Posts Tagged ‘Russian military’

Syria rebels in talks for peace deal as regime pushes ahead in south

June 30, 2018

The Syrian army seized more towns in its flash offensive in the southwest on Saturday, as rebels said they were continuing to negotiate peace terms through the government’s ally Russia.

State television broadcast from the town of Dael, northwest of Deraa city, after the army entered, and a war monitor reported that several towns further east had also accepted government rule.

Ibrahim Jabawi, a spokesman for the rebels’ joint operations room, said the insurgents had set up a delegation that met with Russian officials Friday and that another meeting was scheduled for Saturday.

© Mohamad Abazeed, AFP | Smoke rises above opposition held areas of the city of Daraa during air strikes by Syrian regime forces on June 29, 2018.

Russian negotiators have demanded rebels accept terms like those agreed for eastern Ghouta, where insurgents handed over their weapons and either left for opposition territory in the northwest along with their families or accepted the return of state rule, Jabawi said. The southwest rebels did not accept this, and were instead proposing the return of civilian state institutions in the opposition areas and the entry of Russian military police rather than Syrian government forces.

In the meantime, Syrian army air raids continued in an offensive that the United Nations says has driven 160,000 people from their homes, threatening a humanitarian catastrophe.

Russia, a strong ally of President Bashar Assad’s government, has backed army advances with air strikes since entering the war in 2015 and has played a role in mediating surrender deals.

Southwestern Syria is one of two remaining rebel strongholds, along with a region of the northwest that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sworn to recapture. He also wants to take back control of territory in northeastern Syria held by US-backed Kurdish forces.

The army’s offensive follows the capitulation of rebel enclaves near Homs and Damascus, including eastern Ghouta, which was recaptured after a scorched-earth assault that killed over a thousand civilians and laid waste to several towns.

Warfare in the southwest could risk a further escalation because of its proximity to Israel. The Israelis have already targeted Iran-backed militia fighting on Assad’s side, which they have vowed to keep far from their country’s borders.

The government’s offensive so far has focused on Deraa province, which borders Jordan, but not Quneitra province abutting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The deal being discussed does not include Quneitra, the rebels said.

The entire southwest is part of a “de-escalation zone” agreed last year by Russia, the United States and Jordan. Despite Washington’s threats that it would respond to breaches of that arrangement, it has shown no sign of doing so, and the opposition’s top negotiator on Thursday accused it of having struck a “malicious deal” to stay silent.

Civilian casualties

On Saturday, state television said the town of al-Ghariya al-Sharqiya had accepted a “reconciliation” agreement with the government, and the national flag had been raised there.

It broadcast live from the town of Dael, where a crowd was shown chanting slogans in support of Assad and the army.

State TV said on Friday that four nearby towns had agreed to surrender their arms and accept state rule. The army had gained control over the towns of al-Harak, Ibta and Rakham, it said, and a rebel said opposition lines in one area had collapsed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian military police had entered several other towns and villages in deals to end their rebellion against Assad.

It reported that warplanes carried out 32 air strikes overnight as the offensive continued, hitting nine towns in Deraa province. So far, about 100 civilians have been killed in air raids and shelling since June 19, it said.

Clashes escalated around Deraa city, which lies close to the border with Jordan, and where army advances could cut the insurgent territory in the southwest in two, it said.



U.S. warns Syria of ‘firm’ measures for ceasefire violations

May 26, 2018

The United States warned Syria on Friday it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to ceasefire violations, saying it was concerned about reports of an impending military operation in a de-escalation zone in the country’s southwest.

Image may contain: 1 person, suit and indoor

FILE PHOTO: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as seen in Damascus, Syria November 14, 2017. SANA/Handout via REUTERS

Washington also cautioned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against broadening the conflict.

“As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement late on Friday.

A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported on Wednesday that Syrian government forces fresh from their victory this week against an Islamic State pocket in south Damascus were moving into the southern province of Deraa.

Syrian state-run media have reported that government aircraft have dropped leaflets on rebel-held areas in Deraa urging fighters to disarm.

