Mine blast injures Yemeni army chief-of-staff

In this file photo, Yemeni soldiers from the Popular Resistance Committees, supporting the UN-recognized government, are seen in Sirwah, west of Marib city on June 30, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 06 January 2018
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Mine blast injures Yemeni army chief-of-staff

ADEN: The chief of staff of the Yemeni army has been injured by a land mine that went off while he was visiting the northern Al-Jouf province, where heavy fighting between government forces and Houthi fighters is underway, a senior government official said.
The official said Brig. Gen. Taher Al-Aqeeli suffered minor injuries in the explosion, which happened on Friday while he was inspecting government positions in Khub wa Al-Sha’af, the largest district in Al-Jouf province.
Forces loyal to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government captured most of the district in heavy fighting with the Houthis last month.
Anti-Houthi forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have intensified an offensive against the Iran-aligned group that controls most of northern Yemen since former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed after he switched sides in Yemen’s nearly three-year-old civil war.
The Houthis, who killed Saleh after they surrounded his compound in Sanaa, accused the former president of trying to sow sedition in the country. Saleh’s General People’s Congress party accused the Houthis of trying to monopolize running the country.
The Houthis said Al-Aqeeli and several of his aides were injured in the blast, describing Aqeeli’s injuries as serious.
Hadi appointed Al-Aqeeli last September, replacing Major General Mohammed Al-Maqdeshi, who was appointed as a presidential adviser.


Russia: Extremist alliance will not withdraw from Idlib zone

Militants in Syria’s Idlib failed to meet a deadline to leave a planned buffer zone ringing the country’s last rebel bastion. (AFP)
Updated 51 min 16 sec ago
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Russia: Extremist alliance will not withdraw from Idlib zone

  • Sporadic fighting continued to be recorded in places with a residual terrorist presence, primarily in Idlib: Russia
  • Turkey has designated HTS, which is led by the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham (JFS), a terrorist organization

ANKARA: Turkey has failed to persuade the rebel alliance Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) to withdraw from a demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib province that was agreed by Ankara and Moscow in September, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
“Sporadic fighting continued to be recorded in places with a residual terrorist presence, primarily in Idlib… Militants continued shelling western Aleppo,” said ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
On Thursday, Turkish and Russian officials met in Ankara ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Istanbul on Nov. 19.
Timur Akhmetov, a researcher at the Russian International Affairs Council, said although there are serious problems with implementation of the Idlib agreement, Russian officials stressed that the process requires time and effort.
“Russia doesn’t want to push Turkey because there’s a much more important thing: Constitutional dialogue between the Syrian opposition and government, where Turkish-Russian dialogue plays a decisive role,” he told Arab News. 
“(Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan publicly undertook obligations to clear the (Idlib) zone from terrorists,” Akhmetov said. 
“Ankara is also having a hard time with the US regarding the Syrian Kurds. I think Russia will find ways to exploit this situation.”
Turkey has designated HTS, which is led by the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham (JFS), a terrorist organization.
Under the Turkish-Russian deal, rebel groups, including HTS, were to withdraw from the demilitarized zone by mid-October.
Ankara has repeatedly indicated its readiness to use force against radical groups if they refuse to withdraw.
Turkey has reinforced its military presence in Idlib with armored vehicles and equipment. It has 12 military posts in the province.
Enes Ayasli, a research assistant and Middle East expert at Sakarya University in Turkey, said the most obvious setback of the Idlib deal is that moderate rebel groups in the province now back HTS if there is a clash between it and Syrian regime forces.
“Their focus is now on repelling regime forces even if it means violating the deal,” he told Arab News. 
“Turkey in this sense seems to have failed to separate moderate groups completely from extremists.”
An intensification of fighting between the regime and extremists may cause the deal to collapse completely, Ayasli said.
Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported an increased rate of violations of the Idlib demilitarized zone.