U.S. Offensive on ISIS Has Had ‘Less Than Zero’ Impact, Russia Says
The U.S.-led coalition’s operation against the so-called Islamic State has had “less than zero” impact, Russian military officials said on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported.
Russia’s military intervention in Syria has “changed the course of fighting terrorism in Syria,” said the country’s chief of general staff, Valery Gerasimov, with Moscow conducting more than 71,000 strikes.
“Our colleagues from the U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition have conducted considerably fewer strikes, only about 6,500, over the past two and a half years of the operation against IS [ISIS] in Syria,” he added.
Gerasimov said a U.S. airstrike killed more than 20 civilians this month. He criticized the U.S. airstrikes on Sarmada in northwestern Idlib province last week, saying U.S. military officials did not warn their Russian counterparts.
“This is in an area where the cease-fire applies,” Gerasimov said. “As a result of the strike, over 20 civilians were killed.”
Russia and Turkey brokered a nationwide cease-fire deal that came into effect on December 30. The truce excluded the so-called Islamic State and members of the former al-Qaida-affiliated group in Syria now known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. The U.S. claimed its airstrikes on northwestern Syria last week killed 20 al-Qaida fighters.
“As much as we needed the support of the international coalition – the effect of which has been less than zero – I regret to say that we did not see this support, and this required us to exert all of our energy,” said Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu in a televised statement.
Russia intervened militarily in Syria in September 2015 on behalf of its ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Syrian Government Warplanes Bomb Al-Bab Alongside Turkish Jets
Syrian government warplanes joined a Turkish-led offensive on the Islamic State-held town of al-Bab on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group.
Government warplanes and helicopters conducted 20 airstrikes near al-Bab, which lies in eastern Aleppo province. Turkish warplanes and Ankara-backed troops also escalated their offensive on the town on Tuesday.
Since the Turkish-led offensive began on November 13, 2016, the civilian death toll has risen to 207, SOHR reported. Turkey launched its military operation in Syria in August 2016, sending in warplanes and tanks in support of Ankara-backed rebels. The operation, known as Euphrates Shield, aims both to push back the so-called Islamic State from the Turkish border and to thwart Kurdish ambitions of consolidating their territory in Syria. Ankara views Syrian Kurdish forces as an extension of its own Kurdish insurgency, which has been fighting for autonomy since the 1980s.
Clashes Continue in Barada Valley Following Failed Agreement Deal
Violent clashes between pro-government and rebel forces continue outside the capital in the Barada Valley region, according to SOHR.
The Lebanese Hezbollah militia reportedly sent reinforcements to the water-rich Barada Valley region to aid the Syrian government offensive. The capital’s key water pumping station is located in the valley. Damascus has been without water for nearly two weeks, with government forces accusing rebels of poisoning the water supply and rebels accusing the government of destroying the water pump in airstrikes.
Military operations continue in the Barada Valley after a failed attempt to reach an agreement between government and opposition forces. The government offensive in the Barada Valley began on December 23, and continues despite a nationwide cease-fire announced by Russia and Turkey on December 30. The government claims members of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, which is not included in the truce, are present in the valley.
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- The Atlantic Council: The Consequences of Merger Talks Among Syrian Rebels
- Agence France-Presse: In Damascus, an Old Solution to Water Shortages: The Hammam
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