Russian intervention in Syria 62 months on | Routine patrols with the Turks in NE Syria… new messages to international community… renewed airstrikes on Syrian desert and “de-escalation zone”
At a time when Russia’s plans are proceeding with their 62nd consecutive month of involvement in the Syrian crisis, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has monitored and tracked the recent developments during the second month of the sixth year of the Russian intervention in Syria. These key developments can be summarized regionally as follows:
North East Syria
In November, Russian forces conducted seven joint patrols with their Turkish counterparts in the north-east of Syria, and they are the following:
- Four patrols near the Syria-Turkey border in Ain Al-Arab countryside (Kobani).
- Two patrols toured rural Al-Darbasiyyah in northern Al-Hasakah.
- One patrol rural Al-Qahtaniyah in eastern Al-Qamishli.
North West Syria
In north-western Syria region, however, Russian aircraft struck the “de-escalation zone” on five occasions in November which are as follows:
- 13 airstrikes hit Sarjeh, Shanan, Frika, Bayanin and Ihsim in Jabal al-Zawiyah.
- Five airstrikes hit the outskirts of Bayanin and Shanan in Jabal al-Zawiyah.
- Four airstrikes hit the western bushes of Idlib city.
- Several airstrikes were executed on Kabani area in Jabal Al-Akrad.
- Several airstrikes hit Mashoun village in Jabal Al-Zawiyah.
It is worth noting that the Russian airstrikes in November left no civilian casualties. However, they caused material damage.
In the province of Daraa, where Russia sponsored reconciliation deals which later led to bringing the entire province back to regime control in 2018, SOHR activists documented, in November, the release of over 60 prisoners from prisons of regime-affiliated security branches in Daraa. These people had been arrested in the past months and years, some arrested since the beginning of the “Syrian Revolution”, and they were released at Russia’s direct orders.
On the other hand, SOHR sources reported, on November 12, an attack on Russian forces in the eastern countryside of Daraa, as an IED explosion targeted a Russian armoured vehicle on the road between Al-Sahwah and Al-Misifrah, which caused damage to the vehicle.
Russian forces have participated in large-scale security campaigns in the Syrian desert, as Russian aircraft supported regime forces while searching for ISIS cells and attacking ISIS positions, especially with ISIS being active in large spaces of the desert. However, all security campaigns and Russian strikes have so far failed to put an end to the growing ISIS resurgence.
In November, SOHR activists documented the death of 45 ISIS members in Russian airstrikes on their positions in the Syrian desert, mostly killed in Aleppo-Hama-Al-Raqqah triangle.
New signals and messages to the outside wold
Through organizing the “conference on refugees’ return” in Damascus on November 11, Russia sought to send a new direct message to the international community that the situation in Syria had become much better, thanks to Russia’s military and political efforts, calling upon the Syrian refugees to return to their homeland. It is worth noting that several countries attended the conference in Damascus, including China, Russia, Iran, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Oman.
On social media, Syrian refugees, internally displaced people and even people living in regime-controlled areas denounced and mocked the holding of such conference. The Syrian Observatory monitored such comments by refugees and displaced people, some of which read “No return before the departure of Al-Assad and its regime – How dare you ask us to return after you have destroyed the country, while you cannot secure the needs of people and strip them of their rights?! – Despite all struggles and problems we have faced in the host countries, they are more merciful than your rule.”
While some comments by people living in regime-controlled areas read “Please, do not return, we are coming to you, living conditions here are insufferable, no electricity, no bread, no fuel, all prices are unaffordable and salaries are not even enough.”
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.