Syria Sitrep – Army Wins Al-Safa Battle – More Troops Move Towards Idlib



Today the Syrian army won the al-Safa battle. Al-Safa is a barren area around an old volcano southeast of Sweida where in July ISIS abducted dozens of hostages. The last of those hostages were freed in a commando raid ten days ago.

With the hostages out of the way the Syrian army could finally use heavy weapons against ISIS which hid in the caves of the al-Safa field. Under heavy artillery cover the troops made good progress (video). Then came three days of unprecedented rain fall. ISIS fighters drowned in their caves and fighting positions. The commander of ISIS in the area, a Chechen, was killed. Those ISIS fighters who were left fled towards the al-Tanf area, which is under U.S. control, and into the desert in east Homs. The Syrian army is now in full control al-Safa.

The situation in the U.S. controlled northeast is complicated. The Kurdish YPG/PKK forces the U.S. allied with do not get along with the Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces and vice versa. Isolated attacks on Kurdish SDF units happen each day. It is unknown if these are by ISIS sleeper cells, local Arabs who despise the new Kurdish overlords, or some third party under Turkish direction.

The fight against the ISIS pocket along the eastern Euphrates makes no progress. In the north Turkish artillery sporadically fires across the border and hits Kurdish positions. Turkey also moved thousands of its proxy forces from Idleb and Afrin to the area west of Manbij. The Turkish president Erdogan threatens to take all the Kurdish controlled areas along the Turkish border in northern Syria.

Throughout the war on Syria the Syrian Kurds have shown a lack of political wisdom. They probably believe they can withstand the Turkish army or that the U.S. will come to their help. The Turkish invasion of Afrin demonstrated that both ideas are nonsense. Their only chance to keep their homes is to completely submit to Syrian government control.

Since the launch of the offensive in September the U.S. forces and their Kurdish proxies in northeast Syria made no progress against the ISIS pocket east of Deir Ezzor. The U.S. recently started a serious bombing campaign against the area. But the aim is not necessarily ISIS. The attacks are aimed at 20 armored Humvee vehicles ISIS captured from U.S. proxy forces. The Syrian Observatory reports that these vehicles are tagged:

[A]ccording to what these sources confirmed to the SOHR, this targeting operations come as a result of the seizure of about 20 US Hummer vehicles affiliated to the US forces and the International Coalition, by the “Islamic State” organization in its counterattacks which forced the Coalition’s troops to withdraw from the area and leave the vehicles, and the reliable sources confirmed to the Syria Observatory that the vehicles are provided with modern techniques that enable the Coalition’s warplanes, to locate them, thus, they are able to accurately target them, and despite these strikes, the warplanes killed Syrian citizens and others of the Iraqi nationality of ISIS families.

Earlier today at least 40 people, most of them women and children, were killed by such U.S. strikes.

Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces have moved to the Iraqi border and use artillery to prevent ISIS from crossing into Iraq. They would like to attack into Syria to finish ISIS off, but Baghdad, under U.S. order, is not allowing them to move.

The borders in the southwest of Syria are quiet. The border-crossing with Jordan was reopened but Syria increased the tariffs for Jordanian products and the large export stream Jordan had hoped for is only a trickle. A well deserved punishment for its role in the war. Israel is deterred from further attacks due to the new Syrian air defenses and the new Russian hostility towards Israeli escapades.

The situation around the deescalation zone in Idleb deteriorates by the day. The area is controlled by the al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Last week a commando raid by Islamist terrorists killed at least ten Syrian soldiers. The Syrian army moved a number of troops towards the area northwest of Aleppo. Something is up, but there is no rumor or report yet of an imminent offensive. It is possible that the complicated fight at the al-Safa volcano held up further moves on Idleb. With al-Safa liberated a limit move into Idleb governorate is likely the next operation.

As Turkey has moved the core troops of its ‘Free Syrian Army’ proxies from Idleb to the west on Manbij it will probably not protest should the Syrian army attack the al-Qaeda controlled deescalation area. Erdogan could instead use the situation to move against the U.S. supported Kurds in the east.

Posted by b on November 17, 2018 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

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“b” is the nom de guerre of Moon of Alabama’s founding editor.

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