Posts Tagged ‘Idlib’

Up to 22 killed, including 9 Iranians, in Syria strike blamed on Israel – report

July 16, 2018

Earlier, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 9; strike targeted an Iranian Revolutionary Guard center

Times of Israel

July 16, 2018 2:07 pm  0

An Israeli F-16 during an exercise on November 25, 2013. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

An Israeli F-16 during an exercise on November 25, 2013. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

Syrian rebel forces claimed that 22 people, including nine Iranians, were killed in an overnight strike in northern Syria blamed on Israel, the Qatar-based al-Jazeera network reported Monday.

The figure, which could not be confirmed, was much higher than an earlier report of nine deaths provided by a Syrian watchdog group.

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The al-Jazeera report did not cite its sources or give any further details.

Syrian state media has accused Israel of carrying out the bombing of a military position in Aleppo province late Sunday, in what would be a rare Israeli attack so far north in the war-ravaged country.

Image result for Neyrab military airport, photos
Neyrab military airport

“The Israeli missiles targeted an Iranian Revolutionary Guard center, near the Neyrab military airport,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.

He said those killed included at least six Syrians, but could not specify the nationalities of the remaining fighters.

The position is a logistics hub used to provide equipment and food to pro-regime forces fighting at nearby fronts, but it did not store weapons, Abdel Rahman said.

Earlier Monday, the country’s official news agency SANA reported there was only damage to the site, identified as the Al-Nayrab airbase, adjacent to Aleppo’s international airport.

“The Zionist enemy (Israel)… targeted with its missiles one of our military positions north of the Nayrab military airport, but the damage was only material,” SANA said citing a military source.

A picture taken from a rebel-held area shows smoke billowing in the Al-Nayrab area, near Idlib, following reported Syrian government air strikes on January 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Omar Haj Kadour)

Al-Nayrab has in the past been linked with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps militia.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside the country, said it had recorded a wave of blasts around Nayrab on Sunday night.

It said that a suspected Israeli missile strike had targeted “positions held by Syria’s regime and its allies at the Nayrab airport” and its surroundings.

The base was reportedly previously struck by Israel on April 29 as part of a large raid that also targeted weapons depots near Hama.

There was no immediate comment from Israel, which rarely confirms such attacks.

Suspected Israeli airstrikes have hit Syrian army positions near Damascus and in the central provinces of Homs and Hama in the past. However, they rarely occur as far north as Aleppo.

The raid came hours before a high-stakes summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump, where Syria and Iran are expected to be on the agenda.

Israel has been pushing Russia to remove Iranian-aligned militia fighters from Syria, and has vowed to stop them from getting a foothold anywhere in the country. Russia has reportedly only agreed to removing them from the Golan border region.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met with Putin in Moscow last week, said Sunday he had discussed the issue with Trump a day earlier.

Netanyahu reportedly told Putin during their Wednesday meeting that Israel would not challenge Assad’s control of Syria, in exchange for freedom to act against Iran.

On July 8, Israel was accused of carrying out an airstrike on the T-4 military base near Homs, also thought to be used by IRGC fighters.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/up-to-22-killed-including-9-iranians-in-syria-strike-blamed-on-israel-report/

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Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

July 16, 2018

Syrian government forces unleashed hundreds of missiles on a rebel-held area near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, activists said, the latest phase in an offensive to clear southern Syria of insurgents.

The government’s push came after it had secured control of most of Daraa province in an offensive that began in June. On Sunday, the first batch of armed fighters and their families were preparing to leave from the city of Daraa, the provincial capital, in buses that would take them to the rebel-held Idlib province in the north.

A Syrian soldier stands next to a Syrian flag in Umm al-Mayazen in the countryside of Deraa [Omar Sanadiki/Reuters]

A Syrian soldier stands next to a Syrian flag in Umm al-Mayazen in the countryside of Deraa [Omar Sanadiki/Reuters]

Similar deals in other parts of Syria resulted in the evacuation of thousands of opposition fighters and civilians — evacuations that the United Nations and rights groups have decried as forced displacement.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday the success in driving the opposition out of Daraa embodies the will of his army and allied forces to “liberate all of Syrian territories” of “terrorism.”

