Idlib ceasefire mostly held, Russia to address UN

Jaysh al- Fatah september 21-28

In the wake of an uneasy ceasefire deal brokered last week, some children returned to school in Manar Shourin, in Idlib Governorate.

School begins in rebel-held Idlib.

US-based intelligence company Stratfor released satellite images of Russian escalation in Latakia. Western sources sources contemplated the images which appeared to show developments at Bassel al- Assad Airport. Reportedly among the new additions are a variety of aircraft, ground vehicles and construction projects.

Both Syrian government infantry and air power made use of Russian aid, according to The Guardian. Infantry reportedly use Russian satellite images of ISIS positions, and the new air power allows for more precise strikes. Government friendly al-Masadar News reported that Russian made drones were used for the first time in Syria’s north and east.

On Tuesday, the ceasefire around Fu’ah, Kafraya and Zabadani was extended to six months. It was originally dated to end on Saturday the 26th. Despite this news, air raids continued in parts of Idlib, according to some reports. Protests reportedly broke out against the deal in Saraqeb, which is not included in the ceasefire and experienced airstrikes.

Opposition groups appeared to take advantage of the relative calm, with images of training and graduations emerging throughout the week. In the city of Idlib, Jaysh al- Fatah put on a carnival for the children celebrating Eid al-Adha.

101st Infantry FSA graduate in the Idlib countryside. 

Jaysh al- Fatah organized carnival for children during Eid. 

 

To the west, Russian personnel settled in. Some residents supported the deployments, but not all residents were happy. Some expressed fears Russian support of the Damascus government could lead to a sectarian partition of Syria and continued oppression by the government.

The United States scrambled to respond to Russian policy in the region. After initial denials, the Pentagon admitted that US backed rebels handed over ammunition and several trucks to Jabhat al- Nusra. This comes after a previous batch of US trained rebels were attacked by the al-Qaeda affiliate.

A JaF source told Orient News on Thursday that the first group of wounded fighters from Zabadani arrived in Idlib. According to the Daily Star, the finalized deal would include a withdraw of fighters from Zabadani, the release of 500 prisoners from government prisons and the release of 10,000 non-combatants from Fu’ah, Kafraya and the other encircled villages. The 4,000 pro-government fighters in these areas must stay, the article said. Meanwhile, more footage surfaced of allegedly Russian planes.

On Saturday, both sides prepared for their part of the deal. Hospitals in Idlib anticipated wounded fighters from Zabadani as civilians in the surrounded villages packed their things. Sputnik News reported that the first column of civilians left the Fu’ah/ Kafraya pocket, and that their safe arrival was a test for further implementation of terms. The deal was overseen by the United Nations, who will continue to observe the belligerents.

Elsewhere the Russian guided missile cruiser Moskva sailed from Sevastopol, Crimea for military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean.

Moskva weighs anchor from Sevastopol.

Also on Saturday The Iraqi military announced it would share intelligence with Iran, Russia and Syria. CNN quoted  U.S. coalition officer Colonel Steve Warren as saying the US is committed to helping Iraq despite Baghdad’s coordination with US rivals. However he scolded inclusion of Syrian officials “who are part of a regime that has brutalized its own citizens.”

Fighting continues around Jabal Turkman in east Latakia. 

Late in the week, reports of government bombing in the ceasefire areas continued.

Truce violations by both sides were reported. In response to a government bombing in Tanafez, Jabhat al- Nusra and others shelled Fu’ah and Kafraya. Despite the sporadic violence, the other aspects of the deal seem to remain on track for now.

Incursion into Fu’ah Kafraya pocket by Ansar al- Sham. 

On news program “60 Minutes,” Russian president Vladimir Putin echoed Syrian government viewpoints that those fighting the Damascus government are terrorists and defended Russian intervention. Putin will address the UN General Assembly on Monday. After discrediting US efforts as illiegal, his message and the pertaining response are greatly anticipated.

For background about Jaysh al- Fatah, check out last week’s writeup. (Links from September 14 – 21)

Start at the beginning with my fall of Idlib post. (Links from 2011 – Summer 2015)

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