Archive for the ‘Air strikes’ category

Syrian state media claims Israeli missiles strike near Damascus airport

June 26, 2018

Hit ’em hard, my Israeli friends.

And hit ’em where it hurts.

Syrian state media claims Israeli missiles strike near Damascus airport

https://www.timesofisrael.com/syrian-state-media-claims-israeli-missiles-strike-near-damascus-airport/

Observer group says reported attack targeted Hezbollah arms depots; Assad forces ‘failed to intercept the missiles’

Syrian state media said early Tuesday that two Israeli missiles struck near Damascus International Airport, without adding any details.

In a report in the early hours of Tuesday, Syria’s state news agency said “two Israeli missiles came down near Damascus international airport.”

The head of monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, also said that “the Israeli missiles hit arms depots for Hezbollah near the airport.”

He said the air strike took place at 1:00 am local time “without causing huge explosions” even though they hit the weapons stores.

The observatory added that the Syrian air defense “failed to intercept the missiles.”

Israel has warned of a growing Iranian military presence in neighbouring Syria, which it sees as a threat to its safety.

Its military has been carrying out strikes on Iranian and Iran-affiliated targets in Syria, with a US official saying it was Israeli forces that carried out a deadly strike against an Iraqi paramilitary base in eastern Syria on June 17.

On Sunday, forces loyal to the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar Assad reportedly took control of an abandoned UN post in the no-man’s land between the Israeli and Syrian areas of the Golan Heights.

The post, abandoned by United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) troops on the Golan, is meant to be free of both Israeli and Syrian troops, according to the cessation of hostilities agreement between the two countries that followed the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

According to the report, UNDOF has identified ongoing infrastructure work at the site.

The IDF said in a statement that it was “aware of what is taking place, and views [the takeover of the site and] the infrastructure work at the post as a serious and flagrant violation of the separation-of-forces agreement.”

The IDF statement suggested Israel might act to remove the forces from the post by force. Officials told the Kan broadcaster that Israel “sees UNDOF as responsible for tracking and acting against military forces in the separation zone, and is determined to prevent military entrenchment in that area.”

The report came just hours after an Israeli Patriot missile was fired at a drone that approached from Syria toward Israel’s airspace. Israeli officials believe the drone belonged to regime forces.

According to Hebrew-language reports, the IDF is bracing for an uptick in fighting in Syrian areas adjacent to the Israeli border, and expects incidents of stray fire to enter Israeli territory.

As fighting between the main factions in the Syrian civil war threatened to overwhelm UNDOF positions, the UN troops left the demilitarized buffer zone for Israel in 2014.

 

US military warns of Shabaab resurgence, strikes ‘command and logistics node’

June 11, 2017

US military warns of Shabaab resurgence, strikes ‘command and logistics node’, Long War Journal, , June 11, 2017

While announcing an airstrike that targeted a Shabaab “command and logistics node” in southern Somalia, the US military warned of al Qaeda’s resurgence in the country and said it has “taken advantage of safe haven.” The strike is the first announced by the US military since the Trump administration declared that it would expand operations against al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia.

US Africa Command, or AFRICOM, announced that it targeted a “command and logistics node at a camp located approximately 185 miles southwest of Mogadishu in a stronghold for the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab organization” in an airstrike. AFRCOM assessed that eight Shabaab operatives were killed.

AFRICOM’s worrying assessment of Shabaab’s revival in Somalia is an admission that efforts by the US, African Union, and Somali government to contain and defeat the group over the past several years have failed. The US Department of Defense admitted as much in late March, when it announced that the Trump administration approved “additional precision fires” to target Shabaab throughout Somalia.

The Pentagon’s desire to actively target Shabaab reflects the growing concern that al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa is gaining strength despite the presence of both African Union and US forces, and it is plotting to attack the West. Shabaab used a sophisticated laptop bomb in an attempt to down a Somali airliner in 2016. This attack was cited by the US government as one of the reasons that electronics have been banned in the cabins of airplanes departing from 10 airports in the Middle East. [See What’s really behind Trump’s laptop ban.]

Today’s strike is part of an overarching effort to “degrade the al-Qaeda affiliate’s ability to recruit, train and plot external terror attacks throughout the region and in America.”

