Air strikes pound southwest Syrian city of Daraa

A ball of fire rises from a building following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces on a rebel-held area in the southern city of Daraa, on June 11, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 20 June 2017
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Air strikes pound southwest Syrian city of Daraa

AMMAN/BEIRUT: Government air and artillery bombardments hit rebel-held areas of the Syrian city of Daraa, on the border with Jordan, on Tuesday after a two-day cease-fire expired, witnesses and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Syrian military could not be reached for comment on the renewed action, which took place as US and Russian officials were holding held talks on creating a “de-escalation zone” in southwestern Syria that would include Daraa.
A witness and two insurgents in Daraa said the army and its allies had resumed air and artillery bombardments in the city and the narrow strip of countryside separating it from the border.
If the army takes rebel-held parts of Daraa and the few kilometers (miles) between it and the border, it would split the insurgent areas of southeast Syria in half.
At least six raids took place in Gharz in east Daraa and in the old quarter of the city, where the army resumed efforts to break rebel lines, the rebels said.
The witness said that barrel bombs, artillery shells and rockets were used in the bombardment. Clashes took place near a military base southwest of the city near the border with Jordan, the witness added.
US and Russian officials agreed a cease-fire, which ended on Monday, during talks in Amman aimed at strengthening goodwill before more detailed negotiations on setting up the “de-escalation zone,” diplomats in Jordan said.
On Saturday the Syrian army said it would suspend combat operations in Daraa for 48 hours in order to support “reconciliation efforts.”
Rebels in the city and other residents have said this month that the army’s bombardment of Daraa has intensified and insurgents said the government had brought more troops to the city.
Syrian President Bashar Assad is backed in the six-year-old war by Russia, Iran and Shiite militias while some of the rebels seeking to oust him are supported by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies.


Renewed US-led airstrikes pound Daesh holdouts

Updated 23 March 2019
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Renewed US-led airstrikes pound Daesh holdouts

  • According to SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel, hundreds of Daesh fighters, including some women, still remain on the outskirts of the encampment
SOUSA, SYRIA: US-led warplanes bombed the north bank of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria on Friday to flush out holdout militants from the last sliver of their crumbling “caliphate.”
Friday’s bombardment ended two days of relative calm on the front line in the remote village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had paused its advance while it combed a makeshift militant encampment, which it overran on Tuesday.
An SDF official said warplanes of the US-led coalition resumed strikes on suspected militant positions before dawn on Friday.
Top SDF commander Jia Furat said his forces were engaging with the Daesh fighters on several fronts while the coalition warplanes provided air support.
The coalition said the “operation to complete the liberation of Baghouz is ongoing.”
“It remains a hard fight, and Daesh is showing that they intend to keep fighting for as long as possible,” it said. The SDF launched what it called its “final assault” against the rebels’ last redoubt in the village of Baghouz on Feb. 9.
Finally on Tuesday, they cornered diehard fighters into a few acres of farmland along the Euphrates River, after forcing them out of their rag-tag encampment of tents and battered vehicles.
The six-month-old operation to wipe out the last vestige of Daesh’s once-sprawling proto-state is close to reaching its inevitable outcome, but the SDF has said a declaration of victory will be made only after they have completed flushing out the last tunnels and hideouts.
According to SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel, hundreds of Daesh fighters, including some women, still remain on the outskirts of the encampment. They are hiding along the bank of the Euphrates River as well as at the base of a hill overlooking Baghouz, he told AFP.
“In around one or two days, we will conclude military operations if there are no surprise developments,” he said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Daesh holdouts were hiding in underground tunnels and caves in Baghouz.
SDF official Jiaker Amed said several militants want to surrender but are being prevented from doing so by other fighters.
“We are trying our best to wrap up the operation without fighting, but some of them are refusing to surrender,” he said.
More than 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have quit the last Daesh redoubt since Jan. 9, according to the SDF.
They comprise 5,000 militants and 24,000 of their relatives as well as 37,000 other civilians.
The thousands who have streamed out have been housed in cramped camps and prisons run by Kurdish forces further north.
On Wednesday night, around 2,000 women and children from Baghouz arrived at the largest camp, Al-Hol, which is struggling to cope with the influx of tens of thousands of people, many in poor health.
Since December, at least 138 people, mostly children, have died en route to Al-Hol or shortly after arrival, according to the International Rescue Committee.
Daesh declared a “caliphate” in June 2014 after seizing a vast swathe of territory larger than Britain straddling Iraq and Syria.
The loss of the Baghouz enclave would signal the demise of the “caliphate” in Syria, after its defeat in Iraq in 2017.
But Daesh has already begun its transformation into a guerilla organization, and still carries out deadly hit-and-run attacks from desert or mountain hideouts.
In a video released on Daesh’s social media channels on Thursday, militants vowed to continue to carry out attacks.
“To those who think our caliphate has ended, we say not only has it not ended, but it is here to stay,” said one fighter.
He urged Daesh supporters to conduct attacks in the West against the enemies of the “caliphate.”
The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted following the repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.