Armed Conflicts
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Russian Su-24Ms hit militants near US Al-Tanf base- Syrian commandos deployed ahead of Turks-Kurds skirmish (Video-Images)

The 25th Special Forces Division of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), known mainly under its former name Tiger Forces, has sent several of its units to the northern region of the country, joining another elite formation deployed there earlier this week.

Photos and videos that surfaced online on June 21 showed commando units as well as a number of multiple rocket launchers of the division near an unspecified front in the northern countryside of Aleppo.

The 25th Special Operations Forces Division, which is trained and equipped by the Russian military, is considered one of the SAA's most capable offensive formations.

The division's commando and artillery units were likely deployed to the northern countryside of Aleppo to support the heavily armed 105th Republican Guard Mechanized Brigade, which arrived in the area on June 19.

The Syrian military build-up in the northern countryside of Aleppo began after a confrontation between the Turkish army and the SDF.

Last week, the Turkish army and its proxies launched a series of artillery and drone attacks in the northern countryside of Aleppo. The strikes killed 21 people, including militants of the group, Syrian soldiers and at least one civilian.

The SDF responded by shelling Turkish-occupied areas in the northern countryside of Aleppo, as well as the Onkupinar region in southern Turkey. However, no casualties were reported.

By deploying its elite units in the northern countryside of Aleppo, Syria is likely trying to deter both the Turkish army and the SDF in order to de-escalate tensions in the area. Neither a Syrian nor a Turkish military operation is likely to take place in the region anytime soon, especially because Damascus and Ankara have yet to reach a normalization agreement.

At the same time, Su-24M fighter-bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out a series of air strikes against militants operating near the US-led coalition garrison in southeastern Syria, in the al-Tanf region.

Video footage of the airstrikes appeared on Twitter on June 22. However, it is not yet clear exactly when they were carried out. The airstrikes reportedly targeted fighters trained by the coalition in the al-Tanf garrison.

About 200 U.S. troops are normally deployed to the al-Tanf garrison, along with hundreds of fighters from a proxy group known as the Free Syrian Army. The coalition maintains a 55-kilometer no-fly zone around al-Tanf. However, Russian fighter jets have conducted dozens of armed patrols over the garrison in recent months, presumably to monitor suspicious activities there.

Last month, Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, accused the US of training ISIS terrorists in the Guard for sabotage.

"According to our information, the US military base al-Tanf located on the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq is being used to train ISIS fighters to carry out subversive actions; moreover, not only on Syrian territory but also in Russian territories," the intelligence chief told an international meeting of senior security officials, according to TASS.

Alexander Lavrentiev, the Russian president's special envoy for Syria, said on June 21, according to the RIA news agency, that the US is strengthening its military contingent in Syria, particularly in al-Tanf.

"There is such information... that the US is reinforcing its military contingent in northeastern Syria, as well as in al-Tanf, which has been illegally occupied by them for quite a long time," Lavrentiev was quoted as saying.

The US claims that its troops are present in Al Tanf to counter ISIS. However, the coalition's last reported operation against the terrorist group's cells in the region was years ago. In fact, the garrison is blocking a strategic road connecting the Syrian capital, Damascus, to Baghdad, the capital of neighboring Iraq.

In addition, the garrison is allegedly used as an outpost to gather intelligence, organise sabotage and facilitate Israeli strikes against Syria.

Russian warplanes have attacked militants in al-Tanf, including U.S. proxies, on several occasions in recent years. The U.S. has never attempted to stop the attacks or respond, likely to avoid a costly and dangerous confrontation with the Russian military in Syria.


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