Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Russian Airstrikes in Syria: October 31 - November 10, 2015

By Genevieve Casagrande and Jodi Brignola

Key Takeaway: Russian airstrikes continued to support regime ground operations in Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Idlib, and Dera’a from November 9 - 10. Pro-regime forces relieved several hundred regime soldiers besieged by ISIS in the Kuweires Airbase east of Aleppo City on November 10 with air support provided by Russian warplanes. Russian airstrikes began to target ISIS’s positions surrounding Kuweires Airbase on October 12, preceding the start of the regime’s ground campaign against Kuweires on October 15. The regime largely relied upon Russian air power as well as reinforcement from hundreds of Iranian-backed proxy forces. The breaking of the siege represents a significant psychological victory for the regime and its allies. Russia will likely use this victory to validate its intervention in Syria and portray itself and the regime as decisive forces against ISIS in Syria. Russian airstrikes also continued to target rebel-held terrain south of Aleppo City as pro-regime forces continue to push southwest towards the town of Hader.
Russian airstrikes targeted Syrian opposition forces in Hama and Idlib Provinces from November 9 - 10 as rebels continued to make gains against regime forces following rebels’ seizure of the town of Morek in northern Hama Province on November 4. Regime forces have in fact lost terrain in Hama Province since the start of Russian airstrikes in Syria on September 30. U.S. support to Syrian rebels has also largely assisted rebel advances in Hama Province. The U.S. provided increased shipments of TOW anti-tank missiles to “moderate” Syrian opposition groups following Russia’s intervention. U.S.-backed rebels launched a total of 115 TOW missiles in the month of October alone.
Russian warplanes allegedly targeted the city of Inkhel 50 km north of Dera’a city amidst reports of a buildup of regime military forces in northwestern Dera’a Province. Pro-regime military buildup in southern Syria may indicate the regime’s intent to launch a future offensive to retake the town of Tel Harra in northwest Dera’a, which housed a joint Syrian-Russian signals intelligence (SIGINT) base before rebels seized Tel Harra in October 2014. These reports raise the question of future Russian support towards an Iranian backed regime offensive near the Golan Heights in Southern Syria, particularly in light of recent Russian agreements with Syria’s southern neighbors Israel and Jordan.

The following graphic depicts ISW’s assessment of Russian airstrike locations based on reports from local Syrian activist networks, Syrian state-run media, and statements by Russian and Western officials.

High-Confidence reporting. ISW places high confidence in reports corroborated both by official government statements reported through credible channels and documentation from rebel factions or activist networks on the ground in Syria deemed to be credible.

Low-Confidence reporting. ISW places low confidence in secondary sources that have not been confirmed or sources deemed likely to contain disinformation.