By Moon of Alabama on January 12, 2018
Moon of Alabama — Jan 11, 2018
Turkey, in line with U.S. services, decided to block the current Syrian advance in south-east Idleb. Yesterday an ad-hoc alliance of jihadi “rebels” launched a counteroffensive to stop the Syrian army from cutting off a big chunk of “rebel” held territory in east-Idleb.
The Syrian army attack
The area of the “rebel” counterattack (green)
The Turkish and U.S. supplied “rebels” (see below) made a few local advances capturing some 12 villages of the 150 villages the Syrian army had recently liberated. They were soon beaten back. Some 50 Ahrar al-Sham fighters were killed or wounded after they ran into a trap. Some 10 Syrian soldiers have been captured by the enemy. Syrian and Russian air support is very active in the area and the Syrian army is again moving forward.
There is no mention or picture (yet) of al-Qaeda in Syria, currently labelled HTS, taking part in the “rebel” counterattack. Four days ago HTS published photos of its leader Joulini meeting with his military commanders to assess the situation. It looked bad for them. The squabble with other “rebels” increased. Two days ago Jouliani issued a statement that HTS would stop fighting other factions in Idleb to enable all to confront the advancing Syrian government forces. It seems that this was a condition for the renewed Turkish/U.S. support.
The counteroffensive could only proceed because Turkey (again) delivered hundreds of tons of weapons to the jihadis. New supplies of TOW anti-tank missiles, distributed exclusively by the CIA, have also been seen. (Turkey is also again supplying jihadists in Libya. The Greek navy just caught a ship going from Turkey to Libya with 29 containers full of bomb precursors, detonators and other bomb-making parts.)
Here are some relevant tweets from the last few hours:
Terrormonitor.org @Terror_Monitor 9:54 AM – 11 Jan 2018
#SYRIA #AlQaeda Affiliate #Uyghur #Jihadi Group Turkestan Islamic Party (#TIP) Releases Pictures Showing Its Fighters Against #SAA In Southern #Idlib. #TerrorMonitor
The Uygur terrorists were brought from west-China to Syria on official Turkish passports issued by the Turkish embassy in Thailand. On September 18, 2015, al-Qaeda (Nursra, HTS) and the Uyghur jihadist group Turkistan Islamic Party stormed the long-besieged Abu al-Duhur airbase and executed 56 Syrian soldiers. It is this airbase the current Syrian attack in east-Idleb is aiming at. This time it will be the Uygurs who will lose their lives.
More on the today’s events:
Ali Özkök @Ozkok_ – 10:06 AM – 11 Jan 2018
#Turkey supplied Feylaq el-Sham militia with at least six armoured vehicles. This is a major indicator that Turkey also supports the massive counter-offensive of rebels and Islamists in #Idlib and #Hama against Syrian army and allies! I guess we will see soon some ATGM strikes.
Carl Zha @CarlZha – 1:36 PM – 11 Jan 2018
Syria: Jihadists launching the counter-offensive against the Syrian government forces in Southern Idlib with APCs, heavy artillery and rockets this morning. APC were provided by Turkey earlier
The Syrian army captured one of the new armored personnel carriers. The various pictures and videos show a variant of the Armored Panthera F9 produced by the company Minerva SPV which resides in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Ali Özkök’s remark, “I guess we will see soon some ATGM strikes,” was prophetic:
Carl Zha @CarlZha – 1:58 PM – 11 Jan 2018
#Idlib: Syrian Rebel group Jaish Nasr TOW attack on Syrian Army Tank in Maraq Hill this morning. Wonder who provided them with TOW missiles?樂CIA is supposed to account for all TOW missiles supplied by Saudi 類
Carl Zha @CarlZha – 2:38 PM – 11 Jan 2018
#Syria Al Zenki Movement (Jihadist who beheaded a Palestinian child in Aleppo) firing ATGM hitting T72 tank today. Turkish support have been crucial for this rebel counter-offensive against #SAA
There was some early announcement of new Turkish and U.S. supplies by the Gulf propagandist Charles “Jihad” Lister:
Charles Lister @Charles_Lister – 5:58 AM – 11 Jan 2018
Sources – #Turkey has provided new supplies of Turkish armored vehicles – SALW ammo – RPGs – Mortars – Grad rockets & launchers – Tank shells & more… … To all major non-#HTS factions, for the express purpose of today’s new offensive vs. #Assad/#Iran/#Russia.
Two days ago Turkey protested to the Russian and Iranian ambassadors against the Syrian army moves in Idleb. According to the de-escalation agreement, it is Russia and Iran that are responsible for the south-eastern third of the Idleb deescalation zone while Turkey is supposed to control the north-western part. That Turkish part was recently used to attack the Russian bases in Syria though the Russians believe that the attack itself was launched not under Turkish but under U.S. command:
Russia said it held Turkey accountable for the drone attack, calling it a breach of their cease-fire agreement in northern Syria, while Turkey accused Russia and Iran of jeopardizing the entire peace process by launching an offensive to take control of an opposition-held air base in the area.
The Russian Defense Ministry named the opposition-controlled village of Muwazarra in southern Idlib province as the location from which a swarm of at least a dozen drones armed with crude explosives was launched Saturday, attacking the Hmeimim air base and the nearby naval base of Tartus in northwestern Syria. Under the cease-fire deal, Turkey is supposed to restrain opposition forces in Idlib province.
The [Muwazarra] village remains loyal to the moderate opposition, but military positions surrounding it belong to the Nusra offshoot Harakat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, said another man who lives in the village and did not want his name to be used. The closest HTS base, lying in a valley to the east of the village, was destroyed in a Russian airstrike earlier this week, he said — after the attacks on Hmeimim.
Many Syrians and also Russians have speculated that foreign intelligence agencies with reasons to provoke the Russians may have helped a local group conduct the attack. “There’s a lot of fishy stuff going on in Idlib — agents running around, and groups working with groups they shouldn’t work with,” [Aron Lund, who analyzes Syria for the Century Foundation,] said. “It’s very, very murky.”
The “rebels” in Idleb also set up a website with 150 pre-scripted tweets about killed children and barrel bombed hospitals which their fans can distribute at will. In the next few days, we will hear news of the destruction of at least eight “last hospitals” in the Idlib governorate …
One wonders what the wannabe-Sultan Erdogan is thinking. He had tried to provoke Russia before by shooting down a Russia jet. Turkey paid a huge price when Russia stopped all tourism and trade with it. A year later Erdogan had to go to Moscow to apologize and to beg for relief. Does he believe that Russia will react less sharply now when he allows attacks on their bases and again supplies their enemies?
What was he promised by the White House or the Pentagon for taking that risk and for again changing sides?