Syrian Revolution News & Discussions

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US urges Russia to end 'escalation' in Syria's Idlib


A member of the Syrian Civil Defence (The White Helmet) checks the rubble and debris at a medical center following reported shelling by the Syrian government. (AFP)

Updated 7 min 11 sec ago
April 30, 2019

WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday urged Russia to abide by its commitments and end an "escalation" in Syria's northwestern Idlib region after a monitor said air strikes killed 10 civilians.

"The violence must end. The United States reiterates that any escalation in violence in northwest Syria will result in the destabilization of the region," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

"We call on all parties, including Russia and the Syrian regime, to abide by their commitments to avoid large-scale military offensives, return to a de-escalation of violence in the area, and allow for unhindered humanitarian access to address the humanitarian disaster created by the ongoing violence," she said.

Idlib is under the control of a former al-Qaeda affiliate in one of the last areas that President Bashar al-Assad has not taken back in his ruthless, Russian-backed campaign to crush an uprising against his rule.

Russia and Turkey, which backs Syria's rebels, in September agreed to a buffer zone to prevent a potentially devastating offensive in Idlib and nearby regions which are home to some three million people.

But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Friday reported Russian air strikes in two towns that killed 10 people, including a boy and a girl.
The monitor also blamed Moscow and Damascus for shelling of a medical center, which the UN humanitarian office called "completely unacceptable."

Violence has separately flared in Aleppo province, where the monitor said that jihadist groups killed at least 22 Syrian government troops and militiamen on Saturday.

 

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Russia and Syrian army step up attacks on rebel-held northwestern Syria
May 02, 2019

Smoke billows after reported shelling on the Syrian village of Kfar Nabuda in the northern countryside of Hama governorate on April 30, 2019. (File/AFP)


Reuters

  • The targeted villages and towns in northern Hama and southern Idlib fall within a demilitarized zone agreed last September between Russia and Turkey
  • Turkey, which has supported the rebels and has troops to monitor the truce, has been negotiating with Moscow to halt the strikes with little success
AMMAN: Russian and Syrian forces intensified air strikes and ground shelling in northwestern Syria overnight in one of the heaviest assaults on the last rebel bastion in recent months, opposition members, rescuers and residents said on Thursday.

The targeted villages and towns in northern Hama and southern Idlib fall within a demilitarized zone agreed last September between Russia and Turkey. Earlier this week Washington warned violence in the buffer zone “will result in the destabilization of the region.”

Since Tuesday the Russian and Syrian military attacks have forced thousands of civilians to flee to camps further north along the Turkish border and damaged four medical facilities, according to Idlib civil defense officials and a US medical aid organization working in the area.

“Medical facilities are being evacuated, leaving the most vulnerable with no access to medical care. We are on the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Khaula Sawah, vice president of the US-based Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations -USA (UOSSM US) said in a statement on Wednesday.

Syrian army helicopters have dropped barrel bombs, which are drums or cylinders packed with explosives and shrapnel that cause indiscriminate destruction, killing at least 15 civilians and injured dozens, rescuers in Idlib province said.

Opposition-run civil defense agencies say hundreds of people, mostly civilians, have been killed by Russian and Syrian strikes since the September deal which prevented a potentially devastating offensive on Idlib and nearby areas controlled by rebels and now home to over 3 million people.
Syrian state media, quoting army sources, blamed rebels for the attacks and said it had targeted “terrorist groups” in towns in northern Hama including Kfr Nabouda.

Turkey, which has supported the rebels and has troops to monitor the truce, has been negotiating with Moscow to halt the strikes with little success.
A military defector told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the latest campaign could signal a ground offensive aimed at taking control of territory in northern rural Hama province and southern Idlib countryside.


 

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Escalation in Syria’s Idlib displaces nearly 140,000: UN
May 01, 2019

A Syrian family, riding in the back of a truck, flees from reported regime shelling on Hama and Idlib provinces on Wednesday. A regime onslaught has forced more than 138,500 people to relocate. (AFP)

AFP

  • Idlib has been protected from a massive regime offensive by a deal inked by Russia and Turkey
BEIRUT: Fighting in northwestern Syria has displaced nearly 140,000 people since February, the UN said on Wednesday, as the regime and its ally Russia have stepped up their bombardment.

“Since February, over 138,500 women, children and men have been displaced from northern Hama and southern Idlib,” said David Swanson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA.

