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300,000 Syrians take refuge near Turkish border: UN body
11 June 2019
GENEVA-Anadolu Agency

View attachment 7882

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians had to take refuge in camps near Turkish border due to rising clashes in northwestern Syria since April, a UN agency said on June 11.

“North-western Syria has seen a dramatic escalation of conflict since late April affecting northern Hama, southern Idlib and western Aleppo governorates,” the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN's food-assistance branch, said in a statement.

“The situation has forced more than 300,000 people to flee; most heading towards the IDP [internally displaced person] camps in northern Idlib governorate close to the Turkish border,” the statement said.

It also noted that the surge in violence also interrupted WFP operations in several areas -- especially in southern parts of Idlib -- and authorities have been unable to reach some 7,000 people in the Madiq castle area in northern Hama governorate since May.

“Worryingly, agriculture has also been severely impacted, with satellite-based assessments indicating that at least 18,000 acres of farmland has been burnt in recent weeks,” it added.

Situation in Idlib de-escalation zone

Idlib, population of which has reached four million with internal migration, is under the control of opposition since March 2015. Idlib has been intensely targeted by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.

The Assad regime forces, however, has consistently broken the terms of the ceasefire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.

Civil-defense sources reported that at least 231 civilians, including 59 children, have been killed and 659 others injured in attacks by the regime, Iran-backed foreign terrorist groups and Russia in May alone.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity.

 

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Lavrov Threatens Terrorists in Idlib With 'Crushing Retaliation'
11 June, 2019


Russian and Syrian servicemen line up near military jets at Hmeymim airbase (File photo: Russian Ministry)

London - Asharq Al-Awsat

Syrian and Russia armies will respond with “crushing retaliation” to any terrorist attack in Idlib, Syria, threatened Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Malian counterpart, Tiebile Drame in Moscow, Lavrov said terrorists systematically stage provocations and attack the positions of the Syrian army and communities and also the Russian air base, Hmeymim, with “multiple rocket systems and drones.”

The Turkish FM urged to separate Syria’s opposition from terrorist groups in the Idlib de-escalation zone, in line with the Sochi memorandum where an agreement was reached to separate the armed opposition from terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra.

"The major role in these efforts is to be played by Turkey. We insist that it must be done as soon as possible," he stressed

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said eight people were killed within the de-escalation zone on Monday, including three fighters of al-Azza army after Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes on areas in the cities and towns of Khan Shaykhun.

Sources in the civil defense (White Helmets) reported that 6 civilians were killed and 39 others injured. Sources indicated they were killed by shelling on an agricultural field where workers were harvesting crops in the city of Khan Shaykhun and on a market in the town of Maaret Shorin in rural Idlib.

The attacks targeted the towns of Maar Shoreen, Khan Shaykhun, al-Tamanah and Sheikh Idris in the Idlib province and Hama province, in the towns of Ltamenah and Kafr Zayta, according to Anadolu Agency correspondent.

Air raids carried out by Russian warplanes since Monday morning reached 23, targeting Khan Shaykhun, al-Lataminah, Murak, Kafr Zita, al-Zakah, and Jibbin north of Hama.

In addition, raids carried out by the warplanes in Idlib and its southern and eastern suburbs rose to 65 in Kafr Zita, Jibbin, Tal Melh, and Murak in Hama’s northern countryside.

Moreover, over 48 barrels were dropped by helicopters after midnight on each of Kabana in the Kurds mountains, Abdeen, al-Rakaya, and al-Hbit in the southern countryside of Idlib.

The Observatory also reported that the number of rocket and artillery shells increased to 310, during which the regime targeted areas in al-Lataminah, Kafr Zita, Latmin and other places in the northern and northwestern Hama villages, as well as the Sahel Mountains and the southern sector of Idlib and Aleppo countryside.

With that, the number of people killed since the beginning of the most violent escalation in terms of aerial and ground bombardment, shelling, and targeting since de-escalation agreement is over 1400 between April 30 and June 10.

