Assad’s Forces Take Strategic Road From ISIS
Troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have pushed the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) off the main north-south highway linking Aleppo with the center of Syria, according to the Syrian state news agency.
After almost two weeks of ground battles, government troops pushed ISIS militants off the Khanasser-Atharayya road just south of the city of Aleppo, The Associated Press reports. The highway is a lifeline between the Damascus and government-controlled areas in the northern province.
The Syrian state news agency said Thursday that residents in the area could begin moving back into their homes.
If his troops are able to hold the road, it will be Assad’s most strategic victory since government forces began a series of major ground offensives throughout the country over a month ago, in coordination with Russian airstrikes, aimed at retaking territory lost to rebels over the last year.
Russian Commander: Russia Sent Anti-Aircraft Missiles to Syria
Moscow has sent anti-aircraft missiles to Syria to protect its fleet of fighter jets, a Russian Air Force commander said Thursday.
Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev said the anti-aircraft systems were in place in Syria to protect Russian jets from potential hijackings or attacks, the Associated Press reports.
“There can be different emergencies, such as hijacking the jet on the territory of a neighboring country or an attack on it,” he said. “We should be prepared for that.”
Russian warplanes have been carrying out a large-scale aerial campaign ostensibly targeting ISIS fighters for over a month now, although many major news outlets and some U.S. diplomats have said the airstrikes have mainly hit non-ISIS rebel groups.
U.S. Eyes More Arms for Syria Rebels After Latest Advance
The U.S. military is preparing to provide further arms to Syrian rebels fighting ISIS after U.S.-backed fighters made sizable territorial gains over the last week, Reuters reports.
The U.S.-backed Democratic Forces of Syria (DFS), a coalition of mainly Syrian Arab and Kurdish militias in the country’s northeastern region, has retaken nearly 255 sq km of land from ISIS near the village of al-Hawl in the province of Hasakeh.
The offensive, which U.S. Colonel Steve Warren has said was backed by 17 coalition airstrikes, killed 79 ISIS fighters and destroyed some of the jihadists’ weapons systems in the area along the border with Iraq.
“While this is not a large tactical action, we believe the operation demonstrates the viability of our program to provide support to these forces,” Warren said.
Although Warren said a weapons resupply was definitely a possibility, the Pentagon wants to make sure the first batch of weaponry, air dropped last month to the Syrian Arab Coalition – the name under which all Syrian Arab groups in the DFS fight – were used properly.
“We believe that the success is 200-plus kilometers of ground that the Syrian Arab Coalition has managed to take, to some extent, validates this program,” Warren said. “It’s not a complete validation – I want to be clear about that. But we’re encouraged by what we see and … we intend to reinforce success.”
- Financial Times: Russian Action Elevates Syria to the Top of the U.S. Agenda
- Los Angeles Times: Obama Tries a Band-Aid for Syria
- The Washington Post: How the Syrian Conflict Could Get Even Bigger and Bloodier
- The Guardian: Sowing the Seeds of Syria: Farming Group Rescues Plant Species Threatened by War
- Foreign Policy: Syria Crisis Tests Newfound Détente Between Washington and Tehran
Top image: Migrants wait to be allowed to enter Austrian territory at the Slovenian Austrian border in Sentilj, Slovenia, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. Austria’s president says his country doesn’t want “new borders” erected inside the European Union in order to control the influx of refugees fleeing war in Syria. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)