Syrian War Daily – 14th of June 2019

Hello and welcome to the 820th installment of the SWD.

Military events/news are listed below by the governorates:

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Satellite images show plume of smoke from burning oil tanker Front Altair in Gulf of Oman

Close-up of burning oil tanker Front Altair in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz at 7:22 am, 42 minutes after the ship sent out a distress call which was picked up by the US Navy
Wide-angle view of oil tanker Front Altair sending a plume of smoke up in the air. The ship was burning on its right side after an explosion. It was carrying naphtha, a type of crude oil.

Two oil tankers caught fire in an apparent attack in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz on the morning of June 13. One of the two ships, the crude oil tanker Front Altair, had departed from the United Arab Emirates port of Ruwais and was on course for the port of Kaohsiung in Taiwan. The ship is owned by Frontline, a shipping company based in Norway, and is registered under the Marshall Islands.

Satellite images taken less than an hour after the ship reported an explosion show the ship burning and spreading a large cloud of billowing black smoke into the air. Multiple smaller boats can also be seen speeding and circling around the boat, revealed by their large wakes in the sea. Shortly after transiting the Strait of Hormuz, the Front Altair experienced an explosion which created a large hole just above the waterline. Some of the crude oil leaked out while on fire, creating the sideways plume of smoke.

The 23 crew members all evacuated the vessel and were rescued by a South Korean cargo vessel called the Hyundai Dubai that was in the area at the time. The rescue was completed 74 minutes after the Front Altair sent out its distress call, about 30 minutes after these satellite images were captured. According to Iran, the ship has sunk into the water, though there are still conflicting reports of whether this is the case.

The USS Bainbridge, a guided missile destroyer, changes course in a hairpin turn to pick up 21 crewmembers rescued from the Kokuka Courageous, the other vessel that caught fire.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the incidents, saying Iran is “responsible” for the attacks. In the speech, he also mentioned a list of supposed Iranian aggressions against the US, citing a “On May 31st, a car bomb in Afghanistan wounded four US servicemembers, killed four Afghan civilians, and wounded bystanders”. This attack (which took place in Kabul, 470 miles away from the Iranian border) was not conducted by Iran, but by the Taliban. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman, said in a statement that the attack targeted a convoy of “senior foreign advisers”.

Timelapse Map of 2019 Battle of Hama

The latest battle in Syria between the government and rebels is a marked change from the previous six months, in which there was not major conflict between the two sides of the war. However, the death toll of this new round of fighting has already vastly exceeded the death toll of the Battle of Baghouz earlier in 2019, in which the territory of ISIL was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces. Over 1,100 have died in the past five weeks, compared to around 600 in the six weeks of the Battle of Baghouz. The back and forth fighting and fierce attempt by each side to deny the other a victory is easily seen from this timelapse animation of the five week battle.

This is the latest map of control in North Hama (7 June). Click on the map for full resolution.
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