65 months of Russian intervention in Syria | Search for the remains of Israelis south of the capital… ongoing confrontation with Iranians…hundreds of airstrikes on the desert and escalation in “de-escalation zone”
The Russian forces completed their 65th month of military operations in Syria. In the fifth month of the 6th year of Russia’s intervention in Syria, SOHR monitored several events.
Excavating graves for Israel
The excavation of graves south of the capital Damascus by the Russian side is perhaps the most prominent event in February, where the Russians continued excavating graves and exhuming bodies in al-Yarmouk camp in search of the remains of two Israeli soldiers and prominent Israeli spy, Elie Cohen, who were killed decades ago and buried in the area. And the assumption was that the Russian side would reach results and conclude the mission after one month of excavations and conducting DNA analyses of the remains exhumed from these graves, which sparked public anger in the region, as the Russians desecrated the dead with such operations. The Syrian regime and authorities remained silent on the issue throughout.
NE Syria: Confronting Iranian Influence and movement to exert pressure on SDF
Russian forces met on February 10 with the elders and sheikhs of Arab tribes in the city of al-Qamishli, in coordination with the Syrian regime. The meeting was attended by the head of the tribe of Bani Sab’a and other Arab tribal sheikhs in al-Qamishli and Al-Hasakeh, and a person known by his initial as (A.M.) member of parliament of the regime government.
According to Syrian Observatory sources, the Russian general who chaired the meeting asked the attendees to form military forces from these tribes, directly supported by the Russian side, with the main objective of countering Iranian expansion in the region, as Iran recruited hundreds of people in al-Qamishli and al-Hasaka, in addition to weakening the SDF.
The Russian demands focused on the need to make Arab tribesmen withdraw from the ranks of SDF. A recruitment centre was opened in the village of Jarmaz located in the countryside of al-Qamishli in the Syrian regime-held areas. One of the goals of the new formation will be to counter the American influence in NE region of Syria.
On February 21, Russian forces withdrew from the bases of Ain Issa in Al-Raqqah countryside, and al-Mabaqir in Al-Hasakah countryside, to exert pressure on SDF after rejecting the demands of the Russian forces and regime forces, including handing over the villages of Al-Ma’alaq, Jahbel, Jabel, Sayda, Al-Mushirfeh and Ain Issa camp near “M4” raod in Ain Issa countryside to the Turkish forces. Therefore, the road between Ain al-Arab in eastern Aleppo countryside and Ain Issa countryside in rural Raqqa will be cut off.
Also, handing over wheat stored in Shirakrak silos to regime forces, where thousands of tons of wheat and barley crops are stored. In addition, handing over several villages in Ain Issa countryside to regime forces and withdrawal of SDF from them.
According to SOHR sources, SDF rejected these demands, which sparked sarcastic reactions on social media saying that Russian forces were “resented”, while Russians returned to the bases a few hours after the withdrawal.
On February 25, SOHR sources said that operation of recovering wheat from the Sherrakrak silos in northern countryside of Raqqa continued in full swing, as dozens of tons of wheat were transported from the silos, located on frontlines with Turkish forces and proxy factions, by SDF accompanied by Russian forces.
The operation was carried out by civilian trucks belonging to SDF with the Russians, and were transported to Raqqa, Ain al-Arab (Kobani) and Manbij in the areas held by the “Autonomous Administration” in northern and north-eastern Syria.
On February 19, Syrian Observatory activists reported that the “Autonomous Administration” managed to transport, under protection of Russian forces, eight trucks carrying nearly 400 tons of wheat stored in Sherkerak silos in Al-Raqqah countryside to positions under the control of Autonomous Administration’s department of silos administration.
In February, Russian forces and their Turkish counterparts conducted five joint patrols, three of which took place in Aleppo province and specifically in Ain al-Arab countryside (Kobani). The first patrol roamed areas from Ashma border crossing, west of the city, and headed to the villages of Zormaghar, Binder, Jarkali and Quli. Khorkhoury, Sevtek, Salim, Karbanaf, Kosak, Alichar, Jom Ali, Kurtek, Kubik Sattan, Terri, Tal Hajib, Qabjeq Saghir, Bouztebe, Qara Mough and Jishan all the way to the village of Kharabisan Tahtani.
The other two patrols were conducted in Al-Hasakah countryside, where Turkish and Russian armoured vehicles set off from the village of Sherik, west of Derbasiya, and roamed villages and towns of Dalil, Quneitra, Sheikh Mansour, east of Derbasiya, Tal Kdish and Ganamiya, Karbati, south of Derbasiya, and then headed to the villages and towns of Tal Tairi, Jadida and Baba Mahmoud, Tal Karama, Abu, Jaradi, Khask, Medura and Khanki in the countryside of Amuda. The joint patrols were always escorted by Russian helicopters,
Meanwhile, the Russians conducted daily patrols in Karki Laki, Derna Agi, Ain Dewar, Banah Qasr, rural al-Malikia, Tal Tamer, Darbasiya, Manbij and other areas in Raqqa countryside.
Syrian desert: Hundreds of airstrikes kill nearly 95 ISIS members
In the 65th of Russia’s intervention in Syria, SOHR activists documented the death of 79 ISIS members in 1,550 Russian airstrikes on their positions in the Syrian desert, mostly killed in Aleppo-Hama-Al-Raqqah triangle.
NW Syria: intensifying airstrikes and military exercises with the Turks
Russian jets escalated their airstrikes on the “de-escalation zone”, known as the “Putin-Erdogan” zone, targeting it five times, four of which on Idlib and one on Latakia.
On February 2, Russian fighter jets executed airstrikes on the north-western countryside of Idlib, targeting military headquarters in the north-west of Harbanoush village and the surrounding areas of Qurqania village, leaving injuries among rebels.
A day later, military positions were targeted with several airstrikes near the town of Armanaz in western countryside of Idlib, leaving injuries among HTS members.
On February 13, Russian jets executed airstrikes targeting the perimeter of Idlib central prison, west of Idlib city.
On February 23, Russian airstrikes hit the perimeter of al-Bara town in southern countryside of Idlib.
The latest strikes were on February 26, where Russian fighter jets executed airstrikes on Kabana frontline in Jabal Al-Akrad in northern Latakia countryside.
On February 11, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored joint military exercises between Russian forces and their Turkish counterparts on frontlines in the village of Al-Tarnaba, west of Saraqeb city in Idlib countryside.
The military exercises were conducted with light weapons, on Wednesday, coinciding with a routine patrol of Turkish forces accompanied by members of the Russian army. The patrol set off from the village of Al-Tarnaba to the village of Ain al-Hoor in western countryside of Idlib.
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.