“Between 1 and 28 April, its estimated more than 32,500 individuals have moved to different communities in Aleppo, Idlib and Hama governorates,” he told AFP.

Idlib has been protected from a massive regime offensive by a September deal inked by Damascus ally Russia and opposition backer Turkey.
But the region of some 3 million people has come under increasing bombardment since the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham group took full control of it in January.

The escalation has killed more than 200 civilians since February, the UN said last week.

A new wave of shelling and airstrikes this week targeted schools and medical centers, according to Swanson.
“The UN is deeply concerned over the recent escalation,” he said.

The attacks targeted parts of Hama and southern Idlib, including the village of Al-Qasabiyah.


“The majority of the Al-Qasabiyah village residents reportedly displaced to safer villages due to hostilities in the area,” Swanson said.


AFP correspondents saw intense bombardment of Al-Qasabiyah Wednesday, with bombs dropped by warplanes sending huge plumes of grey smoke billowing into the sky.


Vehicles loaded with mattresses, carpets and even household appliances like refrigerators and washing machines could be seen leaving villages in southern Idlib.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday said that regime shelling over the past two days has been the most intense since the agreement between Moscow and Ankara.

The US on Tuesday urged Russia to abide by its commitments and stop an “escalation” in Idlib.

“The violence must end,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

An estimated 3 million people live in Idlib and adjacent opposition-held territory, 1.7 million of whom were already displaced from other parts of Syria since the conflict erupted in 2011.

The figure for those displaced there since February is more than double the number of people forced to move during battles against Daesh in eastern Syria between December and March.

OCHA on Wednesday said more than 63,000 people were displaced from territory held by Daesh in southeastern Deir Ezzor between December and March as a US-backed force snuffed out its self-declared proto-state.

The civil war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it began.

 
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Attacks on Syrian health facilities condemned
Updated 30 April 2019
AFP

A Syrian boy, riding with his family in the back of a truck loaded with furniture and clothes, flashes the V sign as they flee from shelling on Hama and Idlib provinces on April 30, 2019. (AFP)
  • The UN is deeply disturbed by three separate reported attacks on hospitals and health facilities in northwestern Syria
  • The escalation has killed more than 200 civilians since February, the UN said last week
HBEIT: Shelling of areas in northwestern Syria in the past three days has damaged a medical center and put two hospitals out of service, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

“The UN is deeply disturbed by three separate reported attacks on hospitals and health facilities in northwestern Syria, depriving thousands of people of their basic right of health,” said David Swanson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“Such violence is completely unacceptable,” he told AFP.

The UN did not specify who was behind the attacks but the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights blamed the Syrian regime and its ally Russia.

On Tuesday, a medical center in the town of Hbeit in the south of opposition-held Idlib province was “severely damaged” in artillery shelling, Swanson said.

Regime shelling blew a crater into the walls of the center, said an AFP correspondent who visited the facility. Its interior was littered with rubble, he said.

Earlier on Monday, an airstrike hit a hospital in the town of Latamna in neighboring Hama province, putting it out of service, Swanson said.

The hospital used to carry out 1,300 outpatient consultations and more than 300 operations a month before it was attacked, he said. A third facility — The Madiq Castle hospital in Hama — was also put out of service when it was hit by an air strike two days ago, causing heavy damage to its outpatient clinic, pharmacy and laboratory, Swanson said.

The hospital had served about 8,000 people a month, he added.

“All three incidents further limit civilians’ access to basic health care in northwest Syria,” he said.

“The UN continues to call on all the parties to the conflict to end the destruction of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure that is essential for the civilian population.”

Russia and Turkey in September inked a buffer zone deal to prevent a massive regime offensive on the Idlib region, near the Turkish border. But the region of some 3 million people has come under increasing bombardment since former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham took full control of it in January.

The escalation has killed more than 200 civilians since February, the UN said last week.

The Observatory said two civilians were killed in Tuesday’s shelling on Idlib and neighboring Hama.

