Syrian Revolution News & Discussions

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Regime bombing kills 12 civilians in Syria’s northwest
AFP
May 27, 2019
  • A total of 20 health facilities have been hit by the escalation -- 19 of which remain out of service, according to the UN
MAARET AL-NUMAN/SYRIA: Regime airstrikes killed 12 civilians including four at a market on Sunday in a militant bastion in northwest Syria, a war monitor said.

A young girl was among those killed at the market in the town of Maaret Al-Numan in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Eight other civilians were killed elsewhere by regime fire in Idlib, a stronghold of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, the Britain-based monitor said.

Idlib is supposed to be protected from a massive government offensive by a September buffer zone deal, but the opposition bastion has come under increasing bombardment by the regime and its Russian ally since late April.

An AFP reporter in Maaret Al-Numan saw a young man carry the arched body of what appeared to be a young girl out over grey rubble after the airstrike.

Another man retrieved a distressed, dust-covered young girl, slung over his shoulder. Witness Hamdu Mustafa said he was out shopping when the airstrike hit.

Everybody was “in the street selling and buying,” he told AFP.

“The planes targeted civilians who were buying food for their children,” he said. Nearby, rescue workers known as the White Helmets directed a bulldozer to clear the debris. Fighting has raged to the south of the bastion in recent days.

BACKGROUND
Idlib is supposed to be protected from a massive government offensive by a September buffer zone deal, but the opposition bastion has come under increasing bombardment by the regime and its Russian ally since late April.

On Sunday, regime forces took back control of the town of Kafr Nabuda in the north of Hama province, the Observatory and state news agency SANA said.

HTS and allied rebels overran part of the town in recent days, after the regime first expelled them on May 8.

The United Nations has warned that an all-out offensive on the Idlib region would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe for its nearly three million residents.

The Observatory says more than 230 civilians have been killed in the spike in violence since the end of April.

More than 200,000 civilians have already been displaced by this upsurge of violence, the United Nations has said.

A total of 20 health facilities have been hit by the escalation -- 19 of which remain out of service, according to the UN.


 

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Exclusive: Idlib government chief urges defense against Assad attack
May 27, 2019
Khalil Ashawi


IDLIB CITY, Syria (Reuters) - Russian-backed Syrian government forces will be able to advance all the way to the Turkish border if they pierce rebel defenses in the northwest, a top opposition official said, urging Turkey to do more to shield the area from a major attack.

The month-long onslaught is the most serious escalation of the war between President Bashar al-Assad and his enemies since last summer. Syrian government air strikes and barrel bombing backed by Russian air power have uprooted around 250,000 people in the territory, the last significant rebel stronghold.

Fawaz Hilal, head of the “Salvation Government” that runs Idlib province, expressed confidence that opposition fighters gathered in the Idlib region from all over Syria would be able resist the onslaught.

“This ferocious attack is a bone-breaking battle. If the regime is able to break our defensive lines in northern Hama and southern Idlib it will not stop until it reaches the borders,” Hilal told Reuters in an interview.

His government, backed by the powerful Tahrir al-Sham jihadist group, had called on its employees to help shoulder the “military burden” through building sandbag defenses, manning front lines, financial support or any other help.

“We are all concerned with repelling this attack,” he said.

The bombardment has killed 229 civilians and injured 727 since April 28, according to The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), a U.S.-based medical NGO.

Hilal spoke at his office in Idlib city, the provincial capital where life has continued as normal as the offensive has mostly targeted front-line areas to the south.

“We are optimistic despite this military campaign. If we weren’t, we would not be here today,” Hilal said.

The streets are busy with cars and pedestrians, and before sunset street vendors come out in large numbers to sell food to Muslims observing the daytime fasting for Ramadan.

Hilal noted Idlib’s defenses had been boosted by rebels forced from other parts of Syria such as Ghouta, Homs and Deraa when Assad took their towns and villages.

“Those lads have great combat doctrine,” he said.

Tahrir al-Sham is the most powerful insurgent group in the region. It was formerly known as the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, until it broke away and renamed itself in 2016. The United Nations designates it a terrorist group.

Other rebels taking part in the defense of the area include Turkey-backed groups. Senior opposition and rebel sources said on Saturday Turkey had sent fresh supplies of weaponry to these groups to help them repel the assault.

