Monitor: Islamic State Killed 55 Assad Fighters After Russia Failed to Help

Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu inspect a military parade during a visit to a Russian air base in Hmeimim
AFP/Mikhail KLIMENTYEV

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) recently launched a “violent attack” in Syria that killed at least 55 pro-regime troops amid friction between dictator Bashar al-Assad’s allies Russia and Iran that apparently contributed to the regime’s losses, a monitor group suggested Wednesday.

According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which uses a network of ground sources to monitor the civil war, Assad’s ally Russia was not “intensively involved in supporting the regime forces” against the ISIS attack that started Sunday in the western banks of Euphrates River in Syria near the Iraqi border.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the SOHR head, described the ISIS assault, which reportedly lasted about two days, as “fierce,” the Agence France-Presse (AFP) agency reported Tuesday.

The monitor group suggested that the lack of Russian support contributed to the massive casualties suffered by the pro-regime fighters, which reportedly included Iranian and Hezbollah troops.

ISIS launched the assault in the midst of friction between Moscow and Tehran over a Russian troop deployment in Syria near the country’s border with Lebanon, home to Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah, which objected to the move, Reuters learned on Tuesday.

“It appeared to be a rare case of Russia acting out of sync with President Bashar al-Assad’s Iran-backed allies in the war. Iranian and Russian support has been critical to Assad’s war effort,” the news outlet noted.

A non-Syrian official loyal to the Assad regime told the news outlet on Tuesday that the situation has been resolved, but only after ISIS killed dozens of pro-regime fighters, mainly Iranian-allied troops, amid a lack of Russian air support in the Euphrates Valley.

On Wednesday, the Observatory reported:

The fact that the Russian warplanes have not been intensively involved in supporting the regime forces and pushing the attack of the [ISIS] organization…[over the last] 48 hours, resulted in the fall of a large number of casualties in the ranks of the both parties, where the number of casualties in the ranks of the regime forces and their allies, rose to 55 at least including 3 members of the Lebanese Hezbollah, and 6 Iranian members, while it rose to at least 31, the number of members of the [ISIS] organization who were killed.

Citing the Observatory, AFP reported that most of the casualties on the pro-regime side were from Iranian-allied Shiite militants from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

ISIS was able to temporarily seize about four villages in the Euphrates Valley held by the Assad regime and their allies, according to AFP.

By Wednesday, the Observatory noted that the regime troops had pushed ISIS out of the territory, reporting:

Regime forces backed by armed militiamen loyal to them of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities, managed to restore most of [the] positions which they had lost [to] members [of] the “Islamic State” organization during its violent attack which targeted a front of about [62 miles] along the west banks of Euphrates River … where the regime forces managed to attack again … [and force ISIS] to leave its positions and withdraw to the Desert.

The clashes between ISIS and the Assad troops took place near the small Syrian town of Hajin close to the country’s border with Iraq, a region identified by AFP as “the single largest populated hub still under the control” of the jihadist group.

On Tuesday, U.S. Col. Thomas Veale, a top spokesman for the American-led coalition against ISIS, acknowledged that the terrorist group remains a threat in Syria despite the losses it has suffered at the hands of the alliance and local fighters, including the Russian and Iranian-backed Assad troops.

The number of ISIS jihadists in Iraq and Syria “range from 1,000 to 3,000,” the colonel estimated, adding, “There’s still a lot of work to be done to defeat ISIS. They have a fielded conventional threat in Syria.”

“We are a conditions-based organization,” he declared. “We’re going to fight until the ISIS threat’s eliminated.”

The Kremlin has reportedly urged all non-Syrian forces, namely Iranian fighters and U.S. forces, to leave southern Syria, Reuters noted on Tuesday.

“Russia and Iran-backed forces such as Hezbollah have worked together against the insurgency. Hezbollah deployed to Syria in 2012. The Russian air force arrived in 2015 in support of Assad,” the news outlet reported. “But their different agendas in Syria have become more apparent of late as Israel presses Russia to make sure Iran and its allies do not entrench their military sway in the country.”

 

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