Tag Archives: Syria

Assad presses assault in southwest Syria, civilians flee

Assad presses assault in southwest Syria, civilians fleeBy Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian government forces pounded rebel-held areas of the southwest with artillery on Thursday, in a steady escalation by President Bashar al-Assad who has vowed to win back the area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12,500 civilians had fled the town of Busra al-Hariri and nearby areas of Deraa province in the last two days. The United States has warned it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to government violations of a “de-escalation” deal it brokered with Russia last year to contain the conflict in the southwest.



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Israel mum on US claims it hit Iraq militia in Syria

Israel mum on US claims it hit Iraq militia in SyriaIsrael declined to comment on Tuesday on a weekend air strike against an Iraqi paramilitary base in eastern Syria after its US ally implicated it in the attack. The Sunday evening strike against the Al-Hari base on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq came less than 24 hours after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would strike Iran’s “proxies” anywhere in Syria. Fighters of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force, mainly composed of Iran-trained Shiite militia, have played a major role in the war against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group in Syria as well as Iraq.



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Israel mum on US claims it hit Iraq militia in Syria

Israel mum on US claims it hit Iraq militia in SyriaIsrael declined to comment on Tuesday on a weekend air strike against an Iraqi paramilitary base in eastern Syria after its US ally implicated it in the attack. The Sunday evening strike against the Al-Hari base on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq came less than 24 hours after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would strike Iran’s “proxies” anywhere in Syria. Fighters of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force, mainly composed of Iran-trained Shiite militia, have played a major role in the war against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group in Syria as well as Iraq.



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Did Russia and America Almost Go to War in Syria?

Did Russia and America Almost Go to War in Syria?On May 24, 2018, the New York Times ran an article by Thomas Gibbons-Neff detailing an intense battle between U.S. special forces and Syrian government-allied troops and Russian mercenaries for control of the Conoco gas field east of Deir ez-Zor.



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920,000 displaced in Syria in 2018, highest since conflict began: UN

920,000 displaced in Syria in 2018, highest since conflict began: UNMore than 920,000 people were displaced inside Syria during the first four months of 2018, the highest level in the seven-year conflict, the United Nations said Monday. “We are seeing a massive displacement inside Syria… From January to April, there were over 920,000 newly displaced people,” Panos Moumtzis, the UN regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, told reporters in Geneva. Moumtzis said most of the newly displaced had been forced on the move by escalations in fighting in the former rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta and within the northwestern province of Idlib, which is almost entirely controlled by various jihadist and hardline rebels.



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UN chief calls for investigation of Syria strikes

UN chief calls for investigation of Syria strikesUN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday called for an investigation of air strikes believed to have been carried out by Russian jets in Syria, killing dozens including children. The air attack on the night of June 7 to 8 targeted the village of Zardana in Idlib province and left 44 dead including six children, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.



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Syria FM: Iran has no combat forces, bases in the country

Syria FM: Iran has no combat forces, bases in the countryDAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria's foreign minister said Saturday Iranian military advisers are embedded with Syrian troops but Tehran has no combat forces or fixed bases in the country.



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Assad raises prospect of clashes with U.S. forces in Syria

Assad raises prospect of clashes with U.S. forces in SyriaBy Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) – President Bashar al-Assad raised the possibility of conflict with U.S. forces in Syria if they do not withdraw from the country soon. In an interview with Russia’s RT international broadcaster, Assad said he would negotiate with fighters backed on the ground by Washington, but would reclaim territory they control by force if necessary, whether or not American troops supported them. In Washington, the State Department said it was not looking to fight Syrian or Iranian forces, but would use “necessary and proportionate force” to defend U.S. and partner forces in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.



