Posts Tagged ‘Syrian opposition’

Syrians ‘will never be safe under Assad’ — opposition

July 9, 2018

“We want justice, human rights, freedom and democracy and we will not give up until it is a reality for the next generation.”

“As long as there is a case for democracy there will be a Syrian opposition.”

Syrian government soldiers burn an opposition flag at the Nassib border crossing with Jordan in the southern province of Daraa on July 7, 2018. (AFP / Youssef Karwashan)

Syrians will never feel safe under the Assad regime, opposition leaders told Arab News on Sunday, as thousands returned to their homes after a cease-fire deal in the southern region of Daraa.

The regime offensive to retake Daraa from insurgents, which began on June 19, displaced about 330,000 people. Many headed to the border with Jordan, which refused to allow refugees to cross. Fighting ended on Friday under a Russian-mediated surrender deal.

© AFP | A Jordanian soldier keeps watch along the border with Syria on July 2, 2018

Anders Pedersen, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jordan, said on Sunday that only 150 to 200 Syrians remained near a key crossing point into Jordan, and “as far as we understand they are almost exclusively men.”

The cease-fire covered most of southern Syria but intense shelling and airstrikes on Sunday targeted the opposition-held village of Um Al-Mayadeen, just north of the Naseeb border crossing. Regime troops later captured the village after a battle with opposition fighters.

© AFP | With Russia’s help, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army battered Daraa province for over a week with air strikes, rocket fire and crude barrel bombs

“Despite the return of refugees to their homes, Syrians will never feel safe under the Assad regime’s rule and brutality,” Syrian opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.

“At the same time, this is not a victory for the regime since it is participating in name only. After the Russians and the Iranian militias finished their work, you would see Syrian regime officers coming in front of television cameras. This is what happens.”

Aleppo's Great  Umayyad Mosque, pictured on July 22, 2017.

Although the main opposition groups in the eastern parts of Daraa province have agreed to hand over their weapons as part of the surrender, some have vowed to continue fighting, mostly in western parts of Daraa and the nearby Quneitra region on the front with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

“Those who have lost their families — and those parents whose children have been murdered by the regime — will not accept Assad and his regime’s existence, survival and power,” Bahia Mardini, a Syrian opposition activist and founder of Syrian House, which helps Syrians in the UK, told Arab News.

“Despite the lack of international desire for military action, as long as the regime clings on to power, I expect that military action will continue.”

“As long as there is terrorism and dictatorship, there will remain a Syrian opposition who seek democracy and human rights for the Syrian people. They will continue to find new mechanisms to work and succeed despite the difficulties.

“As long as there is a case for democracy there will be a Syrian opposition. We want justice, human rights, freedom and democracy and we will not give up until it is a reality for the next generation,” she said.

“An internationally backed democratic solution is so desperately important.”

“Military cells will remain in Syria, some of them dormant, and despite the international silence, they will renew their military action if there is no democratic process that satisfies the rebellious people and all the parties. That is why an internationally backed democratic solution is so desperately important.”

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1335481/middle-east

Image result for syria, urban, destruction, photos

“We have enough strength to rebuild the country. If we don’t have money – we will borrow from our friends, from Syrians living abroad,” Assad has said.

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Syria rebels dig in for Daraa fight

April 25, 2018

Daraa, Syria: The city is split between rebels, who hold the southern Old City, and regime forces who control the modern districts and government posts to the north

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Opposition fighters at Daraa, Syria. Photo by AFP

  • Far away from geopolitical interests, civilians are worried about what the escalation could bring

DARAA: On a tense urban frontline in Syria’s Daraa, rebel Atallah Qutayfan has been steadily reinforcing his defensive post for weeks in anticipation of a looming assault by government troops.

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The 25-year-old spends his days stacking sandbags to shore up his post overlooking a market in the southern city, and monitoring the amassing regime forces nearby.

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“Their reconnaissance planes are constantly above the city. There are daily clashes and they try to infiltrate our positions, but we’ve stopped them,” says Qutayfan.

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“Our commanders told us to be ready for an attack by regime forces — and we’re on high alert.”

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As loyalist forces mop up the last pockets of resistance around the capital, President Bashar Assad appears to already have set his sights on his next target: Daraa.

