3 Months Since the Beginning of the Russian Operation in Syria: A Summary

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Translated by Ollie Richardson
for Fort Russ

3rd January, 2016


*Disclaimer – the Russian-Arabic translation of names of villages will not be exact, and will have some discrepancies. The names of major cities and provinces are correct.*

On the 30th December, it
became exactly 3 months since direct Russian intervention in the Syrian
military conflict. There is no doubt that the Russian operation has not only
saved the Leader in Damascus from imminent death, but also determined the
future of the current war. Thanks to the work of our aviation government
forces, for the first time in a very long period of time, the Syrian Army were
able to exit from a position of defence and to assume an active role in
offensive operations on all the fronts.

Despite the analytic forecasts of the Sivkov’s, Nesmian’s (el Murid) and Khramichikhin’s (pessimists), the Syrian government
forces, with the support of its allies, have for the last three months achieved significant progress. And the fact that Damascus did not achieve in time
for the New year the establishment of control over the Syrian-Turkish border and the clearing of the entire province of Idlib, has caused some political commentators to say
they were wrong in their forecasts, and that Moscow and Damascus’ promises of
this kind are not allowed.

The chronology of

Using weekly reports of the
Institute of Middle East Studies and websites of “Wiki” format, we will
try to establish the chronology of events.

30 September – 10

Government troops’ attack,
with the active support of the Lebanese Hezbollah, IRGC, Iraqi and Iranian
“volunteers”, as well as a dozen combat units, began exactly one week
after the introduction of the Russian aviation in the current conflict. The
offensive was preceded by the destruction of the military infrastructure of the
militants, both on the frontline and in the background. In the first stage, the
Russian operation worked intensively on the infrastructure of the rear rebels.
In the future our air force began to actively support the advancing of troops
on the front line.

As of 10 October, the
Russian operation destroyed 24 militant checkpoints, 14 warehouses with
ammunition and 7 factories that created improvised explosive devices. For the
current period, 294 sorties were made, with 221 objects being destroyed. On
October 7, the launch of 26-ship “kalibr” cruise missiles from the
Caspian Sea took place.

Government troops chose to
focus on airbase “Kwereis” in the East of Aleppo, which at the time
had been blockaded for more than 2.5 years. On 9th October, progress was made
in this direction in the village of al-Dzhabul. In Hama province, control of the
major cities of Kafr Naboodah, Latman and villages Markabat and Al Mogheyr was
established. Just afterwards, heights were taken of al-Havir, Al-Tal Sugar and
Osman. In the province of Latakia, terrorists were repulsed from the height of
Jebel Ahmar. The control of the heights in the current conflict determines
future offensive actions in certain sectors of the front.

October 11 – 20

For a specified period of
time the number of Russian air sorties was 447, with 534 objects destroyed,
which indicates an improving efficiency. In the future this trend is to be

Government troops went on
the offensive in the direction of the under-siege air base “Kweries”,
according to which is only 4 kilometers away. They captured Dzhabbul city, tal
Naam Hadadin, al-gharbiya and al Madadzha, and 11 small settlements. During the
course of this offensive the ISIS Caucasus Commander Uwais al-Kokazi was
killed. Because of the success of government forces, Daesh had withdrawn their
reserves from the Kurdish areas and moved their support to defend the East of

In the province of Hama,
government forces had liberated the strategically important city of al-Lihya,
al-Mansour, and got a head start at Faure, Tel-Shek, as well as the villages of Atshan,
Al-Jani and al-Safsafa and Jani Elelbavi. The Russian helicopter pilots provided active
support for the Syrian army. In Homs, small towns and areas of Al-Mukhtar and Masharaa were captured. In the province of Latakia, government troops
finally drove the rebels back from Kafr al-Dalby and several heights near the
city of Salma.

Also, on 13 October, the
death in Syria of the second person in the hierarchy of Daesh was announced –
Abu Muslim al-Turkmani. Details are unknown, however, some information
claimed that al-Turkman was eliminated by the air attack of Russian aviation.
Some other sources claim that the right hand to the “Caliphate” was
destroyed by the American coalition.

October 21 – October

For 11 days the Russian
operation made 632 sorties, which resulted in the destruction of 747 objects of
ISIS. At this stage, the press service of the Russian Ministry of Defense gave
up the practice of daily reports; therefore the possibility of accurate
assessments from the sorties was called into question.

In the province of Aleppo,
government forces continued their offensive in a Western direction, resulting
in the recapture of cities Al-Sabaki and Shakidla, the village of qal’at
al-Najah, Hadadin, Mleyha, Abatyn, al-Vasya and Kodar. On the outskirts of the
airbase “Kwereis” fierce fighting continued near the town of Sheikh
Ahmad. The leader of the group “Jabhat Ansar al-Din”, Nasif Ismail,
and authoritative field commander of “Jabhat al-Nusra”, Sanafi
al-Nasr were killed.