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Israel sees an opportunity to drive a wedge between Iran and Russia in Syria

Israel sees an opportunity to drive a wedge between Iran and Russia in SyriaIsrael is increasingly optimistic that it may be coming close to its longheld goal of driving a wedge between Russia and Iran in Syria, a senior Israeli official said today.  Chagai Tzuriel, director general of the Israeli intelligence ministry, said he believed Russia was growing frustrated with Iran's presence in Syria and was worried that fighting between Israel and Iran would threaten Moscow's interests.  "My assessment is that the Russians are interested in stabilising their achievements in Syria," Mr Tzuriel said. "I think they understand that if the Iranians continue on the present course this will lead to escalation and will blow their plans out of the water.” Israel’s has long said it would not allow Iran to gain a permanent military foothold in Syria. Israeli forces have carried out increasingly intense strikes against Iranian targets in Syria in recent weeks and in the process have inflicted serious damage on the Assad regime’s air defences.  Mr Tzuriel said he believed that the Israeli strikes – combined with America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement and economic discontent within Iran – were fueling tensions between Iran and its Russian and Syrian allies.   “I think this is a moment pregnant with opportunity. My assessment is that the situation we’re in is an opportune moment to try to change fundamentally the strategic situation,” he said.  Israel hopes that Vladimir Putin (left) and Bashar al-Assad will lose patience with Iran  Credit: MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images Mr Tzuriel spoke as unconfirmed reports emerged that the Syrian regime’s air force was trying to expel Iranian troops from its airbases because they were such a frequent target of Israeli attacks.  Zaman Al Wasl, a Syrian opposition media outlet, said Syrian air force commanders were trying to shut Iranian troops and Hizbollah fighters out of their air bases to try to shield the sites from Israeli strikes.  Potential cracks in the Russian-Iranian relationship have become increasingly visible in recent weeks.  Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, said in mid-May that all foreign forces would leave Syria once the Assad regime was fully in control of the country. The comments appeared to anger Iran. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said in response: “No one can make Iran do things; Iran has its own independent policies.” Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, also said Monday that only Syrian regime forces should be stationed on Syria’s southern border – implying that neither Iran nor Hizbollah should be allowed near the Israeli border. The comment appeared to be another small victory for Israel, which has long urged Russia in rein in Iran’s presence all across Syria but especially in the south near the Israeli border.  Syrian regime forces have captured significant territory from rebel forces in recent months Credit: LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst at the Le Beck geopolitical consultancy, said Israel had been trying for a long time to warn Russia about the dangers of Iran’s presence in Syria but had only recently gained traction.    “The Israeli strategy was always to convince Russia that they had a lot to lose if they didn’t do anything about Iran. Until a few weeks ago, I would have told you they were doing that in vain and that Russia didn’t understand and didn’t care. But it’s changed because the escalatory strategy of Israeli strikes in Syria is really threatening to trigger conflict,” he said.  Mr Horowitz cautioned that the recent shift did not mean Israel would necessarily achieve its goal of forcing Iran out of Syria. “This doesn’t mean Israel has won. But it means the dynamics are changing for the first time.”  Even if Russia and the Syrian regime do believe that Iran’s presence is coming at too high a price, it is not clear how they could force Iranian troops and their Shia militias allies out of Syria.  Iran has invested heavily in propping up the Assad regime during years of fighting and is not likely to give up its presence easily. Assad’s battered forces are also still heavily dependent on Iranian-controlled militias as they try to conquer the remaining pockets of rebel-held territory in Syria.  Russia has provided the air power to help the Assad regime, while Iran has provided much of the ground forces Credit: Photo by Marina Lystseva\\TASS via Getty Images “Assad and the Russians still need the Shia militias to help them finish off what they have started Syria,” said Mr Tzuriel, the Israeli official. “That is part of the consideration and there is an issue of timing here. But that does not change my basic assessment that at the end of the day there is an opportunity now.” The US expressed alarm over the weekend that Syrian regime forces were massing for an assault on a rebel-held area in the southwest of the country, near the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.  The area is part of a “de-escalation zone” where both Assad’s forces and rebel fighters are supposed to be observing a ceasefire. The agreement on the de-escalation zones were made last year between the US, Russia and Jordan.  Regime forces have launched attacks in de-escalation zones in other parts of Syria and met little protest from the US. But the southwestern zone is acutely sensitive because of its proximity to Jordan and Israel, both US allies.  The US warned that it would take “firm and appropriate measures” if Assad’s forces moved forward with the offensive. The Syrian regime has so far signaled it intends to move forward with the assault, despite American warnings. 



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Russia says 4 of its soldiers have been killed in Syria

Russia says 4 of its soldiers have been killed in SyriaMOSCOW (AP) — A clash with "terrorists" in eastern Syria killed four Russian soldiers and wounded others, the Russian Defense Ministry said Sunday.



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