"And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief. "

Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)

Lübnan Marunîleri / Yasin Atlıoğlu


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Army Foils Terror Plots Planned by the Islamic State- Naharnet

The army intelligence said on Thursday that it had foiled two Islamic State group plots that aimed to carry out attacks on a tourist facility and a densely populated area in Lebanon, the Army Command Orientation Directorate said in a statement on Thursday.
“The army was able to thwart a highly dangerous scheme planned by the terrorist Islamic State group,” the statement said.
“It arrested five IS members involved, including the mastermind behind the plot,” added the statement.
“The detainees confessed to having carried out terrorist acts attacks against the army previously.”
“The plan aimed to target a large tourist facility and a densely populated area in Lebanon.”
Investigations have been kicked off under the supervision of the related judicial authorities.

Putin cancels ban on charter flights between Russia, Turkey- TASS

MOSCOW, June 30. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday instructed the government to take measures to cancel the ban on charter flights between the Russian Federation and the Turkish Republic.

A relevant instruction is contained in the amendments signed by the president to the decree "On measures to ensure the national security of the Russian Federation and protection of citizens of the Russian Federation from criminal and other illegal actions and on the use of special economic measures against the Turkish Republic." The document was published by the Kremlin press service.

Moscow hopes for cooperation with Turkey on Syria — diplomat- TASS

MOSCOW, June 30. /TASS/. Turkey and its leadership have apologized for the downed Russian bomber and this signals that the normalization of ties with Ankara will influence the cooperation on Syria, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva Alexei Borodavkin said on Thursday.

International Military Review - Syria, June 30, 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Al-Qaa Bids Farewell to Blasts Victims as Archbishop Urges Declaring Outskirts a 'Military Zone'- Naharnet

The restive eastern border town of al-Qaa bid farewell Wednesday to five of its sons who were killed before dawn Monday in unprecedented multiple suicide bombings, as the region's Christian spiritual leader called for turning the neighboring area of Masharii al-Qaa into a “military zone.”
Faysal Aad, Joseph Lebbos, Majed Wehbe, Boulos al-Ahmar and George Fares were laid to rest at the town's cemetery after a highly emotional funeral that was held amid strict security measures.
The funeral had been postponed to Wednesday over security fears, after the town was hit by two waves of attacks on Monday. Four suicide bombers targeted the town in the pre-dawn attack, killing five people and wounding 15 others, as another four bombers attacked the town in the evening and wounded 13 people.
“The town of al-Qaa is Lebanon's rock and on this rock the terrorists were crushed and they entered the gateways of hell while the gateways of heaven were opened for our martyrs,” Greek Catholic Archbishop of Baalbek Elias Rahal said at the funeral.
“We will remain in this land and we will not budge, even if we offer 100 martyrs everyday,” a defiant Rahal added.

International Military Review – Syria, June 29, 2016

Lavrov hopes for resumption of dialogue with Turkey on Syria-TASS

PARIS, June 29. /TASS/. Moscow hopes for resumption of dialogue with Ankara on search for ways to settle the Syrian crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday following talks with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault.

"We until recently had very close contacts on Syrian settlement with Turkey, and then they were interrupted for clear reasons," Lavrov said.

"Now that the Turkish president sent apologies to the Russian president, when they discussed possibilities of normalization of our relations by phone today, it seems to me that we with Turkish partners will resume interaction on search for ways to settle the Syrian crisis," he said.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Batı Halep’teki operasyonların hedefi- YDH

YDH- Fars haber ajansı, şiddetli çatışmaların yaşandığı Halep’in batısında Suriye ordusu ve müttefiklerinin Kastillo yolunu kesmeyi ve Handarat kampını kontrol altına almayı hedeflediğini bildirdi.

Habere göre Kefer Hamra ve Leyarmun’daki terörist gruplar, Kastillo yoluyla Handarat’taki müttefiklerine yardım ulaştırabiliyorlar. Suriye ordusu ve müttefiklerinin Mellah Çiftliklerini kontrol altına alması halinde teröristlerin Handarat kampıyla irtibatı kesilmiş olacak.