URGING TURKISH ACTION
Turkey has been working with Russia for several years to de-escalate or contain Syria’s conflict in the northwest. One of its aims is to avoid another refugee influx: Turkey already hosts 3.6 million Syrians.

But many of those recently displaced are sheltering at the border calling on Turkey to open the frontier.

Much of the recent shelling has hit an area that was declared a demilitarized “buffer zone” last year by Russia and Turkey. Under the agreement, heavy weapons and jihadists were supposed to leave the zone.

The Syrian government says it is responding to Nusra Front violations and attacks on government-held areas.

Turkey has a dozen military bases in the Idlib region, also established in agreement with Russia. One of these was hit earlier this month in shelling from Syrian government-held territory, with two Turkish soldiers wounded.

Hilal said the Turkish positions had been allowed to be established in the hope their presence would provide protection for the people. “But the reality says that these positions are not able to protect themselves today,” he said.

“We hope that the Turkish side will ... defend these positions they set up and the areas they entered and prevent Russian and Syrian jets from flying in the areas where they are present, and the shelling of surrounding areas,” he said.

“When these positions and the areas around them are shelled with Turkish soldiers wounded it raises a number of question marks,” he said, adding that Ankara should clarify “their role and what they want from these positions.”

Writing by Tom Perry in Beirut; Editing by Mark Heinrich


 

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Iranian militias in Syria under pressure from all sides

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami
May 27, 2019

Many questions are being raised about the future of Iran’s role in Syria. For instance, how is it being affected by the rapidly shifting positions and alliances among the parties to the Syrian crisis? What about Iran’s expansionist ambitions in Syria, the US’ demands, and the intensive Israeli raids aimed at pressuring Tehran to pull its militias out of the country?

These questions arise at a time when the clerical regime in Tehran has reached its lowest point in modern times and Syria’s status as one of the most important arenas for regional conflict is still growing. It is also a time when the US strategy of maximum pressure on Iran is intensifying, after it decided not to extend its waivers on importing Iranian oil. One of the aims of this strategy is to curb the Tehran regime’s regional activities in a way that will ensure that its influence is curtailed and the regional balance of power is tipped against it.

The external activities of expansionist states such as Iran are dependent on several factors, such as their financial and economic standing (the economic lungs pumping blood to the regime’s organs elsewhere) and the scope of their influence within the regional order.

Considering these factors during an extremely confused and ambiguous stage in the Tehran regime’s regional activities, we find that Iran is facing an economic situation far worse than expected. This is due to the success of the current US administration in escalating its comprehensive sanctions to tighten the noose on Iran’s regime, and to reduce its dollar reserves, as well as to sever the financial arteries pumping funds to its regional activities.

To date, this has led to Iran’s oil revenues declining by more than half. This explains why Iran has resorted to a scenario of limited confrontations following the failure of its efforts to persuade regional countries to circumvent US sanctions against it.

In addition to the Trump administration’s success in targeting the regime’s supply lines for its activities in Syria, Iran is also experiencing another terrible dilemma. While the Iranian-Russian alliance enabled the Assad regime to maintain power, tensions have begun to grow in Syria between Russia and Iran, with their positions diverging. Armed confrontations have already broken out on several occasions in areas across the country between forces loyal to Russia and Iran. The Russians have implemented their own policy of occupation, replacing Iranian forces with their own troops, with Moscow also in the process of restructuring the Syrian army in a way that ensures its upper hand in the Syrian equation.
Former allies Iran and Russia are now shifting from the phase of cooperation and coordination to one of confrontation.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami
Earlier predictions regarding the inevitable divergence in positions between Russia and Iran have been proven correct, as the former allies are now shifting from the phase of cooperation and coordination to one of confrontation over influence and control of the new Syrian equation. For Iran’s regime, this is an additional source of pressure as well as a hindrance to its schemes and ambitions in Syria, coming at a time when Tehran has waited impatiently to reap the rewards of the financial and human losses it has incurred since it first stepped in to help Assad following the outbreak of the Syrian revolution eight years ago. Iran’s regime has been desperate to seize control of the phosphate-rich areas and get the lion’s share of reconstruction contracts in Syria to help with its efforts to circumvent the US economic sanctions and to mitigate their impact on the Iranian economy.