The AFRICOM statement also acknowledged that African Union and Somali forces have suffered significant losses at the hands of Shabaab:

In the last eight months, al-Shabaab has overrun three African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Forward Operating Bases by amassing large numbers of fighters and attacking in overwhelming numbers. Al-Shabaab has also increased its combat capability by seizing heavy weaponry, armored vehicles, explosives, small arms, ammunition, and other miscellaneous supplies during its operations overrunning Burundian National Defense Forces FOB Leego, Ugandan People’s Defense Force FOB Janaale, and Kenyan Defense Force FOB Ceel Ad.

The terror organization has taken advantage of safe haven. The group has cemented its control [sic] southern and central Somalia, they have used this area to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, and to shelter other radical terrorists.

Shabaab has successfully overrun Somali and African Union bases in the past and inflicted a large number of casualties on troops based there. In Jan. 2016, Shabaab fighters assaulted a base in Al Ade in the south and killed at least 100 Kenyan soldiers. In June 2015, Shabaab killed an estimated 60 Ethiopian soldiers in the south. That same month, Shabaab fighters killed more than 50 Burundi soldiers in Leego.

Shabaab has been resurgent in Somalia since losing ground to a combined African Union and Somali offensive in 2011. The jihadist group has slowly but methodically retaken several towns and villages that it lost, including the coastal town of Marka.

However, Shabaab’s efforts have not been confined to southern and central Somalia. Late last week, Shabaab fighters overran a base manned by Puntland forces in northern Somalia. Upwards of 60 troops were killed and Shabaab seized a large number of weapons and vehicles as well as a quantity of ammunition.

Today’s strike is the first reported by the US military against Shabaab since the Department of Defense announced that it would expand military operations. AFRICOM released a statement on April 17 to refute press reports that US forces launched airstrikes in southwestern Somalia.

US blitzes AQAP in Yemen with an unprecedented 30 airstrikes

March 5, 2017

US blitzes AQAP in Yemen with an unprecedented 30 airstrikes, Long War Journal, March 4, 2017

The large number of strikes over a short period of time indicates the US is changing its tactics in fighting AQAP in Yemen. The US military previously described AQAP as one of the most dangerous terrorist networks that is determined to strike US interests, yet it had been overly cautious in targeting the group. Over the previous five years, the US military averaged just two to three strikes against AQAP a month.

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The US military has launched more than 30 airstrikes against al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen in three separate provinces over the last several days. Such a large number of strikes is unprecedented in Yemen and indicates a changing US approach to attacking al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, possibly acting on new intelligence gained from a controversial raid by US special operations forces in late January.

It is unknown how many AQAP fighters were killed during the operation. AQAP has not announced the death of any senior leaders.

The Department of Defense announced the airstrikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in a statement attributed to Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.

“More than 30 strikes in Yemen” hit “militants, equipment and infrastructure in the governorates of Abyan, Al Bayda and Shabwah,” according to the statement.

Davis described the Yemeni government as “a valuable counterterrorism partner” and said the blitz was coordinated with and approved by the government and its president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Davis noted that AQAP continues to use “ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct, and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies.”

The attacks “will degrade the AQAP’s ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to use territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen as a safe space for terror plotting,” according to the statement.

The latest press release also described AQAP as an “extremely dangerous al Qaeda affiliate.”

With the more than 30 strikes against AQAP over the past several days and an additional five in January, the US has already come close in the first two-plus months of 2016 to exceeding the average number of yearly strikes since the program began in 2009. Only two other years (38 in 2016 and 41 in 2012) have a higher strike total.

The large number of strikes over a short period of time indicates the US is changing its tactics in fighting AQAP in Yemen. The US military previously described AQAP as one of the most dangerous terrorist networks that is determined to strike US interests, yet it had been overly cautious in targeting the group. Over the previous five years, the US military averaged just two to three strikes against AQAP a month.

Additionally, the military may have obtained more information about AQAP’s network and exploited it with a series of quick hits over a short period of time to shock the group. The US military and the Trump administration claimed that a controversial raid by US special operations forces against AQAP in Al Baydah province in January netted significant intelligence. One US Navy Seal, two senior AQAP leaders, and at least 13 civilians, including the eight year old daughter of slain radical AQAP cleric Anwar al Awlaki, were among those killed during the raid, which quickly evolved into a heavy firefight that also resulted in the loss of an Osprey aircraft.