The U.S. warning comes weeks after a similar attack on a de-escalation zone in northeastern Syria held by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. U.S. ground and air forces repelled the more than four-hour attack, killing perhaps as many as 300 pro-Assad militia members, many of them Russian mercenaries.

Backed by Russian warplanes, ground forces from Iran and allied militia, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have helped Assad drive rebels from Syria’s biggest cities, putting him in an unassailable military position.

They have recaptured all remaining insurgent areas near Damascus in recent weeks, including the densely populated eastern Ghouta area, as well as big enclaves in central Syria.

The government is now in its strongest position since the early months of the war in 2011, although still a long way from achieving Assad’s aim of reasserting sway over all of Syria.

Anti-Assad rebels still control two large contiguous areas of territory in the northwest and southwest. Kurdish and allied Arab militia backed by the United States hold the quarter of Syria east of the Euphrates.

The government’s gains have brought it to a point where any new military campaign risks putting it in conflict with foreign powers.

Reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Paul Tait


MH17: Netherlands, Australia hold Russia responsible for downing plane

May 25, 2018

The Dutch and Australian governments are holding the Russian state legally responsible for downing the Malaysia Airlines flight in 2014. Officials have said they may take the case to an international court.

A firefighter puts out flames from the crash of MH17 in eastern Ukraine (Oleg Vtulkin)

The Netherlands and Australia said on Friday that Russia is legally responsible for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over Ukrainian territory in 2014 that killed all 298 people on board.

The statements come a day after international investigators probing the downing of the plane said it was brought down by a Russian military missile.

What did officials say?

  • Citing the investigators’ interim findings, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said that Australia and the Netherlands “are now convinced that Russia is responsible” for downing the plane. He added that both governments have “taken the next step by formally holding Russia accountable.”
  • The Dutch government said in a statement that a “possible” next step would be to take the case to an international court or organization.
  • Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop urged for support from the international community, saying the findings “represent a threat to international security.”

Russia: No ‘facts’ to support claims

The Kremlin firmly rejected accusations it was responsible for the crash, saying that since Russia had been barred from the international investigation, it couldn’t trust the results.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Netherlands did not provide any “facts” to back up claims that the missile that took out MH17 was Russian and accused the Dutch of using the event to “achieve their own political goals.”

He also urged his Dutch counterpart to examine evidence provided by Moscow about the crash before coming to a conclusion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmmitry Peskov, also alleged that Ukraine also bore some responsibility because it failed to ban civilian air traffic. The Russian Defense Ministry also alleged that the missile belonged to Ukrainian forces.

The Russian government has long denied involvement in the crash, saying on Thursday that its missile launchers have never entered Ukraine — despite photo evidence provided by international investigators.

Read moreMH17 victims’ relatives, dignitaries mourn on third anniversary of plane’s downing

Map of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine

Germany, EU back MH17 findings

The German government supports calls for those who shot down MH17 to be held accountable for their actions, government spokeswoman Martina Fietz told reporters.

“Russia should meet its responsibilities so that the tragedy can be fully cleared up and the perpetrators can be held to account,” Fietz said on Friday.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also urged for Russia to cooperate with investigations as well as “accept responsibility” for the downing of the plane.

The European Union’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini as well as the United Kingdom also released statements supporting the probe’s findings.

“This is an egregious example of the Kremlin’s disregard for innocent life,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

Tragic end of MH17: A surface-to-air missile shot down MH17 on July 17, 2014, over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 passengers and crew were killed, the majority of whom were Dutch nationals, but several Australians died as well.

International probe: The Joint Investigation Team released its interim findings on Thursday. They found that the Buk missile that took out the plane was Russian and fired from the Russian military’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade. Investigators did not say on Thursday who actually fired the missile, but said they’d narrowed the search down from 100 people of interest to several dozen.

What happens next: Although the Dutch government has said it could pursue a case against Russia in court, the process would likely be very legally tricky. Foreign Minister Blok said any attempts to hold Russia accountable for MH17 will run parallel to the Joint Investigation Team’s probe.

rs/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Russia shows off military hardware in Red Square parade

May 9, 2018

Russia rolled out its latest military hardware on Moscow’s Red Square on Thursday for the annual parade to mark Soviet victory over the Nazis as President Vladimir Putin begins his fourth Kremlin term.

