“Putin-Erdogan” area in September 2022 | Russian jets execute 40 airstrikes and commit massacre…military school announce graduation of 400 officer under Al-Julani supervision…HTS capture positions hosting crossings with regime
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 September 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:
Russian fighter jets execute 40 airstrikes and commit a massacre
SOHR has documented 40 airstrikes executed by Russian fighter jets in “Putin-Erdogan” area, precisely Idlib countryside, in the past month, which left seven civilians dead.
Here are further details of Russian airstrikes monitored by SOHR activists:
- September 8: Russian jets started September’s airstrikes with a massacre in western Idlib, which left seven civilians dead. According to SOHR sources, Russian fighter jets executed 14 airstrikes on a stone saw mill and a house on the outskirts of Al-Sheikh Youssef and Hafsarjah villages and areas in Sahl Al-Roj in the western countryside of Idlib. The airstrikes also injured 15 civilians.
- September 8: Russian fighter jets attacked positions in Hafsarja village with three airstrikes.
- September 17: Russian fighter jets executed four airstrikes on positions to the west of Idlib city.
- September 27: Russian airstrikes directly hit a military camp of Jaysh Al-Izzah faction in Kalbeet village in Kafr Lusin area near the border with the Iskenderun, north of Idlib. According to SOHR sources, the camp was targeted with four missiles, three of which hit the camp’s training ground, while the fourth one hit the vicinity of the camp. The airstrikes left two members of Jaysh Al-Izzah injured and destroyed the camp’s training ground. A source of Jaysh Al-Izzah faction told SOHR that the faction had prior knowledge of the Russian attack, as agents of the regime forces had informed the faction of the attack, where the camp was evacuated a few minutes before Russian airstrikes. It is worth noting that 200 recruits and fighter of Jaysh Al-Izzah were undergoing a training course in the camp a short time before the attack. The missile which hit the vicinity of Jaysh Al-Izzah camp injured displaced people living in refugee camps near the Syria border with Iskenderun region.
- September 27: Russian jets executed three airstrikes in an area hosting refugee camps in the vicinity of Maarrat Al-Naasan in north Idlib countryside. The Russian fighter jets used air-to-air missiles in two airstrikes.
- September 30: Russian fighter jets executed four strikes on Al-Ruwayha and Byanin in Idlib countryside and eight others on Musaybeen in eastern Ariha.
Hundreds of shells hit more than 48 positions
Beside the repeated Russian airstrikes on the “de-escalation zone,” regime ground attacks also continued in September. SOHR sources reported that more than 2,400 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 48 positions in the rural areas of Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Latakia.
Regime attacks are distributed regionally as follows:
- Aleppo: 800 shells and rockets hit Darat Izza city, the villages of Kafr Nouran, Kafr Amah, Al-Sheikh Suleiman, Taqad, Tadeel, Kafr Taal and the surrounding areas of Al-Atareb and Al-Qasr.
- Idlib: 900 shells and rockets hit Bayanin, Hursh Bayanin, Sfouhen, Al-Rouwayah, Al-Fatirah, Sarja, Kansafra, Al-Mawzarah, Maarrat Aliya, Deir Sonbul, Al-Barah, Maarat Al-Naasan, Sheikh Sandyan, Fulayfel, Mantaf, Maarbleet, Kadourah , Saan, the surrounding areas of Sarmin, Afes, Al-Nayreb, Al-Kufayr, Al-Haloubah and Taftnaz.
- Hama: 500 shells and rockets hit Al-Sarmaniya, Al-Mabaqer, Al-Mashik, Al-Ankawi, Kharbah Al-Naqous, Tel Waset, Al-Mansourah, Al-Qarqour, Al-Ziyyarah, Al-Hemaydiyah, Al-Deqmaq, Hemaymat and Qulaydeen.
- Latakia countryside: 200 shells and rockets hit Al-Tuffahiyah frontline, Al-Saffiyyat, 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 escalating bombardment in “Putin-Erdogan” area in September, which caused the death of 27 people; they are as follows:
- One civilian.
