Russia Claims to Have Killed 850 Militants in Idlib Since Tuesday
The Russian military claimed on Wednesday it had killed at least 850 militants in rebel-held Idlib over the past 24 hours.
“During the past 24 hours, 187 facilities were hit by airstrikes and artillery fire, and about 850 terrorists were destroyed, as well as 11 tanks, four infantry fighting vehicles, 46 pickup trucks, five mortars, 20 lorries and 38 ammunition depots,” Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Main Operations Department at Russia’s General Staff, was quoted as saying by the TASS Russian News Agency.
Local war monitors did not corroborate the Russian claims. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR; link in Arabic), which monitors the conflict through a network of activists on the ground, said that only 20 people had been killed by Russian airstrikes on Idlib and nearby Hama province since Tuesday.
Intense Russian bombardment on Idlib province began Tuesday when insurgent rebel groups, including al-Qaida-linked militants, launched a major attack against pro-government forces north of Hama city, near the provincial border with Idlib.
The attack – the largest in the area since March – killed at least 22 pro-government fighters and saw insurgents capturing four villages in Hama’s northern countryside from government forces.
The SOHR said on Thursday that the Syrian government and its allies have overturned all insurgent gains after three days of fierce clashes and heavy shelling on rebel groups in the area.
Russian Special Forces Deployed to Deir Ezzor Province
The Russian military said on Thursday it has deployed its special forces to eastern Syria to help the Syrian government in its fight against the so-called Islamic State, the Associated Press reported.
It was not immediately clear when or where these forces have been deployed but a Russian defense ministry statement said that their aim is to assist the Syrian government in its offensive outside Deir Ezzor city.
Pro-government forces have gained control of most of Deir Ezzor city over the past two weeks with the support of Russian warplanes. On Monday, Russia helped government loyalists cross into the eastern banks of the Euphrates river.
Erdogan: Turkish Border Troops Ready for Syria Mission
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkish troops stationed on the border with Syria are “ready for a mission at any moment,’’ Bloomberg reported.
Erdogan did not specify what kind of mission his troops would undergo but his comments come less than a week after Turkey agreed to send observers to “safe zones” established on the border of the Idlib de-escalation zone.
His comments also come three days after Turkey deployed 80 military vehicles to its southern border with Syria, ahead of the implementation of the de-escalation zone agreement.
A convoy of 18 Turkish army vehicles, including tanks, arrived in areas close to the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the border with Idlib province on Sunday. Another batch of vehicles also arrived at the Rihaniyah border crossing.
Speaking at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, Erdogan also said the Turkish army will expand or reduce its forces in Syria “depending on what’s required,” Bloomberg reported.
- Atlantic Council: De-Escalation and Astana
- NPR: Why the Race to Oust ISIS From Deir Ezzor in Syria May Present New Dangers
- Al Jazeera: Raqqa Faces Deadly ‘Barrage’ From U.S.-Led Coalition
- Al-Monitor: Russian-Backed Cease-Fire Fails to Stop Shelling in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta
- Long War Journal: Hezbollah Publicizes Commander’s Role in Defending Deir Ezzor City