Habere göre Suriye ordusu ve müttefiklerinin Handarat kampını kontrol altına alması halinde de teröristler grupların Halep’in batısı ile kent merkezi arasındaki bağlantı kesilmiş olacak.

Bu hedeflerin gerçekleşmesiyle 4 yıl sonra askeri sahada ciddi bir değişim yaşanacağının belirtildiği haberde Suriye ordusu ve müttefiklerinin yoğun çatışmaların yaşandığı Mellah Çiftliklerinde ilerlemeyi sürdürdüğü bildirildi.

Istanbul Ataturk airport attack: Deaths rise to 42 as Turkey mourns- BBC News

Turkey has observed a national day of mourning after a gun and suicide bomb attack on Istanbul's Ataturk airport killed 42 people, including 13 foreign nationals.

Three attackers arrived in a taxi and began firing at the terminal entrance late on Tuesday. They blew themselves up after police fired back.

Officials earlier said 239 people were injured, with 41 in intensive care.

PM Binali Yildirim said early signs pointed to so-called Islamic State.

CIA Director John Brennan also said it "bears the hallmarks" of the jihadist group.

However, no-one has so far admitted carrying out the attack.

The Syria 'dissent' memo and US bureaucratic support for Kerry war strategy- Middle East Eye

The memorandum by 51 State Department officials calling for US military intervention in Syria last week has been treated in news media coverage as a case of dissent from existing Syria policy by individual officials involved in Syria policy.
But the memo has all the earmarks of an initiative that had the blessing of the most senior officials in the department – including Secretary of State John Kerry himself - rather than having been put together by individual officials entirely on their own. And it may mark the beginning of an effort to take advantage of the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
The memo called for a “more militarily assertive US role” in the Syrian conflict in the form of “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed US-led diplomatic process".  That is precisely the policy option that Secretary of State John Kerry has been widely reported to have championed privately for years. As the story in the New York Times, which published the supposedly confidential memo, noted, “[H]igher-level State Department officials are known to share their concerns.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Syrian army retakes gas field in Raqqa- ARA News

Subsequent to fierce clashes with militants of the Islamic State (ISIS), the Syrian regime’s army forces on Monday recaptured the Thawra gas field in the northeastern Raqqa province. 
The Thawra gas field, located in the western countryside of Raqqa, has been under ISIS control for more than two years. 
“The army has expelled Daesh [ISIS] terrorists from the al-Thawra gas field,” Syrian army officer Haider Hammoud confirmed in an interview with ARA News. 
“The group has suffered heavy losses in manpower and equipment before retreating from the field,” he said. 
Gas and oil facilities are deemed a main financial resource for ISIS, especially in the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Islamic State counter-attack 'pushes Syrian regime forces from Raqqa province'- The Telegraph

Jihadists of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant drove Syrian regime troops out of Raqqa province on Monday, killing dozens of fighters in a lightning counter-attack, a monitoring group said.
The attack was mounted late on Sunday in response to a regime offensive in the Isil stronghold of Raqqa that began on June 3 that advanced about 12 miles toward the town of Tabqa, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It came as John Kerry, US Secretary of State, said he had read a memo from a group of frustrated diplomats urging strikes against the Syrian regime and found it "very good".

International Military Review - Syria, June 20, 2016

Hezbollah to join upcoming east Syria offensive: report- NOW

Hezbollah is set to play a “central role” in an upcoming offensive in Deir Ezzor to relieve Syrian army troops besieged in the capital of the province, according to a Lebanese daily with an editorial line supportive of the party.

Al-Akhbar’s editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin wrote Friday that Iran, Russia and Syria have agreed on a “large action plan” for a “very big battle in the Deir Ezzor” province in which Hezbollah will play a “central role.”

“Perhaps the forces of [Hezbollah] will face a test largely resembling what happened in Qalamoun, Zabadani and Qusayr,” he said, in reference to the lead role Hezbollah took in the 2013-2015 operations to clear rebels from regions along Syria’s border with Lebanon.