 

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Syria's fuel crisis is only hurting civilians, not the Assad regime
Continuing sanctions are creating deep divides among Syrians who once shared bread and borders

Kareem Shaheen
May 1, 2019

Drivers wait to fill their cars with fuel rations in Aleppo, Syria. Omar Sanadiki / Reuters
Drivers wait to fill their cars with fuel rations in Aleppo, Syria. Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

The extent of Syria’s crippling fuel crisis can be seen now on a daily basis, in the seemingly endless queues of cars snarled in traffic as far as the eye can see, inching slowly forwards into petrol stations. This is the latest iteration of a crisis that has lasted through much of a harsh winter, when citizens had to stand in long queues to fill a few containers of diesel that would keep their heaters running for a matter of hours amid regular, extensive power cuts – just one more snapshot of life that symbolises a state no longer able to provide for its citizens. A fortnight ago, Damascus imposed new limits on the amount of fuel its citizens could access, with each owner of a private car limited to 20 litres of petrol every five days, prompting drivers to queue for hours, only to find petrol stations have run out of fuel by the time they reach the front of the queue.

Drivers queuing for petrol in Aleppo, Syria. Omar Sanadiki / Reuters
Drivers queuing for petrol in Aleppo, Syria. Omar Sanadiki / Reuters
President Bashar Al Assad, who has won the war in Syria militarily due to the unflinching support of his allies in Moscow and Tehran, warned earlier this year that Damascus would now face an economic war waged by its enemies. The regime blamed the fuel crisis primarily on sanctions imposed by western powers.

But last month the pro-government newspaper Al Watan appeared to blame its Iranian ally – which is itself flagging under US sanctions – stating that the situation had worsened since Tehran froze its "credit line" to Syria. The report stated no Iranian oil tankers had arrived in Syria since October 2018. The reason for the disclosure is unclear and Tehran has been coy in responding, but coming a day after foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Damascus, it could have been an attempt to plead for Iran to resume its supply.
There is little doubt that, whether or not sanctions are the right way to pressure the Assad regime or are likely to accomplish anything, they have enshrined further division among long-suffering Syrians
What is clear is that the Syrian government is lagging behind in producing the number of oil barrels needed and is unlikely to meet demand unless it can reclaim oil and gas fields in the northeast, which are currently under the control of US-backed Kurdish militias.

There is a lot to unpack here. While we can only guess at why Tehran has frozen its supply, it has in the past used it to pressure the Assad regime into various economic or political concessions. The US administration’s sanctions, including last month’s full enforcement of sanctions against buyers of Iranian oil, might have something to do with the stalled credit line. But either way, it shows the vulnerability of a regime that owes its survival to its patrons.

The inability of the regime, in turn, to secure alternative supplies is indicative of the extent of the sanctions facing it by western powers. Whether that leverage translates into any meaningful political concessions remains to be seen but it is clear that the sanctions are going to prevent any real
reconstruction efforts in Syria from materialising, at least in the short term.

Taxi drivers push their cars to a petrol station in the Syrian capital, Damascus, after running out of fuel. Louai Beshara / AFP
Taxi drivers push their
cars to a petrol station in the Syrian capital, Damascus, after running out of fuel. Louai Beshara / AFP

So while the rebellion that once raged against Mr Al Assad’s totalitarian dictatorship has largely been snuffed out by sheer force, Syrian civilians are likely to remain in a state of suspended animation and suffering exemplified by the petrol queues.

Which brings us back to those images of queuing drivers that have been going viral over the past few weeks. They have given rise to a robust debate among Syrian social media users, who say the hardship of civilians proves sanctions against Mr Al Assad and his coterie are in reality hurting people rather than the officials who have profited from the war or carried out serious war crimes.

That assertion is based on a flawed premise, since the sanctions against the regime have not prevented it from importing oil from Iran in the past. But there is little doubt that, whether or not sanctions are the right way to pressure the Assad regime or are likely to accomplish anything, they have enshrined further division among long-suffering Syrians.

A farmer refining crude oil in Raqqa at the height of the eight-year war in Syria
A farmer refining crude oil in Raqqa at the height of the eight-year
war in Syria

In the past, those divisions were based on the myriad geographic locales within the country and who controlled them. Now these divisions are largely between those inside the country and living under the sanctions, and those who live in exile, fled overseas or have been displaced. These divides are likely to make the path to peacebuilding a much tougher one.

At a conference last month in Brussels, Syrian opposition community organisations publicly thanked the European Union for upholding the sanctions against the Assad regime despite the near-comprehensive defeat of rebels and maintaining one of the few pressure points to exact concessions.

On social media, one frequent refrain among regime opponents is that those who chose to remain in Mr Al Assad’s Syria, or chose not to fight to overthrow the dictator, do not deserve sympathy or the collective agonising over the punitive effect of sanctions.

