor, Homs and Sweida.
SOHR also confirmed the death of four civilians working in the gas fields as a result of the group’s attacks, and 11 shepherds were killed in the group’s attacks,
The Syrian Observatory also documented the death of 390 members of Islamic State, during the same period, in attacks and bombings.
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.