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A bombed-out street in Daraa. Photo by Reuters

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The city is split between rebels, who hold the southern Old City, and regime forces who control the modern districts and government posts to the north.

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Opposition forces still hold more than two-thirds of the surrounding 3,730-square-kilometer province which borders Jordan.

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Seizing the border area could bring the regime both military and economic security, analysts have said.

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And a victory in Daraa city would carry symbolic weight — it was the cradle of Syria’s seven-year uprising against Assad’s rule.

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The resurgent regime just this month dealt rebels their biggest blow yet by recapturing Eastern Ghouta, the former opposition stronghold outside Damascus.

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That freed up troops who had spent years bombing the Ghouta front.

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“After Ghouta, the regime escalated its bombing against us with surface-to-surface missiles, machine-gun fire, mortars, tanks, and heavy artillery,” says rebel fighter Fahed Abu Hatem.

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In response, Abu Hatem says, his forces reinforced their positions, dug trenches and erected fresh barricades.

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Gritting his teeth, rebel field commander Ibrahim Musalima, 27, insists the extra measures are necessary.

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“It’s not fear, it’s readiness,” says Musalima.

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“We’re setting up lines of defense and attack, and upping our coordination with the Quneitra rebels to the west, all the way to the border with Suweida to the east.”

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Quneitra is the province directly to Daraa’s west, and Suweida neighbors it to the east.

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Sections of the three provinces make up a “de-escalation zone” agreed in May 2017 by rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Russia and Iran.

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The US and Jordan have also backed the zone, announcing alongside Russia in July that a cessation of hostilities would begin in the southern sliver.

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Despite the steadily increasing violence, Musalima says the south’s rebel factions had been “advised” by their foreign backers not to provoke the regime or its loyalist militias, and to preserve the de-escalation zone.

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The subtle warning belies the region’s importance to rival actors in Syria’s complex war.

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Assad is keen to recapture the strategic Nasib crossing with Jordan, which the regime lost to rebels in 2015 but whose recapture could generate desperately needed income from cross-border trade.

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Meanwhile, the presence of Iran-backed militias in southern Syria, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, has irked neighboring Israel.

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Far away from these geopolitical interests, civilians are worried about what the escalation could bring.

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Umm Mohammad Al-Baghdadi, a 45-year-old nurse in a field clinic in Daraa, describes a constant stream of wounded from shelling and bombing.

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“We can’t say we’re not scared of more escalation. After the end of Ghouta, of course the regime is going to go for any area that opposes it,” she says.

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“It wants to snuff out the uprising generally, and in Daraa especially.”

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Around 30,000 people live in rebel-held parts of Daraa city, according to the local opposition-run council.

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Its head Mohammad Abdulmajid Al-Musalima, 38, says residents struggle to cope with severe shortages of water and electricity, and widespread destruction.

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“Women and children will bear the brunt of any military escalation, because they’re the main pressure point used by the regime against opposition groups,” says Musalima.

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Rebels and local opposition officials alike insist Daraa’s fate will not resemble Ghouta’s, where a five-year siege had worn down rival rebel groups.

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“We’re saying to the regime: Daraa is not Ghouta. The armed opposition here is holding it together,” says Mohammad Al-Masri, 60, a member of the local council.

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“Here, the front lines are holding on. Our popular base and the rebels are in agreement: Daraa is our city, and we will stand firm in it,” says Masri.

AFP

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1291046/middle-east

See also:

The Young Men Who Started Syria’s Revolution Speak About Daraa, Where It All Began

https://news.vice.com/article/the-young-men-who-started-syrias-revolution-speak-about-daraa-where-it-all-began

Saudi Arabia ready to send troops to Syria — Hopes for a Saudi-backed Islamic military coalition

April 18, 2018

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir (Arab News photo)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is ready, willing and able to deploy troops in support of any US-led effort to stabilize Syria, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir reaffirmed on Tuesday.

“We are in discussions with the US, and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, about sending forces into Syria,” Al-Jubeir said.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that US President Donald Trump’s administration was seeking to assemble an Arab force, including troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to help restore stability in Syria.