It seems there is a growing Russian conviction that the time is right to take advantage of the US pressure on Tehran to get rid of the Iranian burden shackling it in Syria. This means that there is a convergence between Russia, the US and Israel, with Tel Aviv no longer the only power keen to expel Iranian militias out of Syria. The Russian decision-makers are also eager to impose restrictions on Iran in Syria, curb Tehran’s power within the conflict, and limit its influence and gains. The Russians want to drive the Iranians away from Latakia port on the Syrian coast and they want the opportunity to have the final say over the decisions of the Syrian regime in a way that maximizes their role in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Russian measures against the Iranian regime’s forces and militias in Syria will soon escalate to the point of no return due to the divergence of objectives, strategies and tools between the two countries. The Russians have no intention of conceding any influence in the new Syrian equation, of reducing their share in the reconstruction contracts, or of lowering their expanding control of the Syrian coast. Likewise, the Iranians do not have any intention of ceding their attempts to attain a foothold on the Mediterranean through Iraq and Syria or their demands to be compensated for the massive costs they have incurred in the conflict.

Nobody can assess the probable fate of the Iranian regime’s role in Syria without mentioning the intensive Israeli raids on the Iranian militias’ positions there, the most recent of which took place on May 17. Tel Aviv is working to erase Iranian proxies from Syria, with which it shares a 38-kilometer border. Israel wants to ensure the complete destruction of the Iranian scheme and to maintain Assad’s regime in its weak position in order to ensure that it can pose no direct threat, while maintaining the current regional balance of power so that it doesn’t change in Iran’s favor. Israel also aims to undermine the legitimacy of Syria’s demands concerning the occupied Golan Heights through blaming the Assad regime for the spread of militias in southern Syria.

All these factors show that the US strategy of maximum pressure is paying off, and Iran’s regime is going through a critical phase in Syria. There are a number of possible scenarios for its militias there. Either they will continue operating without submitting to the overt Israeli-US demands and to the tacit Russian demands that they leave; or, if there’s some shift in the seriousness of the US administration’s strategy in besieging Iran, which is possible given the recent US escalation against Tehran, the regime will be prompted to at least suspend its militias as a prelude to ceasing its expansionist activities in Syria in the short run.

The second scenario seems more likely, given the tough Russian escalation, the Israeli bombing of Iranian positions in Syria and the continued regional and international embargo against Iran, with the seriousness of President Donald Trump’s policy of tightening the noose around Tehran increasing his chances of winning a second term in the 2020 presidential elections.
  • Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view


 

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Syria offensive raises chemical attack fears
Tim Ripley, London and Jeremy Binnie, London -
24 May 2019


A still from footage released by Russia’s ANNA news agency on 20 May shows Syria’s General Suheil al-Hassan inspecting the front in northwest Syria with an unidentified Russian major general. Source: ANNA

The apparent lack of progress that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces are making in a new offensive has raised concerns that they will resort to using chemical weapons.

"Unfortunately, we continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria on the morning of 19 May," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said on 21 May. "We repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately."

Testifying before a congressional committee on the following day, US special representative for Syria James Jeffrey said there was no evidence that chemical weapons had been used in the offensive against rebel-held territory in northwest Syria that began in early May but raised the prospect that such attacks could be carried out to compensate for the poor performance of Assad's ground forces.

"We are concerned first about the use of chemical weapons, which we are still looking into," he said. "At any time, this regime is willing to consider chemical weapons to aid its ground attacks because it has the world's worst infantry fighting for it."

He said the offensive was backed by Russian aircraft but had taken just 74 km 2 of territory in the north of Hamah province and was facing rebel counterattacks. "We see a seesaw battle right along the perimeter. Meanwhile… the bombing attacks, which have been indiscriminate and very vicious, has sent some 150,000-200,000 people in Idlib - most of whom are already internally displaced people - [on the] move again."


 

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Israeli military says it attacked Syrian anti-aircraft position after its warplane came under fire
27 May 2019

The Israeli military said it attacked a Syrian anti-aircraft position after an Israeli warplane came under fire. Syrian TV earlier stated that Israel had carried out a missile strike in Syria’s Quneitra province.

According to SANA, one officer was killed and two others were injured in the attack on a military site east of Khan Arnabeh in the Quneitra countryside. It added that the Syrian Air Defense attacked an unmanned aerial vehicle that entered Syrian airspace near the southern suburb.