Fighting in Latakia province
continued, where the Syrian army managed to establish control over the height
of Katef al-Gader. During the fighting and bombing, prominent field commanders
of the terrorist groups were destroyed. On October 17th, the commander of the
1st turkomens (“Coastal”) brigade, Abu al-Walid, was killed. In the
province of Homs, the villages of Snisil, al-Mahatta and Gavlak were captured.
In Quneitra — Dahr al-Kassar, al-Rabaa, al-Seria Toranja and Shaban. In
Damascus, the village of Nola, Bala, Basin and a few blocks of the city Marj al-Sultan were taken. In the province of Hama the city of Morek was liberated.

The very influential field
commander of “Jabhat al-Nusra”, Ali al-Turki, was killed. It became known
that the deceased was the head of the division, which consisted of Turkish
citizens. A day later the ringleader of “Jund al-Aqsa”, Mohammad
al-Salem, was eliminated. In general, fighters in the designated period of time
suffered very significant losses in the commander department: 16 emirs and

November 1 – November

During the designated
period of time Russian aircraft made at least 720 sorties, with the result
being 1600 terrorist objects destroyed.

In Aleppo province the
Syrian army had scored important victories in the south. So as a result, the
government regained control of Al-Khader, Banes and Rasmi al-Sahredzh and
entered the suburbs of Khan Tuman. The villages of Dzhamima, Mariamin, Hadadi,
Zahra Hadid, Maraan, Hamimiya, Hamid Hamidi, al-Mashrafa, al-Sabha, Arbeyd and
Arbeyd Saghir were also liberated. In Aleppo, the Syrian army had destroyed
Islamist HQ’s in Salehin, Safe al-Dawla and al-Rashedin.

The Russian bombing of
rebel positions in the west and south of the province of Aleppo significantly
added to the list of high-ranking “martyrs.” “Jabhat
al-Nusra” lost Abu Muaz al-Sham. “Ahrar al-Sham” missed five
field commanders: Abu Ali al-Naimi, Abu Abdullah Rsafa, Abu Basit Mahmoud Abu
Islam al-Hamwi and Ashraf al-Jamia Muheyra. “Jaish al-Islam” lost
Abdullah Saleh, and in Lebanon’s “al-Farouq”, Ahmad Ukabu was killed.

But the main result of the
offensive by government forces was the breakthrough to the under-siege air base
“Kwereis”, followed by the establishment of a security zone around
its perimeter. The army managed to establish control over a major portion of
the Aleppo-Raqqa route. Removing the blockade of “Kwereis” became a
symbol of the rise of the Syrian army offensive.

In the province of Latakia,
government forces took control of the town and villages of Gmam Jab al-Ahmar,
Mafraq Beit Abu Riisha, Candia al-Hama and Khirbat al-Jub Zarur. Also taken was
the height Katf Hasun Caba al-Ahmar. In the area of Palmyra, Baraui, Aziz and
Aziza Samaan villages were liberated. In the district of Damascus, the second
airbase in two weeks, “Marj al-Sultan”, was captured. Certain
progress had been made in the areas of East Gouta, Haraszti city and in the
province of Daraa.

In Hama province, the
Syrian army, with the support of the Lebanese Hezbollah, took control of the
Khanasir route that connects Aleppo and Hama province. The militants were
driven out of the cities and Akayba Murakami, as well as settlements of al-Lahayya, al-Latamna, al-Taman, al-Safsafa, al-Karim, Ramala, Cabra Fida and Al-Ashraf.

November 16 –
November 30

For the specified 15-day
period, the Russian operation made an average of 112 sorties a day, hitting
about 150-160 terrorist objects, including the use of long-range bombers
Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS and Tu-160. For the first time since the entry of the Russian
aircraft into the conflict, massive strikes on the oil infrastructure of Daesh
were inflicted. Amongst other things, Russia inflicted airstrikes on militant
positions in the area of Ras Baalbek in Lebanon.

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To the east of Aleppo, near
the airbase of “Kwereis”, the Syrian army continued to expand the
security zone. No significant progress had been achieved in the western
provinces as the government troops with the active support of
“Hezbollah” and Iranian “volunteers” occupied the city of
Al-Ais and Sheikh Said. They liberated the village of Umm Zilayla Tal Ayub, Umm
Al-Marri, Hamima, Rasmi al-Aboud, Karm al-Katerdzhi, al Minsar and Balat. In
the course of this offensive, Russian T-90 tanks made their maiden appearance.