Saudi Arabia’s offer of help was “not new,” Al-Jubeir said at a press conference in Riyadh with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres. “We made a proposal to the Obama administration that if the US were to send forces … then Saudi Arabia would consider along with other countries sending forces as part of this contingent.”

Riyadh has suggested that it could help counter-terrorism operations in some other theaters of conflict as part of a wider Muslim alliance. For example, a Saudi-backed Islamic military coalition will provide logistical, intelligence and training to a new West African counter-terrorism force, Al-Jubeir said in December.

Guterres told Arab News there was no military solution to the Syrian conflict. “It is crucial that Syrians find a solution, free of foreign domination,” he said.

On the issue of Palestine, Guterres said there should be a strong mutual commitment to a two-state solution. “There is no Plan B. We need to make sure that Palestinians have that right as well as the Israelis, and the two must live in stability.”

Commenting on the Yemen situation, Al-Jubeir said: “A political solution in Yemen is up to Houthis who have turned Yemen into a base for Iran. This is not a war desired by the Kingdom, but it was imposed on it. The only solution in Yemen is a political one. The reason for not reaching a resolution is the stubbornness of the Houthis because of Iran’s support.

“The Houthis have launched 119 Iranian missiles toward Saudi Arabia. The Houthis are using young children on their missions, laying siege to villages and not allowing aid to come in. They sell this aid to finance their war. Everything they are doing is terrorism.”

Meanwhile international investigators finally entered the Damascus suburb of Douma on Tuesday after days of delay and warnings by Western powers that crucial evidence related to a chemical gas attack had probably been removed.

More than 40 people died in the attack on April 7, and Western powers have blamed the Assad regime. In response, the US, France and Britain launched missile strikes on Saturday targeting the regime’s chemical weapons facilities.

The regime “would try its best to destroy any evidence that might show its involvement in the attack,” Yahya Al-Aridi, spokesman for the Syrian opposition, told Arab News.

“Immediately after the attack, we saw on television Russian soldiers and officers visiting the site. I don’t think the Russians would be happy if any evidence were found, especially when they called it fabrication in the UN Security Council. So they have a fundamental interest in destroying any sort of evidence.”

Missile strikes against the sources of the chemical weapons were not enough, he said. “Syrians are being killed not only by chemical weapons. They are being killed by phosphoric bombs, by rockets and airstrikes, and by displacement.”

The world seemed reluctant to call the regime a pariah and an outlaw, and finish the job, Al-Aridi said. “They are also denying the Syrian people any means to defend themselves.”

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1286411/saudi-arabia

Putin’s support for Assad paints Russia into a dangerous corner

April 16, 2018

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Insouciance after allied strikes fails to mask vulnerable position

Kathrin Hille in Moscow

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After the chemical weapons facilities of Bashar al-Assad’s regime were hit by more than 100 missiles fired by the US and its allies, it was left to Russian politicians to respond on the Syrian president’s behalf.
“President al-Assad is in absolute positive spirits. He is in a good mood,” Natalia Komarova, governor of the Russian region of Khanty-Mansiysk, told Russian newswires after a meeting with Mr Assad in Damascus on Sunday, the day after the attacks.Dmitry Sablin, a Russian lawmaker who led the delegation to the Syrian capital, added that Mr Assad had agreed to visit Ms Komarova’s region and that last year his children had been on holiday to Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

On Russian television, this show of insouciance served to underline Moscow’s claim that the western missile strikes had not achieved anything. But, to outside observers, the unwavering support for Mr Assad has pushed Russia into an increasingly dangerous corner.

“They cast themselves as the protector of Syria’s sovereignty, the fighters against western schemes to push for regime change and partition that country, but they risk becoming partners with Assad in being international outlaws,” said a diplomat from a European country whose government is usually seen as Russia-friendly. “They are beginning to look like a pariah state, and more and more they are behaving like one,” he added.

Donald Trump orders precision strikes against Syria

Since the alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7 which killed more than 70 people, Moscow has fiercely hit back at accusations against the Syrian military, and even denied that chemical weapons were used at all.

Those denials were the latest in a series of Russian steps to block the extension of a 2013 inspection regime for Syrian chemical weapons and shield Mr Assad from international pressure.

