In scores of air raids launched early Friday, Sept. 23, Syrian and Russian bombers pulverized Syrian rebel strongholds in eastern Aleppo, while, on the ground, Syrian military, Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militia forces hammered those targets in one of the most destructive onslaughts yet seen in the nearly six-year Syrian civil war.
Cries of “annihilation!” came from rebel commanders, as they came under intense aerial bombardment, combined with a fierce ground assault, backed by heavy Russian T-90 tanks and artillery. Dozens of people including children are trapped in the rubble
This offensive, say debkafile’s military sources, has the twin objective of rooting the rebels out of eastern Aleppo and also driving out the app. 120,000 Sunni Syrian inhabitants penned in shrinking rebel-held neighborhoods, amid dire shortages of food, medicines, water and basic supplies.
The Russian command in Syria and the Syrian General Staff are working to a tactical plan, our sources disclose, that is intended to push the Sunni civilian population as well as the rebels out of the city towards the Turkish border. If this plan plays out – it is still being coordinated with Turkish military and air force chiefs – then the refugees displaced from Aleppo will wind up in a security zone, which the Turkish army is busy carving out, living under Russian-Turkish rule in northern Syria.
debkafile’s intelligence sources add that if this master plan is realized in northern Syria, it will soon be transferred to the south as a template for the Russian-Syrian military tactics in areas abutting Israel.
On Thursday, Sept. 22, DEBKA disclosed that the Russians, the Syrian army, Hizballah and pro-Iranian militias are concentrating strength around Quneitra on the Syrian Golan, ready for a massive offensive to obliterate the Syrian rebel presence near the borders of Israel and Jordan.
This region too is largely populated by Sunni Muslims, a community of around 120,000, like that of eastern Aleppo. However, here, the plan is to drive the civilian population onto the Israeli and Jordanian borders. The IDF and Jordanian army are bracing to handle the refugee crisis, which Russia and Syria are about to manufacture.
For the background leading up to these events, read debkafile’s earlier report of Thursday, Sept. 22.
Six steps by the Assad regime in the last few days, reported by debkafile’s military sources, point to preparations for a massive Syrian army offensive, backed by Hizballah, pro-Iranian Shiite militias and Iranian Rev Guards officers, for clearing the strong rebel presence out of the Syrian Golan.:
1. The arrival in the Quneitra area of the armored brigades of the 4th Division, which is the elite unit of President Bashar Assad’s armed forces and reserved strictly for battles of the highest strategic importance for the regime.
2. The Syrian brigades came with advanced Russian T-90 tanks that were detached from the Aleppo front in the north. Those tanks will be deployed for the first time just 8km from the Israeli border.
3. Hizballah too has contributed its elite fighting unit, the Radwan Force, which has arrived in Quneitra in the last few days to take part in the coming offensive.
4. Also concentrated there are pro-Iranian Shiite militia forces, under the direct command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
5. The Syrian president Assad took the unusual step of appointing a senior Druze officer, Brig. Gen. Osama Zhar a-din, as the Golan front’s new commander. The motive behind this is an attempt to drive a wedge between the IDF troops posted on the Israeli Golan and the Druze inhabiting the local villages, while also sowing discord between the Druze serving in Israel’s armed forces and their Jewish brothers-in-arms.
According to our military sources, the current Syrian and allied lineup just across the border from Israel is not deployed this time to attack Israel, but for a clean sweep of all the Syrian rebel forces holding sectors of the Golan-Israeli border.
The pro-Assad forces are expected to weigh in with artillery shelling and heavy aerial bombing to force the local Syrian population of 140,000 to 160,000 to flee. This scenario would confront Israel and the IDF with the possibility of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees clamoring for sanctuary.
6. Our intelligence sources add that Iran, Hizballah and Syria have decided to henceforth hit back at any Israeli air or artillery strikes against a Syrian target on the Golan. This was decided at high-level three-way consultations in Damascus on Sept. 15, two days after Israeli aircraft attacked the headquarters of Syria’s 90th Brigade at al-Shaar, near Quneitra, in reprisal for the Syrian shells that strayed across the border.
Assad informed his allies that he will not put up with any more Israeli attacks on Syrian regional commands.