US-backed militants escape al-Tanf base, defect to Syrian army

Members of the last remaining US-backed militant group in Syria have fled an occupied American military base to government-held territory, defecting to the Damascus army that is on the verge of winning the war against Takfiri terrorists.

Sources said Maghawir al-Thawra elements began defecting from the al-Tanf base in Syria’s Homs province this week, taking US arms and vehicles while heading to the city of Palmyra in the same province.

In a video purporting to show the defection, the convoy of defectors could be seen heading to the area controlled by the Syrian army. It also shows US military machine guns, as well as other weapons on board the defectors’ vehicles.

A Western military source with knowledge of operations in Syria confirmed that the vehicles appeared to carry US equipment.

Earlier this month, a handful of Maghawir militants also defected to the Syrian government with their weapons, a source familiar with the matter told The Defense Post media outlet.

The US trains anti-Damascus militants at the al-Tanf base, which is situated near Syria's borders with Iraq and Jordan. 

Washington has unilaterally declared a 55-kilometer “de-confliction zone” around the facility, and frequently threatened to target Syrian forces within the area.

Russia confirms defection

The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria confirmed that over two dozen militants, who had received US training at al-Tanf base, had surrendered themselves to the Syrian army.

“Twenty-seven men finally managed to battle their way out. Now they are under guard of Syrian government troops in Palmyra," said Oleg Zhuravlev, chief of the Russian center.

The militants revealed that they had been “trained by US instructors to commit acts of sabotage at the oil-and-gas and transport infrastructure facilities, as well as to organize terror attacks on territories controlled by Syrian government forces,” he added.

Zhuravlev further noted that the militants are being held in Palmyra by the Syrian government forces and that they handed over dozens of US-supplied firearms, including grenade launchers and heavy machine guns.

US seeks to rebrand militants as drug smugglers

The US military has been trying to rebrand the defectors as drug smugglers, claiming that they are fleeing al-Tanf base because Washington did not let them get away with smuggling on Jordan’s border.

Maghawir al-Thawra claimed that the militant group allowed Samir Ghannam al-Khidr, one of the defectors, to leave with his family as it did not want to get in a conflict with him.

“He left because he could not smuggle drugs in this area due to the efforts of Maghawir al-Thawra in interdicted drugs,” it tweeted.

The US interests are at stake in Syria, where the war winds down with the army capturing most of the territory that was once lost to foreign-backed Takfiri elements.

US aircraft tried to hack Russian S-400 in Syria

In another development this week, the Avia.Pro website reported that a Russian Su-35 jet intercepted an American Boeing P-8 Poseidon military aircraft after it approached Syrian airspace from the eastern Mediterranean and tried to remotely hack the Russian S-400 air defense system at the Hmeimim Airbase in Latakia Province.

“The American military reconnaissance aircraft, Boeing P-8A Poseidon, attempted to remotely hack the Russian S-400 air defense system deployed at the Hmeimim Airbase,” the report said.

“Nevertheless, obviously wrong with the selection of frequencies, the US military regretted it, since the air defense systems were put in full combat readiness, intending to open fire, while a Russian fighter was raised to intercept the aircraft,” it added.

The Syrian army is continuing operations to liberate a few areas still in the hands of terrorists after it managed to undo militant gains and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.

Syrian govt. retakes Homs oil fields 

Recently, the Syrian government regained control of Homs oil fields after clashes with the Daesh Takfiri terrorist outfit.

“Wells and oil and gas installations in Hayyan and Al-Shaer fields in the countryside of Homs Governorate have been put back into production after they were recaptured,” the Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said in a statement.

“The production will return to the fields gradually to reach the full amount of the previous production. This morning, it will be re-pumped to the gas grid and power plants.”

The fresh gains in Syria come at a time when the government needs resources to fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has so far infected 38 people and killed two in the war-torn state.

Over the past years, Syria has been subject to illegal sanctions that are hampering the country’s battle against the deadly respiratory disease.

Hundreds of Iraqi intellectuals urge easing of Syria sanctions

In a separate development, 376 Iraqi intellectuals, including writers and journalists, called for the lifting of foreign sanctions and unilateral economic measures against Syria.

In a statement carried by the official SANA news agency, they condemned “the unjust blockade that targets the Syrian people, mainly children, women and adults affect the lives of millions of Syrians who suffered a lot as a result of the fierce and unjust global war launched by the evil, oppressive and aggressive forces on Syria.”

The imposition of sanctions against Syria violates human rights and international law and “contradicts the most basic morality and human norms in a world chanting human rights, justice, equality and freedom, and other false slogans that are not based on reality,” they pointed out.


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