Amin, an influential commentator known for his close relations with Hezbollah, noted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has expressed its “strong desire” to support the regime troops holed up in the city of Deir Ezzor, which have been repeatedly attacked by ISIS since the jihadist group swept rebels out of the rest of the province in mid-2014.

Was the Second Lebanon War a Success or Failure?- Haaretz

It’s been 10 years since the Second Lebanon War. Was it a success or a failure? The Winograd Commission has issued its verdict, and military historians will, no doubt, continue to have their say, but the important point for us at this time is not what was, but what may yet be, and what lessons from that war could be applied to possible future encounters with Hezbollah.

Those who led that war are countering criticism by pointing to the years of quiet on the northern border that followed the UN-brokered cease-fire. A 33-day war, with 164 Israeli fatalities (43 civilians and 121 military personnel) that was to be followed by 10 or more years of quiet — is that an equation that signals success, or failure? In the event of a future encounter with Hezbollah, would such a result be considered to be satisfactory, or even a success? How much should we be willing to pay for intermittent periods of calm after each encounter? This question has also faced us in the south, where successive military operations have achieved intermittent periods of quiet, and where our leadership has even declared that the aim of such operations has been to achieve a few years of respite before Hamas resumes its attacks.

Fighting a war to bring about a few years of quiet was seen as a reasonable aim in Israel in its first 25 years of independence. Clearly incapable of completely routing the Arab armies arrayed against it, Israel came to consider that their repeated defeat would lead the Arab leaders to conclude that they could not overcome Israel on the battlefield. The strategy worked. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 was the fourth and last attempt by a coalition of Arab armies to attack Israel. Is this also an effective strategy against terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or Hamas? Are they likely to learn after receiving repeated that there is no point to returning to the war path against Israel?

The Algerian Connection: Will Turkey Change Its Syria Policy?- Carnegie Endowment

On April 8, 2016, the Francophone Algiers daily El Watan quoted an Algerian diplomatic source as saying that for the preceding several weeks his country had been running a secret mediation mission between the governments in Ankara and Damascus, who “want to have an exchange regarding the Kurdish question and the desire of the Syrian Kurds to create an independent state.” According to El Watan, Algeria’s involvement began as an attempt to calm tensions between Turkey and Russia following the downing of a Russian Su-24 jet by the Turkish Air Force in November 2015, but a second Syrian–Turkish channel later opened up via the Algerian embassies in Ankara and Damascus.
Though El Watan is a respected newspaper in Algeria and has good sources in the government, these claims are impossible to confirm. However there has been an intense exchange of Syrian and Algerian delegations this spring. For the first time since the Syrian conflict started in 2011, the country’s foreign minister, Walid al-Mouallemtraveled to Algiers on March 28–29. Intriguingly, this coincided with a visit by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. Algeria responded by sending their minister of Maghreb, African Union, and Arab League affairs, Abdelkader Messahel  to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on April 24–25.
Syria and Turkey have been at daggers’ drawn since late summer 2011 when Turkey ended its previous support for Assad's government and joined the coalition of states seeking to overthrow him. Since then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the most hawkish proponents of military pressure on Assad and his government has worked with a broad array of Sunni rebel factions, including hardline Islamists, to that end. But with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces—a Syrian group linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, against which Turkey is waging a harsh counterinsurgency campaign—now rolling into the northern countryside of Aleppo, Erdogan’s priorities may be shifting. And that may in turn be part of a larger trend in Turkish foreign policy.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Russia denies bombing U.S.-backed Syrian rebels near Jordan border- CNN

Russia's Defense Ministry denied bombing U.S.-backed Syrian opposition forces in a recent military operation near the Jordania border, according to a statement released on Sunday.

The Kremlin response comes after U.S. and Russian military officials held a video conference to discuss Thursday's strikes.

"The object which had suffered bombardment was located more than 300 km far from borders of territories claimed by the American party as ones controlled by the opposition joined the ceasefire regime," the Russian Defense Ministry said in the statement.
And Russian forces "forewarned member states of the U.S.-led coalition about the ground targets to strike on," the statement added.

Russian defense minister visits Syria- CCTV

Field Report: Syrian Army inches closer to Tabqa Airbase- Al-Masdar News

The Syrian Armed Forces, backed by the paramilitary Desert Hawks fighters, resumed its military operation to recapture the ISIS-held Raqqa in northern Syria. 

Fierce battles erupted today whereby the government troops managed to recapture Thawrah oil fields and workers’ housing area to the northeast of Sfaiyeh oil field, thus posing less than 15 km to the south of the al-Tabqa Airbase. 

According to a field reporter accompanying the military campaign, dozens of ISIS jihadists have been killed and wounded in the battles.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/field-report-syrian-army-inches-closer-tabqa-airbase-map-update/ | Al-Masdar News

Al-Rahi Urges Politicians to Elect President, Stop 'Destroying State'- Naharnet

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday urged Lebanon's political leaders to end the protracting presidential vacuum, stressing that no one has the right to “destroy the State.”
“We call on the political community and its parliamentary blocs to listen to their national conscience and perform their constitutional duty that obliges them to elect a new president,” said al-Rahi during a Sunday mass.
“Only the president can preserve the Constitution and safeguard the Lebanese society and its unity, growth and prosperity, and only the president can revive the parliament and the government,” the patriarch added.
“No matter what the reasons might be, the political community does not have the right to destroy the State, aggrieve citizens or obstruct the public welfare,” al-Rahi went on to say.
Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014 and Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement and some of their allies have been boycotting the parliament's electoral sessions, demanding a prior agreement on the new president's identity.
Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri launched an initiative in late 2015 to nominate Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency but his proposal was met with reservations from the country's main Christian parties as well as Hizbullah.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Pentagon presses Russia after Syrian airstrike targets anti-Islamic State coalition fighters- The Washington Times

The Pentagon said concerns were raised Saturday with counterparts in Moscow after a Russian aircraft was accused of conducting a strike in Syria this week against U.S.-backed opposition fighters.
In a statement, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said an “extraordinary session” was convened earlier Saturday via video link in order to discuss airstrikes reportedly launched by Russian forces Thursday in the town of Al-Tanf near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan.
Those assaults, the spokesman said, struck opposition forces who were conducting a campaign in the region against Islamic State terrorists.
“Department officials expressed strong concerns about the attack on the coalition-supported counter-ISIL forces at the At-Tanf garrison, which included forces that are participants in the cessation of hostilities in Syria, and emphasized that those concerns would be addressed through ongoing diplomatic discussions on the cessation of hostilities,” said the spokesman, using an alternate name for the terror group.

Tide turns in southern Aleppo as Islamist rebels gain the upper hand- Al-Masdar News

Lately, Islamist rebels of the Jaish al-Fatah coalition have retaken a lot of territory in southern Aleppo, thus overturning the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) ambitions of reaching an isolated government enclave in Idlib. 

Starting on April 1, Jabhat al-Nusra and allied rebel groups seized the strategic high point of Al-Eis in a move some deemed a breach of the U.N. brokered Syrian ceasefire. 

Little more than a month later, Jaish al-Fatah insurgents redeployed much of their armored vehicles for an offensive around Khan Touman, which was captured on May 5.

Friday, June 17, 2016

How are Turkey and Russia getting along these days? (Fehim Taştekin- Al-Monitor)

Russia and Turkey are extending gestures to one another in hopes of strengthening ties, but there are many factors at play: their opposing goals in the Syrian war, Black Sea politics and — not a small sticking point — Russia is still waiting for an apology and restitution for Turkey's downing of its jet last year.

