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.


War fears mount despite cease-fire between Gaza and Israel

Updated 22 July 2018
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War fears mount despite cease-fire between Gaza and Israel

  • Any further escalation will deepen humanitarian catastrophe in the Strip: UN chief
  • Before the truce, Israel unleashed an offensive it says destroyed more than 60 Hamas targets, including three battalion headquarters

GAZA CITY: After seven chaotic and violent hours, quiet returned to the Gaza Strip Friday night. Yet on Saturday, civilians in the Palestinian enclave and Israel remained fearful of the potential for a new war.
The fatal shooting by a Palestinian sniper of an Israeli soldier during protests along the border on Friday sparked a widespread wave of Israeli bombing, with three fighters from Hamas killed and dozens of targets struck.
After intensive indirect mediation by the UN and Egypt, a truce came into force at midnight, yet both populations remained on high alert of another all-out conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“War is coming. I know that the (Israeli) occupation is carrying out raids to pave the way with their home base,” Somaya Rabaya, 21, from Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, said.
While the cease-fire deal included an end to rockets and mortars, it didn’t include a commitment by Hamas to stop what Israeli media have dubbed “terror kites,” a senior Hamas source said.
In a brief statement on Saturday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the movement accepted the cease-fire brokered by Egyptian and UN officials and that calm had been restored. Later, the Israeli military announced a return to civilian routine along the volatile border.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “gravely concerned” about the escalation and called on both sides to step back from the prospect of another devastating conflict. “Any further escalation will endanger the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike, deepen the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and undermine current efforts to improve livelihoods,” he said.
On Saturday morning in Gaza, 17-year-old Wissam was with a number of other youths fitting kites with small bottles full of diesel, while sheltering behind a sandbank for fear of Israeli strikes. “This morning, they bombed a Hamas observation post near here. I was afraid they would hit us with a missile,” he said.
Israel says it has no interest is engaging in another war with Hamas, but says it will no longer tolerate the Gaza militant campaign of flying the incendiary devices into Israel.
On Friday, Israel unleashed an offensive it says destroyed more than 60 Hamas targets, including three battalion headquarters.
“The attack delivered a severe blow to the Hamas’ training array, command and control abilities, weaponry, aerial defense and logistic capabilities along with additional military infrastructure,” the Israeli military said in a statement, adding that the strikes “will intensify as necessary.”