In recent months and backed by Russian air force, the Syrian government has restored control of over 60 percent of previously rebel-held territory across the country.

Assad spoke during a meeting on Sunday with visiting Iranian foreign ministry’s official Hossein Jaberi Ansari. Assad’s office said the two agreed that the “elimination of terrorism in most of the Syrian territory has laid the most appropriate ground to reach results at the political level” that could put an end to Syria’s war.

Syria’s government refers to all armed opposition groups as “terrorists” and accuses the West, Turkey, Israel and regional countries of supporting them.

The statement came a day before President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are to meet in Finland. Syria is expected to feature highly on the agenda. Russia is a major Assad ally.

In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the rebels for years back to government control. Daraa, which lies on a highway linking Damascus with Jordan, was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Since early Sunday, government forces turned their missiles toward a stretch of land controlled by the armed opposition in northern Daraa and the countryside of adjacent Quneitra.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside, about 4 kilometers, or 2.5 miles, from the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Observatory said government forces advanced on Massharah, a village in Quneitra, and rebels fought back in intense clashes that killed several pro-government fighters. The pro-Syrian government Central Military Media said a number of insurgents were killed in the clashes.

The Observatory reported airstrikes in Massharah, the first in over a year to hit the Quneitra countryside. It also reported airstrikes in a nearby village in northern Daraa, where government forces have been trying to retake a key hill there after failing to reach a deal with the rebels. Capturing the hill would enable them to advance on militants in the area linked to the Islamic State group.

Daraa activist Abou Mahmoud Hourani said an estimated 400 members of the armed opposition and their families will be evacuated out of Daraa. Syrian state TV al-Ikhbariya said the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people will likely be completed by Sunday.

Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

AFP

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Syria: Government troops widen offensive near Quneitra

Military operation comes hours after 15 buses arrived to take about 500 fighters to the opposition-controlled north.

Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad widened their offensive in the country’s southwest to an adjacent province, days after reaching an evacuation agreement with rebels in southern Deraa province.

Pro-government troops, backed by Russian air support, bombed a rebel-held village in Quneitra – an area adjoining the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights – as they look to recapture a strip of land straddling Deraa and Quneitra provinces still in rebel hands.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighter jets it believes belong to the Russian air force overflew the village of Mashara, located 11km away from the Golan frontier.

Hezbollah-linked al-Mayadeen TV said pro-government troops were advancing on the elevated Tel Mashara area.

Earlier in the day, rebel fighters and family members began evacuating southern Deraa city on buses that will take them to opposition-held areas in northern Syria.

A rebel official, Abu Shaima, told the Reuters news agency at least 500 fighters boarded 15 buses and he was one of those leaving.

The rebels left the Deraa al-Balad neighbourhood that had been under their control for years until a surrender deal last week. Under the agreement, fighters handed over weapons and those who did not wish to live under state rule were transferred out.

One rebel fighter, Abdullah Masalmah, also told Reuters he does not “trust the Russians or the regime”.

“I cannot forget the thousands of those who were killed by the regime let alone the orphans, wounded, and the detainees,” he said.

The buses, which were parked on a main thoroughfare connecting the city’s government-held north with its rebel-held south, were searched by Russian forces before setting off just after midday for Idlib province.

Syrian state television broadcast images of white buses it said were carrying the fighters, their blue curtains drawn, surrounded by military forces.

Deraa recaptured

The Syrian government, backed by the Russian military, captured most of Deraa province in an offensive that began in June.

Deraa city was the scene of the first major peaceful protests against President Assad’s authoritarian rule in March 2011.

A group of teenage boys scrawled anti-government slogans on the walls of a school, kickstarting popular unarmed protests across the country. However, Assad’s brutal response resulted in a full-fledged war with world powers supporting various armed groups.

An estimated half a million people have been killed with 11 million more displaced in more than seven years of conflict.

Syrian state news agency SANA said on Sunday rebels handed over heavy weapons to the Syrian army, showing images of armoured vehicles and artillery it said had been collected.

It marks another milestone in Assad’s efforts to recover control of Syria, months after the Damascus rural area of Ghouta was recaptured in a bloody air-and-ground offensive in which more than 1,400 people were killed.

