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Israel Strikes Syria’s T4 Base
Monday, 3 June, 2019

An Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jet flies during an aerial demonstration at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, June 30, 2016. (Reuters)

Asharq Al-Awsat

One Syrian regime soldier was killed and two wounded in the attack that took place hours after other Israeli attacks in southern Syria killed three soldiers and wounded seven, Syria's state-run media said.

There was no immediate comment from Israel about striking the air base, which opposition activists said includes positions also manned by Iranian troops and Iran-backed militiamen.

Syrian state TV quoted an unidentified military official as saying that one soldier was killed and two were wounded in the air base attack and that an arms depot was hit as well.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said Israeli aircraft struck positions and an arms depot belonging to Iranian troops and Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters.

It said the attacks killed at least 10, including three Syrian troops and seven believed to be foreign fighters.

Rami Abdul Rahman, who heads the Observatory, said "until this moment it is not clear if they were Iranians or Hezbollah members."

Israel has attacked the T4 base in the past.

Earlier Sunday, Israel's military confirmed it targeted several military positions in southern Syria, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence posts and an SA2 air defense unit.

It said it was responding to two rockets launched from Syria late Saturday, which caused no casualties.

The Syrian state news agency SANA, quoting an unidentified military official, said those attacks struck military positions in the southern region of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. They also caused material damage, the report said.

Soon after the Sunday morning attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the strikes. "We will not tolerate firing into our territory and will respond fiercely against any aggression against us," he said in a statement.

It was a rare public acknowledgment of Israeli strikes in Syria soon after they happened but is the second in a little over a week, both sparked by claims that fire was directed at Israel from inside Syria.

On May 26, Israel said its aircraft had hit a Syrian military post in response to anti-aircraft fire against one of its combat planes. One Syrian soldier was killed, according to state-run media.

The Israeli military said that during the Sunday morning strikes, an Israeli aerial defense system was activated due to Syrian anti-aircraft shooting. Israeli media said that sirens warning of incoming rockets were not activated.

For years, Israel has remained largely silent about its attacks against Iran and its proxies operating in neighboring Syria. But in recent months, military and political leaders have become increasingly outspoken about these activities.

Israel says it will not allow Iran, which has sent forces to help regime leader Bashar Assad in Syria's war, to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.


 

Khafee

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Israel Strikes Syria’s T4 Base
Monday, 3 June, 2019

An Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jet flies during an aerial demonstration at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, June 30, 2016. (Reuters)

Asharq Al-Awsat

One Syrian regime soldier was killed and two wounded in the attack that took place hours after other Israeli attacks in southern Syria killed three soldiers and wounded seven, Syria's state-run media said.

There was no immediate comment from Israel about striking the air base, which opposition activists said includes positions also manned by Iranian troops and Iran-backed militiamen.

Syrian state TV quoted an unidentified military official as saying that one soldier was killed and two were wounded in the air base attack and that an arms depot was hit as well.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said Israeli aircraft struck positions and an arms depot belonging to Iranian troops and Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters.

It said the attacks killed at least 10, including three Syrian troops and seven believed to be foreign fighters.

Rami Abdul Rahman, who heads the Observatory, said "until this moment it is not clear if they were Iranians or Hezbollah members."

Israel has attacked the T4 base in the past.

Earlier Sunday, Israel's military confirmed it targeted several military positions in southern Syria, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence posts and an SA2 air defense unit.

It said it was responding to two rockets launched from Syria late Saturday, which caused no casualties.

The Syrian state news agency SANA, quoting an unidentified military official, said those attacks struck military positions in the southern region of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. They also caused material damage, the report said.

Soon after the Sunday morning attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the strikes. "We will not tolerate firing into our territory and will respond fiercely against any aggression against us," he said in a statement.

It was a rare public acknowledgment of Israeli strikes in Syria soon after they happened but is the second in a little over a week, both sparked by claims that fire was directed at Israel from inside Syria.

On May 26, Israel said its aircraft had hit a Syrian military post in response to anti-aircraft fire against one of its combat planes. One Syrian soldier was killed, according to state-run media.

The Israeli military said that during the Sunday morning strikes, an Israeli aerial defense system was activated due to Syrian anti-aircraft shooting. Israeli media said that sirens warning of incoming rockets were not activated.

For years, Israel has remained largely silent about its attacks against Iran and its proxies operating in neighboring Syria. But in recent months, military and political leaders have become increasingly outspoken about these activities.

Israel says it will not allow Iran, which has sent forces to help regime leader Bashar Assad in Syria's war, to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.


 

Khafee

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Car bombing kills 19 in Syria’s Azaz: monitor
AFP
June 03, 2019
7479

The damage from the explosion was sever, burning down at least six shops. (AFP)

  • The bomb exploded as people were leaving the evening prayers
  • The explosion burned down at least six shops

AZAZ, Syria: At least 19 people were killed Sunday in a car bomb near a bustling market and mosque in a rebel-held city in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

Four children were among those killed in the explosion in Azaz, in the heart of a Turkish zone of influence in Aleppo province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The attack also wounded more than 20 people, according to the Britain-based monitor.
“Many people were leaving evening prayers when the explosion happened,” Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP.

Shoppers buying clothes and gifts ahead of the upcoming Eid Al-Fitr holiday were among those killed, said Jihad Berro, a coroner at a local hospital.

He said the medical facility was crammed with victims and their relatives.
“The emergency rooms were full, we placed corpses on the floor,” he said.
“It is a real catastrophe before the Eid Al-Fitr holiday,” which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, said Berro.

An AFP photographer saw a large crowd gathering at the scene of the attack, charred vehicles dotting the side of the road.
Rescue workers searched through mounds of rubble, looking for bodies, he said.

Resident Abu Youssef said the explosion torched the neighborhood.
“The damage is severe: at least six stores were burned, the storefronts of dozens of other stores were blown out,” he told AFP.

It was not clear who was behind the attack, which came a day after a similar explosion killed 10 people and wounded 20 in the northeastern city of Raqqa.

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and seized more than 2,000 square kilometers of northern Syria including Azaz, clearing the area of Daesh terrorists while preventing any Kurdish advance in the region.

Ankara keeps Turkish troops and intelligence forces in the area, and still backs Syrian rebels serving as police officers.

 

Khafee

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Car bombing kills 19 in Syria’s Azaz: monitor
AFP
June 03, 2019
View attachment 7479
The damage from the explosion was sever, burning down at least six shops. (AFP)

  • The bomb exploded as people were leaving the evening prayers
  • The explosion burned down at least six shops

AZAZ, Syria: At least 19 people were killed Sunday in a car bomb near a bustling market and mosque in a rebel-held city in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

Four children were among those killed in the explosion in Azaz, in the heart of a Turkish zone of influence in Aleppo province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The attack also wounded more than 20 people, according to the Britain-based monitor.
“Many people were leaving evening prayers when the explosion happened,” Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP.

Shoppers buying clothes and gifts ahead of the upcoming Eid Al-Fitr holiday were among those killed, said Jihad Berro, a coroner at a local hospital.

He said the medical facility was crammed with victims and their relatives.
“The emergency rooms were full, we placed corpses on the floor,” he said.
“It is a real catastrophe before the Eid Al-Fitr holiday,” which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, said Berro.

An AFP photographer saw a large crowd gathering at the scene of the attack, charred vehicles dotting the side of the road.
Rescue workers searched through mounds of rubble, looking for bodies, he said.

Resident Abu Youssef said the explosion torched the neighborhood.
“The damage is severe: at least six stores were burned, the storefronts of dozens of other stores were blown out,” he told AFP.

It was not clear who was behind the attack, which came a day after a similar explosion killed 10 people and wounded 20 in the northeastern city of Raqqa.

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and seized more than 2,000 square kilometers of northern Syria including Azaz, clearing the area of Daesh terrorists while preventing any Kurdish advance in the region.

Ankara keeps Turkish troops and intelligence forces in the area, and still backs Syrian rebels serving as police officers.

