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Tuesday, October 20

Syrian civilians now giving Russians, Syrian Army more tips then they can deal with.

It's these civilians, who dug in and refused to leave their homeland, who are now playing an important role in the war. It was pretty useless to rat out the terrorist next door when their army was overwhelmed; now however, there is hope.

Hope is the greatest gift the Russians brought them. So now they're pelting the Russians and Syrian Army with targeting tips. This is happening in all the provinces where Islamic State, Nusra, etc., had established a presence.  And no sooner do the Saudis and Americans drop in weapons and ammo to resupply the "moderates," there's a Syrian to see this and dial a hotline.   

Many of the bad guys are shaving off their beards and fleeing, or squabbling with their commanders, or surrendering to the Syrian Army.         

The other day Sputnik or RT mentioned that the Russian air force was planning on making 300 sorties a day. I don't know how they'd get that many off the runways. And every tip has to be checked out. But they probably get 500 tips a day.  

There's also a compounding effect. Despite the fact that even Western polling organizations find a majority of Syrians in Syria support Assad, his name has been mud among the refugees. But those refugees have been getting Western propaganda along with their food and shelter. Now word will start to travel among refugees that Assad's forces are really and truly beating the heck out of the bad guys.  Even the London-based Syrian Observatory -- SOHR -- which supports the "Free" Syrian Army and has been the biggest source of information on the war for Western press, has modified its tune a little in the past week.

The latest: 

Russian Jets Hit 60 ISIL and Nusra Front Targets in Syria  (Oct 20, Sputnik)

Combat report: Russian jets strike 60 terrorist targets in Syria in 55 sorties (Oct 20, RT)

Among those targets, they destroyed an IS or Nusra command post in Idib.  

More, from Sputnik today:

The Syrian army continued its military operation in the suburbs of Damascus, in the district of Dzhobar, which had come under the control of the Islamists several years ago, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.

Fierce battles are taking place almost in all buildings, most of which the terrorists had taken under control and used for weapon emplacements. Most of the houses are connected with each other through underground passages, enabling militants to quickly retreat and suddenly reappear in the rear of the Syrian army, the correspondent wrote.

The clashes between Islamist militants and the Syrian army started in 2012.

Dzhobar is one of the outlying districts of Damascus (earlier a Jewish settlement). Before the war started, its population was about 300,000 people, but most of the civilians left the place and migrated to Europe since then.

The militants, who took control of the area, destroyed the old synagogue and many other buildings. Now the area is mainly controlled by the members of the al-Nusra militant group, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda.

The Syrian military and militias launched an attack on Dzhobar, as part of the offensive, which started in October in the context of Russia’s military operation in Syria. ...


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Of course the Western press is putting a completely different emphasis on the Russian-backed Syrian Army operations.  The latest, filed by Bassem Mroue for Associated Press less than a hour ago (note that "activist" has replaced "moderate" in the reportage):

Fresh wave of displacement as fighting in Syria intensifies

BEIRUT (AP) — A U.N. official said Tuesday that recent fighting in northern Syria has displaced tens of thousands of people — some of them staying in open fields with nowhere to go — as clashes between Russian-backed Syrian government forces and opposition fighters intensified.

Activists meanwhile said that Russian airstrikes killed at least 45 people in a Syrian coastal province, including a rebel commander who formerly served in President Bashar Assad's army. If confirmed, it would make it one of the deadliest incidents since Russia began its aerial campaign in Syria Sept. 30.

The Russian airstrikes have allowed Syrian troops and their allies from Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group to launch multiple ground offensives in northern, central and southern Syria as well as in the rebel-held suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

That has increased pressure on Western-backed rebels and pushed more civilians out of the areas of fighting, potentially creating a fresh wave of refugees.

A U.N. official in Geneva said that around 35,000 people are reported to have been displaced from the villages of Hader and Zerbeh on the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo city over the past few days.

"Many people are living with host families and in the informal settlements in areas west of the city," said Vanessa Huguenin, a spokeswoman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "People urgently need food and basic household and shelter items," she said in an e-mailed statement, adding that aid agencies are growing more and more concerned for families living outdoors as the weather gets colder.

The Syrian American Medical Society, which has volunteer medical personnel treating victims and reporting on attacks in Syria, said Russian airstrikes in the area over the weekend targeted the only two hospitals in southern Aleppo, forcing both facilities to shut down and evacuate patients.

Opposition fighters have so far been able to slow down the push by government forces, thanks to U.S.-made anti-tank missiles, although fighting on multiple fronts is draining their resources.

Jamil Saleh, leader of Tajammu Elezzah, a rebel group backed by the CIA operating in the central province of Hama, said no new types of weapons have reached the rebels but that their stocks have been replenished. He refused to elaborate.

"There is assistance but qualitatively there is nothing new," he said in a written exchange. He said the rebels are putting up a fight and pushing back against advances and that the government is accumulating more losses.

"Hezbollah, Iranians and Russians are not from Syria and they don't know its geography. They also have the traits of mercenaries," he said.

Turkey-based activist Faraj Shaheed and Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV said government troops captured the villages of Shqaidli, Abteen and Safera in the southern parts of Aleppo province.

The goal appears to be opening a path to the strategic northwestern town of Jisr el-Shughour in the northern province of Idlib, which Assad's forces lost to insurgents in April.

The loss of Jisr al-Shughour, followed by the fall of the entire province, was a resounding defeat for Assad, opening the way for rebels to threaten his traditional stronghold in the coastal province of Latakia.

Meanwhile, activists said Russian airstrikes killed and wounded dozens of people in the rebel-held Jabal al-Akrad region in Latakia province. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 45 people died.

The Local Coordination Committees, another activist-run monitoring group, said 57 people were killed in the province on Monday, mostly by Russian airstrikes. Both groups said the dead included army defector Basel Zimmo, who was the commander of the First Coastal Division, a rebel faction active in the area. 

The First Coastal Division is one of several groups believed to have received U.S.-made anti-tank missiles that are being provided through a covert CIA program. U.S. officials have said there is little they are able to do to protect CIA-backed rebels from Russian air strikes. They are unwilling to provide the rebels with anti-aircraft weapons, for example.

"The Russians are destroying all the (opposition) fortifications before the attack on Jisr al-Shughour," Abdurrahman said.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, said hundreds of Russian airstrikes over the past three weeks have killed 370 people, including 127 civilians. The group said the dead civilians included 36 children and 34 women.

The airstrikes also killed 243 fighters from different insurgent groups, including the Islamic State group and al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front.

Russia has said its air campaign is aimed at helping the government defeat the IS group and other "terrorists," but many of the strikes have targeted Syrian rebels in areas where the extremist group is not present.

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