He now holds 80 percent of Deraa province, but parts of its western countryside and most of the adjacent province of Quneitra still escape his control.

Some 160,000 people displaced by the government’s offensive on Deraa are still trapped in Quneitra.

On Sunday, government forces fired hundreds of missiles as part of the first such attack on the province in more than a year when Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed to a ceasefire for parts of the south, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent reported a humanitarian aid convoy reached government-held parts of southwest Syria on Sunday.

Nine trucks carrying 3,000 food parcels reached the towns of Nassib and Um al-Mayathen in Deraa province near a border crossing with Jordan.

The convoy was accompanied by a delegation that included the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Ali al-Zaatari, and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Silent War: How Rape Became a Weapon in Syria

Silent War: How Rape Became a Weapon in Syria

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Assad regime forces targeting Idlib could destroy Astana accord, Erdoğan warns Putin

July 15, 2018

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Saturday told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that the accord aimed at containing the Syrian conflict would be destroyed if Assad regime forces advance towards Idlib.

In a phone call with Putin, Erdoğan said the regime attacks on Syrian civilians in Daraa were “worrying” and warned against expanding the attacks to Idlib.

The Turkish president also said encouraging the Syrian opposition to attend the upcoming Astana talks on July 30-31 is important to prevent negative developments in Idlib.

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The two leaders agreed to have a bilateral meeting at the BRICS meeting in Johannesburg.

Starting June 19, regime and Russian bombardment pounded opposition areas in Daraa and in the neighboring province of Quneitra, ostensibly protected by an internationally agreed ceasefire.

The onslaught came to an end with the July 6 ceasefire.

Regime forces now hold more than 80 percent of Daraa province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor that relies on a network of sources inside the country.

Syria’s conflict has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011.

https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2018/07/14/assad-regime-forces-targeting-idlib-could-destroy-astana-accord-erdogan-warns-putin

Rebels expected to hand heavy weapons to Assad as south Syria deal said reached

July 7, 2018

Syrian army to take over all observation points on Jordan border; fighters who reject agreement are to be evacuated to rebel-held Idlib

Smoke rises above rebel-held areas of the city of Daraa, during reported airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on July 5, 2018 (AFP PHOTO/Mohamad ABAZEED)

Smoke rises above rebel-held areas of the city of Daraa, during reported airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on July 5, 2018 (AFP PHOTO/Mohamad ABAZEED)

DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian regime on Friday reached a ceasefire deal with rebels in the country’s south, the official SANA news agency said.

“An agreement has been reached between the Syrian government and the terrorist groups” that includes “the handover of heavy and medium weapons in all cities and towns,” it said.

The deal comes two weeks into a devastating Russian-backed government offensive on rebel-held areas of southern Syria close to Jordan and the Golan Heights.

Moscow, a key ally of the Damascus regime, has been brokering talks for the negotiated surrender.

Fighters who reject the agreement will be evacuated with their families to the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, it added.

The deal also provides for government forces to take over “all observation posts along the Syrian-Jordanian border”, it said, hours after the regime regained control of the vital Nassib border crossing with Jordan.

The assault has pushed more than 320,000 people to flee, but SANA said the deal would see them return to their homes.

Rebel spokesman Hussein Abazeed told AFP that “the deal was the best we could achieve to save the lives of our fighters.”

It came after the collapse of a previous round of talks on Wednesday ushered in a day-long volley of air strikes, barrel bombs and missiles that ultimately pressured rebels to return to the table.

The talks resumed at around midday on Friday in the town of Busra al-Sham, freshly recaptured by government troops.

Moscow, which intervened militarily in Syria in 2015, has employed a carrot-and-stick strategy of intense bombardment alongside talks that has allowed the regime to recapture significant territory.

Under such deals, rebels hand over heavy weapons, local police take control of the area and government institutions resume working there.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/syria-government-rebels-reach-deal-on-south/

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Air strikes hit in Ghouta despite rebel ceasefire effort, monitor says

March 23, 2018

Reuters

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Syrian Army soldiers stand next to a military tank, at the city limits of Harasta, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki TPX IMAGES OF THE DAYREUTERS

BEIRUT (REUTERS) – AIR strikes hit a rebel-held enclave of Syria’s eastern Ghouta region on Friday despite a ceasefire that the rebel group who controlled the area had said would take effect at midnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The air strikes hit Ein Terma and Zamalka on Friday morning and pro-government forces had advanced into a large part of the town of Hezzeh after the midnight ceasefire deadline, according to the Britain-based Observatory, a war monitoring group.

