“Putin-Erdogan” area in June 2022 | Jihadist assassinated by Coalition, Russian jets suspend their operations and 13 rebels and regime soldiers killed in attacks and ground bombardment • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

“Putin-Erdogan” area in June 2022 | Jihadist assassinated by Coalition, Russian jets suspend their operations and 13 rebels and regime soldiers killed in attacks and ground bombardment

SOHR renews its appeals to the international community to intervene immediately and force Russia and Turkey to keep civilians away from their narrow mutual interests

The “de-escalation zone”, stretching from the north-eastern mountains of Latakia to the north-western suburbs of Aleppo city running through both Hama and Idlib, has been under an “alleged” and in-name-only ceasefire agreed upon after a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 5, 2020.


However, that region has experienced a noticeable escalation of military operations by Russian and regime forces and their loyal militias, including daily bombardment with tens of rockets and artillery shells and Russian airstrikes, which all have caused significant human losses and material damage. Meanwhile, Turkey, the “de-escalation” guarantor, seems satisfied with its “timid” bombardment of regime positions, which has not restrained this alarming military escalation which is mainly concentrated in the southern countryside of Idlib, as well as affecting east Idlib countryside, towns and villages of Sahl Al-Ghab in the north-western countryside of Hama, Latakia mountains and western Aleppo countryside.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked all developments and violations against Syrian people in the “de-escalation zone” in June 2022, including the military escalation by Russian and regime forces, incidents and attacks, deteriorating security, instability and disastrous humanitarian situation. These key developments can be summarised in the following main points:



Suspension of Russian aerial operation and ongoing ground bombardment


In June 2022, Russian fighter jets executed no airstrikes on the “de-escalation zone,” an this was the first month in 2022 that witnessed no aerial operations by the Russians. However, regime ground attacks continued in June, where SOHR sources reported that more than 1,550 artillery shells and rockets were fired by the regime forces and their loyal militias on military and residential positions in areas under the control of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) and the Jihadist groups and factions. The attacks targeted more than 30 positions in the rural areas of Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Latakia.


Regime attacks are distributed regionally as follows:


  • Aleppo: 400 shells and rockets hit Kafr Nouran, Kafr Amah, Al-Sheikh Suleiman, Taqad, Tadeel and Kafr Taal.


  • Idlib: 600 shells and rockets hit Bayanin, Hursh Bayanin, Sfouhen, Al-Rouwayah, Al-Fatirah, Magharat Aliya, Deir Sonbul, Ain Larouz, Al-Barah, Maarat Al-Naasan and the surrounding areas of Sarmin and Afes.


  • Hama: 300 shells and rockets hit Al-Mashik, Al-Ankawi, Kharbah Al-Naqous, Tel Waset, Al-Mansourah and Al-Qarqour.


  • Latakia countryside: 250 shells and rockets hit Al-Tuffahiyah frontline, the hills of Kabanah, Deir Al-Akrad and the frontline of Jabal Al-Turkman.



Ground bombardment and clashes leave casualties


Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) activists documented no civilian deaths in “Putin-Erdogan” area in June. However, nine rebels, mostly of the National Liberation Front, and four regime soldiers were killed in ground bombardment and attacks.


Here are further details:


  • June 2: A member of Ahrar Al-Sham Islamic Movement from eastern Ghouta in Rif Dimashq was killed in clashes and exchange of bombardment on the frontline of the Regiment 111 in west Aleppo countryside.


  • June 9: A member of the National Liberation Front was killed and four others were injured in an attack by regime forces stationed in Idlib countryside on opposition factions’ positions on a frontline in rural Idlib.


  • June 16: Three members of Al-Sham Corps and another of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham were killed in heavy machinegun fire and rocket attacks by regime forces on positions and posts on Saraqeb frontline in the eastern countryside of Idlib.


  • June 16: An HTS member was shot dead by a regime sniper on the frontline of Al-Fterah town in Jabal Al-Zawiyah in southern Idlib.


  • June 18: A regime officer and three soldiers from the regime-backed 6th Division and the Regiment 35 were killed in an attack by “Jaysh Al-Nasr” which is affiliated to the National Liberation Front on advanced positions of regime forces in Al-Fataterah village in Sahl Al-Ghab in western Hama.


  • June 18: A member of the Coastal Regiments (Al-Sahiliya Division) was killed and another was injured when they were shot by regime snipers on Al-Tuffahiyah frontline, near the administrative border between Latakia and Idlib.


  • June 22: A member of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room was killed in a landmine explosion on the frontline of Afes town in eastern Idlib.



Five fatalities in incidents of security chaos


SOHR activists documented three incidents of security disorder in HTS-held areas in Idlib city and surrounding villages in June, which left three people dead; they are as follows:


  • A civilian was found dead and dumped on the outskirts of Zardana town in Idlib countryside, where he was killed by unknown individuals in a robbery. The victim worked in a shop selling spices.


  • A six-year-old boy was found dead with marks of strangulation on his neck on the outskirts of a refugee camp in Killi area in the northern countryside of Idlib. It is worth noting that the kid went missing nearly a month earlier.


  • A man from Al-Ma’atelah tribe was killed and another was injured in violent clashes between Al-Ma’atelah and Al-Bojameel tribes in Hazarah town in Al-Dana district in northern Idlib.



Assistance by World Food Programme (WFP) arrives in Idlib from regime-controlled areas


On June 12, SOHR activists reported the entry of a United Nations aid convoy of 14 trucks provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) from regime-controlled areas to Sarmada city on the Syria border with Iskenderun region in northern Idlib, via Tarnabeh crossing which links regime-held areas and HTS-controlled areas. This was the second convoy in 2022 and the fifth convoy since UN Resolution 2585/2021 was passed, where a total of nearly 70 trucks were sent to this region in batches.