Russian soldier dies of wounds sustained in Aleppo- SANA

Moscow, SANA- A Russian soldier of 35 years old died of serious injuries he sustained in shelling in Aleppo province, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
“The contract serviceman junior sergeant Mikhail Shirokopoyas died in the Burdenko Main Military Clinical Hospital in Moscow from wounds received during the shelling of a Russian convoy in Aleppo last May” the ministry said on Thursday.
The soldier got his fatal wound in the first half of May 2016 in the governorate of Aleppo, the ministry added.

Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists’ command center targeted in Daraa countryside- SANA

Daraa, SANA- An army unit destroyed a monitoring and command center for Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist
organization on the western sides of al-Nuaimeh town, 4 km east of Daraa city on Friday, a military source said.
A number of the terrorists were killed or injured during the operation, the source added.

51 U.S. Diplomats Urge Strikes Against Assad in Syria- New York Times

More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy inSyria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war.

The memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times by a State Department official, says American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the unrelenting violence in Syria. It calls for “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.”

Putin agrees with US idea of possibility to include opposition in Syrian government- TASS

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he agreed with the US proposal on the possibility of incorporating the Syrian opposition into the government of Bashar Assad but urged a careful approach to this issue.

"I believe the US proposal is absolutely acceptable - it is necessary to think about the possibility of incorporating representatives of the opposition into the existing structures of the [Syrian] authorities, for example, into the government," Putin said, replying to questions at a plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF-2016).

However, in this case, it is necessary to think about the powers such a government will have, the Russian leader added.

"It is also necessary not to go over the top in this case and it is necessary to proceed from present-day realities and avoid seeking the declaration of unfulfillable, unachievable goals," Putin said.

The Russian leader called as unrealistic the attempts to this effect to remove President Assad from power.

"It is necessary to act accurately, step by step, gradually achieving the trust of all conflicting parties. If this happens, and I believe that this will happen all the same, the sooner, the better, and then it will be possible to move farther and talk about subsequent elections and full settlement," the Russian leader said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry concerned over reports about call on Obama to strike Syrian army- TASS

Russia’s Defense Ministry is concerned over media reports claiming that officials of the US Department of State have called on the Obama administration to start bombing the Syrian army’s positions, official spokesman for the ministry Igor Konashenkov said on Friday.

"If these reports have at least a touch of truth, and such important issues in the US State Department are indeed solved by the vote of the ‘workforce’ then this cannot but arouse concern of any man of sense," Konashenkov said.

"The most important issue is who will then bear responsibility for these bombings. Will this be the majority of the State Department’s ‘workforce’? Or we will be again the witnesses of the well-known Hollywood smile as was in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya," the spokesman said.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that "more than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war."

Riyadh Reportedly Ups Scrutiny of Saudi-Lebanon Bank Transfers- Naharnet

Saudi Arabia has taken new measures concerning bank transfers conducted by Lebanese citizens from Saudi Arabia to their home country, according to the chairman of the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce.
Mohammed Shuqair told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that currently each bank transfer “takes around three to four days before reaching Beirut, the time Saudi authorities spend to detect the identity of the sender and the party to whom money is sent.”
Shuqair said the new Saudi step was not political, but described it as “a security and economic step that abides by the international banking law.”
Last April, Saudi Arabia and the United States added a number of organizations on their lists of “terrorist groups.”
There are currently 17 individuals and six entities from Hizbullah on the Saudi “terror” list.
Last week, Lebanon’s Central Bank closed 100 bank accounts linked to Hizbullah in line with a U.S. sanctions law targeting the party’s financing.

Saudis Promise 'Stronger and Deeper' Post-Election Ties to US- ABC News

Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the United States will only “grow stronger and deeper in all areas, irrespective of who is in the White House,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir told reporters today.
He expressed no concern about Donald Trump’s calls for a temporary ban on Muslims’ entering this country, and he complimented Hillary Clinton despite her call a few days ago for the “the Saudis, Qatari and Kuwaitis and others to stop their citizens from funding extremist organizations,” in addition to saying those countries “should stop supporting radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.”
Al Jubeir said at a Washington news conference that Clinton has “tremendous experience” and “has been to the region many times.”
Today’s remarks came amid Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s first visit to the United States. The crown prince, 30, wields a tremendous amount of influence in the Kingdom and could become the future leader of Saudi Arabia.
He has met in recent days with Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and, this morning, with President Obama at the White House.