On Thursday, a spokesman for rebel group Failaq al-Rahman said the ceasefire had been agreed in principle.

The army’s assault on eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel bastion near the capital, has been one of the most intense in Syria’s seven-year-old war.

The Syrian government and its Russian allies used tactics that had proved successful elsewhere in Syria since Moscow joined the war in 2015: lay siege to an area, bombard it, launch a ground assault and finally offer safe passage out to rebels who agree to leave with their families.

Eastern Ghouta’s rebels still hold only the town of Douma, under the control of Jaish al-Islam, and another pocket that includes Ein Terma, Arbin and Zamalka, under the control of Failaq al-Rahman.

On Thursday, Ahrar al-Sham rebel fighters withdrew from what had been a third rebel-held enclave in eastern Ghouta, the town of Harasta. They were put on government buses and driven to an opposition-held area of northern Syria.

A second group of fighters is expected to leave Harasta on Friday.

The Observatory said air strikes also hit the Jaish al-Islam-controlled town of Douma on Friday and there were clashes on the ground between the rebels and pro-government forces.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington, editing by David Goodman, Larry King)

Related:

Hours before cease-fire, 37 killed in Syrian town

March 23, 2018

The Associated Press

A woman runs after an airstrike in Idlib, Syria. (Reuters)
BEIRUT: Syrian rescuers and a war monitoring group say 37 people were killed in airstrikes in a town in the eastern Ghouta region near the capital, Damascus, just hours before a cease-fire went into effect after midnight.
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The rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman, one of at least three operating in the sprawling region, says intense government attacks targeted the area it controls on Thursday.
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Rescuers, known as White Helmets, say the casualties were from an airstrike that hit an underground shelter in the town of Arbeen.
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Rebel spokesman Wael Oweilan said Friday negotiations with Russia will follow to allow for the evacuation of civilians from the area.
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A similar deal with another rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham, led to the evacuation of hundreds of fighters and civilians from Harasta, an eastern Ghouta town.
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Meanwhile, hundreds of fighters evacuated by the Syrian regime from their Eastern Ghouta bastion arrived in rebel-held Idlib province on Friday, a monitor said.
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Buses carrying the fighters and their families entered the northwestern province after their evacuation from the rebel-held town of Harasta in Eastern Ghouta on Thursday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
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An AFP reporter at a camp for the displaced in the Maaret al-Ikhwan area in the north of Idlib province saw some of the evacuees arrive.
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Families entered the camp but the fighters were not allowed in, he said.
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Before dawn, some 400 fighters and hundreds of civilians on buses and ambulances had stopped in the town of Qalat al-Madiq in Hama province to the south, the Observatory said.
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Among them was a man who had died of his injuries on the way, said the monitor, which relies on a wide network sources inside Syria for its information.
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The AFP reporter saw hundreds of people on buses draw into Qalat al-Madiq, where rebel fighters and members of the Red Crescent and of the White Helmets civil defence organisation were waiting.
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The evacuation from Harasta comes after pro-regime forces launched a blistering air and ground offensive on Eastern Ghouta, the last rebel bastion near Damascus, on February 18.
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The assault has retaken 80 percent of the enclave, the Observatory says, and divided what remains into three shrinking pockets, each controlled by a different rebel group.
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The evacuation of rebels from Harasta could empty the smallest of these pockets and pile pressure on those controlling the two other to accept similar deals.
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Eastern Ghouta is within mortar range of central Damascus, and the evacuation deal could be a major first step in the regime’s efforts towards securing the capital.
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The one-month offensive on Eastern Ghouta has killed more than 1,500 civilians, the Observatory says, and caused tens of thousands to flee into government-held areas.
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More than 350,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since it broke out in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Stakes rise in Turkish Afrin attack as pro-Assad militia arrive

February 21, 2018

Reuters

ARTICLE SUMMARY
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warnings fail to deter groups loyal to Damascus from entering the region where Turkey is fighting Kurdish forces, risking a new front line in the spiraling Syrian conflict.