© AFP | Russian servicemen get ready for the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in Moscow on May 9, to mark the anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in 1945


“Our people fought to the death. Not one country faced such an invasion,” Putin said in a speech as veterans and some 13,000 troops marched past in a perfectly choreographed military spectacle marking 73 years since victory in World War II.

Much of the new military equipment on display has been tested out in Syria, the defence ministry said. Altogether the parade featured 159 types of hardware including 75 aircraft.

For the first time, the parade included drones, as well as a de-mining robot used by the military in Syria’s Palmyra and Aleppo and an unmanned tank.

The major new equipment on display included a Terminator tank designed to be used in war zones involving nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, and a MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jet carrying a high-precision Kinzhal (Dagger) missile.

Image result for Terminator tank, photos

Terminator tank

Putin presented the Kinzhal missile system in March during his state of nation address, saying it could “overcome all existing and, I think, prospective air and missile defence systems.”

“This is a holiday which has always been, is now, and always will be sacred for every family,” Putin said, greeting a watching crowd including veterans decked out in medals on a bright sunny morning.

Around 1.6 million people recognised as World War II veterans are still alive in Russia, the labour ministry said.

Putin poured scorn on those, who he said, are trying to “rewrite history” and downplay the Soviet Union’s role in overcoming the Nazis.

“Today people are trying to erase the feat of our people in saving Europe from slavery, from extinction, from the horrors of the Holocaust,” Putin warned, saying they are trying to “forge, rewrite and misinterpret the events of the war.”

“We won’t ever let them do this.”

Referring directly to the current political situation, Putin warned against a repeat of World War II, saying that “behind new threats are the same ugly traits: egotism, intolerance, aggressive nationalism and claims to be unique.”

“Russia is open to dialogue on all questions of ensuring global security” and is “ready for constructive, equal partnership,” he said in a speech that concluded with shouts of “Hurrah!” from the assembled forces.

Russian Fighter Jet Crashes Off Syrian Coast; Both Pilots Killed

May 3, 2018

Putin is a main ally of Assad and has bases in the coastal areas of Syria

.The picture of the crash taken by civilians, May 3, 2018.
The picture of the crash taken by civilians, May 3, 2018.From Twitter

Russia’s Defense Ministry said one of its fighter jets crashed off the coast of Syria Thursday morning and that both pilots aboard were killed.

State news agency Tass cited the ministry as saying the Su-30 crashed while climbing after takeoff from the Russian air base at Hemeimeem in Syria.

skip – Fall of a Russian plane in the sea off the port city in Syria

The ministry said the plane did not come under fire and that preliminary information indicates the crash could have been caused by a bird being sucked into one of the plane’s engines.

>> Russia’s covert mission in Syria uncovered >>

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a main ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has bases in the coastal areas of Syria, a stronghold of Assad.

skip – Syria Russian plane

According to reports in the Russian media last week, the Kremlin is planning to give Syria its advanced S-300 air defense system. The S-300 has become almost a byword over the last decade for a strategic advantage, also sought by Iran to counter Israel’s dominance in the air.

For years, Israel has lobbied the Kremlin not to supply the system to the Syrian regime. In an interview last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman sent a message to the Kremlin: “One thing should be clear – If someone fires on our planes, we will destroy them.”

Even as fear of Russia is rising, its military spending is actually decreasing

May 3, 2018

Without a stonger economy, how much longer can Putin claim Russia is a superpower?  Russian major operations in Ukraine and Syria are draining resources and the people are suffering…

Updated May 03, 2018
RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin (centre) arrives to watch military exercises at the Kirillovsky firing ground in the Leningrad region in this file picture taken on March 3, 2014.—AFP
RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin (centre) arrives to watch military exercises at the Kirillovsky firing ground in the Leningrad region in this file picture taken on March 3, 2014.—AFP

IN terms of its military presence, Russia has rivalled the United States in recent years, launching major operations in Ukraine and Syria and having rising ambitions in the Arctic.