Israeli Defense Forces claimed that it was their jet making a routine flight in northern Israel that came under fire. The Syrian anti-aircraft missile missed the warplane and it was able to complete its mission successfully.

A launch site responsible for the attack was identified on Syrian territory and hit by Israeli missiles in retaliation, the IDF said.

An IDF plane being targeted in Israeli airspace is a “a violation of Israeli sovereignty” in the Golan Heights by Syria, it said, calling the attack “abnormal.”

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967. It has remained under Israeli control since then, despite the UN calling it an illegal annexation. In March, US President Donald Trump signed a declaration recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel, but the move sparked harsh international condemnation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also commented on the incident, saying that “the Syrian military tried to attack an Israeli aircraft and failed.”

Israel has been frequently targeting Syrian military installation during the conflict in the country, saying that the bombings were aimed at deterring Iran and Lebanese armed group, Hezbollah, who are allies of Damascus in fighting the terrorists.

 

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More than a dozen civilians killed by airstrikes in Syria's Idlib over two days
May 27, 2019
By Allen Cone

A White Helmets first responder rescues a child in Ariha City in southern Idlib on Monday after six civilians were killed and 20 were injured when Syrian government war planes attacked the city. Photo courtesy White Helmets/Twitter

May 27 (UPI) -- Idlib, one of the last Syrian rebel strongholds, has been targeted by Syria government war planes in the heaviest strikes since the latest offensive began April 30, causing at least a dozen civilian deaths the past two days.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 78 air raids and 70 barrel bombs were dropped from helicopters Monday on the "de-escalation" area of Idlib, which borders Turkey in central Syria. More than 225 shells and missiles have launched by the regime forces since Sunday, the group reported.

Since April 30, 814 people have been killed, including 236 civilians. That date coincides with an agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for close cooperation on Syria.

In Idlib, nearly 3 million residents are to be protected by a so-called "de-escalation" buffer zone through a deal signed in September by Putin, Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to avert a full-fledged assault on the region. But 1,343 people have died in the 100 days after the meeting.

Forty-four Syrian and international non-government organizations, including the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations. have called for an immediate end to attacks on civilians and hospitals in Idlib.

"With no concrete actions taken beyond political statements and promises, Syria and the world may soon be witnessing the 'worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century,'" the organizations said Saturday in a joint statement. "Rescue and medical workers on the ground are warning that they have not seen such ferocious attacks in eight years in Idlib. If the conflict continues to escalate, as many as 700,000 people could be displaced from their homes in Syria's last opposition stronghold."

UMCRC, the U.S.-based medical non-government organization, reported 229 civilians have been killed and 727 injured between April 28 and last Tuesday.

At least six civilians were killed Monday and 20 were injured after war planes attacked Ariha City in southern Idlib, the White Helmets said. The first responders were continuing search and rescue operations, the group posted on Twitter.

On Sunday, the White Helmets reported six civilians, including a child and a woman, died and 36 people were wounded in Maaret Numan, also in southern Idlib.

In Maaret Num, the house of Fareed al-Mhlol took a direct hit.

"I ran first towards my mother and my sisters. I took them out of the house where I thought they would be safer," Mhlol told The Telegraph by phone Monday. "Then I ran in the direction of my aunt in order to reassure her. It was then I saw an unspeakable scene -- the wall had fallen on her and she had been covered in rubble. She was dead.

"I don't know what we are going to do now, where we are going to go," Mhlol said. "There's nowhere safe left."

Earlier, the family had been forced to move from their last home after it was destroyed by strikes. His aunt and uncle had been living with them because their home also was bombed.

"Assad destroyed my house and destroyed all my memories," he said. "Assad wants to kill me and kill my family because I am an activist and a journalist trying to get the truth out to the world of the massacres going on in Idlib."

Maarat al-Nu'man has been the most vocal in its opposition not only to Assad but also to ruling Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

Idlib's populatoin has reached more than 3 million because fighters and civilians have left rebel areas recaptured by the government.

The violence has displaced more than 200,000 people since erupting in late April.

Since March 2011, more than a quarter of a million Syrians have been killed and more than 1 million have been injured, UOSS reported. In total, 4.8 million Syrians have been forced to leave the country and 6.5 million are internally displaced, "making Syria the largest displacement crisis globally."


