RuAF Su-24 and Mi-8 aircrew rescued with assistance by Iran-backed military special forces
According to ABNA:
While the Russians were planning for another operations to free the pilot immediately, General Soleimani contacted [Russian forces] and proposed a special task force unit be formed of Hezbollah's special forces and Syrian commandos who have been trained by Iran and are fully familiar with the geographical situation of the region to be tasked with the ground operations and Russia provide them with air cover and satellite intelligence.
Soleimani promised them to return the Russian pilot safe and sound; a promise that was kept in the end, according to the Syrian officer.
After tracing the place of the Russian pilot using his GPS, it was revealed that the pilot was being kept in a place 6km behind the frontline of the clashes between the Syrian army and the opposition.
Six fighters of Hezbollah's special operation unit and 18 Syrian commandos approached the frontline to carry out the operations and the Russian air force and helicopters concurrently created hellfire in the region and destroyed the terrorists' headquarters in a way that most of the enemy forces deployed in the region fled the scene and the ground was paved for the special unit's advance.
The Syrian officer added that every move of the special units was monitored and covered precisely by the Russian satellites in a way that the slightest moves made 100 meters away from the area of operation was reported to them and every moment of the operation was reported to a very high-raking official in the Kremlin (that he thinks was president Putin) and it was clear that he was monitoring the entire operations through satellites from Moscow.
According to the officer who called for anonymity, the operation later turned into a hunt of the terrorists in the operation zone by the Russian air force from the sky and by Brigadier General Soleimani's operations units on the ground.COMMENTARY: Some of the details of the ABNA report haven't been verified, however it has apparently been corroborated that an 18-member Syrian commando team linked up with a 6-member Hezbollah special operations team already sitting near a border crossing point to effect the rescue.
It has been pointed out by another observer that the Iran-backed Hezbollah special operations team was performing a SICTA (strategic intelligence collection / target acquisition) mission. Such teams are probably all along that border right up to Jarabulus. [see HERE]
While others have been pointing to the Syrian conflict as a drain on Iranian and Iran-backed forces such as Hezbollah, this writer has stressed the expansion of capabilities--particularly on offense--that the Syrian conflict has spawned during the course of the war.
According to Associated Press:
A Hezbollah TV station says a joint operation by the Lebanese militant group and Syrian security agents killed an Islamic State figure suspected of involvement in Beirut's deadly bombing earlier this month.
AL-Manar TV says Abdul-Salam Hendawi, also known as Abu Abdo, died in an ambush in an IS-held area in Syria's central province of Homs.
It says Hendawi was responsible for bringing into Lebanon two suicide bombers who carried out the Nov. 12 attack in southern Beirut. The attack killed 43 people and wounded more than 200.COMMENTARY: If accurate, such a strike by Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) represents a successful counter-terrorism operation beyond the formal boundaries of said military force.
While the United States, Israel, EU and GCC consider Iran-backed LH a terrorist organization, Russia does not, as expressed at the Vienna II Syrian conflict resolution talks. This may be considered another point of contention beyond the fate of Syrian President Assad, between the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL on the one hand, and the R+5 (Russia, Syria, Iran, Lebanese Hezbullah, Iraqi PMF and Syrian NDF) on the other.