[Putin] has waded in so deep now that he has become Assad’s hostage

European diplomat


This staunch support for a dictator whom almost all countries in the region except for Iran view as an obstacle to a political solution to the Syrian war has frustrated many diplomats working on efforts for a peace process.
Now Moscow’s position appears set to create immense new risks for Russia both economic and political: The US said it was preparing further sanctions against Russia over its support for Syria, little more than a week after Washington triggered a sell-off in Russian markets with punitive measures that pushed the country’s largest aluminium maker to the brink of collapse.Meanwhile, the US has pledged not to pull its troops from Syria until its goals there are accomplished, while Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has sharply warned against further strikes.

It’s no longer about reason, it’s about guts, who has the stronger will. They might bluff — but we will all die …But maybe then, when they look into the abyss, like after the Cuban missile crisis, they’ll say gosh, and change the momentum

Russian experts said that although Moscow and Washington avoided a direct military clash in Syria at the weekend, their hardened positions on the Assad regime and its use of chemical weapons has pushed them into the most dangerous stand-off since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

“It’s no longer about reason, it’s about guts, who has the stronger will. They might bluff – but we will all die,” said Andrei Kortunov, director of the Russian International Relations Council, a state-backed think-tank. “But maybe then, when they look into the abyss, like after the Cuban missile crisis, they’ll say gosh, and change the momentum.”

And yet, observers in Moscow believe Mr Putin may well keep up his support for Mr Assad.

“He has waded in so deep now that he has become Assad’s hostage,” said a European diplomat.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

Mr Putin’s plan for Syria was a swift transition from armed conflict to economic rehabilitation and reconstruction. Despite the fact that three different initiatives for negotiating a political transition have failed to produce progress, Moscow continues to believe it can force a political transition accompanied by Russia, Iran and Turkey in which Syrian opposition groups would be forced to acquiesce to elections in which Mr Assad would once again run and win.

“That remains the only reasonable option because the US-led coalition is bent on dismembering the country,” said a Russian former ambassador involved in Moscow’s talks with Syrian opposition groups.

“Russia’s military tactics were driven by the idea that saving the Assad regime from complete collapse was the only way to prevent Syria from going the way of Libya and Iraq,” Nikolay Kozhanov, an expert on Russia’s Middle East policy, wrote in a recent paper.

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Financial Times (FT)
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https://www.ft.com/content/151f0620-40c6-11e8-803a-295c97e6fd0b
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Latest strike called “soft option”

Syria says ready to start rebel talks after alleged gas attack — Message is clear: We’ll snuff you out

April 8, 2018

Reuters

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian government said it would start negotiations on Sunday with the rebel group Jaish al-Islam, hours after dozens of people were reportedly killed in a suspected chemical attack on the enclave the group controls outside Damascus.

There was no immediate comment from Jaish al-Islam, which said the government carried out the chemical attack in the town of Douma. At least 49 people were killed, according to a medical relief organisation and Douma’s civil defence rescue service.

Damascus has denied mounting any such attack and said the rebels in Douma, who are massively outgunned and completely encircled, were collapsing and spreading false news.

“Jaish al-Islam terrorists have requested negotiations with the Syrian state, which will start the talks within two hours from now (local time),” state TV cited an official source as saying on Sunday morning.

The U.S. State Department said reports of mass casualties from the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma were “horrifying” and would, if confirmed, “demand an immediate response by the international community”.

In a joint statement, the Syrian American Medical Society, the relief organisation, and Douma’s civil defence service said medical centres had received more than 500 cases of people suffering breathing difficulties in Douma on Saturday evening, frothing from the mouth and smelling of chlorine.

One of the victims was dead on arrival, and six died later, it said. Civil defence volunteers reported more than 42 cases of people dead at their homes showing the same symptoms, it said.

Reuters could not verify the reports. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 11 people had died of suffocation but could not say if chemical weapons had been used.

President Bashar al-Assad has won back control of nearly all of eastern Ghouta in a Russian-backed military campaign that began in February, leaving just Douma in rebel hands. After a lull of a few days, government forces began bombarding Douma again on Friday.