In the province of Latakia,
liberated towns included Deir Hanna and Tel al-Hadar. Control had been
established of the heights near al-Rahman al-Khidr, al-Markashila, Jab al-Ahmar
and Jabal al-Rahmaliya. In the area of the Russian aircraft, some commanders of
terrorist groups were killed. “Jabhat al-Nusra” lost Zakariya
Abdullah, and the “Free Syrian Army” lost Bikdasha Rashid, who led
the operation and is likely to have found the downed Russian pilots.

The Syrian army continued
its movement towards Palmyra, managing to reach the outskirts of the city. An
important city, Mhin, was captured but after a while was retaken by militants.
Today the city is in the hands of government forces. In the southern provinces,
the Syrian army had made significant progress: they managed to dislodge the
militants from several quarters in Douma, East Gouta, Haraszti and Derry.

December 1 – December

During the first weeks of
December, the Russian operation made approximately 70-75 sorties per day. They
destroyed about 1400 objects of the militants. General strikes were carried out
on the border with Turkey in the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia. The
same method of attack that happen earlier occurred once again on December 8,
where cruise missiles “Kalibr-PL” were launched from the submarine

For the first time appeared,
reports came that the Russian operation were “airbase jumping.” In
particular, it was known that the airbase “Shayrat” (province of
Homs) was undergoing renovation work. The Ministry of Defence, in turn, said
that there will not be a second base in Syria. However, we are not inclined to
take such a statement seriously.

[O.R: The MoD
statement was proven to be a bluff, with a third base also being discovered]

Heavy fighting continued in
the province of Aleppo, where militants had attempted to recapture recently
lost settlements. Government forces were able to repel the Islamists at
settlements Zeytan, Al-Qala, Hals, Homeyra, Al Kaladzhiya, Karasu and Tal
Badger. In the East, a village was taken – Al-Shuvayla. On December 15th the
airbase “Kwereis” became active.

Fierce fighting resumed in
the province of Latakia, where government troops managed to regain the village
of Beit Faris, Acre, Booz al-Harbi and Attiru. The Latakia-Kassab highway had
been cleared, which was under the control of militants in 2012. In the province
of Homs, the Syrian army came close to Palmyra. The fighting was on the heights
surrounding the city. The evacuation of militants with their families from the
city of Homs continued, resulting in the government forces gaining almost complete
control over the city. Among other things the road Homs-Palmyra was restored.

In Damascus, Daraa, and Quneitra government forces continued to squeeze militant’s from neighbourhoods of major
cities, including the administrative centers. For 15 days in Daraa province
alone 11 villages were captured in the three cities. The commander from the faction “Shuhada Liwa al-Islam,”, Abu Maher Malek, was killed. The areas of Zimrin and Symlin were liberated.

16 December – 31

The intensity of the work
of Russian operations from 15 to 31 December was estimated at 60-70 sorties per
day. They destroyed more than 2,300 objects of militants, among which were 650
fuel tankers belonging to Daesh. Since the beginning of Russian operations in
Syria, Islamists have lost at least 2 thousand fuel trucks.

In the province of Aleppo,
government forces continued to expand the security zone around the previously
unlocked airbase “Kwereis.” Full control was installed on six
settlements. On the west of the province militants were driven out of the town
of Khan Tuman. The Army retook the cities of al-Khalid and al-Carasso.

The Syrian army had some
success in the province of Latakia, where in one day (December 18) they
captured six heights. On the border with Turkey, government forces were
entrenched in the mountains of al-Nuba. They captured the village of Jabal
al-Aswad, al-Harami, Talet al-Awda, Soda Ain and al Kabir. They restored
control of the settlement of Kassab. A hotbed of terrorism, the city of Salma
turned into a scene of fully-fledged shooting. The Syrian army took all the
dominating heights around this locality

In the province of Homs,
government forces recaptured the city of Mhin. In the suburbs of Daraa the army
took control of Sheikh Miskin. No significant progress has been made in the
other provinces. However, the most memorable event in December was the
elimination of the leader of the group “Jaish al-Islam” Zahran
Alloush and his closest associates. Syrian media have claimed the army was responsible for the air strike itself, but the Iranian and Saudi press reported
that Alloush was destroyed in a Russian raid.

In general, the outgoing
month was very successful for the Syrian army. Optimism is in the fact that the government forces continued their offensive in December, which was not the case in
previous years.