 

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US Sanctions 16 Syrian Entities, Individuals for Enriching Assad
11 June, 2019
View attachment 7927
A woman walks past destroyed buildings in the regime-controlled part of Homs, Syria, September 18, 2018. (Reuters)

Asharq Al-Awsat

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated on Tuesday 16 Syrian individuals and entities associated with an international network benefiting Bashar Assad’s regime.

Among them is oligarch Samer Foz, who “is directly supporting the murderous Assad regime and building luxury developments on land stolen from those fleeing his brutality," Sigal Mandelker, the undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in an announcement.

“Samer Foz, his relatives, and his business empire have leveraged the atrocities of the Syrian conflict into a profit-generating enterprise,” she added.

Foz has been profiting heavily from reconstruction efforts in Syria—including through luxury developments on land seized by the regime from its own people—and has been attempting to enlist foreign investors into Syrian reconstruction projects.

The US Treasury Department also blacklisted properties of Foz and his Aman Holding Company including the Four Seasons, the plush hotel that has stayed operational during the war.

The hotel has become a base for United Nations employees in Syria, a point of controversy for Assad opponents who question where the money paid by international staff goes.

Foz-owned ASM International General Trading and its affiliates throughout the Middle East were also included in the sanctions. ASM is involved in grain and sugar trade, and oil field operations.

Under the sanctions, any of Foz's US assets will be frozen and any US transactions with him or his properties forbidden.

The Treasury Department said Foz had shipped into Syria oil from its ally Tehran, despite unilateral US sanctions on all exports out of Iran.

In the notice, the Treasury Department also said that Foz had taken advantage of an order issued by Assad in 2012 to expel residents of poorer areas to make way for luxury construction.

"This tactic -- taking over property owned by Syrian citizens and handing the land to wealthy regime insiders to develop in exchange for revenue sharing -- has emerged as Assad's go-to strategy for high-end reconstruction in war-torn Syria," the Treasury Department said.

The Treasury also sanctioned Lebanon-based entities for having facilitated shipments of Iranian-origin petroleum to Syria: Synergy SAL (Offshore) and BS Company (Offshore).

Synergy SAL (Offshore) has shipped tens of thousands of metric tons of Iranian oil into Syria in the past year by sea.

BS Company (Offshore) is one of the largest importers of crude oil into Syria, and has imported hundreds of thousands of metric tons of Iranian light crude oil in the past year using a variety of oil tanker vessels and tanker trucks. These land- and sea-based shipments are destined for Banias Refinery Company.

BS Company (Offshore) is also affiliated with the Qatirji Group. As of September 5, 2018, the Qatirji Group and its co-owner Mohammad Bara Qatirji are subject to US sanctions.

 

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Russia military reports ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib
Syrian civilians said there had been heavy shelling from pro-government forces Wednesday
Published: June 13, 2019
NYT

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Plumes of smoke rise following reported Syrian government forces' bombardment on the town of Khan Sheikhun in the southern countryside of the jihadist-held Idlib province, on June 7, 2019.Image Credit: AFP

Moscow: Two Russian news agencies reported late Wednesday that the Russian military had announced a cease fire agreement to halt the fighting between Syrian government and rebel forces in northwest Syria.

The reports said the cease fire was negotiated between Russia, which backs the Syrian government of President Bashar Al Assad, and Turkey, which controls much of Syria’s northwest.

According to the reports from RIA and Interfax, Russian state news agencies, a Russian major general, Viktor Kupchishin, said that the cease fire had taken effect and that firing from rebel positions had declined.

But Syrian civilians in the area said there had been heavy shelling and bombing from pro-government forces on Wednesday.
They said that military operations seemed to have slowed after midnight but that there was still activity from reconnaissance planes.

The Russian reports did not say when hostilities were supposed to cease or how long the cease fire was to last.

The reports indicated that the cease fire had taken effect after midnight on Tuesday, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said it had begun at midnight on Wednesday, after an evening of intense airstrikes, which the group had counted at 25.

