Syria Advances as Russia Strikes ISIL: Another Week in Review

Russian pilots prepared to board the SU-30 attack plane to take off from the Hmeimim aerodrome in Syria.

Over the past week, Russia destroyed 363 ISIL installations, as the Syrian army continues offensives around the country to combat terrorist groups.

Russia’s presence in Syria led to a change in the focus of the US-led coalition’s strikes against ISIL. The US continues minor airstrikes in Syria, generally using drones and striking near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. However, the drone use has created issues of air control, as Russian aircraft are often forced to fly in close proximity with US drones, as Russia’s defense ministry showed in a fly-by of a MQ-9 Reaper drone.

In Aleppo, the Syrian army began an offensive against ISIL, with the aim of breaking the Kweiris air base out of encirclement, as well as offensives around the south of the city, liberating several villages.

The offensive appears to be effective, as ISIL is moving fighters from Iraq to Syria, according to Defense Ministry intelligence. ISIL twitter accounts have been posting maps of a supposed counter-offensive they are planning, to cut off the road the Syrian army uses for supplying Aleppo.

The Syrian army also began an offensive in the Latakia province, in which al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front massacred hundreds of civilians in previous years.

Syria's army uses the TOS-1 thermobaric MLRS, earlier seen in Iraq
Syria’s army uses the TOS-1 thermobaric MLRS, earlier seen in Iraq

The offensive has thus far killed hundreds of fighters, according to Syrian military sources, but remains one of the more difficult offensives due to Latakia’s mountainous terrain.

In Damascus, the offensive against ISIL and other terrorist groups has gained ground at several points, according to reports.

Syrian army night-time operation in the Damascus area
Syrian army night-time operation in the Damascus area

Damascus is controlled by the Syrian government, and many anti-government areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army have signed ceasefires with the Syrian government. However, portions remain controlled by ISIL and other groups including the al-Nusra Front.

There's always one or two that get away...
There’s always one or two that get away…

In the eastern Deir Ezzor, the Russian military destroyed a key bridge which previously allowed ISIL to resupply an enclave it held in the city. Offensives in central Syria’s Homs, Hama and Idleb have continued to gain ground.

It is not clear if US-supplied TOW missiles, many of which reportedly ended up in the hands of terrorist groups such as al-Nusra continue to destroy Syrian army tanks. Almost no new videos have been uploaded, and terrorist groups have been found reusing old videos and presenting them as new for propaganda purposes.

Some units of al-Nusra have also reportedly been in talks to align with ISIL. ISIL broke away from other rebel groups in 2013 in a bitter power struggle which also saw it disaffiliate from al-Qaeda.

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