Syria regime enters Mayadeen in ‘severe blow’ to Daesh

A frame grab provided by the Russian Defense Ministry press service shows a target in the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen being hit by a missile launched from a Russian submarine in the Mediterranean. (AP)
Updated 07 October 2017
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Syria regime enters Mayadeen in ‘severe blow’ to Daesh

BEIRUT, Syria: Regime forces Friday broke into the eastern town of Mayadeen, one of the Daesh group’s last bastions in Syria, backed by Russian air raids taking a deadly toll on civilians.
Mayadeen in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir Ezzor is seen as the jihadist group’s “security and military capital” in Syria, and its loss would deal “a severe blow” to the jihadists, according to a Syrian military source.
Over the course of months of successive defeats, Mayadeen and nearby Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border have taken in Daesh fighters fleeing the battle to the north for Raqqa city in the face of an offensive launched by US-backed Kurdish and Arab forces.
“With support from Russian aviation, regime forces entered Mayadeen and took control of several buildings in the west of the town,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
Mayadeen, which the jihadists have controlled since 2014, sits on the western bank of the Euphrates River, between provincial capital Deir Ezzor, where the jihadists still hold several districts, and the border with Iraq.
Daesh remains in control of half of Deir Ezzor province, despite advances by President Bashar Assad’s forces and a separate offensive against the jihadists by the Kurdish-Arab alliance.
The Observatory said the target of the regime advance was to recapture the Al-Omar oilfield held by Daesh to the northeast of Mayadeen that was destroyed in US-led coalition air strikes in 2015.
The jihadists had been drawing oil sale revenues from the field of between $1.7 million and $5.1 million a month, according to the coalition.
On another front, regime forces said Friday they had ended their military operations in the east of central province of Homs, after “eliminating the last groups” of Daesh fighters from an area of 1,800 square kilometers, the official Sana news agency reported.
The advances against Daesh in Deir Ezzor have cost a heavy civilian death toll from Russian and coalition air raids.
The Observatory said Russian air strikes on Thursday night killed 14 people, including three children, fleeing across the Euphrates on rafts near Mayadeen.
Moscow has been carrying out relentless air strikes in support of its ally Damascus targeting both Daesh in Deir Ezzor province and rival jihadists led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate in Idlib province in the northwest.
Daesh has seen its self-declared “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq shrink steadily over the past two years and has lost all but a few of its main hubs in both Arab states.
On Wednesday, another Russian air strike killed 38 civilians trying to flee the fighting in Deir Ezzor province, according to the Observatory.
The Observatory relies on a network of sources inside Syria, and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.
It has reported hundreds of civilians killed in anti-Daesh operations in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa. On Tuesday, it said a US-led coalition strike in Raqqa killed at least 18 civilians.
Russia has not acknowledged any civilian deaths from its strikes since it intervened in Syria in 2015, and dismisses the Observatory’s reporting as biased.
On Thursday, the Red Cross said Syria was experiencing its worst levels of violence since the battle for the country’s second city Aleppo late last year.
“For the past two weeks, we have seen an increasingly worrying spike in military operations that correlates with high levels of civilian casualties,” said Marianne Gasser, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Syria.


In Jordan’s ancient Petra, sirens warn of flash floods

Updated 35 min 14 sec ago
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In Jordan’s ancient Petra, sirens warn of flash floods

  • Earlier this month, sirens blared minutes before a torrent fed by heavy rains approached the UNESCO World Heritage site
  • The last fatal flash flood struck Petra in 1963 when 22 French tourists and a local guide were killed by rapidly rising waters

PETRA, Jordan: In ancient times, Arab tribesmen dug diversion tunnels to protect their low-lying trading post of Petra against desert flash floods. More than two millennia later, an alarm system warns visitors if flood water rushes toward what has become Jordan’s main tourist attraction.
Earlier this month, the alarms were activated for the first time, said Hussein Al-Hasanat of the Petra Development & Tourism Region Authority. Sirens blared minutes before a torrent fed by heavy rains approached the UNESCO World Heritage site carved into rose-hued rock face.
Hundreds of tourists were able to seek higher ground and were later evacuated, he said.
Amateur video posted online at the time showed visitors running through a steep, narrow canyon leading to the Treasury, Petra’s main draw, as guides urged them to hurry. Later, visitors were seen standing on a higher patch near the Treasury as knee-high water poured through the canyon.
Elsewhere in Jordan, such alarms are still missing. Thirty-four people were killed in flash floods in late September and early November.
The last fatal flash flood struck Petra in 1963 when 22 French tourists and a local guide were killed by rapidly rising waters. In response, Jordan’s Department of Antiquities built a dam to keep water from entering the canyon leading to the Treasury.
In 2014, the alarm system was installed as added protection, with sirens set to go off when flood water rises above four meters (yards).
On Nov. 9, the system was triggered for the first time, through a computer in the Petra Authority’s control room. The computer is connected to eight rain forecast systems and two water detection stations placed in the area, within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of Petra.
The network generates instant data allowing officials to measure possible danger and warn people by the time the water reaches Petra.
Omar Dajani, a meteorologist at the Arabia Weather company, said alarms should be installed in all vulnerable areas in Jordan.
He said urban sprawl has exacerbated the flood risk, which is particularly high in dry areas.
“Now towns have spread so much and many of them were not built with respect for the geography of the region, such as valleys for example, where the water has naturally caused floods for millions of years,” Dajani said.