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Turkey shelled Afrin overnight on Tuesday and showed no sign of slackening its assault on the Kurdish-held region despite the arrival of pro-Syrian government militia there, a war monitor said.

It opens the door to a further escalation in Syria’s messy northern battlefront where Turkey, Syrian rebels, the army, Iran-linked militias backing the Damascus government, Kurdish fighters, Russia and the United States are all present.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Turkey’s month-long offensive against Afrin, backed by Syrian rebel groups, continued and included shelling of the main town there overnight.

Ankara aims to drive the Kurdish YPG militia from Afrin, seeing it as linked to an insurgency inside Turkey and as a threat to its border.

On Tuesday, militias that back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Afrin at the Kurds’ invitation to help thwart the Turkish assault, and Turkey and its allies tried to force them back with artillery fire.

A commander in the pro-Assad alliance said late on Tuesday that the militias had returned fire on the Syrian rebels fighting alongside Turkey.

The new phase of confrontation, pitting the Turkish army and its allies directly against pro-Assad forces, further scrambles the complex web of alliances and rivalries already at play in northern Syria.

Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

See also: Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/02/turkey-shells-pro-assad-militias-afrin-kurdish-rebels-syria.html#ixzz57j7ROhhn

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BBC News

Syria war: Pro-government forces enter Kurdish-held Afrin

Pro-government forces waved Syrian flags as they entered Afrin, in footage posted by the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah

Syrian pro-government forces have entered the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, provoking an immediate response from Turkish forces besieging the area.

The government was asked for military help by a Kurdish militia that has been trying to repel an offensive by Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels.

Fighters were seen passing through a checkpoint in armoured vehicles.

Turkish troops then shelled the area and Turkey said it had forced the pro-government fighters to retreat.

Turkey had threatened to confront government forces if they intervened, raising the prospect of direct conflict between two of the main players in Syria’s civil war.

The development comes as:

Why is Turkey attacking Afrin?

Turkish leaders say they want to clear the Kurdish enclave of members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which they consider a terrorist group.

They say it is an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in south-eastern Turkey for three decades.

Map showing control of Afrin

The Syrian Kurds deny any direct organisational links to the PKK – an assertion backed by the US, which has provided the militia and allied Arab fighters with weapons and air support to help them battle the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).

The Turkish air and ground assault on Afrin, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch”, began on 20 January.

Since then, Turkish troops and Syrian rebels have taken about 45 villages, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The UK-based monitoring group says the fighting has left at least 205 Syrian rebels and 219 Kurdish militiamen dead, along with 112 civilians. Turkey says 32 of its soldiers have been killed and denied reports of any civilian casualties in Afrin.

Why is the Syrian government intervening?

The government has denounced the Turkish offensive as a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty.

Soon after it began, the Kurdish authorities in Afrin called on the government to “carry out its sovereign obligations” and send troops to help defend the border from Turkish attacks.

The government, which has so far avoided conflict with Kurdish forces since the start of the civil war in 2011, did not immediately respond to the appeal for help.

Tank of Turkish-backed rebels fires towards Kurdish fighters in Afrin (19/02/18Image copyrightAFP
Image captionTurkey launched a cross-border operation against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria last month

But on Tuesday state media reported that members of the “Popular Forces” had arrived in Afrin to “support the locals against the aggression waged by the Turkish regime” and to confront IS, which has no known presence in the area.

A military media unit run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement – an ally of the Syrian government – posted photos and video of men brandishing Syrian flags passing through a checkpoint on a number of pick-up trucks and lorries mounted with heavy weapons.

A reporter for the official Sana news agency said Turkish artillery had targeted the convoy after it crossed into the Kurdish enclave, as well as media personnel accompanying it.

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels fire based in southern Turkey fire towards Kurdish YPG militia fighters in the Afrin region, on 19 February 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionTurkey and its allies wants to drive Kurdish YPG militia fighters from Afrin

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency later reported that Turkish troops had fired “warning shots” at “pro-regime terrorist groups trying to advance” towards Afrin, forcing them to retreat about 10km (6 miles).