 

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Satellite images show crops on fire in Syria rebel enclave

1600481-1944838656 - Copy.jpg

The images show fire still raging in olive groves and orchards during harvest season around Kfar Nabudah and Habeet, two villages on the edge of Idlib province where fighting has focused. (AP)

Updated 16 min 22 sec ago
May 28, 2019

BEIRUT: New satellite photos obtained on Tuesday show significant damage to Syrian villages and surrounding farmland as a result of a government offensive on the last rebel stronghold in the country.

The images, provided to The Associated Press by the Colorado-based Maxar Technologies, show fires in olive groves and orchards during harvest season around Kfar Nabudah and Habeet, two villages on the edge of Idlib province where the latest fighting has focused.

The fires were apparently sparked by intense bombing in the area.

Kfar Nabudah fell to government control on Sunday. Activists, experts and Maxar say the crop burning is part of a “scorched earth” campaign that adds to the hardship of 3 million people in the rebel stronghold.

The UN said fires, triggered by bombings, destroyed staple crops such as wheat and barley, compounding the already fragile humanitarian conditions in the area.

On Tuesday, the Idlib Health directorate said government rockets hit a hospital in the town of Kfar Nubul, causing extensive damage to the facility and to its generators and cars parked outside. The directorate said the hospital is now out of order.

This brings the total number of regional health facilities directly hit in the offensive to 21, including at least five which the UN had identified as medical centers.

Amnesty International has said that attacks on health facilities in opposition-held areas in Syria is part of a well-established pattern by government forces and their allies.

Fighting has raged in Idlib and the surrounding areas since April 30 as Syrian troops pushed into the enclave from the south while unleashing a wave of intense bombing over the overcrowded area.

The UN says the violence has exacted a heavy toll on civilians, displacing already more than 200,000 people and targeting health facilities and schools. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said nearly 1.3 million of the enclave’s residents had already been displaced by violence in other parts of Syria.

“The potential longer-term impact on the civilian population may be compounded as the violence is occurring during the harvest season,” it said. “As the hot summer weather sets in, more fires can occur, further disrupting normal food production cycles and potentially reducing food security for months to come.”

 

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Turkey Says Nearly 330,000 Syrians Returned Home
Tuesday, 28 May, 2019


Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak (L) and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu stand next to each other during a media briefing at the Presidential Palace, Ankara, Turkey, July 9, 2018. (Reuters)

Ankara- Said Abdel Razek

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 329,000 Syrians have returned from Turkey since the end of the operations carried out by Turkey and pro-Syrian factions, including the Free Syrian Army, Turkey’s interior minister said Sunday.

Soylu said those Syrians returned to their homeland thanks to the peace reached in Afrin, Azaz, Jarablus, and al-Bab where the Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield operations were carried out.

Since 2016, Turkey's Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northern Syria have liberated the region from PKK-linked People's Protection Units (YPG) and ISIS.

Some eight million Syrians left their country after the outbreak of the internal war in 2011, including about 3.6 million in Turkey.

In a speech during an Iftar event in Istanbul on Sunday, Soylu said residents in areas where Euphrates Field and Olive Branch operations were carried out feel safe and stable.

He noted that the Turkish armed forces continue to cooperate with the Free Syrian Army in the fight against terror groups northern Syria, adding that these operations have achieved major successes.

Meanwhile, Syrians residing in Turkey continue to return home through the in the southern state of Hatay to spend Eid al-Fitr with their families.

People have started returning to Syria from Gilva Gozo crossing, facing Bab al-Hawa crossing in Idlib province, since May 20.

While their return and entry into Turkey take place through “Ongo Pinar” crossing in Kilis province, south Turkey, facing Bab al-Salama in Azaz.

Syrians, who live in different Turkish states, arrive at the Gilva Gozo crossing to spend the Eid with their families.

As of Saturday, some 16,000 Syrians have left and Syrians will continue to return home through both crossings until May 31.

Turkish authorities at the crossings carry out the necessary measures, and they are allowed to cross the borders after providing authorities with the information required.

 

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US Alarmed at ‘Reckless Escalation’ in Syria’s Idlib
Tuesday, 28 May, 2019


The militant bastion in northwest Syria has been hit by several days of heavy regime bombardment | AFP

London- Asharq Al-Awsat

The United States expressed on Tuesday its alarm by Syrian regime and Russian air strikes on northwestern Syria, saying they were a “reckless escalation” of violence.

