Daesh ‘executed’ 116 in Syria town revenge campaign

A general view shows a heavily damaged road in the recently retaken desert town of Al-Qaryatain on Oct. 22, 2017. Al-Qaryatain was a symbol of religious coexistence before the civil war broke out in 2011, with some 900 Christians among its population of 30,000. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2017
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Daesh ‘executed’ 116 in Syria town revenge campaign

BEIRUT: Daesh executed dozens of civilians this month in the Syrian desert, a monitor said Monday, in a gruesome massacre as the terrorists see their “caliphate” collapse.
The extremist group last week lost its key Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, the latest in a string of setbacks for the militants who are facing multiple offensives in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said Daesh fighters massacred more than 100 people in the desert town of Al-Qaryatain this month before they lost it to regime forces.
“IS (Daesh) has over a period of 20 days executed at least 116 civilians in reprisal killings, accusing them of collaboration with regime forces,” observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Regime forces retook Al-Qaryatain, which lies in the central Homs province, on Saturday, three weeks after the terrorists seized control of it.
Daesh first occupied the town in 2015 and lost it to Russian-backed Syria forces last year.
“After the regime retook it (on Saturday), the town’s residents found the bodies on the streets. They had been shot dead or executed with knives,” Abdel Rahman said.
“Most of the IS fighters who attacked the town a month ago were sleeper cells ... They are from the town, know the town’s residents and who is for or against the regime,” he said.
The majority of those killed were executed in the last two days before Daesh lost the town again, he added.
The regime seized back Al-Qaryatain on Saturday after more than 200 terrorists withdrew from the town overnight, pulling back into the vast desert region that stretches all the way to the Iraqi border.

Al-Qaryatain was a symbol of religious coexistence before the civil war broke out in 2011, with some 900 Christians among its population of 30,000. But it was ravaged by Daesh during the group’s eight-month-long occupation of the town in 2015-16, with its Christian sites including a fifth-century church reduced to rubble.
At the peak of its power in 2014, Daesh’s self-styled “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq was approximately the size of Britain.
But it has suffered a string of major setbacks in recent months, including the loss in July of its most important Iraqi stronghold, the city of Mosul.
Last week, it also lost its most important Syrian bastion, the city of Raqqa, after a campaign of more than four months led by the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed militia.
The terror group is now mostly confined to the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor in the country’s east, along the border with Iraq.
Daesh holds around 40 percent of the province, which was once almost completely in its hands, and faces two separate offensives, including by the SDF.
The US-backed militia is fighting the group mostly on the eastern side of the Euphrates River that slices diagonally across the province.
On Sunday, SDF fighters seized one of the country’s largest oilfields from the group.
Syria’s regime is conducting a separate, Russian-backed offensive in the province, largely on the western bank of the river.
In September, the offensive ended a Daesh siege of nearly three years on regime-held parts of the provincial capital Deir Ezzor city.
The group now holds just eight percent of the city, according to the observatory.
Elsewhere in the country, Daesh holds just a few pockets of territory, including a handful of recently recaptured villages in central Hama province, and parts of the Palestinian Yarmuk camp in southern Damascus.
An allied group, Jaish Khaled Bin Walid, is also present in parts of southern Syria.
 


White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king

Keeping spirits alive Palestinian youths play with rollerblades by walls covered with graffiti at the sea port in Gaza City on Tuesday. AFP
Updated 20 June 2018
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White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king

  • The US has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas
  • Jared Kushner’s team plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them

AMMAN: President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, kicked off a swing through the Middle East on Tuesday, meeting with Jordan’s king as part of a broader effort to lay the groundwork for an expected Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Kushner and White House envoy Jason Greenblatt held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah, a key US ally.
A White House statement said the talks focused on US-Jordan cooperation, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the US efforts “to “facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
US officials have said their peace plan is near completion and could be released this summer. But it faces resistance from the Palestinians, who have cut off ties since Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and moved the US Embassy in Israel to the holy city last month. The Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, accuse the US of siding with Israel in the most sensitive issue of their decades-long conflict.
Kushner’s team also plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip for an independent state. Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Mideast war. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas militants seized control of the territory two years later.
The US has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas. The US, Israel and Western allies shun Hamas as a terrorist group. Details of the plan have not been released, but Palestinians fear they will get little more than a symbolic foothold in Jerusalem. They also fear that aid to Gaza will help strengthen Hamas’ control over the territory.
Jordan also has a stake in east Jerusalem, serving as the custodian of major Muslim and Christian shrines there. Jerusalem’s walled Old City, captured and annexed by Israel in 1967, is home to Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites.
Abdullah has also rejected Trump’s moves in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to relinquish any part of the city.
Netanyahu traveled to Amman on Monday for a surprise meeting with Abdullah, telling the king that Israel remains committed to the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Abdullah told Netanyahu that the fate of Jerusalem must be determined in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and that a solution should be based on establishing a Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital, on lands Israel captured in 1967.
Palestinian officials fear the Trump administration plan will leave them with a mini-state in the Gaza Strip, parts of the West Bank and a foothold in Jerusalem. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he will reject any plan being floated by the Trump team, arguing that the US has forfeited its role as mediator because of decisions seen as pro-Israel.