If the fighting does freeze, it would end more than a month of violence in Idlib province, the last rebel-held territory that remains in Syria after eight years of civil war.

A Turkish-Russian agreement had kept the area calm until pro-government forces began attacking it with airstrikes, shelling and ground troops in the spring, forcing more than a quarter of a million people to flee to makeshift open-air campsites, closing hospitals and schools, and killing at least 160 civilians. Officials said the actual number of deaths was likely much greater.

RIA reported that rebels had fired at government forces “only twice” since the cease fire took effect, but that government forces had not returned fire.

Kupchishin said there was “a significant decline in the number of shots fired from the direction” of the rebels, Interfax reported.
He said that on Wednesday there were only two episodes of shelling, in nearby Hama province.

In Idlib, civilians who had been sleeping in open fields after evacuating their homes anxiously awaited word of whether the violence would end.

“They don’t just want a cease fire, but also to go back home,” said Ahmad Nayrouz, a civil defense volunteer reached on WhatsApp on Wednesday night.

“It would be really great news to be back home. People are excited to return home, even though there’s nothing left.”

Russia and Turkey’s previous de-escalation deal on Idlib called on Turkey, the area’s dominant foreign power, to rid the province of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a militant
group linked to al-Qaida that now controls the area. But Turkey had not made much progress reining in the group, and Russia, apparently losing patience, had allowed pro-Assad forces to march on Idlib.

Thanks to the militant group’s presence, the Syrian and Russian governments have portrayed the Idlib offensive as a campaign against terrorists.
Idlib is also home to about 3 million civilians and a mix of other rebel groups.

 

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Turkey says Syrian government forces attacked its observation point
June 13, 2019
View attachment 7971

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Syrian government forces have attacked a Turkish observation point in Syria’s Idlib province, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday, in what it assessed to be a deliberate attack involving 35 mortar shells.

Three Turkish soldiers were slightly wounded in the attack, the defence ministry said in a statement, and some equipment and facilities were damaged. Ankara has made representations to Moscow about the incident, it said.

Reporting by Daren Butler and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk

 

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Israel Strikes Syria’s Tal Al-Hara
12 June, 2019

An Israeli F-15 fighter jet flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, December 29, 2016. (Reuters)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Syrian regime air defenses thwarted an Israeli attack on Tal al-Hara in southern Syria and shot down a number of them, Syrian state news agency SANA said early on Wednesday.

Located in Daraa Governorate, Tal al-Hara is considered as a strategic hill overlooking the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The missile attack resulted only in damage and Israel then conducted an “electronic war” in which radars were subjected to interference, SANA added.

 

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Regime, Russia Bombardment Kills 28 in Northwest Syria
14 June, 2019
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FILE PHOTO: A general view taken with a drone shows part of Idlib city, Syria June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah/File Photo

Asharq Al-Awsat

Regime and Russian air strikes and shelling have killed at least 28 people including seven civilians in embattled northwest Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday, despite a ceasefire announced by Moscow.

The civilians were killed in regime air strikes and shelling on the south of Idlib province and the north of Hama province Thursday, said the war monitor.

Russian and regime air strikes also killed 21 militants in the same region the same day, the Britain-based monitor added.

The Idlib region of some three million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as militants refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarised zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing more than 360 civilians, according to the Observatory.

 

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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces
AFP

June 15, 2019

View attachment 8084
The clashes and air strikes erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria. (File/AFP)

  • Syrian regime and Russian air strikes killed nine millitants and rebel fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

BEIRUT: At least 35 combattants including 26 pro-regime forces were killed Saturday in clashes and air strikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian regime and Russian air strikes killed nine millitants and rebel fighters and clashes left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province.

 

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Turkish outpost in Syria shelled from Syrian government forces area: ministry
16 June 2019
Daren Butler

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish observation post in Syria’s Idlib region was attacked with mortar fire and shelling from an area controlled by Syrian government forces, causing damage but no casualties, the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry said its forces immediately retaliated with heavy weapons and it made representations to Moscow over the incident, the second attack of its kind within a week.