“Indiscriminate attacks on civilians and public infrastructure such as schools, markets and hospitals is a reckless escalation of the conflict and is unacceptable,” said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.

“The violence must end,” she said.

Regime air strikes, backed by Russia, have focused on the south of Idlib province and nearby parts of Hama, uprooting nearly 250,000 people.

The bombing has killed 229 civilians and injured 727 others, according to the UOSSM medical charity.

In the latest escalation, at least 21 civilians were killed as the regime intensified its bombardment of Idlib, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Nine children were among the 21 killed in regime fire on several towns in Idlib province and the countryside of neighboring Aleppo, it added.

Strikes on a busy street in the village of Kafr Halab, on the western edge of Aleppo province, killed at least nine civilians.

An AFP photographer said the bodies of the victims were torn apart and several stores lining the side of the road were destroyed.

The street was crowded with people out and about before breaking the daytime fast observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

A hospital in the Idlib town of Kafranbel was also hit by artillery shells, said David Swanson, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian office.

"The facility is reportedly out of service due to severe structural damage," he told AFP.

The hospital's administrative director Majed al-Akraa confirmed the attack.

"The hospital is completely out of service," he said.

The region is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a September buffer zone deal, but the opposition bastion has come under increasing bombardment by the regime and its ally Russia since late April.

The Observatory says nearly 280 civilians have been killed in the spike in violence since then.

More than 200,000 civilians have already been displaced by the upsurge of violence, according to the United Nations.

The UN has warned an all-out offensive on the region would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe for its nearly three million residents.

At least 20 health facilities have been hit by the escalation -- 19 of which remain out of service, the UN has said.


 

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Saudi KSrelief Praised for Its Humanitarian Aid in Zaatari Camp
Wednesday, 29 May, 2019


Syrian refugees at the Zaatari camp in Jordan no longer have to queue for water. Reuters

Asharq Al-Awsat

Secretary-General of the Arab Red Cross and Red Crescent Society Dr. Saleh bin Hamad Al-Tuwaijri commended in Riyadh on Tuesday the efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia to alleviate the suffering of those affected in various parts around the world.

Under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, contributed to alleviating the suffering of the refugee and supporting Saudi relief work worldwide, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

This came during Tuwaijri's recent visit to the Saudi humanitarian campaign in the Zaatari camp, which was implemented by the Center, where he noted the efforts of the Center to alleviate the sufereing of Syrian refugees.

 

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Paris Says Has 'Indication' of Chemical Attack in Idlib
Wednesday, 29 May, 2019


French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attends a news conference during the Foreign ministers of G7 nations meeting in Dinard, France, April 6, 2019. Reuters

Asharq Al-Awsat

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said that the country had an "indication" that a chemical attack had been carried out in Syria's northeastern Idlib province this month as alleged by Washington last week.

"We have an indication that chemical weapons were used in the Idlib region, but for now it has not been verified," Le Drian told a parliamentary commission on Tuesday.

"We're being cautious because we consider that chemical weapons use has to be proven and be lethal, in which case we can react," he said.

President Emmanuel Macron has made use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime a "red line" that would trigger a military reprisal against Bashar al-Assad.

The United States has also threatened reprisals if the suspected Idlib attack is proven.

International inspectors say that Assad's forces have carried out a series of chemical attacks in the course of the brutal civil war, which has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since 2011.

A sarin gas attack in April 2017 in the town of Khan Sheikhoun killed 83 people, according to the United Nations, leading US President Donald Trump to order a strike by 59 cruise missiles on a Syrian air base.

And France joined Britain and the US in launching missile strikes on three suspected chemical weapons sites in Syria in April 2018 after a suspected chemical attack in Douma.


 

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Israeli PM Confirms Strike on Military Base near Quneitra, Syria
Wednesday, 29 May, 2019


Missile fire is seen from Damascus, Syria May 10, 2018. (Reuters)

Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat

Israel launched a retaliatory strike against Syrian targets after anti-aircraft fired at one of its fighter jets during a routing flight, announced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a statement, he confirmed Israeli forces destroyed the system in response, leaving at least one person dead and another injured. The incident took place Monday night.

