Iranian military in Syria in October 2021 | Human and material losses in six airstrikes…ongoing expansion east Euphrates…continuous purchase of real estate in Homs, al-Raqqah, near Lebanese borders
Iranian forces and their proxy militias still continue strengthening their presence throughout regime-held areas, disregarding the “cold war” with Russians and the repeated airstrikes by Israel and International Coalition, which are unable to put an end to such efforts or even hinder them.
In the following report, SOHR highlights the key developments in areas dominated by the Iranians in October 2021.
Palmyra, al-Raqqah, near Lebanese border with Rif Dimashq: Expansion, incursion, and violations
Iran-backed factions continues to control more real estate at the Syrian-Lebanon borders in Damascus countryside under supervision of Lebanese Hezbollah, as the operations of buying the lands at the border with Lebanon continued and Hezbollah monitor every minor thing as the actual ruler.
According to SOHR, Iran-backed factions from non-Syrians since 2021 until the moments have bought 415 pieces of lands in al-Zydany and its vicinity and 540 pieces in the border al-Tofeel neighborhood that became as a legendary village as appeared in one of the Syrian series and led by a person close to leaders of Lebanese Hezbollah whose name in H.D.
On the other hand, confiscation of luxurious apartments and villas in Buldan neighborhoods continue and according to SOHR it has reached 405 flats that are inhabited by members of those militia with support of Lebanese Hezbollah who works on facilitating the work of those factions. The buying and seizing real estates and apartment came even after the SOHR shedding light on that issue.
In Al-Raqqah, on October 18, Iranian-backed militias of various nationalities continue their efforts to entrench their presence in Syria, with the help of their affiliates and pro-Iran prominent Syrian figures, SOHR sources in al-Raqqah countryside have reported that these militias continued taking over the civilians’ properties, including houses, farmlands and shops. These properties have been purchased by Syrian individuals affiliated with the Iranian-backed militias from al-Bokamal and al-Mayadeen areas in eastern Deir Ezzor, as it is the case in eastern and western Ghouta in Rif Dimashq.
Reliable sources informed the Syrian Observatory that al-Nujabaa Movement which is affiliated to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps started to prepare a factory for manufacturing mortars, launchpads of surface-to-surface missiles and bullets of various calibers. The factory is located in a farm belonging to people who are living abroad, seized previously by Iranian-backed militias, on the outskirts of Maadan city in the eastern countryside of al-Raqqah province.
In Palmyra, on October 8, Syrian Observatory activists say that individuals working for the Iranian-backed militias in Palmyra city in Homs countryside started recently to communicate with people from the city, who have been displaced to al-Rukban camp in the Syrian desert near the Syria-Iraq-Jordan border triangle, for buying their real estate.
According to SOHR sources, two men known as Hassan al-Aziz and Abboud al-Amin from Palmyra and work for the Iranian-backed militias are tasked to communicate with displaced people from Palmyra living in al-Rukban camp with the aim to persuade them to sell their properties for the Iranian-backed militias. One of these two men negotiates for houses, while the other negotiates for farmlands, exploiting the dire living conditions of the displaced people in al-Rukban camp, especially since most of the camp’s inhabitants cannot return to their areas at the recent time, as they are prosecuted by the regime security service.
SOHR sources have also reported that many of the people of Palmyra and living in al-Rukban camp started to sell their real estate to Iranian-backed militias affiliates.
On October 29, SOHR reported that Iranian-backed factions continue its corrupted activities in Palmyra city in east Homs countryside via stifling the populations and practice daily violation against them. Such practices have negatively impacted their presence after the got rid of ISIS tyranny, regime forces and its Iranian proxies came to continue the same approach of ISIS but with using other methods since capturing the city in March 2017.
According to SOHR, the few numbers of remaining people desire to leave due to the continuous violation by Iran-backed factions especially Afghani militia that are represented in Liwaa Fatimyoun but that face the problem of funds to head to Ankara-backed factions’ areas in east Aleppo countryside.
In testimony to SOHR, some of the people who arrived in Euphrates Shield areas spoke about the violations practiced against the inhabitants of Palmyra by Iranian-affiliated factions.
“When men go to their work, members of Liwaa Fatimyoun search to houses and verbally abuse the women,” according to eyewitnesses. The population in Palmyra reported complains to the regime authorities who stayed silent.