The offensive in Ghouta has been one of the deadliest of the seven-year-long war, killing more than 1,600 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syrian rescuers, medics say gas attack near capital kills 40

April 8, 2018

The Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian opposition activists and rescuers said Sunday that a poison gas attack on a rebel-held town near the capital has killed at least 40 people, allegations denied by the Syrian government.

The alleged attack in the town of Douma occurred late Saturday amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce.

The reports could not be independently verified.

Opposition-linked first responders, known as the White Helmets, reported the attack, saying entire families were found suffocated in their homes and shelters. It reported a death toll from suffocation of more than 40, saying the victims showed signs of gas poisoning including pupil dilation and foaming at the mouth. In a statement, however, it reported a smell resembling chlorine, which would not explain the described symptoms, usually associated with sarin gas.

It said around 500 people were treated for suffocation and other symptoms, adding that most medical facilities and ambulances were put out of service because of the shelling.

The Syrian American Medical Society, a relief organization, said 41 people were killed and hundreds wounded.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 80 people were killed in Douma on Saturday, including around 40 who died from suffocation. But it said the suffocations were the result of shelters collapsing on people inside.

Videos posted online by the White Helmets purportedly showed victims, including toddlers in diapers, breathing through oxygen masks at makeshift hospitals.

The Syrian government, in a statement posted on the state-run news agency SANA, strongly denied the allegations. It said the claims were “fabrications” by the Army of Islam rebel group, calling it a “failed attempt” to impede government advances.

“The army, which is advancing rapidly and with determination, does not need to use any kind of chemical agents,” the statement said.

Syrian government forces resumed their offensive on rebel-held Douma on Friday afternoon after a 10-day truce collapsed over disagreement regarding the evacuation of Army of Islam fighters. Violence resumed days after hundreds of opposition fighters and their relatives left Douma toward rebel-held areas in northern Syria. Douma is the last rebel stronghold in eastern Ghouta.

The alleged gas attack in Douma comes almost exactly a year after a chemical attack in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people. That attack prompted the U.S. to launch several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base. President Donald Trump said the attack was meant to deter further Syrian use of illegal weapons.

The Syrian government and its ally, Russia, denied any involvement in the alleged gas attack.

Douma is in the suburbs of Damascus known as eastern Ghouta. A chemical attack in eastern Ghouta in 2013 that was widely blamed on government forces killed hundreds of people, prompting the U.S. to threaten military action before later backing down.

Syria denies ever using chemical weapons during the seven-year civil war, and says it eliminated its chemical arsenal under a 2013 agreement brokered by the U.S. and Russia after the attack in eastern Ghouta.

Related: (Last 24 hours)

Fight Bashar Assad’s ‘state terrorism,’ opposition urges US

April 7, 2018

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Above: Fie photo of U.S. forces in Syria

  • Syrian troops begin new offensive on rebel-held areas outside Damascus as truce collapses
  • New wave of violence leaves at least 36 people dead, including women and children
Jeddah: Even as President Donald Trump hints at a US pullout from Syria, insisting that Daesh is “almost completely defeated,” the terrorist group is showing signs of a revival.
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After being forced out of the main towns they once occupied near the Iraqi border, the militants have regrouped elsewhere and revised their tactics, recently mounting a brazen attack on a border city in eastern Syria and expanding their footprint inside the Syrian capital itself.
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FILE photo provided by the Syrian rebel group Army of Islam. AP Photo
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Yahya Al-Aridi, the Syrian opposition spokesman, told Arab News that the Kurds had been “taken hostage” by Kurdish groups including PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and PYD (Democratic Union Party), but were also “victims of those with interests in the region — US, Russia, Turkey, Iran and the regime (of Bashar Assad).”
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He said: “They were used by the US at a certain point and when the US threatened to pull out its forces, they got worried because somebody out there would fill the vacuum. Their fears are justified.”
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The plight of Kurds had been heightened because after years of suffering, they thought the US had come to their rescue, Al-Aridi said.
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“The US had its own interests, and if the US and its allies have to fight any party, they have to fight Assad’s state terrorism.”
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Meanwhile, Syrian troops began a ground offensive under cover of airstrikes on rebel-held areas outside Damascus on Friday after a 10-day truce collapsed following a dispute over evacuation of opposition fighters.
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The new wave of violence left at least 36 people dead, including women and children, according to state media and opposition activists.
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By sunset on Friday, artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers and warplanes had pounded the city of Douma, which is home to tens of thousands of people. Live television footage showed thick smoke rising above sections of the city after intense airstrikes.
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Arab News:
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http://www.arabnews.com/node/1280301/middle-east
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As Trump Mulls a Pullout, IS Attempts to Re-emerge in Syria