Iran shifts on Syria- Al-Monitor

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, at meetings in Oslo, Norway, this week, signaled that he has more authority on the Syria file than he has had until now, and that Iran may be prepared to show more flexibility to advance a political solution, sources who met with him there told Al-Monitor.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

National Dialogue Session to be 'Decisive' on Electoral Law- Naharnet

The June 21 national dialogue session will be “decisive” regarding the issue of the new electoral law, a media report said on Thursday.
“The issue has been put on the front burner and it is being addressed with same attention that is being given to the election of a new president,” al-Liwaa newspaper quoted informed parliamentary sources as saying.
“The national dialogue session that will be held on Tuesday, June 21 will be decisive in this regard and the parliamentary blocs are preparing to submit their suggestions on the new electoral law to Speaker Nabih Berri,” the sources said.

Barrel Bombs in Syria's Aleppo Threaten New Truce- Naharnet

Barrels bombs hit Syria's Aleppo on Thursday just hours after a temporary truce announced by regime ally Russia came into effect in the northern war-torn city.
An AFP reporter said regime helicopters dropped the crude explosive devices on the city's rebel areas after residents had headed to markets for their first morning shopping in weeks.
Aleppo has seen some of the worst fighting in a war that has killed more than 280,000 people, and there is deep skepticism that the latest halt to fighting in the battered city will last.
The two-day truce came hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow that Washington's patience was running out over breaches of a nationwide ceasefire.
Peace talks aimed at ending the five-year conflict have stalled and a February countrywide ceasefire between the regime and non-jihadist rebels lies in tatters.
"There is no progress in the political process," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at an economic forum in Saint Petersburg, referring to Syria.
He accused Washington, which supports Syrian rebels, of being "unable or unwilling to put pressure on its allies in the region."
Nevertheless, direct contact between Russia and the United States about Syria have taken place "without any hysteria," he added.
There have been repeated violations of the February 27 truce in Aleppo, with rebels pounding regime-controlled neighborhoods with rocket and artillery fire and the regime hitting rebel areas with air strikes.

Syrian Army captures several sites near the Turkish border- Al-Masdar News

The Syrian Marines, alongside the National Defense Forces (NDF) and Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), continued their advance in the Turkmen Mountains of northern Latakia on Wednesday night, capturing several sites from the jihadist rebels near the Turkish border-crossing. 

According to a local military source, the Syrian Armed Forces captured Shahrourah village and points 469, 502, and 559 in the Turkmen Mountains after a violent night battle with the jihadist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group), Free Syrian Army (FSA), and Jaysh Al-Turkmen. 

The Syrian Armed Forces were able to capitalize on the gains they made the previous day, when they captured the hilltop village of ‘Ayn ‘Issa near the government stronghold of Saraf in the Turkmen Mountains.

"Türkmendağı'nda son iki köy kaldı"- Al-Jazeera

Bayırbucak bölgesindeki Türkmendağı’nda, rejimin son saldırılarının ardından muhaliflerin elinde sadece iki köy kaldı. Suriye Türkmen Cephesi Bayırbucak sorumlusu Usame Solak, Kızılay konvoylarının yardım götürdüğü bölgelerin her gün aynı saatte vurulduğunu, bu sebeple artık Kızılay tarafından yardım ulaştırılamadığını söyledi.  

Lavrov suspects West of keeping al-Nusra handy for ousting Assad- TASS

ST. PETERSBURG, June 16. /TASS/. Moscow suspects that the West would like to preserve the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization (outlawed in Russia) in some form and use it for the overthrow of Syria’s current authorities, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a meeting of the Valdai discussion club on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

"One has the impression that some sort of gambling is underway, that some would like to keep Nusra handy in some form to eventually use it for the overthrow of the regime," he said. 