Meanwhile, the Iranian factions force the young men to work in al-Malaha region in Palmyra on guarding the factions headquarters at night or they won’t allow them to extract salt from Sabkhat al-Mough and also impose levies on the checkpoints. Those are examples of the Iranian-backed factions violations with no deterrence.
Ongoing expansion east Euphrates River
On October 3, SOHR sources have confirmed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) started training courses for IRGC-backed local militiamen on the use of drones in al-Mayadeen city in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. According to SOHR sources, 25 local recruits, divided into five groups, have joined the training course which is held under the supervision of Iranian officers in al-Mazare’ area, as each group has one drone to be trained on.
On October 29, SHOR activists have reported that the Iranian factions stationed in al-Mazara in al-Mayadeen city east of Deir Ezzor have launched some drones in the region towards al-Rahabah castle that works as a center for storing Iranian factions’ missiles and weapons during the training of local members who can use the drones.
On October 6, reliable SOHR sources in areas under the control of Iranian-backed militias in west Euphrates region have reported the arrival of a new weapons shipment in Syria from Iraq, as the new shipment entered Syria via an unofficial border crossing run by Iranian-backed militias at night. The recently-arrived weapons shipment was taken to al-Mayadeen city in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, then to the archaeological fortress of al-Rahba on the outskirts of the city where the weapons were stored.
According to SOHR sources, the new weapons shipment included Iranian-made short-range missiles and rocket launchpads. It is worth noting that the Iranian-backed militias rarely brought in weapons shipments at night, as most of the previous shipments entered Syria at daytime.
On October 19, reliable SOHR sources have monitored trucks carrying boxes with raw materials in them used for manufacturing IEDs and mortars crossing from Iraq into Syria, as the convoy headed to the military headquarters of Iranian-backed militias in al-Mayadeen desert, particularly al-Mazare’ area which is the capital of the Iranians in west Euphrates region.
On October 22, reliable SOHR sources in west Euphrates region, which is the Iranian “colony” in Syria, have reported that an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia brought in nearly 15 oil trucks from Iraq to Syria in the past few hours, via al-Sekak crossing run by the Iranian-backed militias on the Syria-Iraq border.
SOHR sources have also confirmed that the trucks did not stop in west Euphrates region, as they took Deir Ezzor-Damascus highway. It is expected that the trucks will be unloaded in Damascus. However, the militia to which these trucks were affiliated remained unknown.
On September 20, SOHR sources in west Euphrates region, the “Iranian colony in Syria”, reported the arrival of a new batch of fuel from Iraq, as three oil trucks, two were carrying gasoline and one carrying petrol, arrived at positions of Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas militia. It is worth noting that the trucks, which entered Syria via unofficial crossings used by the Iranian-backed militias on the Syria-Iraq border, were escorted by four four-wheel drive vehicles (4×4) guarding the batch. This cargo was unloaded in large underground tanks in al-Shibli archaeological site in al-Mayadeen desert in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.
Recruit young men
On October 25, as Iranian-backed militias are working on recruiting more young and adult men and creating popular base in areas under their control, SOHR activists have reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps granted financial rewards to the local fighters in its militias, which reached 50,000 SYL each, while foreign fighter got 90,000 SYL each, commemorating al-Mawlid al-Nabawi anniversary. The rewards were distributed to the fighters operating in Deir Ezzor desert, al-Bokmal city and al-Mayadeen.
On October 17, SOHR activists reported that as the Iranians continued arranging various activities, attempting to polish their image before the residents in areas under their control in west Euphrates region, the “Iranian Culture Centre” in al-Mayadeen city arranged a trip for the students of al-Hasan primary school to Ain Ali shrine in the southern part of the city. The trip to the shrine, which is a prominent Shiite shrine in that region, came as a part of the efforts by Iranian-backed militias to instill their ideologies into the segments of Syrian society, particularly children.
On October 14, SOHR activists reported that Iran-backed local factions have tricked nearly 100 young men from al-Maydeen who paid huge amount of money for the factions to join their lines not formally and acquire security card to protect them from joining the regime forces service.