“Our policy is clear, we are not prepared to tolerate any aggression against us and we will retaliate against it forcefully and decisively,” he vowed.

The incident first occurred when Israel shelled a military vehicle in Quneitra. It then struck the vehicle with its jets.

Although Israel did not claim responsibility for the operation, a military source in Tel Aviv said the vehicle belonged to groups affiliated with Iranian militias that are trying to set up bases in the eastern part of the Golan Heights to launch operations against Israel.

Other sources claimed the attack was an assassination attempt targeting a senior militia official. His name was not revealed. Syrian regime forces responded by firing a missile at the warplane late Monday, downing a small Israeli reconnaissance plane.

According to Israeli sources, the plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and landed in the Golan Heights, without any clear indication whether it landed in the Israeli-occupied part or not.

Israel considered the bombing a violation of the ceasefire agreement and an infringement of Israeli sovereignty, the army spokesman said. He said the plane was on a regular reconnaissance mission of the Israeli side of the border.

He pointed out that the Syrian missile missed its target and fell over Syrian territory, thus there was no need to activate the iron dome. However, an Israeli plane bombed the Syrian anti-aircraft battery from which the missile was fired.

According to Syrian sources, a Syrian lieutenant and a Syrian soldier were killed.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Israeli missile was "reportedly fired from the occupied part of the Golan", noting that that three Syrian soldiers were wounded.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria, most of them against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

Last week, Syrian sources reported heavy Israeli bombing on a site near Damascus International Airport, which destroyed a weapons cache.

Syrian forces responded by firing about 10 rockets towards the Israeli border, while Israeli media claimed that the bombing targeted an Iranian military post north of Damascus.



 

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EU calls on Russia, Turkey, Iran to protect civilians in Idlib
May 29, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union called on Wednesday for a ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib province and said Russia, Turkey, Iran and the Syrian government must protect civilians under siege.

At least 180,000 people have fled an surge in violence in the province in northwest Syria, the last major stronghold of rebels who have fought against President Bashar al-Assad’s government since 2011. Government bombing has killed dozens in the past three weeks.

The Syrian government says it is responding to attacks by al Qaeda-linked militants.

“We expect the Syrian regime and the Astana guarantors to fulfill immediately their responsibilities and commitments, and ensure the immediate protection of civilians,” the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini and its humanitarian aid chief Christos Stylianides said a statement, referring to Russia, Turkey and Iran’s peace efforts.

“Indiscriminate attacks on women and children and other civilians, their displacement, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure cannot be justified under any circumstances.”

The region, home to an estimated 3 million people, including many who fled other parts of Syria as government forces advanced in recent years, has been partly shielded by a truce agreement since last year, brokered by Russia and Turkey. Much of the recent fighting has hit a buffer zone agreed under that deal.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by John Stonestreet and Alison Williams

 

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Syria: Fresh Strike on Militant Enclave Kills 13
Wednesday, 29 May, 2019


Heavy regime bombardment of a militant bastion in northwest Syria has led to a mounting civilian death toll | AFP

Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat

The latest strikes in an unprecedented wave of regime bombardment on a militant enclave in northwestern Syria killed at least 13 civilians on Wednesday, a war monitor said.

Air strikes, some using deadly barrel bombs, and shelling by both government and Russian warplanes have claimed a mounting civilian death toll over the past few weeks.

The violence, which has rattled a fragile truce deal brokered by Moscow and Ankara in September, is causing mass displacement and bringing Syria to the brink of the worst humanitarian catastrophe yet in its eight-year-old conflict.

The United States and the United Nations demanded an end to airstrikes on Tuesday, as bombardment by Damascus killed 27 people -- the single highest civilian death toll in the region since the regime increased attacks in late April.

But on Wednesday, aerial bombardment did not relent.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring organization, seven of Wednesday's victims were killed in an air raid on the village of Sarja.

It lies in Idlib province, most of which is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group dominated by former members of Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate.

The four other victims were a father and his three children in the village of Bara, said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

Two others were killed in strikes on the Idlib town of Hbeit, he said.

"The bombardment by the regime and Russia continues to be intense on several areas. The Russian strikes are focused on Khan Sheikhun but have not caused any casualties for now," he said.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported one woman was killed by militant shelling on northern Hama.

