MAP: Turkish Safe Zone line (October 23)

This is an interactive map of the 30-kilometer demilitarized zone to be entered by “Russian military police and Syrian border guards” of the Turkish safe zone in northeast Syria, as well the 10-kilometer line of “joint Russian-Turkish patrols” according to the Oct 22 Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Federation and Turkey (in English and Russian).

Note that all of the M5 highway is included with the exception of Ayn Issa (which technically is outside the zone and is occupied by Syrian government troops). Tell Tamer, another town with government troops inside, also falls just outside the zone.

Important sites located inside the zone include Sharaqraq, Qantari, and Turkmen Ali Beyli. The “greater” safe zone, which represents the full Turkish claim of 32 kilometers south of the entire border from Jarabulus to Iraq, also includes the Qara Qawzak bridge, which would mean people in the Autonomous Administration would have only one route crossing the Euphrates River (the Tishrin Dam bridge) to travel to and from Manbij. Even under the “greater” safe zone, however, the Autonomous Administration would maintain control over the Arab towns near the line such as Sarrin, Jurniyah, Mahmudli, Khunayz, al-Hishah, Tall Siman, and Qaltah.

The Sochi Memorandum also states that “All YPG elements and their weapons will be removed from Manbij and Tal Rifat.” This would significantly alter the balance of power in Aleppo province, forcing residents in the area to choose between living in Syrian government territory or Turkish-backed rebel control.

Exclusive: Al-Sanadid Forces have not yet decided to deploy to fight Turkey

Syrian War Daily can confirm that Al-Sanadid Forces (Quwwāt as-Ṣanādid), an Arab militia of the Shammar tribe allied with the Syrian Democratic Forces, has not yet decided to deploy any forces to assist their Kurdish partners in fighting the Turkish invasion of Rojava. Although Al-Sanadid is at a heightened state of alert, the group has troops standing by at its traditional strongholds al-Yaarubiyah and Tell Hamis.

The Turkish ground forces have not yet crossed the border en masse, although special forces have tried and failed to infiltrate SDF positions along the border (at Bir Ashiq for example). Meanwhile, Turkish Air Force planes have bombed Tal Abyad, Suluk, Qantari, Bir Ashiq, and Hammam Turkman. Pro-SDF forces are also clashing with Turkish-backed militias west of al-Bab in one of the last SDF positions in northwest Aleppo.

Dernières nouvelles: L’armée syrienne sont entrées à Khan Cheikhoun et prend une partie de la ville (avec des cartes détaillées)

Carte de la contrôle territoriale dans la ville de Khan Shaykhun du gouvernorat d’Idleb, lundi matin, 19 août.
Carte de la situation militaire actuelle au nord du gouvernorat Hama et au sud d’Idleb, lundi matin, 19 août.
Carte de la contrôle territoriale dans la région d’Idleb, lundi matin, 19 août.

L’armée syrienne a pris deux postes de contrôle autour la ville de Khan Cheikhoun le soir 2019-08-18. Ensuite, peu après minuit, les troupes armées avaient lancé un assaut au nord de Khan Cheikhoun et ont pris une partie de la ville.

Le nombre du combattants morts des dernières 24 heures approchant quatre vingt-dix. L’ensemble de la région tenue par les rebelles au nord de Khan Cheikhoun est sous l’assaut écrasant du gouvernement, soutenu par des frappes aériennes sans arrêt de chasseurs à réaction et d’hélicoptères. Presque une mille civils syriennes sont morts au cours des quatre derniers mois, presque tous était dans les zones contrôlées par les rebelles.

Breaking: Syrian Army enters and captures part of Khan Shaykhun city (detailed maps)

Map of current territorial control in Khan Shaykhun city as of Monday morning.
Map of territorial control in northern Hama/southern Idlib provinces as of Monday morning
Detailed map of territorial control in the overall area of ‘greater Idlib’ as of early Monday

The Syrian Army captured two checkpoints from jihadist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in the evening of 2019-08-18. Just after midnight, Army troops launched an attack from the northern direction (an area poorly fortified by rebels) and entered Khan Shaykhun city. Several city blocks and neighborhoods were cleared, as rebel forces engaged in a fighting retreat. The city is now almost devoid of civilians after over ten thousand people fled over the past month northward to refugee camps and rebel-held cities like Idlib. Tahrir al-Sham was also unable to reverse yesterday’s loss of tactically important high ground northwest of Khan Shaykhun despite multiple car bombings, showing the group is now finding it difficult to effectively counter the Syrian Army in prolonged battles.

So far, dozens of fighters have died on both sides, with the death toll of the past 24 hours approaching 100. The entire rebel-held area north of Khan Shaykhun is under overwhelming government assault backed by nonstop Syrian and Russian airstrikes from jet fighters and helicopters. Almost 1,000 civilians have died in the past 4 months, almost all of them in rebel-held areas.

Syrian Army’s elite Tiger Forces capture fresh ground from rebels in Northern Hama (Map)

On 30 July 2019, after recapturing the villages of Tal Maleh and Jibeen the day before, the Syrian Army decided to continue its advance in northern Hama governorate. Capitalizing on the rebel retreat from Jibeen, the Army’s Tiger Forces shock troops unexpectedly rushed towards the town of Zakah (Zakat). Supported by an extensive air and artillery bombardment which cratered fields and destroyed several houses, the Army captured a small village called Abu Raidi Gharbiyah and now finds itself in control of key farmlands on the southern and southwestern approaches to Zakah, a town held by the rebels since December 2012. If the Syrian Army manages to capture this town, it could set the scene for an assault on the Free Syrian Army stronghold of Kafr Zita or a move further eastward to besiege the frontline bastion town of Lataminah. The strategic balance in Northern Hama has not been fundamentally altered yet, but the next few days could prove crucial to the future of the area going forward.

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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Satellite imagery: Devastation caused by recent Hama fighting

The above 2 photos show fires and hotspots on 26 May, the day the Syrian Army recaptured the town of Kafr Nabudah from rebels in northwest Hama

The above 2 photos from the day before the rebel capture and the day of the Syrian Army recapture show farmlands burned by Syrian/Russian airstrikes

The above 2 photos show the devastation of wildfires along the north Hama frontline between the Syrian Army and Islamist rebels. Extremely high heat and the bombings and shelling of war have scorched the farmland.

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Satellite timelapse: Construction of a new Iraq-Syria border crossing by an Iran-supported militia

A recent report from ImageSat International documented the recent construction of an outpost near the closed Al Bukamal-Al Qa’im border crossing. Over the past month, large earthworks and construction have been taking place at a location southwest of the crossing. The report suggested Iran-backed militias were building the new border crossing. If so, it could be used as a land bridge for Iran to ship weapons, oil, and personnel from Iran to Syria and Lebanon (to Hezbollah) and vice versa.