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Common strategies of Russia and Syrian regime precede each attack on opposition-held areas

Russian aircraft at Russia’s Hmeimim military airbase (Sputnik)

Russian aircraft at Russia’s Hmeimim military airbase (Sputnik)

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The statements made by Russia and the Syrian regime become substantially similar each time they are preparing for mounting a military operation in the opposition-controlled areas.

In most of the recent battles in northern Syria, Russia, and the Syrian regime comp up with three main arguments, broadcast by their official media outlets, to win public sympathy and legitimize its aerial bombardment of civilians.

Russia and the Syrian regime recently began using these arguments and strategies to justify their military operation in the province of Idlib.

The Russian and Syrian regime forces are carrying out intense airstrikes on Idlib, the last province held by opposition rebels in the country. In addition to that, the Syrian regime attempts to re-gain control over the international highway M5 through making advances in the military operation against the cities of Maarat al-Numan and Saraqib. The Syrian regime massed its forces in the western countryside of Aleppo and conducted several airstrikes on the region.

Warplanes hitting Hmeimim military airbase

Whenever there is a ground assault on the opposition-controlled areas, Russia announces, through its official media outlets, that its military airbase in Hmeimim in the province of Latakia is being hit by unidentified drones.

The Russian Ministry of Defence said on Monday, 20 January, that the air defense systems of Russia’s Hmeimim airbase repelled a drone attack on Sunday, 19 January, noting that no one was hurt, according to Tass, an official news agency of Russia.

Tass added that the Russian air defense systems at the Hmeimim airbase spotted three small aerial targets at a long distance approaching the Russian military facility from the northeastern direction. Tass also highlighted that they had destroyed those targets (unmanned aerial vehicles) at a safe distance from the base.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), for its part, reported that the drones were launched from the deployment position of the opposition factions in the Idlib countryside.

On the other hand, the opposition factions and the Hay’ at Tahrir al-Sham did not claim their responsibility for the attacks on Russia’s Hmeimim airbase.

In early 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that the Russian Hmeimim airbase was targeted by unmanned drones.

The Russian Ministry of Defence pointed out that “drone-based terrorist attacks on Russia’s Hmeimim airbase and naval support point in Tartus, were thwarted,” said the Ministry of Defence.

This announcement coincided with the beginning of preparations for military operations by Russia and the Syrian regime forces on the eastern Ghouta in Damascus countryside, which, after about two months, led to the displacement of thousands of Ghouta’s residents to northern Syria.

Shelling on the Syrian-regime controlled areas

About a month ago, SANA began publishing news about casualties in some districts of the city of Aleppo, due to shelling that it said was from opposition factions stationed in the western countryside of Aleppo.

SANA also points out that the districts of al-Sukkari, the new Aleppo, and the project “Three Thousand Apartments” were struck with artillery shells, killing and injuring civilians, and causing material damage.

The Syrian National Army’s official Spokesperson, Youssef Hammoud told Enab Baladi that the opposition had nothing to do with the bombardment of the Syrian-regime controlled neighborhoods.

Hammoud stated that the regime and regime-affiliated militia are behind these attacks on the districts of Aleppo city, aimed at leveling the accusation to the opposition factions.

The fronts of the western and southern Aleppo countryside are tense due to the military build-up of the Syrian regime forces, matched by the mobilization and military-build up of the fighting factions.

This scenario recalls what occurred during the Syrian regime’s control of the strategic town of Khan Sheikhon in August 2019, as well as during its control of the towns of al-Lataminah, Kafr Zita, Latmeen, and Morek in the northern countryside of Hama.

The state-run media outlets were promoting that shells were fired from these areas towards the Syrian-regime controlled areas in the countryside of Hama such as the city of Muhradah, and the two villages of Braideej and al-Aziziya in the northern countryside of Hama.

Preparation for the chemical attack

Syrians in the opposition-held areas have become familiar for years with the Russian narrative, which talks about the preparation of the Syrian Civil Defence (SCD/ White Helmets) to launch an attack using chemical weapons on areas under the control of the Syrian regime.

This narrative was repeated in many places in Syria and it always coincided with ground battles initiated by the regime and Russia on opposition-held areas.

In November 2019, the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the SCD of collaborating with the HTS fighters and preparing a new “fake” chemical attack in the “de-escalation zone” in Idlib.

The Russian TASS news agency reported at that time a statement by the Russian Ministry of Defence. The statement said, “via several channels, we received confirmation of reports that militants from the group of field commander Abu Malek, which is a part of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, jointly with the White Helmets organization, plan to carry out provocations involving staged air raids and use of chemical weapons in populated areas of the Idlib de-escalation zone.”

Russia had previously accused the SCD of staging chemical weapon attacks, denying the accusations held against it and the Syrian regime of carrying out hundreds of attacks on the opposition-controlled areas, during the years of the conflict. Not to mention that Russia and the Syrian regime reject international evidence and investigations that confirmed the use of internationally prohibited weapons.

In its report “Nowhere to Hide: The Logic of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria,” the Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI) indicated in February 2019 that 336 chemical attacks have taken place in Syria since 2011.  Nearly 98 percent of the attacks were carried out by regime forces while the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) carried out two percent of the attacks, the report added.

The regime deliberately used chemical weapons in its military campaigns to re-control areas held by the opposition, the most infamous of which was the attack on Eastern Ghouta in 2013, the attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in 2017, and the attack on the city of Douma in April 2018. As a result, these attacks were internationally condemned. Moreover, the US, Britain, and France bombed military sites of the Syrian Armed Forces in Syria in a military operation, aimed at deterring further chemical attacks.

 

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