Only one day after a dual Russian-Chinese veto at the UN Security Council thwarted a resolution to allow cross-border supplies and aid deliveries from Turkey and Iraq into Syria—presented by Germany, Belgium and Kuwait on Friday—near-simultaneous attacks believed to have been carried out by drones hit three state-run oil and gas installations in central Syria. Syrian state TV and the Oil Ministry announced the news Saturday. Supplies have been flowing into Syria without formal government permission across undesignated checkpoints, but that authorization is due to expire on January 10. Aid convoys have long been suspected, in the case of Turkey at least, of carrying illegal material into Syria, including munitions and weaponry destined for anti-government factions.
Whose Drones Were They—And Why Now?
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks which were followed yesterday by an Israeli air raid which came from the direction of neighboring Lebanon. Israeli jet fired four missiles at targets near Damascus, Homs and Latakia. Three of the four missiles were shot down by Syrian air defense batteries, which also brought down two other drones armed with high explosives near an air base in Hama and the main Russian military base in Jableh, Latakia.
Terrorist groups particularly those operating in Idlib, Latakia and the Hama countryside have systematically escalated their drone attacks against military as well as economic and infrastructure targets in 2019, having received and modified hundreds of small drones from Turkey. The militant groups have also manufactured scores of locally made ones than can carry a payload of up to six small high explosive bombs.
Saturday’s Drone Attacks Are Believed To Be The Work Of The US Or Israel
Saturday’s drone raids—believed to have been carried out by the US and or Israel—targeted three major oil and gas plants in different parts of Syria, including the Homs refinery, one of only two such facilities in the country. The attack set fire to various gas plants but was quickly controlled and extinguished a few hours later. The worst-hit facility is now repaired and running back at full capacity, a Syrian Oil Ministry source confirmed earlier Saturday. Such attacks, exacerbated by unrest and virtual economic collapse in neighboring Lebanon have brought on extra burdens for ordinary Syrians, whose lives have already been disrupted by the ongoing war.
Syria’s Fuel Crisis
Syria has suffered acute gas and fuel shortages since earlier this year as a result of Western sanctions blocking oil and gas imports. This problem is made worse by the fact that most of the country’s oil fields have been out of Syrian government control, particularly in tge Kurdish-controlled eastern provinces, with the direct military support of the United States. Syria’s oil and gas production capability has slumped by over 85 percent over the past eight years—from approximately 400.000 barrels per day to a mere 24000 barrels a day—depriving the country of its main national income source which is badly needed for survival and reconstruction efforts which will cost an estimated one trillion US dollars.
Moscow Pledges To Revive Syria’s Beleaguered Economy
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov met with Syrian president Bashar al Assad in Damascus last week. The two sides discussed mainly economic issues and Russian plans to invest in Syria and help in the revival of Syrian economy. Following the talks, Borisov reiterated his country’s intention to invest some 500 million US dollars to upgrade the old Tartous port on the Mediterranean, build a new modern port in the city and establish a vital railway line that links Arab Gulf countries across Syria and Iraq, all the way to the Mediterranean. These are projects that Syrians hope will help jump-start their country’s war-burdened economy.
Many observers and analysts have underlined a linkage of some sort between the fresh drone attacks and recent Israeli air and missile raids against Syria on the one hand and the frustration felt by many Western and Arab nations at the UN Security Council following the fourteenth Russian-Chinese veto of last weeks cross-border aid resolution. Linkage is also being made between the recent drone assault and Israeli raids and the crucial advances made by the Syrian army in Idlib over the past few days, freeing more than 42 new towns and villages in the southern and southeastern parts of Idlib from militants. A communique issued by the Syrian Defence Ministry today reiterated the pledge made by Assad and other Syrian officials on numerous occasions to uproot terrorists from Syria at any cost, and regain control of Syria up to the last inch. The weeks ahead promise some exceptional developments and achievements in Idlib, Syria’s last major battle to recover control of the nation.