 

Khafee

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Kremlin rebuffs Trump on Syria, says military action in Idlib is justified
June 3, 2019

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin rebuffed criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump of Russian and Syrian government military action in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, saying on Monday it was needed to shut down rebel attacks being launched from there.

Trump on Sunday urged Russian and Syrian government forces to stop bombing Idlib, following a Friday Kremlin statement that signaled Moscow would continue to back a month-long Syrian government offensive there.

The assault has raised fears of a humanitarian crisis as Syrians displaced by the fighting seek shelter at the Turkish border. More than 200,000 people have fled since strikes began at the end of April, according to the United Nations.

When asked about Trump’s criticism on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said militants were using Idlib as a base to launch attacks against civilian and military targets, something he called unacceptable.

“Of course strikes by militants from Idlib are unacceptable and measures are being taken to neutralize these strike positions,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
He said Turkey bore responsibility for ensuring such attacks from Idlib did not happen under a deal reached between Russia and Turkey in September.

The Syrian offensive has strained that agreement which created a demilitarized zone in Idlib and called for it to be free of all heavy weapons and jihadist fighters.

Turkey has called for a ceasefire in Idlib, the last significant rebel stronghold, to prevent more civilian deaths and a possible new surge of refugees fleeing the fighting.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Andrew Osborn

 

Khafee

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Kremlin rebuffs Trump on Syria, says military action in Idlib is justified
June 3, 2019

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin rebuffed criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump of Russian and Syrian government military action in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, saying on Monday it was needed to shut down rebel attacks being launched from there.

Trump on Sunday urged Russian and Syrian government forces to stop bombing Idlib, following a Friday Kremlin statement that signaled Moscow would continue to back a month-long Syrian government offensive there.

The assault has raised fears of a humanitarian crisis as Syrians displaced by the fighting seek shelter at the Turkish border. More than 200,000 people have fled since strikes began at the end of April, according to the United Nations.

When asked about Trump’s criticism on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said militants were using Idlib as a base to launch attacks against civilian and military targets, something he called unacceptable.

“Of course strikes by militants from Idlib are unacceptable and measures are being taken to neutralize these strike positions,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
He said Turkey bore responsibility for ensuring such attacks from Idlib did not happen under a deal reached between Russia and Turkey in September.

The Syrian offensive has strained that agreement which created a demilitarized zone in Idlib and called for it to be free of all heavy weapons and jihadist fighters.

Turkey has called for a ceasefire in Idlib, the last significant rebel stronghold, to prevent more civilian deaths and a possible new surge of refugees fleeing the fighting.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Andrew Osborn

 

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I don't think the US is in any position to tell Russia or anyone what to do, look at their "humane" operation in Raqqa:


Just a few days ago the US admitted to killing over 1000 civilians in Iraq/Syria, although most independent companies put this number at 10,000 (AirWars).

They don't use barrel bombs or chemical weapons, but they destroyed 80%+ of the entire city and killed thousands of civilians, which is not much better to me.
 

Khafee

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Russia blocks UN Security Council Idlib ceasefire statement

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


Russia has blocked a UN Security Council statement calling for confirmation of the ceasefire in Idlib, Syria, a source in the council reported on 3 June.

The statement, drafted by the “humanitarian three” – Belgium, Germany and Kuwait – calls for “all parties to return to full compliance with the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement”. The document also emphasizes that the return of Syrian refugees “must be safe, voluntary and dignified” and that violations of international law must be punished.

The source claims that Russia did not support the statement because it considers it superfluous in light of the bilateral memorandum with Turkey.

Russia considers it necessary to ensure that the terrorists that have settled in Idlib cease fire, said Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on 31 May. The president’s press representative emphasized that, according to the agreements that have been reached, Turkey is responsible for de-escalation in Idlib.

On 15 October 2018, the agreement between Turkey and Russia to establish a demilitarized (buffer) zone along the northern front in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Latakia, by withdrawing heavy weaponry and implementing a ceasefire, expired. The Syrian army has generally complied with the terms, but in a number of regions this proved to be impossible due to constant bombardment by the militants. Turkey, in turn, has not yet been able to convince the radical Islamist and terrorist groups to withdraw from the front line.

