Air Strikes by SyAAF and VKS, 2 & 3 April 2017
2 April 2017
1 and 2 April were characterised by relatively little flying activity. Indeed the night from 1 to 2 can be described as ‘quiet’, then next to no take-offs, and even less air strikes were registered. Even the morning of 2 April saw only a handful of air attacks flown by the SyAAF and the VKS. For example, a single Russian fighter-bomber bombed Kfar Zita at 06.41, and then one L-39 launched from Hama, at 10.50, but that was about all. Kind of ‘quiet before the storm’ situation.
Things began to change around 13.00hrs, when the VKS launched the first of 24 fighter-bombers that took off by 15.00hrs. These targeted the areas of Jishr ash-Shughour in the west, via Sarqib in the north-west to Kfar Zita and Latamina in south-east. Latamina was targeted by 10 Russian air strikes between 15.00 and 16.04hrs.
The third wave of Russian air strikes commenced launching at 17.11hrs: it included only 4–5 aircraft that bombed Khan Sheykhoun and Kfar Zita areas by 18.00hrs.
The fourth Russian wave commenced launching around 19.00hrs: it consisted of 12 aircraft that targeted Khan Sheykhoun, Kfar Nabl, Ma’arat an-Nauman. This was followed by the final wave of the day, that began around 23.00hrs and went on through much of the night.
Between 20.00 and 22.00hrs, at least 10 L-39s and 5 helicopters from Hama were active over the area between Khan Sheykhoun and Kfar Zita.
3 April 2017
At midnight to 3 April, Russians commenced launching a big wave of fighter bombers: by 00.44hrs, they’ve got 34 aircraft airborne. Most of these bombed the Darat Azza area in western Alepp, but Ma’arat an-Nauman and Kfar Nabl were hit too. Don’t recall such intensive activity within such a short period of time ever so far.
Around 08.00hrs, two pairs of Su-25s rocketed something outside Hobait, in southern Idlib. The second pair then narrowly missed a vehicle of the Syrian Civilian Defence.
At 08.26 and 08.34, a total of five Assadist helicopters took off from Hama AB: they subjected Khan Sheykhoun to several barrel-bomb strikes, including a number of chemical weapons. These massacred at least 20 civilians on the spot, and injured over 100 (the toll eventually increased to 32 or more killed).
Another Assadist helicopter then bombed the MSF-supported hospital in Latamina (knocked out by an air strike on 25 March, but meanwhile repaired), where 25 civilians were gased.
Two additional helicopters took off from Hama at 09.17, but it is currently unclear what did they attack. Their activity took place within frame of an ongoing Assadist wave that included a total of 9 helicopters, 2 MiG-21s, 12 MiG-23s, 8 Su-22s and 3 Su-24s, that hit different targets around Kfar Zita salient.
At 09.00hrs, the next Russian wave commenced launching. This included a total of 17 take-offs by 11.00hrs, and resulted primarily in air strikes on Kfar Zita, Latamina, Souran and Tayyibat al-Imam — and even Mardes, which is meanwhile back in the hands of the ‘NDF’ from Qamahana, i.e. Assadists. As explained here — Russia Bombed Its Own Allies in Syria — I’m meanwhile convinced that at least some of such air strikes are no accidents, but actually intentional.
While famed as ‘Qamahana Tigers’ in pro-Assad social media, these are no part of the Quwwat Nimr: at best, they might have subjected themselves to control of Brig Gen Botox Sohail for the time being. Sure, they fight ‘for Assad’, too, but they actually operate entirely on their own. At the time the Russians are preoccupied sorting out the entire chaos of IRGC-created militias and forcing these to accept order from Damascus, such ‘negative examples’ are nothing Moscow is ready to tolerate.
Between 11.00 and 11.45hrs, Khan Sheykhoun was subjected to four helicopter strikes, two L-39-strikes, and additional Russian air strikes. Halfaya was exposed to similar treatment by six helicopters (3 of these were possibly Russian), three L-39s, two MiG-21s, 4–5 Su-22s, and several Russian air strikes between 11.30 and 12.00hrs.
Following a break of over an hour, the appearance of two UAVs over Kfar Nabl around 13.14hrs announced the next wave of air strikes. This culminated around 14.00hrs, with bombardment of Kfar Naboudah, Khan Sheykhoun, Latamina, Halfaya, and Souran by five helicopters, up to 10 MiG-23s, 6 Su-22s, and two Su-24s.
Additional Assadist air strikes meanwhile hit Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, massacring another 30 civilians... (sigh)
Ma’arat an-Nauman and Kfar Nabl were primary targets for the next big Russian wave of air strikes: launched at 16.00hrs, this lasted until 18.40, and included a total of 38 take-offs (mind: this should not mean all of these targeted the same area).
The Russians continued bombing after 19.00hrs local time, flying another 2 air strikes and one recce sortie by the end of the day. Assadist L-39s — all of which seem to be concentrated at Hama, meanwhile — were especially active over the Kfar Zita salient between 20.00 and 22.00hrs, when they flew more than a dozen of registered sorties. During the evening, the SyAAF also launched four air strikes by Su-24s. Such, ‘on demand’ sorties are flown against ‘special’ targets, primarily top insurgent commanders. One of these bombed downtown Idlib, killing three civilians; another hit Sarqib, killing at least two women and two children.
VKS: 150 (+/- 2–3, but certainly a new record)