“It is impossible for us to tolerate the regime’s harassment targeting our soldiers. We will put them in their place,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised speech in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, bordering Syria.

The ministry did not specify when the shelling occurred, but said the attack was launched from what it named the Tall Bazan area and it was assessed to be deliberate.
Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil war, and Turkey, long a backer of rebels, co-sponsored a de-escalation agreement for the area that has been in place since last year.

But the deal has faltered in recent months, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee. Idlib is the last remaining bastion for anti-government rebels after eight years of civil war.

Cavusoglu said the latest “aggression” was contrary to the Idlib agreement which Turkey signed with Russia.

“It is the responsibility of Iran and Russia, with which we have worked in close cooperation on Syria, to halt the regime,” he added.

On Thursday Russia and Syria gave sharply conflicting accounts of a previous attack on a different Turkish outpost.

Turkey blamed Syrian government forces for that earlier attack but Moscow said it was carried out by Assad’s rebel enemies. Russia said on Wednesday that a full ceasefire had been put in place in the area, but Turkey denied this.

The latest incidents highlighted the erosion of the de-escalation deal, agreed last year to shield Idlib from a government assault.

The region is home to hundreds of thousands of people who fled other parts of Syria as government forces advanced through the country since Moscow joined the war on the side of Assad in 2015, tipping the conflict in his favor.

Since April, government forces have increased their shelling and bombing of the area, killing scores of people.

The rebels say the government action is part of a campaign for an assault that would breach the de-escalation agreement. The government and its Russian allies say the action is in response to rebel violations, including the presence of fighters in a demilitarized zone.

Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Jane Merriman

 

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Russian media: Israel jamming Syrian aerial defense systems due to poor missile success rates
June 16, 2019
View attachment 8165

The Russian site Avia.pro claims to have learned that the actual success rate of Israeli attacks on targets in Syria is only 30-40%.

“In light of this, Israel has begun to jam the Syrian aerial defense systems, in order to somehow improve the effectiveness of the attacks,” the authors write, without specifying their sources.

Israel has not actually commented on its use of electronic warfare systems in an attack on Syria’s Al-Harra province. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alluded to Israel’s involvement in the attack when he said that “we will not allow the enemy to entrench itself in Syria”, but no technical details have been provided by the Israelis.

The imaginations of Russian military columnists have been running wild recently. The same Avia.pro reported previously that the Israeli military had been launching “aerostat decoys” from the Golan Heights in an attempt to identify the location of Syria’s S-300 anti-air systems.

Citing an anonymous expert, the authors claimed that while the IDF’s aerostats were in range of the Israeli missile defense systems, Syria’s radio intelligence division was able to intercept their data transmissions and calculate the friend-or-foe codes.

This story was republished and embellished by other Russian news outlets, which claimed that Israel had nearly lost its Iron Dome system.

This is all far from the truth. The Israeli specialists, unlike anonymous Russian experts, are not stupid enough to let the enemy work out its codes, especially given the crampedness of the region and its accessibility to detectors. In the unlikely scenario of such a compromise, the codes would simply be changed.

Such reports in the pro-Kremlin media demonstrate that Israel’s military successes and the impotence of the Russian aerial defense systems used by Syria are galling to the “patriotic” community in Russia. In keeping with the psychological theory of the “collective unconscious”, the frustration of the Russian military is replaced by fantasies and dreams of Israel failing. These fantasies replace reality in the Russian public consciousness, indicating the onset of a collective delusion.


 

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Syria says it does not want fighting between Syrian and Turkish militaries
June 18, 2019
Updated 2 hours ago

View attachment 8205
FILE PHOTO: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem speaks during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia August 30, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

BEIJING (Reuters) - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Tuesday that he does not want to see fighting between the Syrian and Turkish militaries.

Moualem made the comment in China during a joint briefing with the Chinese government’s top diplomat State Councillor Wang Yi.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Jacqueline Wong
 

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