But its spending power may not match its global ambitions for much longer, numbers by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) have revealed. While global military spending grew last year, Russia’s fell from $69.2 billion in 2016 to $66.3bn.

It was the first time Russian military expenditure fell since 1998 — the year the country defaulted on its debts.

Throughout the era of President Vladimir Putin, military spending increased continuously, but it could now stay flat or even decrease further over the next few years. The Kremlin’s military spending made up 4.3 per cent of its gross domestic product last year, and there are plans to cut it below 3pc within five years, which could either be achieved through (a rather unlikely) economic growth or radical cuts.

The Kremlin’s plans to cut back on its military comes as military expenditure is on the rise across the world, topping $1.74 trillion in 2017. While US spending still outmatched every other global power, its expenditure remained constant last year. China’s rose once again.

“This should come as a relief for Europe and for Nato,” said Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher with Sipri. “But of course, budget and intentions are distinct. Russia is still strong enough to make a mess out of things.”

Make no mistake: Russia’s military is still among the world’s most well-funded and its budget ranks fourth worldwide. But military budgets can most easily be slashed by cutting down on foreign operations and procurement, which could result in a declining Russian footprint in places such as Syria. The Kremlin’s willingness to engage in conflicts abroad has been the key reason for Western concerns over its military in recent years.

“At the global level, the weight of military spending is clearly shifting away from the Euro-Atlantic region,” said Nan Tian, a researcher with Sipri, referring to major spending increases in Asia.

So, is that good news for a Europe afraid of Russian military incursions? It very well could be.

Putin continues to be hugely popular in Russia — he won the last presidential election in March with 76.7pc of the vote — even though the country’s economy has been stagnating since 2014. But while Putin’s favourability ratings haven’t suffered as a result, trust in the structures that keep him in power have.

At least some of Russia’s economic woes can be blamed on the nation’s isolation following the annexation of Crimea, resulting in sanctions. Falling oil and gas prices added to the bleak economic outlook.

Russia’s GDP per capita has declined in recent years and about 20 million citizens lived in poverty in 2016, according to the government’s own statistics.

“We need to improve our people’s lives,” Putin said in a speech before his re-election in March. Among the promises Putin made in March were an increase in children’s day care and more funding for road infrastructure improvements. With an economy that has been on the edges of recession for years, Putin has been forced to slash the military budget — even as the country continues to be involved in a number of conflicts abroad.

The poisoning of former Soviet Union double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain have triggered new tensions with the West, but there are also signs that the Kremlin may be willing to strike a more conciliatory tone in an attempt to repair relations with the West and confront the sanctions burden.

“The new political cycle will unfold under the pressure of three unfavourable factors: continuing economic stagnation, international isolation of Russia and the need for preservation of the regime after 2024,” said Kirill Rogov, an independent political and economic analyst, who was quoted by Financial Times.

Invading Europe doesn’t sound like a great solution to tackle any of those problems — much to the relief of officials in Berlin, Paris and Warsaw.

By arrangement with The Washington Post

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2018

How Putin’s Syria Gambit Could End With Israel Revealing Its Military Superiority

May 2, 2018

For the first time since the beginning of the Russian intervention in Syria, Putin may find himself in direct confrontation with Israel

Russian President Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu shake hands at an event marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Moscow in January, 2018.
Russian President Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu shake hands at an event marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Moscow in January, 2018.\ MAXIM SHEMETOV/ REUTERS

Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be quite astute in establishing a Russian presence in Syria. After waiting for the Americans to make it clear that they did not intend to get involved in the fighting there, he moved into the vacuum quickly and massively. He has established Russian naval and air bases and has provided military support to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Having saved Assad from defeat, Putin became Assad’s patron.

Now Assad is indebted to Putin and relies on him for further military support, which includes Russian aircraft and missiles. The use of Russian mercenaries for fighting on the ground allows Putin to claim that no Russian ground forces are involved in the fighting and that the Russian military presence on the ground is limited to the Russian naval and air bases. The use of mercenaries is a ruse that was already used to cover the Russian involvement in Ukraine. Although quite transparent, it seems to be working. It has become part of the inventory of methods used to spread Russian influence beyond Russia’s borders. The world seems to be getting used to it.