On the one hand, this is understandable from those who lost homes or families to one of Mr Al Assad’s notorious barrel bombs, or those who were forced into displacement or dire circumstances in one of Syria’s neighbouring countries. On the other hand, collective punishment is wrong and there are many reasons why people did not voluntarily seek exile or rebel against the regime.

A policy that maintains economic sanctions causing mass suffering but does not have an endgame in sight is ultimately immoral, because it is punitive and vengeful. But lifting sanctions would appear to be an endorsement of Mr Al Assad’s military solution and herald an acceptance of his legitimacy as a leader, which would also be immoral. Therein lies the dilemma.

Nevertheless, the rhetoric that endorses punitive sanctions will make it harder to reconcile and seek common ground once the right alignment of the stars makes the status quo untenable. Sanctions might be the only leverage western powers have against Mr Al Assad and his acolytes but if they are not careful, it might also create permanent fissures between those who remained in their homeland and exiles, severing the last links between citizens who once shared bread and borders.

Syria's fuel crisis is only hurting civilians, not the Assad regime
 

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Top Players Vying to Win Support of Arab Tribes in East Syria
Thursday, 02 May, 2019


A man and his wife visit the grave of their daughter, who was killed by terror group ISIS, Reuters

London - Ibrahim Hamidi

A race among regional, international and local parties has been running in full-throttle mode to win over the support of Arab tribes in eastern Syria. But elsewhere, Americans have been working to contain an ethnic Arab-Kurdish clash from erupting in the Deir Ezzor province.

Tensions in the eastern province have become prevalent, leading to massing protests in a string of Arab towns resting on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River.

For the Damascus-based regime, cracks among Arab-Kurdish communities offers the environment needed to breakdown or weaken the West-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella organization which includes both Arab and Kurdish opposition forces.

For the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria, other than Turkey-backed extremists in the north, the SDF is the last substantial opposition.

Spearheaded by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the SDF has a 60,000-strong army which played a major role in making anti-ISIS operations led by the Washington-led International Coalition successful.

A few days ago, residents of Deir Ezzor said demonstrations took place from Busayrah to Shuhail, a strategic oil belt in the heart of Arab tribal territory, east of the Euphrates. Protesters were vocal in their demands for improved living conditions next to the freezing of all oil imports sent to the country’s west Euphrates territories, which are under Russian and Iranian sponsored regime control.

Tribal chiefs issued a statement that said: “Preserving the unity of Syrians, and considering recent demonstrations in which the inhabitants of Deir Ezzor came out against the conduct of SDF, we call for both providing the means for a decent civilian life and halting the export of our region's oil and hydrocarbons to areas controlled by the Assad regime and elsewhere.”

The SDF, according to protesters, accuse any form of dissent of ISIS-affiliation. Arabs of the region have blasted the claim as terribly biased and redundant at best.

Responding to recent protests, SDF Kurdish officials admitted to the shortfall of civil services in areas under their control, but alluded to security realities being the main driver.

“It is true that some public services are deficient, but the areas have only been recently liberated from ISIS… Work is underway to provide locals with services,” a Kurdish official, speaking under the conditions of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The priority now is to ensure security and stability to fight ISIS remnants,” they highlighted.

 

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Russian media: Israeli tanks have entered Syria
Thursday, May 02, 2019


According to Russian state news agency Sputnik, Israeli tanks were spotted in the demilitarized zone between the Israeli and Syrian borders in the Golan Heights.

According to Ali Hassan, a correspondent for the agency, Israeli tanks went past the Allon line, deep into the demilitarized zone approved by the UN in 1974 as a neutral territory bordering the separate forces after the Six-Day War.

In response, Syrian units stationed on the other side of the neutral zone were put on maximum alert. Hassan, who receives information from sources in the Assad administration, suggests that Israeli tanks are covering up the engineering projects to “seal the corridor” which was previously used by the IDF to communicate with the rebels in the Golan Heights, deliver supplies and evacuate the wounded.

The UN peacekeeping force, UNDOF, which controls the disengagement agreement between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights, has been called to the location of Israeli tank entry into the neutral zone.

 

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Russian Khmeimim air base in Syria comes under attack
Friday, May 03, 2019


Militants tried to fire at the Syrian Khmeimim air base where the airborne forces of the Russian Federation are based.

According to the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in the Syrian Arab Republic, the attack of the militants holding positions in Qalaat Al-Mudiq and Bab-Atika was unsuccessful. The Russian military did not sustain any losses and there was no material damage to Khmeimim.

