Specifically, 19 air strikes were unleashed on targets specified by Jaysh Ahrar al-Ashaer, or the Army of Free Tribes, which is a constituent unit of the Free Syrian Army – the ‘moderate’ wing of the anti-Bashar Assad opposition that has been endorsed by the West since the conflict broke out in 2011.
“With support of the Russian aviation, the Syrian democratic army detachments, under the command of Aiman Flyat al-Ganim, have continued an offensive on the IS capital Raqqa and seized the settlements of Al-Salhiya, Rjeman-Alaya, El-Kria and Hadriyat-Ain-Isa in recent days,” said Rudskoy.
“In the southern direction, the Lions of the East and Kalamun formations have advanced by more than 50 kilometers in their offensive on Palmyra with the support of Russian aviation and seized the populated areas of Zaza, Kessara and the town of Mhasse,” said Rudskoy.
In total, 134 settlements were taken back from Islamic State and other jihadist movements in December, and 19 more have been captured since the turn of the year. Moreover, two key jihadist field commanders, Bashar Mohamed al-Qatur and Mohamed Ismael, have been killed in combat.
“Despite all the efforts by the international community to stop supplies to terrorists, reinforcements continue to reach regularly northeastern Latakia from the Turkish territory,” said the official.
However, Syria’s opposition coordinator, Riad Hijab, an Assad regime defector who has been chosen by opposition groups to represent them at international talks, has disparaged Moscow’s claims of assistance. Following talks in Paris with French President Francois Hollande on Monday, he accused Russia of killing 35 children in bombing attacks on three schools in the city of Injara that very day, calling the incidents a “massacre.”
Moscow has not commented on the latest allegations, but has in the past dismissed accusations of striking civilian targets in Syria.
– First published … January 11, 2015 –
ISIS ran major crossing operation through Turkey-Syria border, seized docs reveal – report
According to the documents that were handed over to the Guardian by the Syrian Kurdish forces, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) ran the operation through the border town of Tel Abyad. The seven manifests seized by the Kurds contain the names of 70 people – men, women, even infants – that had crossed into the town in the period from December 2014 to March 2015.
The papers all bear IS markings associated with the group’s ‘department of immigration’ and ‘department of transport’. All appeared to be traveling from IS-held territory.
To verify the authenticity of the passenger manifests, the Guardian revealed that the Kurdish forces had contacted an IS expert, academic researcher Aymenn al-Tamimi.
“The documents… coincide with other documents illustrating daily bus routes within Islamic State territory. Though private companies provide the actual transportation, the Islamic State bureaucracy is responsible for authorizing and overseeing the routes,” he said.
Turkey has long been saying that controlling its entire 566-mile (911km) frontier is unrealistic. But the NATO member continues to face pressure from the international community over the ease with which IS fighters have been crossing through it. The Tel Abyad border stretch stayed open until the Turkish closed it in June, following a Kurdish victory over IS in the area.
The official said that in the period from January 2014 to November 2015, Turkish security forces had arrested some 207,437 people crossing over illegally. He added that Turkey hosts over 2 million Syrian refugees as well, as part of its ‘open door’ policy.
Also talking of a moral responsibility towards refugees was Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who in early December said that “Keeping the entire border with Syria [closed] may come on the agenda as a project, but then what will you do about transiting refugees? We have a moral responsibility along this 911km-long border and that is to accept refugees.”
Nonetheless, adding to the numerous allegations of lax border control is the view that Turkey has always known full well who crosses its borders, and where. The latest support for such claims came from a captured terrorist from the Turkish city of Adiyaman, who spoke to the news agency Sputnik about the lucrative oil trade that IS engages in. He confirmed that scores of oil trucks continue to cross into Turkey unabated.
Earlier that week, the Russian Defense Ministry released maps and satellite imagery it said proved that Turkey is the main consumer of oil smuggled out of Syria and Iraq by IS. The ministry also claimed that the Turkish president and his family are involved in the criminal dealings.
“A convoy of 16 ISIL oil tankers was targeted by the Syrian army in the region of Shaghaf Southeast of Sweida province,” the sources said.
The source noted that all of the oil tankers were set ablaze in the attack and the convoy’s guards were killed.
Military experts believe that one of the best ways to put the militant groups under pressure is cutting off their financial lifeline that is mainly comprised of crude sales and also cutting their supplying lines through continued attacks on their convoys.
“The militant groups do not have discipline of an army with a chart of military duties. A unit of them might be used as a combat group and in the same time as a supplying or engineering unit. So, they are vulnerable. They are not expert in their job. One-two regular attacks on their supplying convoys can face them big problems,” experts say.
Last month, The Syrian army and popular forces intensified their military operations against ISIL terrorists in the province of Sweida. The Syrian army, backed by the popular defense groups, destroyed ISIL positions in the village of al-Qaser in the Northern countryside of Sweida.
The Syrian forces also destroyed a heavy machine gun-equipped car during the military operations, killing all terrorists on board. Meanwhile, a group of terrorists were killed and injured in clashes with the National Defense Forces in the vicinity of al-Haqaf village in the countryside of Sweida.