- Six members of opposition factions and Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham.
- 20 regime soldiers.
Here are further details:
- September 1: A regime soldier was shot dead by a sniper of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operation room on Tel Abu Ali frontline in Jabal Al-Turkman in Lattakia countryside.
- September 1: An HTS member was killed on the frontline of western Aleppo countryside during exchange of fire
- September 2: A regime soldier was shot dead by a sniper of an opposition faction on the frontline of Al-Bureij village in southern Idlib.
- September 3: A regime soldier was shot dead by a sniper of an opposition faction on the frontline of Maarrat Al-Nu’man in the southern countryside of Idlib.
- September 4: A regime soldier was shot dead by members of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operation room at Saraqib frontline in eastern Idlib countryside.
- September 7: A regime soldier was shot dead by an HTS sniper on Aajel frontline in west Aleppo countryside.
- September 9: A regime soldier was shot dead by a sniper of an opposition faction on the frontline of the 46th Regiment in west Aleppo countryside.
- September 11: A regime soldier was shot dead by an HTS sniper on Maarrat Mukhas frontline in the southern countryside of Idlib.
- September 13: A regime soldier was shot dead by a rebel sniper on the frontline of the 46th Regiment in the western countryside of Aleppo.
- September 15: A regime captain was killed in bombardment by opposition factions on Al-Tulayha frontline to the east of Taftanaz military airbase.
- September 18: Three HTS members were killed in artillery fire by regime forces on the eastern frontlines of Al-Atareb in the western countryside of Aleppo. The fatalities included an 18-year-old boy who had joined HTS military ranks since he was a child.
- September 20: A regime soldier was killed in an attack with a guided missile fired by “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” factions on Al-Malaga frontline in south Idlib countryside.
- September 22: A civilian was killed in mortar fire by regime forces on Kafr Amma town in west Aleppo countryside.
- September 22: A regime soldier was killed in mortar fire by opposition factions on the 46th Regiment in west Aleppo countryside.
- September 22: A regime soldier was shot dead by a sniper of a faction of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” on Kafr Nebl frontline in south Idlib countryside.
- September 23: A rebel was killed by regime artillery fire on the surrounding areas of Al-Wasatah village in the western countryside of Aleppo.
- September 23: Three regime soldiers were killed in an infiltration operation by factions of “Al-Fateh Al-Mubin” operations room into regime positions in Kherbet Jadraya in Aleppo countryside.
- September 24: A regime soldier of the 6th Division was shot dead by a sniper of a faction of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” in Al-Manarah village (Tanjarah) in Sahl Al-Ghab in the north-western countryside of Hama.
- September 24: An HTS was killed in a regime attack with laser (Krasnopol) shells on a bulldozer which was erecting soil barriers at a military post on the frontline of Blanta village in the western countryside of Aleppo.
- September 25: A regime soldier was killed in bombardment by factions of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room on Kasab area in the northern countryside of Latakia.
- September 28: A regime soldier was shot dead by a sniper of a faction of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room on the frontline of Kabana hills in Jabal Al-Akrad in the northern countryside of Latakia.
- September 28: A regime soldier was shot dead by a sniper of a faction of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room on the frontline of Kafr Nebl city in the southern countryside of Idlib.
- September 29: A regime soldier was shot dead by a sniper of a faction of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room on the frontline of Qubaytan in the western countryside of Aleppo.
UN humanitarian convoy enters “Putin-Erdogan” area
On September 17, a UN convoy of 16 trucks crossed to the “de-escalation zone,” via Tarnaba-Saraqeb crossing separating areas controlled by regime forces and their proxies from areas controlled by opposition factions and Hayyaat Tharir Al-Sham in east Idlib countryside.
It is worth noting that this was the seventh UN aid convoy to enter north Syria region after the Security Council decision to extend a vital system for cross-border aid to Syria.
Security disorder and proliferation of arms
SOHR activists documented several incidents of security chaos in the “de-escalation zone” in September, with the first incident taking place on September 11 when an IED exploded in the car of a commander of “Jaysh Al-Nasr” faction in Nour refugee camp in Qah village in the northern countryside of Idlib, as unidentified individuals attempted to assassinate the commander. The attack caused material damage only.
