Syrian forces reach opposition-held air base in Idlib province

Pro-government forces can be seen in this file photo from 2014. Pro-government forces reached the Idlib-based base earlier this month but pulled back 10 days ago to fight off a counter-offensive. (File photo: Reuters)
Updated 20 January 2018
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Syrian forces reach opposition-held air base in Idlib province

ANKARA, Turkey: Syrian state TV says government forces have reached the perimeter of a rebel-held air base deep inside what was once opposition territory in northwest Syria.
The station said on Saturday the government is attacking Abu Dhuhour base in Idlib province.
Pro-government forces reached the base earlier this month but pulled back 10 days ago to fight off a counter-offensive by rebels and Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says pro-government forces have surrounded Abu Dhuhour base from three sides.
Rebels took over the base in 2015 but have not been able to use it as an airfield because they do not have an air force.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s military says it has retaliated against fire into Turkey from across the border in a Kurdish-controlled enclave in northwest Syria.
A brief military statement said Saturday the military responded to two days of “harassment” by attacking refuges and shelters in the enclave of Afrin allegedly belonging to a Syrian Kurdish militia group that Turkey considers to be a “terror” organization. The military did not provide details.
Turkey has vowed to launch a ground operation into Afrin to eradicate the threat from the group it says is an extension of Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey. It has been massing troops and tanks at its border.
Turkey’s defense minister said Thursday the offensive into Afrin had “de facto” started, in reference to sporadic Turkish military shelling of the area.


Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

Updated 20 June 2019
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Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

  • Khalifa Haftar vows that his fighters will get rid of ‘terrorist militias’

CAIRO: A Libyan commander, whose forces are fighting to take the country’s capital of Tripoli from militias allied with a UN-backed government based there, has dismissed an initiative by its prime minister for negotiations to end the crisis.

Instead, Khalifa Haftar vowed in comments to a news website on Wednesday that his fighters would press on with the weeks-long offensive until Tripoli is rid of what he described as “terrorist militias.”

“Our military operations will not stop” until Tripoli is taken, Haftar told almarsad.co.

“The situation is excellent and I call on the Libyans to ignore rumors about our withdrawal,” Haftar said in interviews with Libyan news websites The Address and The Observer published overnight Wednesday to Thursday.

The offensive to seize the capital “will not stop before all its objectives are reached,” he said.

The campaign by Haftar’s Liberation National Army has raised fears of another bout of violence after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. Since then, the country has sunk into chaos, with rival administrations in the east and the west, and an array of forces and militias allied with either side.

On Monday, the World Health Organization reported the latest casualty tolls for the fighting in and around Tripoli, saying 691 people have been killed so far, including 41 civilians, and 4,012 wounded, 135 of them civilians.

The head of the Tripoli-based government, Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, told a news conference on Sunday he is proposing a “Libyan forum,” aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

The talks would draw up a roadmap for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held before the end of 2019, Al-Sarraj said. 

In his remarks to the news website, Haftar dismissed Al-Sarraj’s initiative and criticized him as an ineffective leader.

“Initiatives have no meaning unless they are brave and carry clear clauses that address the causes of the crisis and its very roots,” Haftar said.

Haftar has presented himself as someone able to restore stability. In recent years, his campaign against militants across Libya won him growing international support from world leaders who say they are concerned the North African country has turned into a haven for armed groups, and a major conduit for migrants bound for Europe.