Abu al-Fadel factions that is affiliated to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in al-Mayadeen city in east Deir Ezzor have signed unreal volunteering contracts to join its line for a year with 50 young men, each paid 500,000 TL that is equal 140 USD. Based on the contract, the volunteer could resume his life in the regime-held areas without any security accountability or arrests.
Meanwhile, Al-Saydaa Zynab factions have signed volunteering contracts with 60 other young men for money to avoid the large and intensive arrests by the security branches of the regime against the deserters of the conscription in the regime army. But, the young men were later surprised that the faction has sent warrants for joining their lines and that they are forced to do this based on the contracts.
Based on the contracts, nearly 110 young men have been experiencing military training in camps of Iranian factions in al-Mayadeen city in east Deir Ezzor.
On October 23, although “Shi’aism” proselytising operations (conversion to Shiite) started by individuals affiliated with the Iranian-backed militias in SDF-held areas in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor in 2018 with efforts and full support by “Nawwaf al-Bashir”, the head of al-Bakara tribe and the leader of the Iranian-backed brigade of al-Baqir, these operations have noticeably escalated in the recent time, especially in the villages of Zagheer Jazera, al-Sa’wah, Sfirah Tahtani and Muhaymidah.
The Iranian-backed militias’ affiliates in SDF-held areas have attracted young and adult men by offering financial incentives, exploiting the people’s dire living conditions, as well as providing various prerogatives, including security cards which facilitate their passing through regime checkpoints from SDF-held areas.
According to SOHR sources, Iran’s efforts come as apart of its attempts to strengthen its presence in the region, after having failed to dominate the region militarily.
It is worth noting that the “formerly Jabhat al-Nusra” and ISIS had destroyed the “hosayniyas”, plural of “hosayniya” a congregation hall for Twelver Shia Muslim commemoration ceremonies, for their proxy militiamen, where the Shiite Azan was used and Shiite ritual was practiced, in Zagheer Jazera, al-Sa’wah and Hatla during their control of the region, as these “hosayniyas” had been established, by Iranian support, in 2004.
Ongoing combating Iranian presence
Six raids hit Iranian factions positions on the Syrian lands, in October, and caused deaths and wounded. Four raids came from the Israeli side and the rest via drones of the International Coalition.
On October 8, fires broke out in some military headquarters of Iranian-backed militias nearby Aiysha hospital in al-Bokamal city in Deir Ezzor countryside, after an unidentified drone attacked these headquarters. The drone attack coincided with the sound of heavy gunfire in al-Bokamal city, as the Iranian-backed militias were attempting to shot down the drone using anti-aircraft machineguns. Meanwhile, the Iranian-backed militias were seen on high alert in al-Bokamal city on the Syria-Iraq border, amid unconfirmed reports of shooting down the drone after the attack. On the same day, SOHR activists reported hearing other explosions in positions of Iranian-backed militias near the Syria-Iraq border.
On October 11, SOHR activists have reported violent explosions in al-Bokamal city in east Deir Ezzor countryside, in areas under the control of Iranian-backed militias in west Euphrates region near the Syria-Iraq border. The explosions coincided with flights by drones over the region, amid unconfirmed reports of a new attack on the Iranian-backed militias’ positions in the region.
On October 13, Israeli attack left nine factional members including five Syrians working for Hezbollah and the Iranian factions while identity of the others remained unknown. The airstrikes hit several Iranian-backed militias’ centres, including a training centre and a communication tower, a few kilometres to the east of T4 airbase and to the west of Palmyra city.
SOHR reported on October 25, Israeli jet has fired two missiles on two military centers for the regime forces and its proxies on the outskirt of al-Ba’ath city and al-Korom village in al-Qunitera, leaving material losses.
SOHR reported on October 30, hearing loud explosions in the capital, Damascus, this afternoon, caused by a new Israeli attack on Qudsiya area, al-Demas and al-Bajja’ road.
It is worth noting that the area hosts weapons and ammunition warehouses belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militias, as well as military headquarters of regime forces and the 4th Division.
On the other hand, “R.A” who works for Lebanese Hezbollah Party was found killed on October 23 inside his house in Rankous town at the borders with Lebanon in western al-Qalamoun in Damascus. According to the inhabitants of the region, the murdered persons was one of the most prominent members of Lebanese Hezbollah in western al-Qalamoun and was heading the regime forces that committed massacre against nine males from Rankous neighborhood on January 15 in 2020.