Whether to his satisfaction or not, Putin has become an ally of the Iranians, who are also supporting Assad through Hezbollah as well as with Iranian forces on the ground. They have all well situated themselves in Syria.

On more than one occasion, Israel has made clear to Putin that it opposes the supplying of weapons to Hezbollah via Syria and that it is determined to keep Iranian forces from approaching Israel’s borders. Various arrangements have been made between Russia and Israel that are supposed to ensure the avoidance of conflict between Israeli aircraft operating over Syria and Russian aircraft. This seems to have worked so far.

Now Putin is now considering supplying S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Assad, which would provide the Syrian president with the ability to engage Israeli aircraft attacking targets in Syria. This could bring about a dramatic change in the situation in Syria, and is liable to increase the prospect of a direct conflict between Russia and Israel. From Putin’s standpoint, this is a gamble whose outcome is hard to predict.

Undoubtedly a few of the old-timers at the Kremlin remember the effect that the introduction of Soviet surface-to-air missiles in Egypt in 1970 had on the War of Attrition, and then during the Yom Kippur War, when they managed to neutralize the Israel Air Force. They probably hope that now the supply of the S-300 missiles to Syria will have a similar effect.

But they may also recall how, nine years after the Yom Kippur War, in the First Lebanon War, the Israel Air Force destroyed Soviet missile batteries deployed in Lebanon without losing a single aircraft. That time Soviet technology had met its match, and it was a blow heard around the world.

Is it possible that the Israeli Air Force will know how to deal with the S-300 missile system if it is deployed in Syria? That no doubt is of concern to Putin and his generals. Such a scenario is liable to constitute a harsh blow to Russian weapons technology, hurting the Russians’ marketing efforts for this missile system to other countries, such as Iran, and even raising questions as to the continued Russian-Iranian alliance in Syria.

For the first time since the beginning of the Russian intervention in Syria, Putin may find himself in direct confrontation with Israel. So far he has been able to maintain proper relations with Israel. Now it appears that he will have to make a choice.

Trump speaks with allies over Syria options — ‘How do we keep this from escalating out of control’

April 13, 2018

A man holds a photo of a victim of the Douma attack as he and other demonstrators protest the Assad regime in Idlib, Syria, on April 8, 2018. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

France and UK poised to support any military response to alleged chemical attack

Katrina Manson in Washington, Anne-Sylvaine Chassany in Paris, Kathrin Hille in Moscow and Rebecca Collard in Beirut

The White House said President Donald Trump was speaking to the leaders of France and the UK on Thursday evening regarding potential military strikes in Syria, as the allies consider how to respond to an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed more than 40 people.

The US is “continuing to assess intelligence and [is] engaged in conversations with our partners and allies”, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday afternoon.

A Downing Street spokesman later confirmed that Theresa May, UK prime minister, had spoken to Mr Trump: “They agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged, and on the need to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. They agreed to keep working closely together on the international response.”

Military options in Syria range from a limited strike of the sort Mr Trump authorised last year to a more expansive attack that might target the air bases, command and control facilities or ground forces of the Bashar al-Assad regime. Another option is targeting infrastructure that would deprive the regime of electricity.

But she reiterated remarks made earlier in the day by US defence secretary Jim Mattis, who said the Trump administration had made no decision to strike Syria.

Appearing before the House armed services committee, Mr Mattis said the US was concerned that innocent people did not die in any attack. “On a strategic level it is ‘how do we keep this from escalating out of control’, if you get my drift on that.”

“How do we keep this from escalating out of control?”US defence secretary Jim Mattis appearing before the House armed services committee. © AP
Both France and the UK have suggested that they are poised to support any military action taken by the US in response to the suspected gas attack in Douma on Saturday. Mrs May won cabinet backing to deploy UK forces in any US-led assault, after an emergency meeting in Downing Street lasting more than two hours.

