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Syria closes the trap: ISIS encircled in central Syria

Alexander Mercouris

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One of the most ambitious military operations launched over the course of the Syria war is now rapidly approaching its climax, with news today that Syrian troops advancing from Resafa in the north and from Al-Sukhnah in the south have largely succeeded in surrounding ISIS fighters in a large stretch territory in central Syria east of Salamiyah, an important government held town in Hama province.

This operation to trap ISIS fighters in what is now essentially a pocket or – using Russian military parlance – a ‘cauldron’ has been underway ever since the strategically important town of Al-Sukhnah in central Syria was captured a week ago.

A good idea of the nature of this pocket or ‘cauldron’ can be obtained from this map published by the Al-Masdar news agency.

Some words of caution are in order.

The Al-Masdar map gives an impression of a territory wholly surrounded on all sides by Syrian troops.

This is an exaggeration.  As is always the case in the Syrian war, the Syrian army simply does not have the necessary number of troops to carry out a total encirclement of this sort.  It is not even confirmed that the Syrian troops advancing from Resafa in the north and from Al-Sukhnah in the south have actually met with each other.

A more accurate way of describing what has happened is that the Syrian army has now gained control of all the main roads leading into and out of the pocket, and that all the towns and villages surrounding the pocket now accept the authority of the Syrian government.

This makes it all but impossible for large columns of ISIS fighters to enter or leave the pocket, or to be resupplied there.

Indeed movement of large groups of ISIS fighters is now also difficult, as their movements are now being constantly tracked by Russian and Syrian aircraft and Russian aerial drones which are patrolling the skies above the pocket.

Obviously individual or small groups of ISIS fighters can still move around or enter or leave the pocket, and over the new few days or weeks some may try to do so.  However Syrian troops and militia located around the pocket will be alert to precisely this danger, and will aim to track hunt down any ISIS fighters who try to enter or leave.

Indeed there were even reports back in February that the Russians have trained a special Syrian army unit named significantly the “ISIS Hunters” for precisely this role, a fact which incidentally shows how carefully the Syrian army’s operations over the last few months have been planned.

According to Syrian troops interviewed by CNN many of the ISIS fighters trapped in the pocket had previously fled there from ISIS’s former capital of Raqqa, which is now in the process of being liberated by the US backed Kurdish militia.

Many of these ISIS fighters are said to be very young, and to be putting up a fanatical resistance, still launching hit-and-run attacks on the main highway south from Aleppo whenever they can, as they have in fact been doing from this area for years.

Fully securing this highway – which ISIS and AL-Qaeda led Jihadi fighters actually managed to cut in the weeks before the Russian intervened in Syria in September 2015 – is an urgent priority for the Syrian government, and explains the high priority given to this operation.

According to the reports which have been appearing in the Al-Masdar news agency and in other Middle East media for the last few weeks, the chief ISIS stronghold inside the pocket is the town of ‘Uqayrbat.

With the main roads offering the main escape routes from the pocket now closed, the Syrian military apparently expects the ISIS fighters trapped in the pocket to fall back and concentrate on ‘Uqayrbat.

The capture of this town will therefore be a major operation, which when completed will signal the final success of the Syrian army’s operation to eliminate ISIS completely in central Syria.

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TravelAbout
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TravelAbout

Israel and its puppet the US have been extraordinarily quite lately concerning the SAA’s advances. They’re predictable and can a “mistaken” attack not be far off? Of course now that the Russians have adapted to these terrorist antics and now provide support aircraft for the SAA’s ground forces perhaps these two cowards know better? .

ColinNZ
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ColinNZ

Nice update Alex. Please also see below .. this is a reply from Syrianperspective analyst ‘Canthama’ to my question regarding US-SDF interference/disruption to SAA & allies progressive approach to the liberation of DeZ city … “… can’t say the SDF won’t try a thing in DeZ Province, but I doubt they will try it before Raqqa is finished, simply they do not have the nbrs for two offensives and BTW the Raqqa campaign has been extremely bloody, SDF lost an incredible amount of fighters, under reported of course. The Hama/Homs pockets must be cleared of ISIS, it is a dagger… Read more »

John Mason
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John Mason

Thanks Colin, that extract is exactly the type of information that needs to be told, very logical.

Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

“Syria closes the trap: ISIS encircled in central Syria”

I see here the Russian strategics hand. Syrian Army has now priceless counselors.
“Russians have trained a special Syrian army unit named significantly the “ISIS Hunters” for precisely this role, a fact which incidentally shows how carefully the Syrian army’s operations over the last few months have been planned.”

Precisely. There is order and pre-planned action. How things have changed since September 2015, when Russia air force became active on Syria front !

Daisy Adler
Guest
Daisy Adler

In the news: Syrian Brigadier General Suheil Hassan has been awarded by the Russian defense minister for conducting a successful parachute landing behind ISIS defense lines and in the capture of Al-Hadar. The operation was carried out by the Syrian army on Deir ez-Zor, August 12.
Russian armed forces’ chief of staff Valery Gerasimov handed an honorary weapon and a letter from Minister Shoigu to the general during his visit to the Hmeimim airbase in Latakia.

Shahna
Guest

Very nicely done Syria and Russia.
Very well done indeed.

Daisy Adler
Guest
Daisy Adler

Latest News:
“In order to prevent Daesh (ISIS) militants from escaping to Deir ez-Zor, aircraft from the Russian Air Force have been conducting both day and night aerial reconnaissance with the use of drones. Russian warplanes
are attacking terrorists’ equipment, including heavy weaponry and armored vehicles,” Russian Defense Ministry report.
730 Daesh targets were destroyed in the operation, including bunkers, ammo depots, weapons factories and armored vehicle facilities.
Video showing the use of high-precision weapons against terrorists near Akerbat, including guided missiles and smart bombs:
https://youtu.be/vQkPLKN5HP0

Daisy Adler
Guest
Daisy Adler

Russian Air force attacking and destroying the “Jebhan Al-Nusra” (Al Qaeda) HQ in
Hama, Syria.
Waiting patiently for all the terrorists to enter the building …
https://youtu.be/OhTN-t5tH1g

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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