Earlier, it was reported that the militants attempted to attack the air base with drones, but all the attacks were repelled.

On May 2, Reuters reported that Syrian government forces, with the support of the Russians, increased air strikes and attacks on the rebel-controlled territories in the north of Hama and south of Idlib this week. Agency sources emphasized that this is a demilitarized zone. Allegedly, the military used barrel bombs and at least 15 civilians were killed.


 

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Russia and Assad launch major air attacks against Idlib and Hama
Sunday, May 05, 2019




The Hama and Idlib provinces have been the target of at least 110 air attacks by Russian and Syrian government aircraft, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Saturday 4 May. According to the London-based organization, at least 69 people have been killed since the start of this new escalation on 30 April.

The new wave of violence in the region could jeopardize the Russian-Turkish agreement to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib. The agreement was reached in 2018 in the hopes of preventing a Syrian government offensive in the region.

Officially Damascus claims that the air attacks have targeted the jihadists’ military facilities. The Syrian state news agency SANA reported that the airstrikes were a response to multiple violations of the de-escalation agreement by the rebels.

However, UN and World Health Organization (WHO) representatives have pointed out that schools and medical institutions in the region have also been affected by the attacks.

According to the WHO, three hospitals in Hama and Idlib that tend to as many as 11,000 patients every month can no longer continue to function as a result of the recent destruction.

UN representatives have remarked that the Syrian government forces have resorted to their most massive bombing using barrel bombs in the last 15 months. In such bombardment, barrels with explosives are dropped from helicopters on enemy targets.

Mustafa al-Haj Yousef, director of the Syrian Civil Defense in Idlib, said that more than 130,000 people have been forced to leave Hama and Idlib in search of safety. He says that the Syrian Civil Defense’s centers have also been targeted directly in the airstrikes.

The organization claimed in a Facebook post that the bombardment in the demilitarized zone is being done deliberately “to force out the people who have already returned to their homes”.

Around 3 million Syrians still live in Idlib. The province is controlled by a coalition of the terrorist group Tahrir al-Sham, which is led by militants from the Al-Nusra Front, and the secular National Front for Liberation, which is supported by Turkey.

Recently the media reported that Damascus was planning to clear out the regions where the provinces of Hama and Idlib intersect in order to establish a demilitarized zone there.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the TV channel Al Mayadeen in an interview on 2 May that he considers it “unacceptable” for “armed bands that enjoy support from Turkey” to hold a portion of Syria’s territory.

 

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Air Strikes Target 3 Hospitals in Syria’s Idlib
07 May, 2019


This picture taken on May 5, 2019 shows destruction at the entrance of a hospital in the village of Kafranbel, south of the opposition-held Syrian province of Idlib. (AFP)

London, Hass (Idlib) – Asharq al-Awsat

Russian warplanes carried out air strikes targeting three hospitals in northwestern Syria, leaving two out of service, according to UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Eight civilians were killed in Russian and Syrian regime shelling in several parts of the region, according to the Observatory, which said that one person was killed during the Russian raids on the hospitals.

Over the past few months, air raids in and around Idlib have escalated.

The Orient Hospital in Kafranbel and Nabd al-Hayat Hospital in Hass town were targeted during Sunday’s attacks, which an AFP cameraman filmed.

"The hospital in Kafranbel is out of order. The patients were transferred to other facilities in the region," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding one civilian was killed in the attacks.

Official at the Syria Relief and Development NGO, Ubaida Dandush said that services were halted at a hospital in Hass following the Russian strikes.

He indicated that the facility had been evacuated shortly before the bombardments thanks to alerts from a warning system set up to analyze the flight paths of warplanes.

Footage filmed by the AFP cameraman showed a white cloud rising over farmland where the hospital is located.

Earlier in April, the United Nations said that a medical center and two hospitals were also out of service due to aerial bombardment and artillery.

Separately on Sunday, the state-owned Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that a civilian was killed in a rocket attack by “terrorist groups” that fired rockets at a regime-controlled area near Idlib.

SANA quoted a military source as saying that “terrorist organizations in Idlib of planning attacks” against regime areas and military positions.

In September 2016, Russia and Turkey signed a deal rendering Idlib a demilitarized zone separating the areas of opposition-held area from adjacent areas controlled by regime forces.

