MOSCOW, October 31. /TASS/. Provocations with the use of toxic chemicals are being planned in some regions in Syria, in particular in the Aleppo region, Major General Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry, said on Wednesday.

“Besides, similar provocations [with toxic chemicals – TASS] are being planned in other Syrian regions,” Konashenkov said. “Yesterday, residents of the Aleppo province informed [us] that militants were preparing another action. Members of the White Helmets organization have arrived at populated localities of Azaz, Marea and Chobanbei carrying professional video equipment. Along with this, tanks with poisonous substances, allegedly chlorine gas, have been brought in.”

Russian military are closely watching the situation, he said. “For this purpose, six vehicles of radiation, chemical and biological intelligence have been redeployed and arrayed at Russian outposts in immediate proximity to the Idlib demilitarized zone,” he said. “Those vehicles’ crews will be monitoring the radiation, chemical and biological situation regularly.”.

Militants of the Turkistan Islamic Party (outlawed in Russia) have transported 20 ten-liter containers with chlorine to Syria’s Idlib province to carry out provocations, he added. 

“The Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides has obtained information that on October 27 terrorists from the Turkistan Islamic Party transported 20 ten-liter chlorine containers from Maarat al-Nu’man to carry out provocations. They were unloaded in the inhabited communities of Kfar Nebel and al-Huash,” Konashenkov said. “In addition, similar provocations are planned in other Syrian regions,” he said, adding that Russian military servicemen are keeping a close eye on the situation.

The Russian Defense Ministry has been monitoring arms supply channels used by the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia). “According to available information, ISIL units continue to receive cutting-edge weapons and military equipment. We are closely monitoring these arms supply channels and have established a special commission for that purpose,” Konashenkov said.

US-led coalition delivers air strikes

Terrorists are retaking Syria’s areas along the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, which have been previously liberated from then, taking advantage of the United States’ inability to protect the region, he said. 

“Taking advantage of the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces’ inability to effectively fight terrorists in the Trans-Euphrates region, ISIL [the former name of the Islamic State terror group outlawed in Russia – TASS] is retaking areas that were previously liberated from militants,” he said.

“According to available information, ISIL units continue to receive cutting-edge weapons and military equipment. We are closely monitoring these arms supply channels and have established a special commission for that purpose,” Konashenkov said.

Samples of western-made weapons seized from terrorists in Syria, which particularly included the Javelin anti-tank missiles, were earlier put on the display during the Army-2018 forum hosted by the Russian Defense Ministry.

The US-led coalition delivers air strikes on the eastern bank of the Euphrates using prohibited ammo and it results in numerous deaths of civilians, he added.

“The aviation of the US-led coalition delivers intensive air strikes with the use of ammo, prohibited by international conventions,” the spokesman said. “The air strikes are characterized by low efficiency and most importantly by low-rate precision, which leads to numerous casualties among civilians.” 

“Over the past month alone over 120 civilians were killed as a result of air strikes on residential areas in the east of Syria,” Konashenkov said. “The strikes periodically hit Kurd soldiers of the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces].”

“The US-led coalition’s aircraft have carried out intensive airstrikes, including with the use of munitions prohibited by international conventions. These airstrikes have low efficiency and, most importantly, are indiscriminate, which, certainly, results in numerous civilian deaths. Over the past month alone, more than 120 civilians have been killed in airstrikes against inhabited communities in eastern Syria. Kurdish units’ fighters come under the coalition’s fire from time to time as well,” Konashenkov said.

“As for the situation in Syrian areas controlled by the United States, a thing to note is that they are included in neither a de-escalation nor a deconfliction zone, it is a ‘grey zone’ where the situation has been rapidly deteriorating,” he said. “The large number of terrorist attacks and hostage-taking events are proof of that. Since September 1, ISIL [the former name of the Islamic State group – TASS] militants have carried out 57 terrorist attacks against members of the Syrian Democratic Forces. More than 300 Kurdish militias have been either killed or wounded,” Konashenkov added.

On October 11, militants took dozens of people hostage near the Al-Bahra settlement. The hostages were later killed.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, locals have been reporting about losses that foreign troops have been facing in terrorist attacks. Besides, civilians informed the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides about a crackdown against the Arab population. “The fact is that the crackdown involves both terrorists and SDF armed units,” the ministry spokesman stressed.

Konashenkov pointed out that militant groups were retaking areas previously liberated from terrorists, amid the ongoing inaction of US troops and the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The United States’ instructors provide intensive training at the al-Rukban refugee camp to armed units consisting of local residents, he said. 

“As a result of irresponsible steps of the United States, which unlawfully seized a Syrian swathe area, a catastrophic humanitarian situation has been unfolding at the al-Rukban refugee camp,” Konashenkov said. “Moreover, American instructors are intensively training armed units consisting of the local population, no longer hiding.”

The Russian general added that “quite recently, a host of the American TV channel NBC showed footage of how US General [Joseph] Votel was inspecting militants’ training session in immediate proximity to the al-Rukban refugee camp.”

“Just give a thought who are these combatant groups being trained against? Syrian government forces have already retaken the area around that zone from Islamic State (the terrorist group banned in Russia). However, gangs of militants, like jack-in-the-boxes, are raiding peaceful Syrian populated localities from that area controlled by the US,” the general said.

According to Konashenkov, refugees from the al-Rukban camp join those armed units for food.

Situation in Raqqa

The situation in Syria’s Raqqa is critical as anarchy, hunger and havoc create conditions for the resumption of terrorists’ activity, Konashenkov told reporters.

“In the city of [Raqqa] like in other areas controlled by the coalition anarchy, hunger and havoc flourish and this is certainly a breeding ground for the resumption of the terrorists groups’ activity,” Konashenkov said.

Thousands of bodies of citizens remain under the rubble, which decompose and poison the soil, the spokesman said. The water pipeline is out of service, the city is cut off power, no mine clearing effort has been conducted and shops, hospitals and pharmacies are not working. “There is no civilized route to enter Raqqa. Only very few your colleagues reach it illegally,” he said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry had earlier described the situation in Raqqa as a disaster.

Situation in Idlib

More than 2,400 militants and 206 pieces of military equipment, including 31 tanks, have been removed from the demilitarized zone in Idlib, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told the media on Wednesday.

“Implementation of the Russian-Turkish agreement of September 17, 2018 on creating a demilitarized zone in Idlib is important for further normalization in Syria. A total of 2,450 militants and 206 pieces of military equipment, including 31 tanks, 22 large-caliber field artillery pieces and 23 mortars have been removed from the demilitarized zone,” Konashenkov said.

He noted Turkey’s efforts for the implementation of the agreements on Idlib. The rate of ceasefire violations has been down 75%, from 773 in September to 197 in October.

“The civilians eager to leave the zone of de-escalation in Idlib use the humanitarian corridor the Syrian government created in the area of Abu al-Duhur. Under the supervision of representatives from Russia, Turkey and Iran, affiliated with the joint coordination center, more than 36,000 people have moved to the eastern part of Idlib Province since March 4, 2018. Also, 4,312 civilian vehicles have been pulled out.”

Konashenkov said the Russian center for the reconciliation of conflicting parties had deployed a mobile medical center, where assistance had been provided to 4,365 civilians, including 2,013 children.

“At the same time we are aware that Ankara has not complied with all of its liabilities yet. I have to reiterate, though, that Turkey has taken considerable efforts to this end,” Konashenkov added.

“Systematic steps to implement the terms of the memorandum and the prevention of its disruption is of key importance to us. The situation along the borders of the demilitarized zone is being carried out by ten Russian, twelve Turkish and seven Iranian posts,” he recalled.

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