The regime has not announced an all-out offensive to retake the entire militant enclave, a large area which is home to almost three million people.

Analysts predict that the government of President Bashar al-Assad and its allies will continue to chip away at the area but not unleash a major assault that would create chaos on Turkey's doorstep.

The regime is likely to continue applying sustained military pressure whilst attempting to preserve a fragile truce agreement reached in Russia last year to spare the region a large-scale humanitarian disaster.

On Tuesday, Syria's UN envoy Bashar Jaafari said Damascus "will spare no effort" to free the residents of Idlib from militant control, according to comments carried by SANA.

UN deputy aid chief Ursula Mueller, however, told the Security Council that a further escalation would threaten humanitarian assistance for the region's residents.

She said some 270,000 people had been displaced by the fighting in Idlib since late April.

Aid agencies have been forced to suspend their work in some areas, she said, adding that 22 hospitals and clinics had been hit by air strikes or shelling since April 28.

The United States has said that "indiscriminate attacks on civilians and public infrastructure such as schools, markets, and hospitals is a reckless escalation."

The civilian death toll has mounted in and around Idlib in recent days, reaching more than 270 over the past month, according to the Observatory.

In villages struck by regime raids, excavators dug new graves and civilians buried the dead stealthily at dusk to avoid being targeted by more air raids.

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011.


 

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Russia Calls for Lifting Sanctions on Syrian Regime
Thursday, 30 May, 2019


Russian forces patrol damaged buildings in Douma on the outskirts of Damascus. AFP file photo

Moscow - Raed Jabr

Russia has urged the international community to support the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and launch a massive campaign to end US and European sanctions against Damascus.

The Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday described the US presence in Syria as a “direct support for illegal gangs," saying it “impedes the restoration of peaceful life in Syria.”

“We [Russia and Syria] urge the United States and the European Union to lift anti-Syrian economic sanctions. Such restrictive measures do not contribute to solving urgent humanitarian and socio-economic problems in Syria,” said the statement, which was signed by the Russian-Syrian joint coordination headquarters.

In a separate statement, which was signed by heads of the Russian and Syrian coordination headquarters Mikhail Mizintsev and Hussein Makhlouf, the Russian Defense Ministry mentioned the problems hindering the return of refugees from the Rukban and al-Hol camps.

The Ministry said the situation in the two camps that are located in US-controlled territories in Syria remains “critical.”

“The illegal US military presence in the so-called security zone around al-Tanf continues to be the main factor of instability in the southern part of Syria and the cause of the plight of Rukban residents,” warned the statement.

To support its claims, the Ministry published testimonies of the doctors of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, saying that half of the Syrian citizens who managed to leave the camp are diagnosed with advanced chronic diseases.

“Adults have tuberculosis and skin diseases. Many suffer from muscle dystrophy, developed from hunger. Children mainly have vitamin deficiency and intestinal and viral infections.”

Although Russia and Syria have repeatedly declared the opening of corridors for civilians to safely leave Rukban camp, these initiatives have not received a broad response, compelling Moscow to admit lack of cooperation by the camp’s residents.

Moscow has blamed Washington for the situation, saying the US had turned a blind eye to militia practices preventing people from leaving the camp and confiscating food and humanitarian aid transferred to the camp.

Russian figures estimate about 30,000 Syrians continue to live in inhumane and degrading conditions over their inability to buy their freedoms from militants controlling the camp.

Moscow earlier said that Washington refused to attend tripartite consultations involving Jordan to settle the issue of the camp, while the United States accused Russia of blocking the entry of humanitarian aid.

The Ministry noted that the situation is even worse in al-Hol camp in the territory controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces in al-Hasakah province.

“More than 73,000 people are living in terrifying conditions in al-Hol.”

In other news, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexey Krivoruchko announced that the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces will get 20 Su-35S fighter jets of the 4++ generation by the end of 2020.

"The plant is following the plan with Su-35 manufacturing, and we expect to get several aircraft even ahead of time this year. In accordance with the current contract, we expect another 20 Su-35S fighter jets this year and next year," Krivoruchko was quoted as saying by TASS.

Krivoruchko noted that the aircraft plant works on modernizing this type of fighter jets, including on the basis of the Syrian combat experience. “In particular, next modernized versions of Su-35S will be able to use all types of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles.”



 

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