|Near Al-Harra in Syria|
Tel Al-Harra as seen from the Golan Heights
|Type||Main Intelligence Directorate Signals Station|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
General Security Directorate
|In use||since before 2006, until 2014|
|Battles/wars||Syrian Civil War|
Presumably existing since before 2006, it was run over by Free Syrian Army rebels on 5 October 2014 during the Daraa offensive (October 2014). It was recaptured by SAA during 2018 Southern Syria offensive.
Site and purpose
The Center was on the peak of Tel Al-Hara Mountain, adjacent to the town of Al-Harra in the western part of the al-Sanamayn District of the Daraa Governorate, near the Quneitra Governorate. The Center was operated on a joint Russian-Syrian basis, with Syrian Intelligence and the OSNAZ unit of the Russian GRU monitoring signals intelligence from Syrian rebels, as well as the Israel Defense Forces.
Downfall and retake
On October 5, 2014 the Center was overrun by rebels affiliated with the Free Syrian Army in the Daraa offensive. All Russian personnel had been evacuated, along with the more sensitive equipment. Center S was recaptured by SAA during 2018 Southern Syria offensive.
At least two other Russian intelligence centers are assumed to be located inside Syria.
- "Captured Russian spy facility reveals the extent of Russian aid to the Assad regime". spioenkop. 6 October 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
- Lazareva, Inna (8 October 2014). "Russian spy base in Syria used to monitor rebels and Israel seized". Telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on December 30, 2016.
- "Syrian Rebels Seize Russian Spy Station Near Israeli Border". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
The videos and accompanying photos show insignias representing a branch of Syrian intelligence and the Russian Osnaz GRU radio electronic intelligence agency. The FSA found photos and lists of senior Russian intelligence and military officials who visited the facility, pictures of Russian personnel running the base, and maps showing the location of Israeli military units. Israeli news reports earlier this year said the Russian government had upgraded an advanced surveillance and intelligence gathering station in that area which could snoop on Israel, large parts of Jordan, and western Iraq, potentially to warn Iran in advance of an Israeli strike. Initial reports said documents from the facility suggested the Russian equipment was used to spy on Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
- Ginsburg, Mitch (October 18, 2014). "Russian spying from Syria: Why and for whom?". Times of Israel. Archived from the original on December 30, 2016.
The Free Syrian Army revealed in an October 5 video that the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate’s OSNAC unit – its signals intelligence unit, much like the American NSA or Unit 8200 in Israel – had been operating from within a Syrian regime base near the border with Israel. Russian troops had been collecting intelligence against Syrian rebels. This makes sense: Russia is deeply involved in the Syrian civil war and has often filled the role of international bodyguard for Bashar Assad. But the video also revealed that OSNAC officers had been collecting operational intelligence on Israel.
- Oryx (October 6, 2014). "Captured Russian Spy Facility Reveals the Extent of Russian Aid to the Assad Regime". bellingcat. Archived from the original on April 9, 2015.
The Russian operator of Center S was the Osnaz GRU, responsible for radio electronic intelligence within Russia’s Armed Forces. Although not much is known about this unit, its logos can be seen below. “Части особого назначения” – Osnaz GRU and “Военная радиоэлектронная разведка” – Military Radio Electronic Intelligence.
- Fitsanakis, Joseph (October 9, 2014). "Secret Russian spy base in Syria seized by Western-backed rebels". intelNews. Archived from the original on October 14, 2014.
At some point in the video, the seal of Syrian intelligence is clearly visible, placed next to the seal of the GRU’s 6th Directorate, the branch of Russian military intelligence that is tasked with collecting signals intelligence (SIGINT).
- "Russia commanded spy operation against Israeli forces and Syria rebels, footage shows". Haaretz.com. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
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