French president Emmanuel Macron said that France had proof that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian regime in Saturday’s attack on the rebel holdout near Damascus.

He added that Paris would decide whether to launch strikes against Syria when it had received more information. “We will make decisions in due time,” Mr Macron said in an interview with French television on Thursday.

Mr Macron, who has already had at least two telephone conversations with Mr Trump since Saturday, has previously said that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” that would prompt an “immediate response from France”. He said on Thursday that he would do everything to “avoid military escalation in the region”.

Donald Trump on Wednesday warned Russia, which intervened militarily in the Syrian conflict to back Mr Assad, to “get ready” for a missile attack, but on Thursday the president refused to be drawn on the timing of any action.

“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” he said in a tweet. The military options were discussed at a meeting between the president and his national security advisers on Thursday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Mr Mattis told lawmakers that there were also non-military options available to the international community.

“There’s a lot of ways to respond to the violation of the chemical weapons convention diplomatically, economically, militarily that taken in total would represent what we have to do in this world . . . in accordance with international norms and international law,” Mr Mattis said.

“We have not yet made any decision to launch military attacks into Syria.”

The prospect of western military action in Syria has raised concerns about the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and the US. The Kremlin said on Thursday that a hotline set up with the US to avoid accidental clashes over Syria was still active despite the rising tension.

Dmitry Peskov, president Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told reporters that the so-called de-confliction mechanism was “being used by both sides”. Mr Peskov reiterated an appeal to the US to “avoid any steps that could lead to increased tension in Syria”.

“We believe that this would have an extremely destructive effect on the entire Syrian settlement process,” he said.

It was reported that the hotline was used a year ago when Mr Trump ordered 59 cruise missiles be fired at a Syrian air base following a gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people. US officials warned Russia, which had personnel at the base, in advance of the strike.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated markedly since then.

Alexander Zasypkin, Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, this week reminded the US that the head of the Russian military had said his forces in Syria would not only shoot down any missiles that threatened them but would target the source of the weapons.

Since Russia intervened in Syria in 2015 the war has dramatically turned in the regime’s favour. The Syrian government now controls more than 85 per cent of the country, according to its Russian backers, while the opposition rapidly loses more territory.

Russia said on Thursday that Syrian government forces had taken full control of Douma, which is part of the eastern Ghouta suburbs that have faced a months-long regime offensive.

“Today, a significant event in the history of the Syrian Arab Republic took place,” said Major General Yuri Yevtushenko, an officer of the reconciliation centre for Syria of the Russian armed forces. “A [Syrian] national flag over the building of the city of Douma points to return of control over this settlement, and hence, over eastern Ghouta as a whole.”

Image result for Russian soldier stands in front of an ambulance at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus © AFP, photos

A Russian soldier stands in front of an ambulance at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus © AFP

A statement from Russia’s defence ministry said Russian military police and government forces had been deployed in Douma. But Syrian activists and medical workers inside the town, which is the last opposition holdout near Damascus, said rebels were still in Douma.

“There are still rebels in the area,” said Mahmoud Bwedany, an activist who was waiting to leave the town. “The Russian military police entered the city a couple of days ago, but no Syrian army yet.”

Thousands have already been evacuated under a deal struck between Jaish al-Islam, who controlled the town, and the Russians.

Reclaiming eastern Ghouta is a symbolic and strategic victory for Mr Assad. It is the last opposition-held area near the capital and from there rebels were able to fire rockets on Damascus.


See also:

What Really Happened in the Douma Chemical Attack?

Jeish Al-Islam Militants Forced to Endorse Agreement with Syrian Army over Eastern Ghouta

March 17, 2018

Fars News (Iran)

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TEHRAN (FNA)- The Jeish al-Islam militant group has been forced to come into terms with the Syrian army over Eastern Ghouta, Arab media reports said on Friday.

The reports claim that the Syrian Army and Jeish al-Islam agreed to the terms of an agreement that would have the latter turn their heavy weapons into the government and Russian military, the AMN reported.

The report further said according to the agreement, Jeish al-Islam will release prisoners in Douma, including those from the Syrian Army, hand over all their heavy weapons to the government, and give the government and army full access roads to Douma to take the wounded to local hospitals.

