Iranian military in Syria in November 2021 | Human and material losses in nine attacks…redeployment and transportation of weapons and ammunitions • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Iranian military in Syria in November 2021 | Human and material losses in nine attacks…redeployment and transportation of weapons and ammunitions

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 seem to be 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 November 2021.

 

 

Noticeable escalation of airstrikes by Israel and unidentified drones

 

In November 2021, Israel attacked positions of Iranian-backed militias and regime forces in Syria on four occasions, killing five people and destroying six targets. Further details of these strikes are distributed as follows:

 

  • November 3: Several missiles fired by Israeli forces from occupied Palestine, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, hit positions in Zakiyah area in the western Rif Dimashq. According to SOHR sources, the targeted positions hosted weapons and ammunition warehouses affiliated to the Iranian-backed militias, as well as headquarters of the 4th However, no casualties were reported.

 

  • November 8: Missiles coming from the airspace of north Lebanon hit areas hosting military barracks, the headquarters of a regime-backed prominent military formation and Al-Shayrat airbase where the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militias were stationed in the south-eastern countryside of Homs.

 

  • November 17: Israeli missiles fired from the occupied Syrian Golan, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, targeted positions in southern Damascus, However, no casualties were reported. While the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights could not be verified of the nature of the targeted sites in an area hosting headquarters and positions of Iranian-backed militias and Lebanese Hezbollah.

 

  • November 24: Five people were killed in Israeli rocket fire on the western suburbs of Homs and shrapnel of missiles by Israel and by regime air-defences. Two of the fatalities were militiamen loyal to the Lebanese Hezbollah, whose nationalities were not known so far, while the three others were regime soldiers, two of whom were in plain clothes at the time of the attack.

 

Similarly, unidentified drones struck positions of Iranian-backed militias on four occasions in November, killing seven people and destroying five targets. These attacks were as follows:

 

  • November 9: Unknown drone attacked areas under the control of Iranian-backed militias on the outskirts of Al-Bokamal, but no casualties have been reported.

 

  • November 10: At least seven Iranian-backed militiamen were killed due to airstrikes by unknown drone, which targeted positions and weapons warehouses in Al-Bokamal city in east Deir Ezzor countryside. According to SOHR sources, the deaths included three Syrians who worked for the Iranian-backed militias. However, the nationalities of the other four militiamen remained unknown. Moreover, the airstrikes destroyed warehouses of weapons and ammunition.

 

  • November 15: Unidentified drones struck positions where Iranian-backed militias were stationed on the outskirts of Al-Bokamal city in the eastern countryside of Dei Ezzor. Plumes of smoke were seen in the targeted sites. However, no casualties were reported.

 

  • On the same day, November 15: SOHR activists reported hearing loud eight explosions in Al-Bokamal city in eastern Deir Ezzor, caused by airstrikes by unidentified drones on Iranian-backed militias’ positions. The attacks destroyed a headquarters where weapons and ammunition were stored.

 

 

Attack by US forces and weapon shipment transported to Palmyra countryside

 

On November 24, US forces stationed at Al-Tanaf base in the 55-kilometre zone, near the Syria-Jordan-Iraq border triangle, fired long-range missiles towards the Syrian desert. However, no confirmed information was reported about the target of these missiles and the damage they caused. SOHR sources reported that the US missiles hit positions in areas controlled by the Iranian-backed militias in the Syrian desert. However, the strict security cordon and high alertness by the militiamen prevented SOHR activists from obtaining further information on the outcomes of this US rocket fire.

 

 

Hectic movements in west Euphrates region

 

Military developments:

 

On November 3, Iranian-backed militias, which controlled Al-Bokamal city in west Euphrates region in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, installed an artillery unit, 57 mm gun, in the water purification station on the Kurnish street, next to the bridge linking Al-Bokamal in west Euphrates region and the SDF-controlled town of Al-Baghouz in east Euphrates region. However, the reasons behind this development, which coincided with the undeclared escalation between the International Coalition and the Iranians in east Syria, remained unknown.

 

While on November 5, Iranian-backed militias deployed in west Euphrates region boosted their military posts in Al-Bokamal and Al-Mayadeen cities in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. The Iranian-backed militias provided these posts with prefabricated guard rooms with the aim to enhance protection of their militiamen in the wake of the recent attacks on their positions.

 

Besides, SOHR activists confirmed that the Iranian-backed militias redeployed in several positions, in the past month, in the towns and villages between Al-Mayadeen and Al-Bokamal on the Iraq-Syria border in east Deir Ezzor countryside. These repositions came as a part of camouflage tactics over fears of repeated attacks by Israel and the International Coalition.

