Islamic State Militants Capture Villages North of Aleppo
Militants belonging to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) seized a string of villages from rival rebel groups on the northern outskirts of the city of Aleppo on Friday, in what activists said was a successful surprise attack. This is despite the escalating Russian airstrikes that Moscow claims are targeting the jihadist group, the Associated Press reports.
The advance by ISIS, during which militants seized the villages of Tal Qrah, Tal Sousin and Kfar Qares, was its most significant in months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group also took a former army base that other rebels had captured two years ago from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s army.
Iranian state media reported on Friday that a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guard was killed by ISIS outside the city of Aleppo, but it is unclear whether the death of Gen. Hossein Hamedani was connected to ISIS’ recent push into Aleppo or not.
Backed by Russian Airstrikes, Assad’s Army in ‘Vast Offensive’
Government troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad and supported by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Russian aerial attacks began a “vast offensive” on Thursday against opposition groups across western Syria, AFP reports.
Supported by Russia, Assad’s forces took hold of the strategic Jeb al-Ahmar mountain range, which overlooks the Sahl al-Ghab plains to the east and the Assad-controlled coastal city of Latakia to the west, a Syrian military source said.
Russia has drastically increased its bombing campaign, reportedly hitting 27 “terrorist” targets in central and northern Syria on Wednesday night, in addition to launching a series of cruise missiles at Syria from a frigate in the Caspian Sea on Thursday.
A spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense denied accusations by U.S. officials on Thursday that four of its cruise missiles had fallen short and landed in Iran.
Most Syrian Refugees in Germany Blame Assad for Ongoing Violence
The majority of Syrian refugees in Syria blame Assad for the ongoing violence in the country, a new survey of Syrian refugees in German recently revealed.
While only 8 percent of the 900 refugees interviewed by the German-Syrian charity Adopt a Revolution said they have no intention of returning home, more than half said that Assad’s removal was a precondition for their return, Newsweek reports.
“The Federal Government and the E.U. must recognize that the biggest cause of flight in Syria is Assad and his barrel bombs,” Green Party chairman Cem Ozdemir reportedly told a German newspaper in response to the report. “There can only be peace in Syria without Assad.”
In August of this year, Germany announced it expects to receive 800,000 applications for asylum this year, nearly four times as many as it did in 2014.
Gulf States to Increase Arms Supplies to Syrian Rebels
Saudi Arabia and its allies are reportedly ramping up their supply of weapons to non-ISIS-related Syrian opposition groups in response to Russia’s increasing military support of President Assad, an anonymous source in the Saudi government revealed on Thursday.
The Gulf Arab countries will be increasing military aid to groups who are not affiliated with the self-proclaimed Islamic State, including Western-backed groups such as the Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jaish al-Fatah, Al Jazeera America reports.
According to a Middle East expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Moscow’s escalating military campaign in Syria “will almost certainly provoke counter-escalation by regional states – namely Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar – who remain absolutely committed to ensuring Assad’s demise.”
Top Image: In this December 9, 2009 photo, released by Iranian Tasnim News Agency, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hossein Hamedani sits in a meeting in Tehran, Iran. Hamedani, a senior commander in Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, was killed by Islamic State extremists on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, Iranian state media reported on Friday. A state television report said that Gen. Hossein Hamedani was killed in the suburbs of Aleppo while “carrying out an advisory mission.” (AP Photo/Tasnim News Agency, Hamed Malekpour)
- The Washington Post: Russia’s Military Is Unlikely to Turn the Tide in Syria’s War
- Time: Why ISIS Wants to Destroy Syria’s Cultural Heritage
- The New York Times: NATO, Tested by Russia in Syria, Raises Its Guard and Its Tone
- The Washington Institute: Syria’s Kurds Are Contemplating an Aleppo Alliance with Assad and Russia
- The New York Times: Wary of Escalation in Syria, U.S. Is Waiting Out Putin’s Moves