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the convoy was made up of Shia militiamen acting independently, adding that he had earlier persuaded the Syrian government’s main allies, Russia and Iran, to stop any troops being deployed.

“Unfortunately, these kinds of terror organisations take wrong steps with the decisions they take. It is not possible for us to allow this. They will pay a heavy price,” the Reuters news agency quoted him as telling an news conference.

Does this risk a wider escalation?

By Selin Girit, BBC News, Istanbul

For Turks this was not surprising, but it is alarming.

Turkey had said that if Syrian forces came in to Afrin to support the Kurdish YPG forces, there would be serious consequences.

The confrontation risks an escalation in Turkey’s one-month old offensive that is aimed at driving the YPG out of Afrin.

hy do the two biggest military powers in Nato risk fighting each other in Syria?

There has not yet been an official statement regarding the latest events. But presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin had tweeted to say that reports suggesting that Syrian government had struck a deal with the YPG were not based on facts, adding that “dirty and secret negotiations were being held”.

Ankara says it is determined to carry on its operation whatever happens. But many argue Turkey would need Russia’s backing in order to avoid confronting Syrian troops along with the YPG.

What else is going on in Syria?

Afrin is just one of many active fronts in the country’s civil war, which began as a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.

Government forces, supported by Russian air strikes and Iran-backed militias, are also carrying out offensives on two major rebel strongholds – the north-western province of Idlib and the besieged Eastern Ghouta region.

The UN says more than 300,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Idlib since December, while almost 200 civilians are reported to have been killed in government air and artillery strikes on the Eastern Ghouta since Monday.

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry acknowledged that dozens of its citizens and people from other former Soviet states were killed or wounded in a recent battle.

It gave no details, but it is believed to be a reference to an incident in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour on 7 February, when the US military said it had killed an estimated 100 pro-Syrian government fighters in response to an attack on an allied, Kurdish-led militia force battling Islamic State militants in the area.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43131600

Strikes hit yet another hospital in Syria’s Idlib

February 15, 2018

 

A Syrian medic checks the damage at the “Sham Surgical” hospital, one of several hospitals targeted by air strikes in Idlib province over the past few days, after it was hit in the night, in the town of Hass on Feb. 15, 2018. (AFP)
HASS: Air strikes have hit a hospital in Syria’s last province beyond government control, in the seventh such raid on a medical facility there by the regime or its ally Russia in two weeks, a monitor said Thursday.
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The strikes, thought to be Russian, hit the hospital in the northwestern province of Idlib late Wednesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.
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The Observatory, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information, says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.
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Inside the hospital in the village of Hass on Thursday, boxes of medicine lay scattered on the floor while part of a wall had collapsed onto a bed and medical equipment, an AFP correspondent said.
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The strikes come after the regime in December last year launched an offensive on Idlib, which is dominated by an alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate.
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“The hospital was the last functional one in all of southeast Idlib,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
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“In two weeks, seven hospitals and medical clinics have been hit in Idlib in strikes by the regime or its Russian ally,” he said, adding that a blood bank was also hit.
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After another strike on a hospital in Idlib last week, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) expressed alarm at the repeated targeting of health care centers.
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“Civilian areas — specifically health care facilities — are being hit in northwestern Syria,” said Omar Ahmed Abenza, MSF head of mission for northwestern Syria, after the strike on the area of Mishmishan.
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“The strikes, despite their regularity during the seven years long conflict, are currently at an intensity that should be a landmark, another wake-up call,” he said.
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The bombardment of medical facilities has a “terrible knock-on effect,” he said, with fearful staff at other facilities reducing their services after each strike.
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“The result is more people in greater need, with fewer health services open and available.”
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Jihadists and rebels overran Idlib in 2015, but since then hard-liners have expanded their control and the influence of mainstream rebels has shrunk drastically.
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Some 2.5 million people, including more than one million displaced Syrians, live in the province.
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More than 340,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

 

Turkey creates new ‘observation point’ in Syria’s Idlib — The post is the sixth such position Turkey has established in Idlib since October

February 15, 2018

AFP

© AFP | The post is the sixth such position Turkey has established in Idlib since October.
ANKARA (AFP) – 

Turkish troops have set up a new “observation point” in the Syrian province of Idlib as part of efforts to reduce violence in the conflict, state media reported Thursday.

