“Putin-Erdogan” area in June 2023 | 51 fatalities in acts of violence…dramatic escalation of Russian aerial operations…escalation of anti-HTS protests
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 2023, 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:
Acts of violence leave casualties
In June 2023, SOHR documented the death of 51 people in acts of violence in the “de-escalation zone;” they are as follows:
- Five civilians, including two women and a child, were killed by regime forces.
- 11 civilians, including two children, were killed in Russian airstrikes.
- Six civilians, including a child and a woman, were killed in incidents of security disorder.
-19 jihadists and members of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham:
- Six HTS members and a member of “Suqour Al-Sham” were killed by regime forces.
- 11 HTS members and a member of the “Turkistan Islamic Party” were killed in Russian airstrikes.
-Eight regime soldiers were killed by rebels and jihadists.
-One unidentified persons was killed in an incident of security disorder.
-An Uzbek man was killed in an incident of security disorder.
Military escalation: ground bombardment leave casualties
Since early June, the “de-escalation zone” has experienced noticeable escalation of military operations between regime forces and their proxies on one hand, and Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham and opposition factions on the other, including exchange of bombardment and attacks. These operations left 20 fatalities; they are as follows:
- Five civilians, including a child and two women, were killed in regime bombardment.
- Eight regime soldiers, including a member of the Republican Guard forces.
- Six HTS members.
- A member of “Suqour Al-Sham.”
In addition, 16 combatants and 11 civilians, including five children and three women, sustained various injuries in 24 ground operations in the “de-escalation zone” in the past month.
Further details of June’s operations in the “de-escalation zone” can be summarised as follows:
- June 4: A regime soldier was killed by HTS sniper on the frontline on Kawkabah village in southern Idlib countryside.
- June 6: A member of “Suqor Al-Sham” faction which operates under the banner of the “National Liberation Front” was killed due to ground bombardment by regime forces on the frontline of the eastern Jabal Al-Zawiyah in southern Idlib countryside
- June 8: A regime soldier was shot dead by snipers of HTS on the frontline of Ma’arat Mokhas in southern Idlib countryside.
- June 10: A regime soldier was killed by snippers of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room on the frontline of Al-Fataterah village in the southern countryside of Idlib
- June 10: A member of the republican guard of the regime was killed due to a bombardment by factions of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room on their positions on the frontline of Saraqeb in the eastern countryside of Idlib.
- June 10: A member of the Special Forces of the HTS-backed “Luwaa Talha” faction was killed by attacks of the regime on frontlines of Ma’arat Na’asan in Idlib countryside.
- June 12: Two members of the HTS-backed Luwaa Talha Bin Al-Zobair were killed by regime’s artillery shelling on the frontline of Kafr Nouran in western Aleppo countryside.
- June 14: A regime soldier was killed and others were injured in an infiltration operation by regime forces on the frontline of San in the eastern countryside of Idlib, which led to violent clashes between regime forces and members of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room.
- June 14: A regime soldier was injured in gunfire by a sniper of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room on Ain Eissa frontline northern of Lattakia.
- June 14: A regime soldier from Damr area in Damascus was killed in an attempt with several members to sneak into checkpoints of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operation room factions on Ain Eissa frontline northern of Lattakia.
- June 15: A civilian and his wife were injured in an artillery shelling by the regime forces on residential neighbourhoods in Afis village in eastern Idlib countryside.
- June 16: A civilian was injured in an attack with a guided missile fired by regime forces on Kafr Nouran village in the western countryside of Aleppo.
- June 16: Two members, one of which is responsible for planting landmines for “Abo Bakr Al-Siddek” Brigade of HTS formations, were killed due to the explosion of a landmine, while they were planting a number of landmines on the frontline of Al-Bara in Idlib countryside within “Putin-Erdogan” area.
- June 20: A regime soldier was injured with a gunshot fired by a sniper of a faction of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room on Al-Malajah frontline in the southern countryside of Idlib.
- June 21: A regime soldier was killed by snipers of “Al-Fath Al-Mubin” operations room, on the frontline of Afes village in the eastern countryside of Idlib.
- June 21: Three civilians, including a child, were killed and a man and a woman were injured in artillery fire by regime forces on positions in HTS-held areas in Kafr Noran town in the western countryside of Aleppo. The regime bombardment also injured six rebels who were near the site of the attack.
- June 22: A woman was killed and four females, including a little girl, were injured in bombardment by regime forces on Srmin city in Idlib countryside.
- June 26: A member of “Tahlah Bin Obayd Allah” brigade of HTS was killed yesterday, after regime forces targeted positions of HTS on the frontline of Maarat Al-Naasan town in the northern countryside of Idlib.
- June 26: A regime soldier was killed on the frontline of Jourin in Sahil Al-Ghab in the western countryside of Hama, by HTS’s targeting of positions of regime forces with rocket launchers, where members were injured as well.
- June 27: A woman died affected by the wounds she sustained on June 22, due to artillery shelling by the regime forces on Sarmin City in Idlib countryside.
