Since the beginning of the year, Syrian troops backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces have liberated a number of key areas, including the eastern part of Idlib province, the Damascus countryside, Eastern Ghouta, Eastern Qalamoun and the northern part of Homs province, Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy said on May 23.
According to Colonel General Rudskoy, a 1,500-strong force of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nsura, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) as well as several ISIS units were eliminated in eastern Idlib in January and February of 2018. As a result, governemnt forces liberated more than 4,300 km2 from militants.
The Russian general added that traffic via the Hama-Aleppo highway has been resumed and 9,573 civilians have already returned from western Idlib via a humanitarian corridor near Abu-Duhur and Tal-Sultan to their homes in the province of Aleppo.
Colonel General Rudskoy noted that food and medical supplies prices had been lowered in the liberated areas and locals are now able to receive health care.
He revealed that the Russian side had organized ten observation posts in the Idlib de-escalation zone, Turkey – twelve and Iran – seven.
As to the military operation in the Damascus countryside, Colonel General Rudskoy said that 28,725 militants had been evacauted from the area to northern Syria under a reconciliation deal reached in the area. At the same time, 159,509 civilians were reportedly evacuated from the area during the military operation. Most of them already returned their homes, according to the general.
Colonel General Rudskoy also said that all the ISIS members had been eliminated in the area of Yarmouk. This statement is questionable because, according to local sources and existing video and photo evidence, at least a part of them was allowed to evacuate in order to limit civilian casualties during the clashes in the urban area.
According to the general, 3,283 non-ISIS militants were withdrawn from southern Damascus under a reconciliation deal during the military opeartion in the area.
A reconciliation deal was also reached in the Rastan pocket in northern Homs. Since May 7, 13,407 militants have withdrawn from al-Rastan, al-Qantara Shimali and Talbiseh and other settlements in the area, according to the general. The area is now under full control of government forces.
These militants surrendered to the Syrian Army the following weapons and equipment: seven battle tanks, five infantry fighting vehicles, seven pick-ups equipped with large-caliber machine-guns, 122 guns and mortars, 20 multiple launch rocket systems, 9 ATGM systems, 45 hand AT grenade launchers, 14 anti-aircraft systems, 12 Hellfire improvised launchers, and 56 large-caliber machine-guns.
Major General Yuriy Evtushenko, the Chief of the Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria, noted that the Centre are focusing on post-conflict settlement and creating conditions to enable people to return back home.
The general said that Russian special equipment, lumber, power and fiber optic cables, water pipes and other constructional materials had been delivered to the settlements of Douma, Kafer Batna, Arbin. At the same time works to remove rubbles, clear streets, restore community infrastructure and facilities are ongoing.
The Centre is monitoring humanitarian situation and cooperating with Syrian government bodies and local administration in order to recover social infrastructure, including schools, infirmaries, bakeries, power and water supply objects. Syrian engineers are clearing up living houses from ammo and mines.
According to Major General Evtushenko, 453 buildings and 32 km of roads have been cleared up and 956 explosive devices have been removed in Eastern Ghouta. More than 25km2 have been cleared from rubble.
66,257 people have returned to their homes in Eastern Ghouta.
Russian Military Police units are operating in Eastern Ghouta, Eastern Qalamoun, Yarmuk, al-Rastan and Talbiseh in order to prevent provocations and provide security of civilians.
Since November 1, 2017, 13,763 people have returned their homes in the province of Homs and 46,792 people have returned to their homes on the eastern bank of the Euphrates in the province of Deir Ezzor. Since April 25, 2018, more than 7,000 people have returned to settlements in Eastern Qalamoun.
The general added that over the past month, the Centre had carried out 41 humanitarian actions providing more than 95 tons of food supplies, bottled water, and the bare necessities to the Syrian population. Russian military medics provided medical assistance to more than 1,000 civilians.
Colonel Yuri Tarasov, a Russian Defence Ministry official in Geneva, added that the Russian side is developing a plan to involve international organizations in humanitarian operations in the country. Deployment of the UN mine action office in Damascus is being approved.
According to the colonel, the Russian side hopes that the UN and other international organizations will confirm their interest in a rapid recovery of Syrian territories damaged by terrorists as well as the resumption of peaceful life.