The Russian emergency ministry said Monday, Jan. 21 that it is sending two planes to Beirut to evacuate 100 Russians from Syria – the first such effort since the uprising against Bashar Assad began in March 2011. Moscow also announced contingency plans to lift 30,000 Russian nationals from the embattled country.
This evacuation of Russian nationals starting Tuesday was decided after the Syrian high command received orders from President Assad to organize mobile armored strike groups with massive fire power for a big push to run the rebel forces out of the towns, villages and areas they have captured, mostly in the north and southeast.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that, because they are in a hurry, the Syrian army chiefs decided to use only seasoned officers and men with experience in active service against the rebels, rather than new recruits who would need weeks of combat training. The divisions or brigades holding the line in such trouble spots as Aleppo, Homs and Deraa, are being depleted, some of their units detached for service in the new armored strike groups.
Our sources report that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officers are supervising the effort for what Assad sees as his biggest assault yet to finally crush the revolt against his regime.
Its timing marks two fundamental developments in Syria’s bloody civil war: