Syria rebels stop army advance on seized town

Updated 31 October 2012
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Syria rebels stop army advance on seized town

MAARET AL-NUMAN, Syria: Syrian rebels on Saturday blocked army reinforcements advancing toward the strategic town of Maaret Al-Numan which has been under rebel control, an AFP journalist said.
In its bid to retake the town, located in northwest Syria on the road from Damascus to the embattled city of Aleppo, the army used warplanes to bombard Maaret Al-Numan, killing at least two civilians and destroying three homes.
Some 40 military vehicles, including 10 tanks, four-wheel-drive vehicles with mounted machine guns and buses loaded with troops were forced to stop 10 kilometers (six miles) south of the town, rebel fighters told AFP.
The rebel Free Syrian Army used anti-tank rockets and improvised explosives to block the army’s progress.
The FSA seized control of Maaret Al-Numan on Tuesday, pushing the army out into two military bases on its outskirts, and blocking the arrival of new reinforcements to Aleppo.
“The rebels tried again to storm the Wadi Deif army base (on Saturday) ... when they were bombarded by a MiG fighter jet,” said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
Fierce machine gun battles raged near the base.
Regime forces have been launching rockets daily from the two bases on the outskirts, focusing their fire mainly around an underground emergency field hospital.
On Saturday, army shelling injured 20 rebel fighters, the Observatory said.
Some 125,000 people once lived in Maaret Al-Numan and its outskirts but most have fled because of the violence. Alongside the rebels, only a few elderly men remain in the town, guarding homes and shops.
Rebel fighters decorate their motorbikes and the few cars they have with the colors of the Syrian independence flag, which has come to symbolize the revolt against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Experts say the Syrian army has been worn down by an increase in the number of battlefronts and rebel attacks that have cut major supply routes and undermined the regime’s military superiority.
The army relies mainly on its monopoly on air power to slow the progress of the insurgency.
“The army can try and take back the town from rebel hands temporarily, but it’s clear that it can no longer keep control of it,” said the Observatory’s Abdel Rahman. “The army is genuinely losing control in the north.”
Rebels staged a massive assault on Aleppo, Syria’s traditional commercial hub, on July 20, after they had slowly built up a strong presence in the countryside of Idlib and Aleppo, both neighboring Turkey.
Both the army and rebels have since kept up a continuous flow of reinforcements into Aleppo city, as they bid to take full control.
“There are thousands of rebel fighters all across the northern belt of Syria, mainly in Idlib and Aleppo, and the army has been unable to do much about that,” said Abdel Rahman.


Iran: Various options to neutralize ‘illegal’ US sanctions oil exports

Updated 59 min 39 sec ago
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Iran: Various options to neutralize ‘illegal’ US sanctions oil exports

  • ‘Apart from closing Strait of Hormuz, we have other options to stop oil flow if threatened’
  • ‘Iran has plans in place that will neutralize the illegal US sanctions against Iran’s oil exports’

DUBAI: Iran said on Saturday it had many options to neutralize the reimposition of US sanctions on its oil exports, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, adding that Tehran’s clerical rulers had no plans to hold talks with Washington.
“Apart from closing Strait of Hormuz, we have other options to stop oil flow if threatened ... The US administration lacks ‘goodwill’, no need to hold talks with America,” Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani told Tasnim.
“Iran has plans in place that will neutralize the illegal US sanctions against Iran’s oil exports,” Shamkhani said.
Tensions between Iran and the United States increased after US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers last May, and then reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Washington aims to force Tehran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
Iranian officials have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.
Carrying one-third of the world’s seaborne oil every day, the Strait of Hormuz links Middle East crude producers to key markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and beyond.
Shamkhani also said Iran has achieved 90 percent of its goals in Syria, Tasnim reported.
The threat of direct confrontation between arch-enemies Israel and Iran has long simmered in Syria, where the Iranian military built a presence early in the nearly eight-year civil war to help President Bashar Assad’s government.