Ongoing movements by Turkish forces in “de-escalation zone”


As Turkish forces continued their military and security activities in “Putin-Erdogan” in June, SOHR highlights the following key movements:


  • June 2: Turkish forces carried out a large-scale combing operation, searching for landmines and explosives along Aleppo-Latakia international highway (M4), exactly the part from Al-Nayreb town, east of Idlib, to Jisr Al-Shughour in the western countryside of Idlib. A large number of soldiers and armoured vehicles were deployed along that part of the M4 in order to secure troops participating in the combing operation.


  • June 4: A military column of Turkish forces crossed into Syria via Kafr Lusin crossing in northern Idlib. The column, which comprised nearly 20 trucks carrying tunnel-shaped cement blocks, headed to the post hosting Turkish command in Al-Mastoumah town. The reinforcement later was distributed to posts on frontlines with regime forces in the east of Jabal Al-Zawiyah in Idlib countryside.


  • June 21: A Turkish intelligence-sponsored meeting was held between “Al-Jabha Al-Shamiyyah” on one hand, and Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham and Ahrar Al-Sham Islamic Movement on the other. The meeting led to an agreement stipulating the redeployment of “Al-Sham Corps” members in their earlier positions in Aleppo countryside and the withdrawal of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham from the villages it captured recently in Shirawa district.


  • June 25: SOHR activists reported that Turkish forces accomplished the construction of a new military post in Majdalya village at the foot of Al-Arba’in mountain in Idlib countryside. Turkish forces reinforced the new post with armoured vehicles, tanks and heat-seeking missiles. It is worth noting that the location of the recently-established post is strategic as Turkish forces stationed there are able to monitor Damascus-Aleppo international highway (M5), precisely a 25-kilometre-long area from Saraqib city to Maarrat Al-Nu’man city in southern Idlib.


  • June 26: The Turkish Red Crescent handed over 901 houses to displaced persons in a village it had established earlier in Kafr Lusin area on the Syria border with Iskenderun region, in the northern countryside of Idlib. These houses are out of the 5,000 “brick” houses established in the border area with Iskenderun region and the outskirts of Azaz city in the northern countryside of Aleppo.



Protests and rising public anger at Turkish demographic change


Residents in north-west Syria region denounced the Russian-Turkish agreements which changed the demography of Syrian areas, served only Turkey and Russia narrow interests and harmed Syrian people.


In this context, displaced civilians from different Syrian provinces staged a protest on June 3 in front of a Turkish military post known as “Madrasat Al-Sawaka” (the Driving School) in the east of Idlib city, demanding launch military operations against Russian and regime forces and Iranian-backed militias to liberate the areas under their control.



Death of jihadist in strikes by a Coalition drone


On June 27, a jihadist was killed in an attack by a drone of the International Coalition, while travelling on his motorcycle on the road between Idlib city and Qumanas town. Reliable SOHR sources confirmed that the targeted jihadist was a Yemeni commander of Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras Al-Din organisation.



Casualties in violent explosion of ammunition depot


SOHR activists documented on June 2 the death of a little girl with special needs and injury of five other civilians when several missiles hit different areas in Idlib countryside. The missiles were fired due to the explosion of an ammunition depot in Basqba village in the northern countryside of Idlib. Moreover, a member of the artillery regiment of Al-Sham Corps was killed in the explosion which burnt down tens of tents hosting displaced people, before rescue teams evacuated other tents of inhabitants.


Meanwhile, members of “Al-Sham Corps” which is close to Turkish intelligence attacked five activists and prevented them from taking pictures or filming the site of the exploded warehouse in Basqba village. According to SOHR sources, the faction’s members beat an activist and attacked the others, preventing them from approaching the “military zone,” as they described.



Anti-ISIS security operation and displaced people protest HTS decisions


In mid-June, the HTS-backed “General Security Service” launched a large-scale security operation, targeting ISIS fighters and cells’ members, where it managed to arrest several ISIS-affiliated individuals.


While on June 24, displaced people from Rif Dimashq staged a demonstration in Al-Fu’ah town in Idlib countryside, protesting a decision issued by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham ordering them for unknown reasons to immediately evacuate the houses they were living in.


The demonstration coincided with another one staged by the owners of shops and houses which had belonged to Awqaf Ministry of the “Salvation Government,” opposing the ministry’s demands to evacuate these units.



Explosions of old ordnance leave casualties


Old landmines and unexploded war ordnance and proliferation of arms which are left within the reach of children are still posing threats to the safety and lives of civilians, along with the lack of awareness among residents.


In this context, SOHR activists reported on June 9 that a ten-year-old displaced girl from Jabal Al-Hass was injured due to the explosion of an unexploded projectile near Mariam camp, near Maarrat Misrin city.


It is worth noting that old ordnance, including landmines and unexploded bombs, shells, grenades and projectiles are strewn everywhere in residential areas, amid lack of specialist teams to remove them or raise the awareness of residents, particularly children, about the threats which this ordnance poses.



As a human rights organisation, we, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), call upon all international powers concerned with Syria’s affairs and the international community to intervene immediately and put an end to the bloodshed in Syria, as well as applying international humanitarian laws and keeping civilians away from military operations and conflicts.


We also demand that Russia and Turkey, the “de-escalation” guarantors, comply with the ceasefire agreement and stop all violations, including intensive bombardment and airstrikes, which only affect civilians who seek a safe haven in the “de-escalation zone”, fleeing from the repression of the Syrian regime and its security services.