After talks between Russian and Turkish presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 17 September in Sochi, the defense ministers of both countries signed a memorandum to stabilize the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Only a portion of the heavy weaponry was withdraw from the demilitarized zone in Idlib (tanks, multiple rocket launchers and mortars). Monitoring of the demilitarized zone is meant to be organized by Turkey’s mobile patrol groups and the Russian military police. The zone will be created on the demarcation line between the Syrian government forces and the opposition forces, with a breadth of 15-20 km.

In recent weeks, the situation surrounding the Idlib zone has become more complicated. Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base has been periodically bombarded from the militant-held position in north-western Syria. The Syrian army has been simultaneously fighting several “intractable” groups, while the Turkey-backed “moderate” armed opposition in the National Front for Liberation also never misses an opportunity to shell Assad’s forces.

The government forces also have to hold back the Guardians of Religion Organization, one of the Syrian branches of Al-Qaeda, and the mismatched militant groups from the jihadist alliance Tahrir al-Sham, in which the terrorist groups Al-Nusra Front and Jaysh al-Izza play a leading role.

 

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Syrian fighters burning crops, using food as "weapon of war": U.N.
June 4, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) - Fighters have set fire to thousands of acres of wheat and other crops in northwest Syria in a campaign that has turned food supplies in a “weapon of war” and forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Satellite images released by campaigners last week showed fields, orchards and olive groves burning in the region where Syria’s Russia-backed army has been assaulting rebels in their last major stronghold.

Both sides in the fight had blamed each other for the destruction, the U.N.’s World Food Prgramme (WFP) said.

“The latest outbreak in violence in Idlib and north Hama has left dozens of casualties, burned several thousand acres of vital crops and farmland and forced at least 300,000 people to flee their homes,” WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said.

“Crops such as barley, wheat and vegetables have been destroyed. Destruction to farmland and the agricultural sector is unacceptable,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.

Farmers had not been able to get to their fields or tend to their remaining crops during the harvest season, as the warring sides vied for control and territory, Verhoosel said.

“The most important thing for us, it is not acceptable to take one more time the civilian population hostage, to basically use food, distribution of food as a weapon of war,” he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday urged Russia and Syrian government forces to stop bombing Idlib, following a Friday Kremlin statement that signaled Moscow would continue to back a month-long Syrian government offensive there.

Fires had also broken out in other areas away from the fighting, amid high temperatures, the WFP said. In all, less than 5% of Syria’s current crop had been affected, it added.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens

 

Khafee

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Syrian fighters burning crops, using food as "weapon of war": U.N.
June 4, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) - Fighters have set fire to thousands of acres of wheat and other crops in northwest Syria in a campaign that has turned food supplies in a “weapon of war” and forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Satellite images released by campaigners last week showed fields, orchards and olive groves burning in the region where Syria’s Russia-backed army has been assaulting rebels in their last major stronghold.

Both sides in the fight had blamed each other for the destruction, the U.N.’s World Food Prgramme (WFP) said.

“The latest outbreak in violence in Idlib and north Hama has left dozens of casualties, burned several thousand acres of vital crops and farmland and forced at least 300,000 people to flee their homes,” WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said.

“Crops such as barley, wheat and vegetables have been destroyed. Destruction to farmland and the agricultural sector is unacceptable,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.

Farmers had not been able to get to their fields or tend to their remaining crops during the harvest season, as the warring sides vied for control and territory, Verhoosel said.

“The most important thing for us, it is not acceptable to take one more time the civilian population hostage, to basically use food, distribution of food as a weapon of war,” he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday urged Russia and Syrian government forces to stop bombing Idlib, following a Friday Kremlin statement that signaled Moscow would continue to back a month-long Syrian government offensive there.