Also according to the agreement, the militants in Douma will decide whether they will go to Idlib, Dara’a, or stay in Eastern Ghouta to settle their cases with the state and receive amnesty.

Food staples and aid will enter Douma and a local police unit will be formed by civil leaders in the district, according to the agreement.

State Institutions will also start to work inside Douma after a “short period”. The basic services of water, electricity and sewage system will take priority.

Individual arms ownership will be organized within the existing laws administered by the State.

The report added that the Russians have mediated the terms between the two parties.

Germany urges Russia, Iran to end regime strikes on Damascus suburb — indiscriminate shelling and bombardment continues

February 21, 2018

ARAB NEWS | Published — Wednesday 21 February 2018

A man carries an injured boy as he walks on rubble of damaged buildings in the rebel held besieged town of Hamouriyeh.(AP)

BEIRUT: New airstrikes and shelling of the besieged, rebel-held suburbs of the Syrian capital killed at least 60 people and wounded dozens more on Wednesday, a rescue organization and a monitoring group said, adding to a staggering casualty toll that has overwhelmed paramedics and doctors in the past few days.

Syrian government forces and Russian aircraft have shown no signs of letting up their indiscriminate aerial and artillery assault on eastern Ghouta since they stepped up strikes late Sunday.

The situation in Eastern Ghouta is “very sadning” the UN Secretary General Antonio Guteres said while opening a Security Council session to discuss UN Charter and maintenance of international peace & security.

.The UN chief urged all parties for an immediate halt to fighting in what he described ‘hell on Earth’ Syria enclave.

The International Committee of the Red Cross asked Wednesday for access to Eastern Ghouta near Syria’s capital where a regime aerial campaign has killed over 300 civilians and wounded 1,400 others this week.


“The fighting appears likely to cause much more suffering in the days and weeks ahead, and our teams need to be allowed to enter Eastern Ghouta to aid the wounded,” said Marianne Gasser, ICRC’s head of delegation in Syria. The worsening situation for the Syrians besieged in Damascus suburb led Germany to urge Russia and Iran to push the Syrian regime to end the deadly airstrikes on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, noting that the two had pledged to be guarantors of peace in Syria.

“One has to ask where is Russia, where is Iran, which had pledged in Astana to guarantee a ceasefire also in Eastern Ghouta,” said Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, referring to peace talks in the Kazakh capital.

At least 260 people have been killed since Sunday night, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, including 10 in a wave of strikes on the town of Kafr Batna on Wednesday.

The Syrian Civil Defense search-and-rescue group, also known as the White Helmets, said government forces targeted the town with airstrikes, artillery fire, and barrel bombs — crude, explosives-filled oil drums dropped from helicopters at high altitudes. It reported that several other people were wounded.

The locally-run Ghouta Media Center reported strikes on Kafr Batna and other towns in the region outside Damascus.

“We are really alarmed by the information we’re receiving from civilian areas and the very high number of casualties. You cannot continue business as usual,” said Panos Moumtzis, the UN regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria.

“Ghouta is a 10-mile drive from the hospitals in Damascus and its heartbreaking to think of children, women, and elderly who are in need, unable to be evacuated, and in a situation of fear, hiding in basements and not being able to go out,” he told The Associated Press by phone from Amman, Jordan.

The Russian military is supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and was instrumental to the all-out assault on the eastern half of Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, in late 2016 to eject rebels from their enclave there.

Tens of thousands of civilians ended up fleeing their homes. Many have been unable to return. Hundreds more were killed in indiscriminate shelling and bombardment. A subsequent UN investigation charged that the campaign amounted to forced displacement of a population and rose to the level of a war crime.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this week eastern Aleppo could serve as a model for eastern Ghouta.

Pro-government forces have been amassing since the weekend on the perimeter of the rebel-held region, a collection of towns and farmland that once provided grain and fruit to Damascus, before nearly seven years of warfare turned it into a landscape of havoc and despair.

At least 400,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war, sparked by a violent crackdown on popular demonstrations against Assad in 2011.