The point — an outpost staffed by a small number of troops to monitor any fighting — was established nearly 70 kilometres (44 miles) from the Turkish border in the northwestern province, state-run news agency Anadolu said.

Idlib is nearly completely under the control of anti-government forces, predominantly Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate.

Anadolu said a Turkish military convoy crossed the Turkey-Syria border Wednesday night.

The latest post is in Maarrat al-Numan town in southeastern Idlib.

This is the sixth such position in the province after two were established earlier this month by the Turkish army. The other three were set up in October and November.

Turkish convoys have come under attack including one incident early in February which killed one soldier. The Turkish army said “terror groups” were responsible.

Establishing the observation points is a key element in peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana aimed at ending the seven-year Syrian conflict.

One of the agreements of the talks — sponsored by Turkey, Russia and Iran — was to create four so-called de-escalation zones including Idlib.

The other three are the greater Damascus area, the southern Daraa region and Homs city.

Turkey last week said it would host a three-way summit with the Russian and Iranian leaders following last year’s Sochi summit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The date has yet to be fixed but is one of many moves Turkey has been making with Moscow and Tehran despite being on opposite sides of the war.

Iran and Russia are staunch supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime but Ankara has called for Assad’s ouster and supported Syrian opposition fighters.

Since January 20, Turkey has conducted a cross-border offensive with ground troops and air strikes supporting Syrian rebels against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) viewed by Ankara as “terrorists”.

Syrian Rebels Down Russian Military Plane, Kill Pilot

February 3, 2018

Iblib encounter highlights risks of Moscow’s continued involvement in conflict

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Image result for Sukhoi 25, photos

Sukhoi Su-25 attack plane

MOSCOW—Syrian rebels shot down a Russian military plane and killed the pilot, Russia’s Defense ministry said, highlighting the risks of Russia’s military operation even after President Vladimir Putin declared victory at the end of last year.

The Sukhoi Su-25 attack plane was downed near the de-escalation zone around the rebel-held Idlib province, the defense minstry said, Interfax news agency reported

The incident took place in an area of Syria’s northern Idlib province that has seen heavy air strikes and fighting on the ground between government forces backed by Russia and Iran, and rebels who oppose President Bashar al-Assad.

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Syrians opposed to Assad see Russia as an invading force they blame for the deaths of thousands of civilians since Moscow joined the war on the side of the Syrian government in 2015.

The Russian plane was shot down over the town of Khan al-Subl near the city of Saraqeb, close to a major highway where the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militias are trying to advance, a rebel source said.

Although the Russian pilot escaped the crash, he was killed by rebels who had tried to capture him, the source said.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said that the aircraft was downed by a portable surface-to-air missile. The pilot reported that he had ejected by parachute, and he was later killed on the ground.

“The pilot died in a fight with terrorists,” it said.

Tass news agency quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying Moscow retaliated with a strike from an undisclosed high-precision weapon that killed more than 30 militants in an area of Idlib province where the plane was downed.

The Syrian opposition had shown on social media what they said was the wreckage of the plane and the body of the pilot surrounded by rebels.

They said the downed warplane was one of the planes used to target civilian convoys fleeing along a major Syrian highway from villages that the army and foreign militias had overrun.

Syria’s civil war, which is now entering its eighth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes.

A Russian plane was blamed for the death of seven civilians and scores of injuries after cars were targeted on the highway, according to a witness and two rebels sources.

Syrian soldiers and Iranian-backed militiamen were now around twelve kilometers from Saraqeb, advancing towards the Damascus-Aleppo highway under cover of heavy Russian air strikes, two opposition sources said.

At least five civilians were killed in Saraqeb city on Saturday, which residents blamed on Russian planes.

Syrians in rebel-held areas say they can distinguish between Russian warplanes and those of the Syrian air force, because the Russian planes fly at higher altitude.

Residents say thousands of people have been forced by air strikes to flee the area, moving further north to the safety of makeshift camps on the Syrian side of the Turkish border.

Russia’s Defence Ministry regularly says it targets only hardline Islamist militants in Syria.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/syrian-rebels-down-russian-military-plane-kill-pilot-1517681817