"At least, I put a straight question to John Kerry. He vowed it was not so. But then it remains to be seen why the Americans, given the opportunities they have, are unable to pull the groups they cooperate with out of the territories controlled by the bandits and terrorists."
According to Lavrov, Moscow is urging the United States to be more patient on the Syrian issue.

"I’ve seen John Kerry’s statement (to the effect patience regarding the future of Bashar Assad was wearing thin - TASS) and I found it surprising," Lavrov said. "Normally Kerry is a self-reserved politician. I don’t know what happened. I saw US Department of State’s explanations of what Kerry said, too. One should be more patient."

Federal plan for northern Syria advances with U.S.-backed forces- Reuters

As an alliance of U.S.-backed militias advance against Islamic State in northern Syria, their political allies are making progress of their own toward a new federal system of government which they hope will take root in newly captured areas.
The autonomous federation being planned by Syrian Kurdish parties and their allies is taking shape fast: a constitution should be finalised in three months, and possibly sooner, to be followed quickly by elections, a Kurdish official said.
While Kurdish groups insist this is no separatist bid, it is set to redraw the map as U.N. diplomacy fails to make any progress toward ending the war that has splintered Syria into a patchwork of separately-run areas.
In so doing, it is likely to deepen the concerns of NATO member Turkey about growing Kurdish influence in northern Syria, a region whose once unfamiliar Kurdish name - Rojava - has now entered the Middle East's political lexicon.
The plan had taken on even greater significance since the Syria Democratic Forces alliance, which is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, mounted a rapid new advance westwards this month into Islamic State's last foothold at the Turkish border.
It holds out the prospect of more areas being included in the federation, plans for which were first unveiled in March.
The idea of newly-captured territory joining the "Democratic Federal System for Rojava - Northern Syria" was discussed last week with members of a local council set up to run the IS-held city of Manbij, a target of the campaign.

"We gave them an idea about the plan we are working on, and expressed to them our desire for Manbij to be part of the democratic federal area after its liberation," said Hadiya Yousef, a senior Kurdish official who is co-chair of an assembly that is overseeing the project.

Near Damascus, watch out for missiles, shelling and speeding tickets- Al-Monitor

For the first time since the Syrian military intervention in Lebanon in 1976, a civilian at the Syrian Jdeidet Yabous border crossing can note the presence of Lebanese politicians going to Damascus. For 40 years, Syrian authorities designated a special line at the crossing for prominent Lebanese figures who are friends of the regime. This was known as the “military line.”

Jaish al-Sham: An Ahrar al-Sham Offshoot or Something More (Aron Lund- Carnegie Endowment)

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: a new rebel faction has been announced in Syria.
However, unlike most of them, this one merits a closer look. On October 9, Jaish al-Sham—which is Arabic for the Levant Army, but can also be understood to mean the Syrian Army or the Damascus Army—announced its existence. The name has been used by other groups before it, including one whose leaders eventually slid into the self-proclaimed Islamic State, but they are not related.
Jaish al-Sham is based in northern Syria, and many of its leaders apparently go back and forth between Turkey and Syria. According to leading Jaish al-Sham figure Yamin al-Naser, it has branches in Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, and on the Syrian coast. Naser says Jaish al-Sham already controls “great numbers and deserves being called an army,” specifying that its size is currently at “more than 1,000 fighters who were all recruited from smaller groups.” So far, there is evidence that Jaish al-Sham has participated in battles on at least two different fronts. One is northeast of Aleppo, where the Islamic State is trying to cut rebel supply lines to Turkey. The other area isnear Kafranboudeh and Kafr Zita north of Hama, where the forces of SyrianPresident Bashar al-Assad advance under Russian air cover.
At first sight, the creation of Jaish al-Sham might seem inconsequential. New rebel factions are a dime a dozen in Syria and they typically merge back into a larger group or fade away into obscurity. That could very well become the fate of Jaish al-Sham, too. But after speaking to Jaish al-Sham leader Mohammed Talal Bazerbashi, I believe that there are at least three factors that make Jaish al-Sham worth dwelling on for a moment.