Fires had also broken out in other areas away from the fighting, amid high temperatures, the WFP said. In all, less than 5% of Syria’s current crop had been affected, it added.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens

 

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Aid Groups: Lebanon Demolitions Will Make Syrian Kids Homeless
Tuesday, 4 June, 2019


Syrian refugees work near tents at a makeshift camp at the Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Zeina Alhoujeyri.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Lebanon's planned demolition of concrete shelters housing Syrian refugees near the border could make at least 15,000 children homeless, aid groups warned Tuesday.

The authorities in April set a June 9 deadline for Syrian refugees living in shelters built with materials other than timber and plastic sheeting in Arsal to bring their homes into compliance, Agence France Presse reported.

In Arsal, which lies in northeastern Lebanon, more than 5,000 structures made with concrete are slated for demolition. Similar measures could affect other communities in the near future, it said.

Lebanon allows only informal camps for Syrian refugees to prevent permanent settlements that would affect its delicate demographic balance.

Three international aid agencies -- Save the Children, World Vision and Terre des Hommes -- warned that children were most at risk and urged the government to hold off.

"For a child who barely eats, and often doesn't go to school, losing a home is extremely traumatic. And we are talking about 15,000 children," said Piotr Sasin from the Swiss-based Terre des Hommes charity.

The joint statement warned that the "demolition of many of these homes could result in the destruction of household water and sanitation systems, leaving children at high risk of illness and disease."

Lebanon is home to an estimated 1.5 to 2 million refugees who have fled the conflict that erupted in 2011 when the Syrian regime repressed initially peaceful protests.

Lebanon's economic and other woes are routinely blamed on Syrian refugees by local politicians and the government has ratcheted up the pressure to send them back.



 

Khafee

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Aid Groups: Lebanon Demolitions Will Make Syrian Kids Homeless
Tuesday, 4 June, 2019


Syrian refugees work near tents at a makeshift camp at the Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Zeina Alhoujeyri.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Lebanon's planned demolition of concrete shelters housing Syrian refugees near the border could make at least 15,000 children homeless, aid groups warned Tuesday.

The authorities in April set a June 9 deadline for Syrian refugees living in shelters built with materials other than timber and plastic sheeting in Arsal to bring their homes into compliance, Agence France Presse reported.

In Arsal, which lies in northeastern Lebanon, more than 5,000 structures made with concrete are slated for demolition. Similar measures could affect other communities in the near future, it said.

Lebanon allows only informal camps for Syrian refugees to prevent permanent settlements that would affect its delicate demographic balance.

Three international aid agencies -- Save the Children, World Vision and Terre des Hommes -- warned that children were most at risk and urged the government to hold off.

"For a child who barely eats, and often doesn't go to school, losing a home is extremely traumatic. And we are talking about 15,000 children," said Piotr Sasin from the Swiss-based Terre des Hommes charity.

The joint statement warned that the "demolition of many of these homes could result in the destruction of household water and sanitation systems, leaving children at high risk of illness and disease."

Lebanon is home to an estimated 1.5 to 2 million refugees who have fled the conflict that erupted in 2011 when the Syrian regime repressed initially peaceful protests.

Lebanon's economic and other woes are routinely blamed on Syrian refugees by local politicians and the government has ratcheted up the pressure to send them back.



 

Khafee

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Syrian Regime Advances in Idlib, High-Ranking Commander Killed in Suwaida
Wednesday, 05 June, 2019

7542

FILE - People walk past a damaged building in the city of Idlib, Syria, May 25, 2019 (Reuters)

Backed by Russian air support, Syrian regime forces infiltrated areas controlled by opposition factions in the northwestern province of Idlib, for the first time since the regime launched an operation about a month ago by advancing into the last opposition stronghold and unleashing a wave of intense bombing.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday regime forces and local factions were violently clashing on the outskirts of al-Qassabiyyeh in the countryside of Idlib's south.

It said government forces were able to advance into the towns of al-Humayrat, Hardana, Qiratah, and al-Qaroutiyyah.

In September 2018, several areas in the countryside of Hama, Idlib and the western countryside of Aleppo were included in a de-escalation zone deal, signed between Russia and Turkey to avert a regime offensive against the last opposition-held stronghold in the war-torn country.