11 civilians among 23 people killed in dramatic escalation of Russian airstrikes
In June, Russian fighter jets executed nearly 35 airstrikes on different positions in the “de-escalation zone. Those airstrikes left 23 fatalities: 11 civilians, including two children of the families of “Turkistan Islamic Party” members. 11 members of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham and a member of the “Turkistan Islamic Party.”
Here are further details:
- June 20: Russian warplanes launched four air strikes targeting the vicinity of Idlib city in the northern side.
- June 20: Russian warplanes launched four air strikes on the outskirts of Al-Sheikh Baher village in the western countryside of Idlib.
- June 23: A Russian warplane shelled Al-Sharora area in Jabal Al-Turkman within HTS-held areas in northern Lattakia countryside in two airstrikes.
- June 23: A Russian warplane executed a double airstrike with two missiles on the vicinity of Al-Ghasaniya village in Jisr Al-Shughour western of Idlib.
- June 24: Russian fighter jets executed an airstrike on the frontlines of Telal Al-Khder in northern Latakia countryside and another one on Al-Ghasaniya village in Jisr Al-Shughour in western Idlib countryside.
- June 24: Two civilian brothers were killed and others were injured due to renewal of airstrikes by Russian warplanes on the vicinity of Basbat village western of Jisr Al-Shughour in Idlib countryside near administrative borders with Lattakia province.
- June 25: 13 people were killed in Russian airstrikes on the surrounding areas of Jisr Al-Sughour city and the surrounding areas of Idlib city. The fatalities are as follows: six civilians and three combatants in the surrounding areas of Jisr Al-Sughour city and a member of the “Turkistan Islamic Party,” a civilian and two children of the families of “Turkistan Islamic Party” members in the surrounding areas of Idlib city. Airstrikes on the surrounding areas of Jisr Al-Sughour city also left nearly 30 people injured.
- June 27: Eight members of “Liwaa Hamza” which operates under the banner of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham were killed and others sustained various injuries in seven airstrikes by Russian fighter jets which targeted military headquarters of HTS in Jabal Al-Zawiyah area in south Idlib countryside.
Incidents of security disorder leave eight fatalities
SOHR documented six incidents of security disorder in areas controlled by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham and opposition factions in Idlib city and surrounding villages in the past month. These incidents left eight fatalities:
- Six civilians, including a child.
- An Uzbek migrant.
- An unidentified person.
Here are further details of these incidents:
- June 2: Three beekeepers were killed and others were injured, as a young man opened fire on them following a dispute over stealing a beehive in Al-Mawzarah village in southern Idlib.
- June 2: An Uzbek-born migrant was shot dead by unknown gunmen, while he was travelling on his motorcycle in Armanaz town in the western countryside of Idlib.
- June 6: Residents found the body of a person, who was field executed by gunshots in mysterious circumstances, where his body was dumped near the road between Failon and Idlib.
- June 8: Unidentified gunmen opened fire directly with a gun equipped with a silencer on a civilian selling vegetables, in Salwa village northern of Idlib near the administrative borders with Aleppo, killing him immediately.
- June 10: An eight-year-old boy was killed, while he was playing with his father’s gun in the HTS-held town of Ihsim in the southern countryside of Idlib, where a gunshot fired by mistake and hit the boy.
- June 25: A woman stabbed her husband to death with a knife due to family disputes between both sides in Al-Ajamy Camp in Saliqin city northern of Idlib.
HTS security services arrest nearly 40 people
Also, in June, security services of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham arrested 13 people, including an Egyptian-born jihadist and his wife, a commander of the 2nd Corps in the “National Army,” a commander and a member of the “Islamic Party of Liberation” and a civilian and his five-year-old son.
Further details of these campaigns can be summarised as follows:
- June 3: Members of the General Security service of HTS arrested a young man, yesterday, in Ariha town in southern Idlib countryside for “belonging to the Islamic Party of Liberation.”
- June 6: HTS members arrested a commander of the second legion of the Turkish-backed National Army and his companion in Taftanaz town in Idlib countryside, where the members searched the commander’s house and confiscated some of his possessions and they were taken to an unknown destination.
- June 7: General security service of “HTS” arrested a notable person from Hama city in Al-Barakah camp in the northern countryside of Idlib, on the charge of participating in the protests denouncing “HTS.” This came after setting up a checkpoint at the entrance of the city, while three persons wanted for the security of “HTS” fled to an unknown destination, without being able to arrest them.
- June 9: General Security Service of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham arrested a commander in the “Islamic Party of Liberation” for unknown charges. The commander was taken to a security centre of HTS.
- June 10: General security service of “HTS” arrested two young men after Friday prayer, in Al-Barah village in Jabal Al-Zawiyah area in the southern countryside of Idlib, without explicit charges against them, where they were taken to one of the security centres of “HTS.”
- June 13: Members general security service of “HTS” ambushed a leader in ” Al-Tahrir party ” in Foaah village in Idlib countryside, he was arrested in the vicinity of Idlib city after being chased, for his criticism of the policies of “HTS,” where he was taken to an unknown destination.