 

The redeployment operations included change of posts and positions and replacement of troops. In addition, the militias brought in military reinforcement on a daily basis to their posts and positions, boosting these positions. Moreover, Iranian-backed militias transferred weapons and ammunition in trucks from a warehouse inside Al-Rahaby fortress near Al-Shalaby ancient site in eastern Dier Ezzor to their positions and headquarters where they were recently deployed in those areas.

 

Another tactic of camouflage used by the Iranians in November was the replacement of their flags with the internationally recognized Syrian flag, as Iranian-backed militias replaced their flags on the cultural centre, some posts and military headquarters in Al-Bokamal city with the internationally recognized Syrian ones, fearing repeated attacks.

 

In mid-November, the Lebanese Hezbollah transported weapons and ammunition from west Euphrates region, the pro-Iran militias’ “colony” in Syrian territory, to Hezbollah positions on the Syria-Lebanon border in Rif Dimashq. Hezbollah trucks transported weapons and ammunition from Iranian-backed militias’ warehouses near Athar Al-Shalby area in Al-Mayadeen countryside, east of Deir Ezzor. The trucks took Deir Ezzor-Damascus highway to the Syria-Lebanon border in Rif Dimashq where they were unloaded in Hezbollah positions in the region’s barren mountains.

 

Also, on November 28, trucks belonging to Iranian-backed militias transported weapons and ammunition, including medium-range Iranian-made missiles, from warehouses in Athar Al-Shabli area in Al-Mayadeen desert in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor to the militias’ positions in Maadan in Al-Raqqah desert. It is worth noting that the trucks were escorted by guards of the Iranian-backed militias.

 

 

Violations and disorder

 

On November 19, SOHR sources reported that Iranian-backed militiamen beat a shepherd in Al-Majoudah town in Al-Bokamal city, before they forced him to take off his clothes and seized several sheep. The militiamen refused to give back the shepherd’s clothes, before they left the area.

 

While on November 29, clashes erupted between regime-backed National Defense Forces and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Al-Asharah city in east Deir Ezzor countryside.

 

According to sources, the clashes took place after the National Defense forces opened a crossing used for smuggling between regime-controlled areas and SDF-held areas. The Iranians rejected this action and expelled the NDF members from the region, which led to clashes between the two sides on Ibn Osood road near Al-Jam’yah neighbourhood in Al-Asharah city.

 

Moreover, IRGC brought in military reinforcement, while the clashes continued between the two sides for hours, amid intervention by the military security services.

 

The clashes left four persons on both sides wounded, while an NDF pickup vehicles with submachine gun installed over it was damaged, before NDF escaped from the area.

 

 

Ongoing reinforcement to east Aleppo countryside

 

In Aleppo province, Iranian-backed militias brought in two patches of military and logistical reinforcement to their positions in the eastern countryside in November. The first batch was on November 12 when Iran-controlled factions brought in military reinforcement to the base they had established recently on a hill in Haboubah village between Maskanah and Al-Khafsah in east Aleppo countryside, opposite areas under the control of SDF and International Coalition on the other bank of the Euphrates river. The reinforcement included short-range missile, ammunition and logistics. Moreover, position in the area were boosted.

 

While the second batch arrived on November 25, as Iranian-backed militias brought in military reinforcement to their base in Habbouba village between the villages of Khafsa and Maskanah, east of Aleppo. According to SOHR sources, trucks loaded with Iranian-made missiles and other military and logistical equipment arrived at the base on that day.

 

In east Aleppo, recruitment continued for the interest of Iran-backed factions led by Afghani Liwaa Fatimyoun for some financial advantages and concessions. According to SOHR number of the recruits was up to 2,050 since the escalation of the recruitment process in February 2021 until today. This recruitment was concentrated in Maskanah, Al-Safirah, Deri Hafer areas and other towns and villages in east Aleppo via spiritual figures and offices that offered financial incentives.

 

 

Ongoing purchases of real estate in eastern Ghouta and Hezbollah search for remains of its fighters

 

As the Iranians’ efforts to change the demography of eastern Ghouta in progress, with the help of Syrian affiliates who continued purchasing houses, shops and land plots, SOHR sources reported that individuals purchased farmlands in the recent time in the area between Al-Mleha to Htetat Al-Turkman running through Shab’a and Deir Al-Asafeer in the southern part of eastern Ghouta, adjacent to Damascus international airport.

