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Syrian War Report – May 3, 2017:
Russia Expands Advise And Assist Mission In Syria

A Russian military adviser, Alexei Buchelnikov, was killed in Syria by a sniper from the ranks of militants, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on May 2. Buchelnikov was “a member of the group that had been training personnel of the Syrian artillery units.”

Experts note that according to photo and video evidence the Russian military has recently expanded a number of military advisers embedded with Syrian army units as well as intensified efforts aimed at training Syrian military personnel.

These developments came amid a significant increase of the number of U.S. troops and military equipment deployed in the Kurdish-held area in northeastern Syria and embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Thus, both global powers involved in the war are increasing their activity on the ground in an attempt to speed up operations of their allies on the ground against ISIS.

Meanwhile, Russian military servicemen accompanied with members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have visited the Runbar refugee camp in the Afrin Canton, a YPG-held area in northwestern Syria. Earlier this week, the camp came under shelling from Turkish military forces.

The visit of the Russian military delegation to the area followed reports that Russia was setting up observation posts in order to monitor Turkish actions against the YPG and population in the YPG held area in Afrin near the Turkish-Syrian border as well as actions of pro-Turkish militants in northern Aleppo. Photos from Afrin also show Syrian flags at the observation posts, confirming the presence of government forces.

The YPG-held areas in northern Syria could be visualized as three separate sections:

  • The first is the Afrin Canton where government forces and Moscow have a notable influence.
  • The second is the Manbij countryside where government forces, Moscow and Washington have been de-facto operating jointly since they prevented a possible Turkish military operation against the town of Manbij, controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – the YPG is a core of this group;
  • The third is the eastern bank of Euphrates where the United States and its coalition have a significant influence and deployed lots of forces on the ground.

This structure of relations formed during the war under the necessity of an urgent need to combat terrorist groups such Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS in northern Syria and now is strengthening amid a constant threat of another Turkish military invasion in Syria that will be aimed against Kurdish militias.

Meanwhile, the SDF has got control over the important town of Tabqa in the province of Raqqah. An unknown number of ISIS terrorists are remaining in the ISIS-held part of the nearby Tabqa dam. In April 2017, pro-SDF and US sources argued that there were about 700-800 ISIS fighters inside the town. However, no photo or videos evidence were released that could confirm that this number of ISIS members were neutralized inside the town. There is a notable chance that a majority of ISIS fighters has left the town of Tabqa via some kind of “open corridor” during the storm.

Meanwhile, the situation became relatively halt in northern Hama. This week, government forces have not made major attempts to reach the important town of Lataminah controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Instead, government forces, led by the 5th Assault Corps, resumed operations in the countryside of Palmyra advancing on the Shumriyah Mountains. This could be linked up with an increased activity of US-backed militants along the Syrian-Iraqi border.


Syrian War Report – May 2, 2017:
Russia Setting Up Military Installations In YPG-held Area

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

A number of Russian troops and vehicles have entered the area of the Afrin Canton controlled by fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), according to photos and videos appearing online.

Pro-Kurdish media activists speculate that the Russian military is going to set up a military base or even a “joint military base” in the YPG-held area near the border with Turkey.

According to more neutral sources, Russian military servicemen are setting up two posts near the border in order to monitor possible clashes between Kurdish militias and the Turkish military.

This comes amid increasing US military activity along the Syrian-Turkish border. According to Kurdish sources in northeastern Syria, US troops have been patrolling the Kurdish-held areas bordering Turkey. Thus, US troops are a buffer force that should prevent Ankara from combating Kurdish militias in Syria.

The YPG which is a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a core of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), is described by Turkey as a terrorist group.

In the province of Raqqah, the SDF is very close to capturing the whole area of the town of Tabqah from ISIS. When Tabqah is secured, the SDF, supported by the US-led coalition’s air power, artillery, and military advisors, will focus on securing the Tabqa dam and will continue attempts to further isolate Raqqah.

Earlier this week, western backed militant groups captured Al-Humaymah southwest of Deir Ezzor. This operation was part of the broader effort aimed at expanding control along the Syrian-Iraqi border.

With the collapsing of ISIS defenses in central Syria and in the area of the Iraqi city of Mosul, various factions involved in the Syrian conflict have increased efforts aimed at gaining control of as many important areas as possible.

While there is little doubt that the SDF, with significant US military assistance, will be able to seize Raqqah one day, the Deir Ezzor countryside and areas along the Syrian-Iraqi border will remain contested between US-backed forces and the Syrian government.

Fighting between government troops and ISIS terrorists continued near the Talilah crossroad east of Palmyra. ISIS has been conducting harassment operations against the Syrian Arab Army in the area in order to prevent a possible government advance along the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor road.

Government forces, led by the Republican Guard, continued military operations against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies in the district of Qaboun in eastern Damascus. Government troops there are seeking to divide the pocket into two separated parts. This will be a major move, if accomplished, on the way to a full liberation of the area from militants.


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SOURCES:
South Front 2 May 2017
South Front 3 May 2017
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https://www.youtube.com/user/crimeanfront
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