We are obliged to emphasize
that the proposed chronological list can be highly informative. However, the
format of this material does not allow for the names of all the cities,
villages, small towns and infrastructure liberated from the terrorists in the
past three months. However, even the most conservative estimates indicate that
it is at least two-dozen cities, more than two hundred villages and four

In total, after three
months, government troops occupied, in the province of Latakia, more than 270
square kilometers, which is a very significant value, since we are talking
about mountainous regions. In the east of Aleppo, about 120 km was taken from
the terrorists, and to the West and south about 410 km. In the provinces of
Hama, Idlib and Homs approximately 120-125 km was lost and in Damascus, a
little less than 50 km. In the southern provinces, a total of about 90 km.
Thus, over the past three months, the Syrian army was able to reclaim about
1200 km from the terrorists.

Russian operations from
September 30 to December 31 made approximately 6 thousand sorties, during which
at least 8.6 thousand facilities of the militants were hit. They involved
strategic bombers Tu-22M3 and Tu-95MS and Tu-160, and the launch of the
“kalibr” missiles from surface and underwater carriers from the
Caspian and the Mediterranean Sea. In general, the Russian armed forces are now
engaged in major military exercises.

The militants suffered very
significant losses. “By means of objectivity” (photo, video, or an
official statement from a management group), it was found that terrorist groups
over the past three months have lost at least 217 emirs and high-ranking
commanders. Commanders of small units are not taken into account in the
statistics. The brunt of the losses fell on “Jabhat al-Nusra”,
“Ahrar al-Sham” and the “Free Syrian Army”: every second
destroyed commander belongs to one of these groups.

On the total number of
fighters killed it is very difficult to say, but you can determine the
approximate number using the formula that has been tested by time. As practice
shows, one of the killed commanders accounts for 30-35 killed soldiers. Thus,
over the past three months, the Islamists have lost about 7-7.5 thousand
soldiers. This assessment is indirectly confirmed by official reports according
to which the militants a day on average lose 70-90 people.

Amongst other things, the
Russian bombardment operation created a wave of pacifism in the ranks of the
militants. Almost every week was accompanied by reports of the mass surrender
of the Islamists, mainly in the southern provinces of the country. So, just for
December 6, 180 insurgents in the province of Daraa laid down their arms.
Earlier in the same area 850 people moved to the side of the authorities. On
the 12th-13th October in Hama and Damascus, 558 militants surrendered. In
general, the number of militants who sided with the Damascus is estimated at
3-4 thousand, who all fall under the amnesty law.

However, the main
achievement of the Russian aviation is the undermining of the socio-economic
structure of the “caliphate” and not the number of militants and
destroyed military infrastructure. We have repeatedly pointed out that all the
power of ISIS can be explained by the total supremacy of religious fanaticism
against the model of a secular society, which is offered by the government in

All Daesh successes are due
to entering into arrangements with local tribes, clans and business elites, who
in exchange for their loyalty to the “caliphate” received a
significant share in joint business. Thus, the bulk of the funds from the
smuggling of Syrian oil end up in the hands of local tribes and clans, and not
just the “caliphate.” This equally applies to the trade in
archaeological artifacts – ISIS takes currently only 25% in taxes.

The most profitable for the
local clans and tribes (painted by their loyalty to Daesh) is the trade in
smuggled oil and oil products. So, the big “businessmen” have a very
substantial fleet of tank trucks and a few “wholesale markets”, where
the oil goes to private owners, a few makeshift refineries and mini gas
stations. Many of the same “cut” their transit flows across
“border” checkpoints.

The tragedy of the Egyptian
Sinai plane crash and the infamous story of the downed Russian plane in
northern Syria were immediately reflected in the cozy oil business of the
Islamists. The Russian airforce began to methodically destroying objects of
ISIS’ oil infrastructure, including columns of fuel trucks, which significantly
affected the local business. Obviously, loyal ISIS tribes and clans withdrew,
and the military and political leadership “caliphate” suddenly had a
new problem. Once again, we allow ourselves to make the assumption that Daesh
will be destroyed in the implementation of “Kadyrov schemes”, when a
number of influential clans or tribes go on the side of Damascus or Baghdad.
Fortunately, the prerequisites are in place.

The pace of the government
forces can be comparable to the experience of the second “Chechen
campaign” in view of the Syrian realities. 6-8 months to isolate pockets
of resistance, year and a half for the destruction of large gangs, and several
years on a permanent regime of counter-terrorist operation. It is likely that
the timing can be changed in favor of Damascus, but it depends entirely on the
tractability of local clans and tribes. An important factor is the internal
situation in Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In general, the entry of
the Russian armed forces into the Syrian conflict has not only saved the Syrian
government from imminent destruction, but has also given ordinary Syrians faith
in a brighter future. The author of this material had the opportunity to
correspond with ordinary Syrian citizens. And if in June the Syrians quite
seriously discussed “escape routes”, now these same people are
extremely thankful and share their thoughts about the post-war world order.

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