Executive Intelligence Review


Dramatic Developments Underway in Syria, as Civilians Are Freed, Jihadi Enclaves Shrink

March 18, 2018 (EIRNS)—Dramatic developments are underway this morning in Eastern Ghouta. The southern part of the jihadi enclave has been drastically shrunk since yesterday with the liberation of Saqba by the Syrian army. As a result of that successful offensive, Faylaq al Rahman has halted military operations against the Syrian Arab Army and is now in negotiations with the Russians on evacuating its fighters north to Idlib. The Syrian army has reportedly also given an ultimatum to jihadis to withdraw from Harasta, which has been surrounded and cut off from the rest of the enclave for about the past week to ten days. Meanwhile, the Syria update map shows that Douma remains quiet, as it has been now for about a week.

As for evacuations of civilians, Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko, the chief of the Russian Reconciliation Center, reported this morning that a total of 48,033 civilians have now been taken out of the jihadi-controlled areas, including over 30,000 from the southern portion.

Evacuees interviewed by RT are describing horrid conditions under jihadi control.

“They fired at us, they did not want us to flee at all, they fired at the car wheels so that we could not flee. There was no flour, no bread, no water at all. They let no one out,”

a man filmed near Hush Nasri told RT’s Ruptly broadcast service.

“They [militants] were living with us, next to our houses and inside them. They would open a road amongst the houses to be able to move. They would not leave, and we would not dare to say ‘get out.’ Then the shelling was over and it is us who became part of the human shields. We were not allowed to move,”

another woman said.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in an interview with Kazakh radio, warned against Western efforts to split Syria into pieces.

“I think we should not even discuss a potential division of Syria, but claim that those plans should be immediately foiled (as soon as someone orchestrates it. This is our obligation,”

he said.

Lavrov also expressed hope that now it has become possible to separate Jabhat al-Nusra from the other armed groups. “It took long for this process to start—currently some hope has emerged that those armed groups will shun Jabhat al-Nusra,” he said. He reported that Jabhat al-Nusra has virtually usurped those armed groups that were meant to become part of the negotiation process.

“They have created a joint command, and in fact, three groups—Faylaq al-Rahman, Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham—started to go with Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been described by the UN Security Council as a terrorist organization. Our officers were actively helping the Syrian representatives to contact those three groups in order to get them to shun terrorists,”

he said.

Lavrov also once again condemned as illegal the U.S. military presence in Syria.

“There are foreign forces on the ground in Syria from states like the U.S. and a number of other countries. Thus, it’s not so much of a proxy war, but rather a direct involvement in the war,”

he said. Lavrov criticized as an “absolutely irresponsible statement” the threats by the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley about Washington aggression against Damascus. “Russia has responded strongly through the representatives of Washington in Moscow and military and diplomatic channels,” Lavrov said.