While on September 25, a dispute erupted in a refugee camp in Kafr Arouq in the northern countryside of Idlib among young people from Maarrat Al-Nu’man countryside. The dispute evolved into an armed fight which left one person dead and another severely injured.
Cholera infections documented for the first time in Idlib’s camps
In late September, the Health Directorate of the “Salvation Government” issued a statement, announcing the detection of two cases of cholera in camps in Atma area on the Syria border with Iskenderun region in the northern countryside of Idlib. This came a few days after other infections had been documented in areas under the control of Turkish-backed factions in the northern countryside of Aleppo.
Military school in Idlib sees graduation of 400 officers
On September 6, Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) and the “Salvation Government” saw the graduation of the first batch of the military school, which HTS had announced its inauguration a few months earlier, in presence of the head of HTS, “Abu Mohammed Al-Julani,” the prime minister and ministers of the “Salvation Government,” the chairman of Shura Council and commanders of factions and military formations operating in Idlib.
It is worth noting that this batch, which comprised 400 recruits and dubbed the batch of “Martyr Abu Omar Saraqeb,” was the first of its kind, where the military school identified standards for admitting applicants, including specific medical, moral and cultural conditions and high-school degree. The recruits admitted by the military school undergo intensive ideological and physical courses for six months, and they are ranked as officers when they graduate.
Through establishing the military school, the “Salvation Government” seeks to merge all military formations under one institution, which is more akin to like a regular military army.
The recently-graduated recruits included members and commanders of Ahrar Al-Sham, Jaysh Al-Nasr, Jaysh Al-Izza and other military formations.
Preparations for opening crossings to regime-controlled areas: HTS captures NFL posts
On September 24, Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham removed soil barriers on Sermen-Saraqib road, amid reports of the opening of a crossing linking regime-controlled areas and HTS-held areas. This came after opening a “settlement centres” in areas under the control of regime forces in Idlib, amid calls by the Syrian regime upon the residents to return to “homeland.”
While on September 29, HTS security forces attacked posts where members of the “National Liberation Front” (NFL) were holed up, tens of meters away from Turkish forces’ posts, at the entrance to Saraqib city in Idlib countryside in order to capture posts of National Liberation Front and to set up new posts in that area. Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham also managed to capture a 400-metre-long area on both sides of the highway.
It is worth noting that the National Liberation Front and Turkish forces control most of the posts on the eastern Idlib countryside frontline, especially Saraqib city.
Moreover, a member of the National Liberation Front was injured when HTS gunmen opened fire directly on his feet while he was at one of the attacked posts on Saraqib frontline.
Old ordnance poses threaten to residents’ safety and lives
SOHR activists documented the death of five child and injury of four others due to war ordnance explosions and war-damaged building collapses in the past month. Here are further details:
- September 4: A displaced boy from Al-Karkat village in west Hama countryside died when the wall of a house, which had been subjected to bombardment by the regime forces, collapsed on the little boy while he was playing nearby in Adawan village in west Idlib countryside.
- September 5: Four children were killed and three others were injured by the explosion of unexploded projectiles in an abandoned house in Binnish city in Idlib countryside.
- September 30: A child sustained various injuries because of the explosion of an unexploded projectile, while he was playing with it, as he was herding sheep nearby Taftnaz town in Idlib countryside.
Turkish Jandarma kills civilians seeking for safe having
SOHR activists have documented the death of a woman and a man in gunfire by Turkish border guards (Jandarma) on the Syria border with Iskenderun region in September.
On September 1: A 26-year-old woman was shot dead by Turkish border guards “Jandarma,” while she was travelling on Al-Domat road in Darkoush area in the western countryside of Idlib.
While on September 23, a civilian was shot dead by Turkish Jandarma, when he approached the border strip between Syria and Turkey from the flank of Kherbet Al-Jawz in the western countryside of Idlib.
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.