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/04/05/world/middleeast/ap-ml-syria-trump-is.html

Violence breaks out near Syrian capital as truce collapses

April 6, 2018

Explosions and gunfire in Damascus break two weeks of quiet…evacuation deal for opposition fighters may be failing….

The Associated Press

Image result for Ammar al-Hassan, Army of Islam, Photos

BEIRUT (AP) — Violence broke out in and around a rebel-held town near the capital Damascus on Friday killing at least two people after nearly two weeks of calm signaling an apparent collapse of a truce and an evacuation deal for opposition fighters to leave the area, state media and opposition activists said.

Syrian state TV said several airstrikes hit Douma after members of the Army of Islam rebel group shelled government-held areas nearby inflicting casualties.

The violence came after nearly two weeks of calm in the last rebel-held town in the area known as eastern Ghouta after the Russians have agreed with the Army of Islam to evacuate the area toward rebel-held regions north of the country.

Earlier this week, hundreds of opposition fighters and their relatives left Douma toward northern areas controlled by Turkey-backed opposition fighters in the north. The evacuations have been suspended since Thursday and state TV says Army of Islam members have refused to release scores of government supporters they have been holding for years.

There have been reports that the Army of Islam wants to negotiate a new deal, complaining of mistreatment by Turkish troops in northern Syria.

“There will be no further negotiations with terrorists over the evacuation deal. No one will be able to twist the army of the Syrian Arab Army,” said a state TV reporter as sporadic explosions could be heard in the background. “They will either release the detainees or the terrorists’ hideouts and offices will be destroyed.”

Army of Islam official Ammar al-Hassan told The Associated Press that he has no information on whether the truce collapsed.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two people were killed and 25 wounded in the airstrikes that hit Douma on Friday afternoon, while Douma-based media activist Haitham Bakkar said at least four people were killed and many others wounded.

Earlier on Friday, a bomb exploded near a mosque in Damascus killing one person and wounding six others, according to state news agency SANA. It added that the blast occurred in the northeastern neighborhood of Barzeh close to al-Khansaa mosque.

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Such explosions have been rare in Damascus recently.

Barzeh is close to the eastern Damascus suburb of Harasta that opposition fighters evacuated last month following weeks of a crushing government offensive on eastern Ghouta.

Syrian opposition pledges to continue anti-Assad revolution — Against all odds — It’s an Iranian and Russian occupation in Eastern Ghouta