The agreement prevented a large-scale offensive by the Syrian regime, which has continued its strikes on the region.

 

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Ankara: Escalation In Idlib Aims at ‘Expanding Regime Control’
07 May, 2019


Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during a news conference following their talks in Sochi, Russia September 17, 2018. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS

Ankara - Said Abderrazak

The escalation of the Syrian regime and its allies in Idlib aims at enabling the regime to expand its areas of control, according toTurkish diplomatic sources.

The sources pointed out that Turkey deals with this escalation in the framework of agreements reached with various parties on the de-escalation zone in Idlib through Astana talks and Sochi agreement on the demilitarized buffer zone that was reached with Russia.

Turkey continues talks with Moscow and Tehran to maintain the cease-fire agreement and reduce the escalation, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that the ongoing contacts with Moscow are important given the existing coordination on Idlib.

The contacts are at the level of politicians, military and intelligence bodies with Russia to stop the attacks and conduct joint patrols in Tel Rifaat, sources explained.

They said they come following the attack carried out by Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) last Saturday, killing a Turkish officer and wounding another.

There are several points of dispute between Moscow and Ankara over the explanation of the agreement on Syria's Idlib, reached between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in September 17, 2018.

Moscow believes Ankara hasn’t fulfilled its commitments to expel the terrorist groups, especially Nusra Front from Idlib or to open the M5 and M4 roads linking the government-controlled cities.

The first few days of the attack targeted towns in northern Hama and southern Idlib province within the buffer zone agreed on between Russia and Turkey under the Sochi agreement, which avoided a major attack on Idlib, the last major stronghold of the Syrian opposition.

Russia and the Syrian regime say they are responding to an escalation by militant attacks on government-controlled areas and deny indiscriminate attacks.

However, medics and rescuers said the attacks killed dozens of civilians in recent days, destroyed at least five medical centers and paralyzed daily life.

Speaking at a NATO meeting in the capital Ankara on Monday, Erdogan pointed to his country’s successful efforts in restoring peace in Idlib.

“In this way, we have not only saved the lives of thousands of innocent Syrians but also prevented a new irregular wave of refugees from heading toward Europe,” he stressed.


 

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Intense fighting in northwest Syria as army tries to advance
Reuters
May 07, 2019
  • Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Assad government forces seized Tel Othman
  • The organization says 69 civilians were killed in bombardments since April 30
BEIRUT: The Syrian army has made a small advance into the rebels’ last major stronghold in Syria, a pro-government newspaper and a war monitor reported on Tuesday, after massive bombardments that began late last month.

Al-Watan daily said the army had captured the villages of Al-Janabara and Tel Othman, where rebels said on Monday they had repulsed government assaults. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government troops had seized Tel Othman.

Northwest Syria is the only significant territory still in rebel hands. The area being targeted in the latest bombardment was the subject of a Russian-Turkish agreement last September to hold off a government offensive.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organization that monitors the war, said 69 civilians had been killed by bombardments since April 30. At least 41 insurgents had been killed by air strikes and fighting, it said.

The dominant rebel force in the northwest said on Monday it would meet any government attempt to advance with “iron and fire.” The group, Tahrir Al-Sham, includes Al-Qaeda’s former affiliate the Nusra Front.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has recaptured most of the country from rebels since Russia joined the war on his side in 2015, deploying its air power in support of the army and allied Iran-backed militias.

The United Nations has said the northwestern Idlib region is home to 3 million people, half of whom have already fled their homes at least once during the conflict, and that a big battle there risks causing a new humanitarian disaster.

Bombardments since April 28 have displaced more than 158,000 people, the US-based Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM) said on Monday.

A media spokesman for the Civil Defense organization, which conducts rescue operations in opposition-held areas of Syria, said the bombardment was non-stop.

“There is a first wave of barrel bombs dropped by helicopters. A few minutes later a jet will drop another wave of weapons hitting first responders. Then it’s followed by a wave of artillery,” the spokesman said.

The Observatory said nine civilians were killed after midnight by bombardment and reported helicopters dropping barrel bombs — improvised munitions filled with explosives.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is following the hostilities with great concern, his spokesman, and urged parties to recommit to the cease-fire that was agreed last year.

Part of the rebels’ northwestern enclave is held by Turkish-backed groups aided by the Turkish army. The rest, including the southern flank where fighting has focused this week, is dominated by Tahrir Al-Sham group.