However, since regime forces launched their offensive on the Idlib area, at least 1,098 were reportedly killed, the Observatory said.

Around 1,246 people were killed between April 20 and June 4, including 94 children and 94 women killed in Russian air strikes and regime shelling on areas in Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and Idlib.

Separately, local sources said a brigadier general, who is a commander of the Syrian army's 15th Division of al-Suwaida province, was killed on Tuesday.

Jamal Al-Ahmad was shot by unidentified gunmen on Tareeq al-Hajj west of the province.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

 

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Syrian Regime Advances in Idlib, High-Ranking Commander Killed in Suwaida
Wednesday, 05 June, 2019

View attachment 7542
FILE - People walk past a damaged building in the city of Idlib, Syria, May 25, 2019 (Reuters)

Backed by Russian air support, Syrian regime forces infiltrated areas controlled by opposition factions in the northwestern province of Idlib, for the first time since the regime launched an operation about a month ago by advancing into the last opposition stronghold and unleashing a wave of intense bombing.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday regime forces and local factions were violently clashing on the outskirts of al-Qassabiyyeh in the countryside of Idlib's south.

It said government forces were able to advance into the towns of al-Humayrat, Hardana, Qiratah, and al-Qaroutiyyah.

In September 2018, several areas in the countryside of Hama, Idlib and the western countryside of Aleppo were included in a de-escalation zone deal, signed between Russia and Turkey to avert a regime offensive against the last opposition-held stronghold in the war-torn country.

However, since regime forces launched their offensive on the Idlib area, at least 1,098 were reportedly killed, the Observatory said.

Around 1,246 people were killed between April 20 and June 4, including 94 children and 94 women killed in Russian air strikes and regime shelling on areas in Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and Idlib.

Separately, local sources said a brigadier general, who is a commander of the Syrian army's 15th Division of al-Suwaida province, was killed on Tuesday.

Jamal Al-Ahmad was shot by unidentified gunmen on Tareeq al-Hajj west of the province.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

 

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Star soccer player turned rebel icon dies in Syria fighting
08 June 2019
7708


AZAZ, Syria (Reuters) - A Syrian star soccer player turned fighter who became an icon of the revolt died on Saturday after getting injured battling government forces in the northwest, his faction said.

Abdelbasset Sarout, 27, once a well-known goalkeeper from the city of Homs, gained a new kind of fame when the popular uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s rule erupted in 2011.

He was dubbed the “singer of the revolution” for chanting songs at rallies that eulogized slain protesters or vilified the president.

After the crackdown on protests, Sarout took up arms against the state, mirroring how the rebellion evolved into an armed struggle seen as a fight to the death as much by Damascus as by the guerrilla bands spawned by the conflict.

Sarout, a commander in the Jaish al-Izza rebel faction, died two days after sustaining injuries in battle in the northern Hama countryside.

“Those who think Sarout has died are under an illusion. We will all remain Sarout,” Samer al-Saleh, a senior official in the faction said.

Battles intensified in northwest Syria on Friday after insurgents mounted an attack to repel an army offensive that has pounded the country’s last major rebel stronghold for weeks.

The violence in Idlib province and a strip of nearby Hama marks the biggest military escalation between Damascus and its insurgent enemies since last summer. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes, many of them sheltering at the Turkish border from air strikes that have killed scores of people.

Assad has reclaimed much of Syria after crushing rebel bastions with the help of Russia and Iran. The northwest corner remains the last big chunk in opposition hands, including Idlib and a swathe of territory to the north under the control of Turkey-backed rebels.

Sarout was among hundreds of thousands of people, civilians and fighters, shuttled to the northwest in recent years under surrender deals as the state recovered their hometowns.

Sarout, who fought in his city of Homs, left in 2014 when such a withdrawal deal ended a bitter two-year siege.
Four of Sarout’s brothers, as well as his father, had all died in earlier fighting against pro-government forces.

Reporting by Khalil Ashawi in Azaz; Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian

 

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