April 3, 2018

Russian-brokered deals have paved the way for fighters and civilians to be evacuated from Eastern Ghouta in the past weeks. (Reuters)
JEDDAH: The Syrian opposition on Monday pledged to continue the revolution against President Bashar Assad as pro-regime forces drew closer to taking full control of the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta.
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“What’s happening in Syria isn’t a matter of geography,” opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.
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“The uprising in Syria is in the hearts and minds of people who reject the brutal dictatorship (of Assad). We’ll never stop.”
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Pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan said in an editorial on Monday that it was a matter of hours until Douma, the last significant center of resistance in Eastern Ghouta, was declared a “town empty of terrorism.”
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Backed by Russia, pro-regime forces have scored a series of victories over the opposition in recent years, often through sieges, aerial bombardment and ground offensives that have drawn widespread international condemnation.
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“These aren’t Assad victories. This is an occupation achieved with horrible military power against civilians,” said Al-Aridi. “This is the propaganda of the regime and Iran when they talk about victory. It’s immoral.”
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His remarks came as the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey planned to meet on Wednesday in Ankara for their second three-way summit on Syria.
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The meeting follows the first tripartite summit between the three presidents in Sochi last November.
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Al-Aridi said: “It’s the start of the revolution all over again — reorganizing and learning from mistakes made… and organizing forces at the political and other levels. We’ll rebuild our efforts on different levels.”
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He added: “Our uprising has been peaceful from the very beginning. We didn’t select to carry weapons. We just tried to defend ourselves.”
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He said: “The regime created all sorts of pretexts, including terrorism, militias, Daesh and Al-Nusra Front. And it internationalized the Syrian case so it could sideline the people’s main request for freedom.”
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US Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned President Donald Trump on Sunday against pulling American troops out of Syria, saying it would lead to a resurgence of Daesh and increased Iranian sway in the country.
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Al-Aridi said: “The main beneficiary of Daesh is the Syrian regime and those who support it. Iran and Russia used Daesh as a pretext to rescue a falling regime.
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He added: “The revival of Daesh, if there is one, will be used again to oppress and suppress and kill people. Daesh is a tool in the hands of dictators.”
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He said: “There are different narratives of the deal struck between the people of Douma and Russia. The opposition says the wounded will be taken away for treatment but the people will remain there.
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“Russia’s story is different. It wants everybody removed. No final deal has been achieved yet. This is the last thing we heard from our people.”
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A Russian-brokered deal had been reported on Sunday for fighters with Jaish Al-Islam, the largest opposition group still in Eastern Ghouta, to leave Douma.
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But the fighters have not yet confirmed the agreement, amid reports of divisions within the group as hard-liners refuse to abandon their posts.
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In the past few weeks, such deals have seen more than 46,000 people — fighters and civilians — board buses with scant belongings to be driven to the northwest province of Idlib, which is largely outside regime control.
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“It isn’t the Syrian regime that has occupied Eastern Ghouta or has full control over it. It’s an Iranian and Russian occupation,” said Al-Aridi.
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He condemned “the Iranians with their militias on the ground and their vicious plan, and the Russians with their deadly jets bombing everything in a scorched-earth strategy like what they did in Grozny,” the capital of Chechnya.
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“People from the very beginning didn’t select to carry weapons. They chanted for freedom, but the regime resisted with firepower and killed them.”
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Russia says Syria rebels plan to ‘stage’ chemical attack

March 14, 2018

AFP

© AFP | Russia claims Syrian rebels are planning a chemical attack to give the US-led coalition a pretext to strike Damascus

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday claimed that Syrian rebels were planning to stage a chemical attack to give the US-led coalition a pretext to strike Damascus.Lavrov’s claims came after he and the Russian military warned Tuesday that any such strike by the US coalition would lead to Russiam retaliatory steps in Syria and “very serious” consequences.

They spoke after US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned that the United States was ready to act in Syria “if we must” to address the use of chemical weapons and “inhuman suffering”.

“New provocations with the use of chemical weapons are being prepared — performances will be organised in Eastern Ghouta, among others,” Lavrov told reporters on Wednesday.

“Under this pretext there are plans to use force by the US coalition including against the Syrian capital,” he said, adding that he hoped “such irresponsible plans will not be realised”.

Lavrov’s remarks follow a statement by the chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov who on Tuesday raised the spectre of a direct clash between Russian and US troops in Syria.

Image result for chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, photos

Valery Gerasimov

Gerasimov claimed that Moscow had “reliable information that fighters are preparing to stage the use by government troops of chemical weapons against the civilian population”.

He alleged that the US plans to accuse Assad’s troops of using chemical weapons against civilians and then “carry out a bombing attack” on Damascus.

He warned Russia would “take retaliatory measures” if the US targeted areas where its military are staying in the Syrian capital.

“Russian military advisers, representatives of the Centre for Reconciliation and members of military police” are currently in the Syrian capital, Gerasimov said.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and Russia, its ally in the war, has questioned UN findings that Damascus carried out sarin and chlorine attacks.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters have consistently claimed that chemical and other attacks were in fact staged, and that an army of actors including children has been trained to fake injury on a massive scale.

Gerasimov’s comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin told the American network NBC in an interview released last week that “we know about fighters’ plans to stage the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army”.

Putin insisted that the Syrian government has “long ago” destroyed its stockpiles of chemical weapons and dismissed accusations against Assad and Russia.