SYRIA SITREP: Tensions Turn Into Massive Escalation

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DAMASCUS – Aug 19, 2020 – War-torn Syria, under siege by various foreign, mostly Western/NATO and Wahhabi Gulf-funded terrorist groups, has seen a massive escalation in fighting in recent days. The escalation was mostly the result of US occupying forces’ actions against the regular Syrian Arab Army units which have been trying to reestablish control over the oil-rich regions of eastern Syria, which is now under US occupation.

USAF airstrike on an SAA checkpoint cause Syrians to stage a rally against US occupation

Hundreds of Syrians staged separate demonstrations in the country’s northeastern oil-rich province of Hasaka to express their outrage over a recent US airstrike against regular Syrian Arab Army (SAA) forces, which killed at least one Syrian soldier and wounded several others.

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Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that people converged in front of the Justice Palace in the provincial capital city of Hasaka as well as the Cultural Center in the Kurdish-populated city of Qamishli on Tuesday to denounce the US air raid on a Syrian army checkpoint in Tal Dhahab area the previous day.

The demonstrators demanded support for Syrian army forces and popular resistance against the presence of occupying US forces – who violate Syrian sovereignty and steal the country’s national wealth – to force them out of their regions. The participants also chanted slogans condemning the illegal deployment of US and Turkish troops in Syria and demanded swift action against their violations and arbitrary practices.

Tribal leader Sheikh Mizar al-Musalat pointed out that the deadly US airstrike is a flagrant act of aggression against the Syrian nation and defenders of the homeland.

“We say to the American occupiers that their presence on the Syrian soil will not last long and that they will be defeated sooner or later. The army will purge Syrian territories of their existence and terrorism,” he said.

Sheikh Abd al-Wahhab al-Issa, another tribal leader, also denounced the US airstrike as a blatant violation that adds to the American occupiers’ long list of crimes, including plunder of crude oil, setting agricultural crops on fire and attempts to starve the Syrian nation by means of the so-called Caesar Act.

Moreover, Archbishop Mar Maurice Amsih stressed that the US attack on the Syrian army checkpoint is an act of aggression and treachery that could have been expected from the occupying US forces. Since late October 2019, the US has been redeploying troops to the oil fields controlled by Kurdish forces in eastern Syria, in a reversal of President Donald Trump’s earlier order to withdraw all troops from the Arab country.

The Pentagon claims the move aims to “protect” the fields and facilities from “possible attacks by Daesh (ISIL or ISIS)”. That claim came although the US had earlier suggested that it sought economic interests in controlling the oil fields. The presence of US forces in eastern Syria has particularly irked the civilians, and local residents have on several occasions stopped American military convoys from entering the region.

Syria, which has not authorized the presence of the US military on its territory, says Washington is plundering the country’s oil. Elsewhere in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor, militants affiliated with the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have fatally shot a civilian as people demanded their withdrawal during a mass protest.

Local sources, requesting not to be named, told SANA that residents of al-Rez village, which lies in the eastern countryside of the province, clashed with the US-backed extremists on Tuesday, after which the militants opened fire. A civilian was killed and several others sustained gunshot wounds as a result.

Security conditions are rapidly deteriorating in areas controlled by the SDF in Hasaka and Deir Ez-Zor provinces amid ongoing raids and arrests of civilians by the militants. Locals complain that the SDF’s constant raids and arrests have generated a state of frustration and instability, severely affecting their businesses and livelihoods.

Residents accuse the US-sponsored militants of stealing crude oil and refusing to spend money on services sectors. Local councils affiliated with the SDF have also been accused of financial corruption. They are said to be embezzling funds provided by donors and failing to provide basic public requirements.

Russian general killed, two servicemen wounded in an IED attack

A Russian major-general was killed in an IED explosion in Syria while two servicemen were wounded, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday. An improvised roadside bomb exploded 15 km from the city of Deir Ez-Zor when a Russian military convoy was returning to its base after a humanitarian mission on August 18, the ministry’s press office said, according to TASS.

“Three Russian servicemen were wounded in the blast. During the evacuation and the provision of medical assistance, a Russian senior military adviser in the rank of a major-general died of heavy wounds,” the press office said.

Sergei Shoigu recommended conferring a state decoration on the killed officer posthumously. Russia’s Defense Ministry will also provide all necessary assistance to the killed officer’s family, the statement says. This the second Russian general killed in Syria. On September 24, 2017, the head of the group of Russian military advisers in Syria, Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov was also killed near Deir Ez-Zor.

Rockets hit a US base in Deir Ez-Zor

Several rockets exploded on Tuesday at a US military base, north of Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor province. The attack targeted a US base near the Conoco oil field controlled by American troops and Kurdish militants. No information about possible casualties among US occupation troops is available so far.

This is the first-ever attack on one of the 12 military facilities, created by the United States since 2015 in Syria’s provinces of al-Hasakah, Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zor. US forces, together with Kurdish groups, control oil-rich areas on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river, including the oil fields of Al-Omar, Tanak, Al-Jafra and Conoco, which accounted for 80% of all oil produced in Syria before the war broke out.

Two US drones shot down over Idlib

A pair of US drones crashed following what was allegedly a “mid-air collision” in Syria, destroying both UAVs, The Military Times reported. The alleged collision took place over the Idlib province on Tuesday, an anonymous defense official told The Military Times, though offered few other details about the “mishap”, declining to confirm what caused the crash or what type of drones were involved.

Whether the UAVs were fired upon at any point during the incident is also not known, the official added. Photos and videos circulating online – which show debris falling from the sky and flaming wreckage on the ground – indicate that at least one of the craft was an American MQ-9 Reaper drone, used for both surveillance and armed missions.

With no official explanation for the incident, however, speculation was rife on social media, with some people suggesting the drones were shot down by Turkish-backed terrorists, while others confronted the claim with speculation that Russian air defenses took down the US UAVs.

The drones are believed to have used the now-infamous R9X Hellfire missile, a special non-explosive munition that unleashes six sword-like blades before impact – dubbed the “ninja bomb”. Although Damascus has repeatedly slammed US presence in Syria as illegal and a violation of the country’s sovereignty, Washington continues military operations in several strategic Syrian regions.

The US is carrying out intermittent strikes around Idlib and embedding soldiers with Arab and Kurdish proxy groups in the south and northeast. Backed by the Pentagon throughout Syria’s war, the Kurdish-led factions now control valuable oil resources, with Pentagon’s plans to train a 2,200-man “oilfield guard” in the Hasakah region, according to a recent Inspector General report.

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