 

It is worth noting that the individuals who purchased these farmlands were affiliated to “Abu Yaser Al-Bakari” who was from Al-Bokamal city and works for Iranian-backed militias.

 

According to the sources, the purchasing of these farmlands were similar to the earlier purchases of houses and shops across eastern Ghouta, that the Syrian Observatory reported about. The Iranians’ affiliates bought these farmlands for large sums of money, as they focused on plots of land owned by people living outside Syria.

 

The Syrian Observatory would like to point out that the Iranian-backed militias were seeking to surround Damascus international airport, over years, to the flank of eastern Ghouta. The Iranians considered eastern Ghouta as one of the most prominent Syrian areas which accommodated oppositionists to the Syrian regime, who played a major role in the peaceful protests with the first spark of the “Syrian Revolution”, before it was captured by rebel factions. After the factions’ control of the region, eastern Ghouta experienced violent battles which left thousands of regime soldiers and Iranian-backed militiamen dead, before the factions and civilians who rejected the reconciliation deals were evacuated to north Syria region in 2018.

 

In this context, SOHR activists confirmed that militiamen of the Iranian-backed movement of “Al-Nujabaa” stationed in different areas in southern Damascus, including Sayeda Zeinab, seized a farmland adjacent to Damascus international airport in Shab’aa area, arrested the land’s owner, excavated the land using heavy diggers and earth-moving machineries and established a security post with ten militiamen being stationed in it.

 

Furthermore, Iranian-backed militias, particularly the Lebanese Hezbollah, continued to impose their influence on Syrian territory near and the Syria-Lebanon border in Rif Dimashq, as Hezbollah dominated the entire region.

 

Despite the poor economic conditions in Syria, Iran and Lebanon, the processes of demographic change continued through seizure of real estate. Since early 2021, Iran-backed non-Syrian militias bought more than 500 land plots in Al-Zabadany and its vicinity and 610 other plots at least in Al-Tufayl border area, turning the region into an “autonomous” village headed by H. D. who was close to the Lebanese Hezbollah commanders.

 

In the same context, seizure of luxurious apartments and villas in Bludan area continue. According to SOHR, the number of luxurious apartments and villas taken over by Iranian-backed militias reached 495, and these units were inhabited by members of those militia with support of the Lebanese Hezbollah which worked on facilitating the work of those factions in that region. The purchase and seizure of real estates and apartment were in progress even with the SOHR shedding light on that issue.

 

On the other hand, the border areas between Syria and Lebanon in the Rif Dimashq experienced hectic movements by the Lebanese Hezbollah and its Iranian proxies by changing the locations of storage of weapons and ammunition from time to time, and sometimes transferring them to other areas, fortifying their new military posts and positions, and reducing the number of members stationed at their headquarters. Such procedures are adopted for fear of repeated strikes by Israel on the Iranian wing in Syria, especially after Hezbollah had brought in weapons and ammunition from west Euphrates a few days earlier.

 

Separately, Lebanese “Hezbollah” has renewed search for remains of its fighters killed in battles against opposition and jihadist factions during their control of Eastern Ghouta, SOHR activists said.

 

Since early November, groups of “4th Division,” headed by Maher Al-Assad, who is President Bashar Al-Assad’s brother, Hezbollah’s military fighters and special forces, civilians from Eastern Ghouta controlled by faction prior to March 2018, and former fighters of opposition factions who have reconciled with security services and joined regime forces under “reconciliation” deals made following the deportation of factions and anti-reconciliation individuals to northern Syria, have been searching for the remains of Hezbollah fighters killed in the battles of Al-Marj area in eastern Ghouta countryside between 2013 to 2016, in the areas of Al-Qaisa, Al-Jarba, Al-Qasimya, Al-Balaliya and Deir Salman.

 

Hezbollah has been searching for the fighters’ remains near frontlines that experienced fierce battles between regime forces and Hezbollah on one hand, and the jihadist and opposition factions on the other, where searching teams were able to find the remains of three fighters whose identities remained unknown, their bodies were transferred to the hospitals in the capital, Damascus.

 

Since the Syrian regime backed by Russia captured eastern Ghouta, Lebanese “Hezbollah” and Iranian-backed militias have conducted intensive search for the remains of their fighters killed in previous battles in Al-Marj area in eastern Ghouta because it is one of the most prominent areas where Lebanese “Hezbollah” fighters and Iranian militias are present on the fronts of Eastern Ghouta, where former factional fighters help Lebanese “Hezbollah” fighters and Iran-backed militias to know where the bodies were buried.

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