Despite years of targeting AQAP, the group retained significant capacity. Davis estimated that AQAP maintains a strength in the “low thousands,” and that the group “can skillfully exploit the disorder in Yemen to build its strength and reinvigorate its membership and training.”

AQAP still controls rural areas of central and southern Yemen despite both attacks from the US and a United Arab Emirates-led ground offensive, which ejected the group from major cities and towns that it held between March 2016 and the summer of 2016. AQAP claims to still operate training camps in Yemen to this day. In mid-July, AQAP touted its Hamza al Zinjibari Camp, where the group trains its “special forces.” Zinjibari was an AQAP military field commander who was killed in a US drone strike in Feb. 2016.

Russian air strikes slowed down over Syria by weather and maintenance

January 11, 2016

Russian air strikes slowed down over Syria by weather and maintenance, DEBKAfile, January 11, 2016

Air_Strike_Maps_1.16Russian air strike map in January 2016

Russian air raids over Syria were seen to have tapered off in the first 10 days of the New Year to their lowest level since the onset of Moscow’s major intervention in Syria in late September, intelligence sources report. The slowdown was not officially reported or explained. But our sources point to three likely causes:

1.  The Russian Air Force conducted an exceptionally intensive series of aerial strikes over northern and southern Syria in the course of December. This may have caused too many technical problems for the overtaxed ground crews to keep up with the necessary maintenance work.

2.  Winter conditions in the region are subject to extreme and rapid change, often swinging between snow storms and warm air currents in the space of a few hours. Russian air and ground crews alike are finding it hard to adjust to Middle East weather.

3.  The first days of January are Russia’s traditional holiday season. The Eastern churches celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7. Air crews may have decided to take a break from combat missions.

In case the slowdown was misinterpreted in the West, the Russian high command published a set of statistics Monday, Jan. 11 that painted a picture of intense activity.

In the first ten days of 2016, the Russian Air Force was said to have conducted 311 air strikes against 1097 targets.

The communiqué also noted that the first Syrian Air Force MidG-23 fighter plane was able to land at Hama air base. This central Syrian facility had been inactive for months because it was under rebel artillery fire and was now restored to full operation, thanks to Russian air bombardments of rebel forces.

From Hama, the Syrian army is now back in command of the Rte 5 highway linking Aleppo to Damascus, opening up for Syrian, Hizballah and pro-Iranian militia armies their only road link and supply route between central and northern Syria.

The recovery of Hama also provides a shield for defending Latakia, President Bashar Assad’s main power base.

Western intelligence experts estimate that the air strike statistics offered by Moscow are exaggerated. They tie the operation for the relief of the Hama air base with a project about to be launched by the Russian command from its base outside Latakia, namely, the transfer of Russian air force and special operations officers and forces teams to the Palmyra area, in readiness for an offensive to seize all the Syrian air facilities to the west of the town from ISIS control.

Western intelligence experts estimate that the air strike statistics offered by Moscow are exaggerated. They tie the operation for the relief of the Hama air base with a project about to be launched by the Russian command from its base outside Latakia, namely, the transfer of Russian air force and special operations officers and forces teams to the Palmyra area, in readiness for an offensive to seize all the Syrian air facilities to the west of the town from ISIS control.

Russian tacticians in Syria appear to be focusing now on pushing rebel and Islamic State forces out of all the airfields they have captured, in order to get the Syrian Air Force flying and bombing again, and so ease the burden on the Russian flight crews in Syria.

Jeish Al-Islam Militants Use Families of Syrian Soldiers as Human Shields in Cages

November 2, 2015

Jeish Al-Islam Militants Use Families of Syrian Soldiers as Human Shields in Cages, MEMRI-TV, November 2, 2015

 

 

According to the blurb following the video,

In footage posted on the Internet on November 1, 2015, families of Syrian soldiers are shown in cages, being placed among the civilian population of East Ghouta, to serve as human shields against Syrian government and Russian airstrikes.

ISIS Video Shows Downing of Airplane, Contradicting Russian Claims of Technical Fault

October 31, 2015

ISIS Video Shows Downing of Airplane, Contradicting Russian Claims of Technical Fault, The Jewish Press, October 31, 2015

(How persuasive, if at all, is the video? — DM)

ISIS-video-of-downed-plane

Russia’s transport minister Maksim Sokolov on Saturday denied the Islamic State’s claim, that its militants had brought down the Russian charter plane Airbus A321, en route from the south Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to Saint Petersburg on Saturday. But a videotape released by ISIS possibly refutes the claims, showing a plane as it is being hit, and following its fall from the sky trailed by a tail of smoke.

