The first operation with Turkey
“Turkey refused the defence and moved into the phase of the offensive. With this vision, we will continue the fight against terrorist organizations in Syria declared Thursday, January 19, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. — We will expand our struggle, guided by the principle that whoever is not with us is against us.”
The statement by the Turkish leader made a day after Russia and Turkey began the first six years of the Syrian conflict, a joint military operation. As announced on Wednesday evening the head of the main operations Directorate of the General staff of armed forces of Russia Sergey rudskoy, January 18 military aircraft of the two countries to conduct the operation on “defeating ISIS in the suburbs the village of al-Bab, Aleppo province”.
According to Rudskoy, air operation was coordinated with Damascus, it involves nine aircraft of Russian air force and eight aircraft of the Turkish air force. The aim of the airstrikes are 36 terrestrial objects, pre-approved “by the General staffs and command air forces,” Russia and Turkey. “Evaluation of the first results of the strikes on ISIL terrorists have shown high efficiency of joint actions of Russia and Turkey,” added Armenian President.
“In fact, this is the first joint military operation of Russia with one of the countries — participants of NATO in the fight against international terrorism,” — said the Director of the Center for strategic studies and analysis “Russia — East — West” Vladimir Sotnikov. But Erdogan, like an expert, always emphasized the independent position of Turkey within the Alliance. “The actions in Syria, Ankara is likely to taken without coordination with Western partners, according to their interests,” said Sotnikov.
Turkish troops and allied forces of the Syrian opposition trying to take al-Bab — a strong point of ISIS in northwestern Syria — for more than two months. Mass city is located on the highway leading from Aleppo along the Syrian-Turkish border to the Iraqi side of Mosul. Since the beginning of operation “shield of the Euphrates” (intervention in Syria) in August 2016 to the Turkish troops advanced towards El-Baba, reaching his features to 14 November. Since they are unable to acquire at least one of the areas of the city, although the strategic highway they were able to block.
Joint Russian-Turkish operation at El-Bab is the result of the December tripartite talks between Russia, Turkey and Iran, said a senior lecturer at the HSE Leonid Isaev. “The parties apparently came to an agreement on the reduction of conflicts in North-West Syria and increase mutual predictability. So now we should not expect that the Syrian army (the Union of Russia) and the opposition near Aleppo and Idlib (the Union of Turkey) will begin a large-scale confrontation,” says Isaev.
As the most probable option for a peaceful settlement in Syria could be the division of the country into spheres of influence involved in the war powers beneficial to quickly destroy ISIS and to divide the jihadists controlled the territory, it involves Isaev. “This means that the capture of El-Baba promotion of Turkish forces will not stop,” he said.
The transfer of forces at Palmyra
The fight against ISIS goes on other fronts. Continues begun on Wednesday the Syrian army’s offensive against the Islamists at Palmyra, her support also provide videoconferencing Russia. As noted by Lieutenant-General rudskoy, the militants moved to Palmyra a significant amount of explosives “to destroy historical heritage in the city.”
Palmyra was again in the hands of terrorists in mid-December, after a massive attack on the positions of government troops. According to the Syrian monitoring centre for human rights (SOHR), on Wednesday due to the onset of the Syrian army ISIL fighters executed 12 hostages on the stage of the Roman theatre of Palmyra.
Attack on Palmyra is directly linked to the tripartite talks in Moscow and the successful liberation of Aleppo government forces, said the role of the HSE: “the Agreement between Russia, Iran and Turkey has allowed Damascus (Russian ally) to secure a in Aleppo reliable rear and to throw some of the troops from there to other areas”. The liberation of Palmyra Isaev calls a matter of prestige, and first of all for Moscow, not in Damascus.
The last enclave
By the end of the week in jeopardy the positions of Syrian government forces in Deir-ez-Zor. “The militants began a major offensive, cut them besieged the city in two,” he said on Thursday Advisor to the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General Jan Egeland (quoted by TASS).
Terrorists began a massive assault on the positions of government troops earlier in the week. Government forces since April 2014, managed to keep part of the city and a military airfield, being surrounded by militants after ISIS terrorists cut off a highway linking the town of Palmyra. According to Isayev of the HSE for the Syrian army is necessary to keep there a foothold, and Islamists, on the contrary, should as soon as possible to eliminate this pain point (which is especially important in the context of a large-scale offensive on the positions of ISIS on other fronts).
The Syrian army launched a counteroffensive only on Tuesday evening, attacking rebel positions in the quarter Arabes, the center of the cemetery and the village Garaa. Capturing these areas and blocking the road linking the airport with the city, the Islamists divided government power into two parts, the military garrison of the base was surrounded on all sides. If the airport is lost, interrupted helicopter with Qamishli — the closest town, which is under government control, and the enclave in Deir ez-Zor would be in complete isolation.
Immediately after the terrorists managed to capture the graveyard and the village Garaa, aviation of Russia and Syria began to apply intense strikes on extremists, making flights from the air base Qamishli. Aircraft hampers the movement of militants and helps blocked at the airbase soldiers of the Syrian army to repel the attacks of ISIS.
Simultaneously, fierce fighting took place on the outskirts of the 137th mechanized base on the Western outskirts of Qamishli. Militants tried to infiltrate to the rear of the Syrian army from the North-West side in the area of tel-Brooke, but their offensive so far been unsuccessful, reports the Syrian news Agency SANA.
On Wednesday, Syrian air force helicopters for the first time since the start of the offensive, ISIL managed to throw in reinforcements to repel militant attacks and counterattack. In addition, from the siege of Deir ez-Zor was taken wounded, according to news portal Almasdarnews.
Despite the extremely tense situation around the Syrian army-controlled neighborhoods, public institutions continue their work in normal mode, the residents handed out free bread, and pupils and students take state exams, told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, a source in the government of Syria.
The Iraqi front
A large-scale offensive on the positions of ISIS continues in Iraq. Special forces anti-terrorism service of Iraq (CTS) from the first days of the new year has renewed the liberation of Mosul on 9 January, first came to the Tigris river in the East of the city.
Following this, CTS continued progress on the urban neighborhoods, expanding its presence. January 13 was completely liberated the campus of the University of Mosul, and by January 18 recaptured from the Islamists ruins of Nineveh, the former capital of ancient Assyria.
By the evening of January 19, troops of the antiterrorist coalition had released more than 90% of the Eastern half of the city.