- June 17: General Security Service of HTS arrested a lawyer at Al-Ghazaweyah checkpoint in Afrin countryside for unknown reasons, and his fate remains unknown.
- June 20: HTS-backed General Security service arbitrarily arrested a civilian, who is a member of the “Islamic Party of Liberation” and his five-year-old son in Al-Dana city in the northern countryside of Idlib. The security services confiscated the civilian’s car and took him and his son to a security centre of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, while their fate remains unknown.
- June 23: Members of General Security service of HTS arrested an Egyptian jihadist and his wife in Idlib city for unknown reasons, while their whereabouts and fate remain unknown.
- June 27: Members of the General Security Services of HTS arrested a media activist, minutes after he filmed the protests that took place in Sarmada Square. The members beat and assaulted him even though he showed them the press card issued by the “Salvation Government”, where they inspected all his communication devices and his gear before detaining him for four hours and insulted him.
- June 27: Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham in Idlib arrested nearly 40 combatants and other individuals working for the General Security service, including two senior commanders, for “spying for the Syrian regime and International Coalition.” HTS secretly stormed places where the suspects were located and took them to security centres.
It is worth noting that HTS-backed security services trespassed civilian houses during arrest campaigns in areas controlled by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, which triggered broad anger and discontent among the residents who staged demonstrations almost daily, protesting heinous practices by security services.
Nearly 2,000 rockets and artillery shells hit different positions
SOHR sources reported ongoing bombardment by regime ground forces and their proxies in June, where 1,900 artillery shells and rockets hit military and residential positions in areas under the control of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) and Jihadist groups and factions. The attacks targeted positions in the rural areas of Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Latakia.
Regime attacks are distributed regionally as follows:
- Aleppo: 700 shells and rockets hit Darat Izza city and the villages of Kafr Nouran, Kafr Amah, Sheikh Suleiman, Taqad, Tadeel, Kafr Taal, the surrounding areas of Al-Atareb.
- Idlib: 500 shells and rockets hit the villages of Bayanin, Hursh Bayanin, Sfouhen, Al-Rouwayah, Al-Fatirah, Kansafra, Maarrat Alya, Deir Sonbol, Al-Barah, Maarat Al-Naasan, Ghaniyah, Sheikh Sandiyan, Fulayfel, Mantaf, Marblit, Kadourah, Saan, Sarmin, Afes, Musaybeen and Al-Nayreb.
- Hama: 400 shells and rockets hit Al-Sarmaniya, Al-Mabaqer, Al-Mashyak, Al-Ankawi, Kharbah Al-Naqous, Tel Waset, Al-Mansourah, Al-Qarqour, Al-Ziyyarah and Al-Qahera.
- Latakia countryside: 300 shells and rockets hit Al-Tuffahiyah frontline, the hills of Kabanah, Deir Al-Akrad and other frontline in Jabal Al-Turkman.
Turkish forces bring in 100 military vehicles to “de-escalation zone”
SOHR activists reported the arrival of batches of Turkish reinforcement in military posts in the “Puten-Erdogan” area, along with the arrival of reinforcement of regime forces in the opposite region.
The first batch crossed into Syria on June 8 when Turkish forces brought in new military reinforcement consisting of 25 military vehicles, coming from Kafar Lousin border crossing between Syria and Turkey in Idlib countryside, and headed towards south in Idlib to be distributed in Idlib and Aleppo countryside within “Putin-Erdogan” area, in order to replace their forces and to reinforce their military posts in their presence areas.
While on June 21, Turkish forces brought in large military reinforcement to the “de-escalation zone,” less than 48 hours after the arrival of a regime military column in Aleppo countryside. According to SOHR sources, two military convoys crossed into Syria through Kafr Lusin crossing in northern Idlib, and they comprising over 75 Turkish armoured vehicles and trucks carrying tanks, logistical supplies and repair equipment, as well as tens of personnel carriers. SOHR sources also confirmed that the first convoy headed to Turkish military posts in the western countryside of Aleppo, while the second one headed to Al-Mastumah camp near Idlib city.
Sit-in protests and almost-daily demonstrations opposing HTS and “Al-Julani”
Since early June, SOHR activists have documented public protests against HTS and its leader “Abu Mohamed Al-Julani” almost daily.
The role of women was shown in these protests in fear of the arrest of men, where the demonstrators demanded the release of the detainees in prisons of HTS and toppling of “Al-Julani.”
Demonstrations and protests in June concentrated in the towns of Killi and Atma and the cities of Ariha and Tarmanin in Idlib countryside and Al-Saharah town, Kafrah and Al-Atareb in the western countryside of Aleppo, where the demonstrators condemned the policy of “Al-Julani” and practices of his subordinated members who trespassed houses of peaceful civilians.
On June 23, unknown individuals left paper notes in the streets of Al-Atareb town in the western countryside of Aleppo, expressing their discontent of Al-Julani’s practices.
While on June 27, residents of Idlib countryside went out on protests against HTS and its violations, conforming to their demands to release the prisoners in HTS prisons, while members of the security services of HTS sieged the site of the protests near Sarmada Square.
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.