 

 

There were 214 Russian and three Ukranian passengers on board, with a crew of seven. An ISIS affiliate in Egypt claimed that it had downed the plane, without specifying how, but an Egyptian spokesman said the crash was not the result of an attack.

The ISIS tweets describing the attack went: “Soldiers of the Caliphate were able to bring down a Russian plane above Sinai Province with at least 220 Russian crusaders aboard,” followed by: “They were all killed, praise be to God. O Russians, you and your allies take note that you are not safe in Muslims lands or their skies,” and: “The killing of dozens daily in Syria with bombs from your planes will bring woe to you. Just as you are killing others, you too will be killed, God willing.”

But Minister Sokolov tweeted: “Now in various media there is assorted information that the Russian [airplane]… was supposedly shot down by an anti-aircraft missile, fired by terrorists,” and insisted, “This information can’t be considered accurate.”

According to Sputnik, an examination of the Airbus crash site showed the airliner fell due to a technical fault. It was the deadliest air accident in Russian history, worse than the 1985 disaster in Uzbekistan, when 200 people perished. Bodies were found as far as three miles the crashed plane in the Sinai. According to Reuters, the plane fell vertically, which led to large parts of it burning.

According to the Guardian, the ISIS claim does not explain how they were able to bring down the plane, when the most sophisticated, portable surface-to-air missiles can’t reach the high altitude the plane was flying at. These missiles have been proven effective strictly during take-off or landing, but the Russian Airbus came down after having reached its target altitude.

The black box that was onboard the aircraft has been found at the crash site, according to the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry. Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kemal said it was too early to state the cause of the crash, but suggested the plane had not been shot down or blown up.

Meanwhile, European airlines Lufthansa and Air France have announced that they would stop flying over the Sinai Peninsula, until it is made clear what had caused the crash.

crash-site

Israel is braced for Russian aerial intrusions over its Golan border

October 9, 2015

Israel is braced for Russian aerial intrusions over its Golan border, DEBKAfile, October 9, 2015

Su-25_Frogfoot_ground-attack_planes_B-Syria_10.15_1Russian Su-25 Frogfoot fighter-bombers in Syria

Uncertainty still hangs over Moscow’s precise intentions regarding its air force flights over the Golan close to Israel’s border – even after two days of discussions on coordination ended in Tel Aviv Thursday, Oct. 8 between the Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Nikolay Bogdanovsky and his Israeli counterpart Maj. Gen. Yair Golan. A coordination mechanism between the two air forces was left as unfinished business for further discussion, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. So it is still not clear to Israel what is supposed to happen if Russian fighters and bombers enter the Syrian-Israeli border district and slip over into Israeli air space.

The bilateral talks left Israel with the impression that this was a distinct possibility.

Israeli and Western aviation and intelligence experts don’t see how Israel can prevent Russia providing air cover for Syrian and Hizballah forces when the war moves close to the Israeli and Jordanian borders of southern Syria.

Last week, Russian SU-30 and Su-24 warplanes twice violated Turkish air space in the southern province of Hatay (called Alexandretta on Syrian maps). Although after the Russian defense ministry apologized for the first intrusion as accidental and lasting just a few seconds, our military sources are certain that the Russians were in fact deliberately testing Turkish air defenses.

This scenario may well repeat itself over the Golan in the very near future.

Gen. Bogdanovsky made no secret of Moscow’s intention to use its air power against rebel targets in battles taking place near the Israeli border. According to our exclusive military sources, Israel braced for this eventually Wednesday night, Oct. 7. Syrian, Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite forces then launched a ground offensive with Russian air cover against Syrian rebel forces in the Hama region. This was their first ground operation since the start of the Russian military buildup in late August. Intelligence was received that a second Syrian-Hizballah offensive, covered by Russian fighters and bombers, was scheduled to start at the same time in the Quneitra area, directly opposite the Israeli Golan.

For some reason, it was not launched when expected, but it is unlikely to be deferred for long. After firing Kalibr-NK-SS-27 Sizzler cruise missiles last week to soften rebel resistance to the Syrian government offensive in the Hama area, the Russians may well aim them at the Quneitra arena too in support of another Syrian operation.