 

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Syria fighting escalates in last opposition stronghold
By Clyde Hughes
MAY 7, 2019

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for Syria and opposition forces to protect civilians in the current clashes in the last rebel stronghold. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

May 7 (UPI) -- Fighting between pro-Assad forces and the opposition in northwestern Syria Tuesday marked a new wave of violence in the region, forcing civilians to again flee for their lives.

Syrian troops took control of a village and a key strategic hill in the region during the latest wave of fighting that started April 30 in the opposition's last stronghold in the country.

It marked the worst fighting since September when Russia and Turkey agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in the Idlib Province in hopes of de-escalating the fighting among the government forces and rebels.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine civilians died in the escalated clashes. Since Monday, at least 53 fighters died in confrontations.

The observatory said two children and two women were among the dead when Syrian government planes bombed Kafr Zita in the northern portion of Hama. Civilians also died in a raid on al-Zerba by Russian soldiers, and the bombing of the villages of Shannan, Morek and Om al-Nur.

"In the same context, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights learned that the regime forces managed after midnight to regain control of the strategic hill of Tal Osman north of Hama," the group wrote.

Syria has been engulfed in a civil war since 2011, when protests against the Bashar al-Assad regime connected with the Arab Spring were met with armed suppression by the government.

In the meantime, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Monday called for measures to be taken to protect civilians and to prevent further displacement.

"He is alarmed by reports of aerial attacks on population centers and civilian infrastructure resulting in hundreds of civilian dead and injured and over 150,000 newly displaced persons," Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarricsaid in a statement.

"On 5 May, three health facilities were reportedly hit by airstrikes, bringing the total to at least seven struck since 28 April. ....The secretary-general urges all parties to uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilians ... as the holy month of Ramadan begins," the statement continued.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported the pro-government soldiers attacked "terrorist groups" and their supply routes in Hama, destroying their gathering locations on the outskirts of Kafr Zita and al-Arba'ain. The opposition suffered heavy losses in the attack.

 

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Russian Khmeimim airbase in Syria attacked twice in one day
May 7, 2019

On Monday, May 6, The Russian Khmeimim airbase in Syria was shelled twice, reports RBC with reference to a report from the head of the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in the Syrian Arab Republic, Major General Viktor Kupchishin.

“Both times the fire originated in the east, coming from the area of the Zawiya settlement located in the Idlib de-escalation zone and controlled by the Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham group,” Kupchishin said. According to him, a total of 36 missiles were fired at the base. The militants controlled the shots using a drone.

The air defense systems command repelled the shelling and there were no casualties or damage to the base, the Center said.

“All the militants’ missile launch points were detected and countered by the Russian air forces and artillery fire of the Syrian government forces,” Kupchishin added. He noted that in the Idlib de-escalation zone, there has been an increase in cease-fire violations by illegal armed groups.

Ministry of Defense headquarters also reported that during the day, in addition to Khmeimim, the settlements of Al-Suqaylabiyah, Mgayr, Buraydij and As-Sifsafeh were shelled several times. Militants fired using mortars, multiple launch rocket systems and artillery guns.

On May 2, the militants attempted to attack the Khmeimim base and according to the Defense Ministry, the shots were fired by militants belonging to illegal armed groups operating out of Qalaat al-Mudiq and Bab Atiq. The attack was repelled, there were no injuries and no damage was done to the base’s infrastructure.

 

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Syrian Regime Forces Capture Entire Village in Northwestern Syria
09 May, 2019

A Syrian government forces’ tank is seen at a position in the village of Qart Saghir northwest of the northern town of Manbij. GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP

Asharq Al-Awsat

Syrian regime troops captured the entire northwestern village of Qalaat al-Madiq on Thursday as they move deeper toward Idlib province, the last major opposition stronghold, activists and pro-regime media reported.

The village, known for its medieval fortress, was taken after militants pulled out, according to Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Idlib-based activist Alaa Moadamani also confirmed the village's capture.

The pro-regime Syrian Central Military Media said troops took Qalaat al-Madiq and two smaller nearby villages. Regime troops had been holding the nearby fortress, which also carries the name of Qalaat al-Madiq, the Associated Press reported.

The village, near the Orontes River, is a gateway to the fertile plain of al-Ghab, a breadbasket for the central province of Hama.

Thursday's push came a day after regime troops took the nearby village of Kfar Nabudah.

According to UN data, more than 150,000 people have been displaced recently within the enclave.



 

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