Yemen army advances east of Sanaa while dozens of Houthis are killed in Taiz

Yemen’s Arab Coalition-backed army has advanced into the governorate of Nham east of Sanaa. (Photo courtesy: Al-Ekhbariya)
Updated 27 February 2018
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Yemen army advances east of Sanaa while dozens of Houthis are killed in Taiz

DUBAI: Yemen’s Arab Coalition-backed army has advanced into the governorate of Nham east of Sanaa, liberating several Houthi-held sites, the Saudi-state news channel reported on Monday.
Yemeni sources said the army liberated the strategic mountains of Nakhsh after heavy fighting that killed at least 25 Houthi gunmen.
This latest news comes at a time when the army targeted various locations of the militia in several areas of the same region which saw the destruction of various pieces of Houthi military equipment.
Meanwhile in Taiz, 40 Houthi militia were killed in fighting with the Yemeni army. According to Yemeni sources, the army shelled military positions and reinforcements on the line between Naquil Al-Salu and Dimna Khadeer in Taiz, while destroying military vehicles and equipment belonging to the Houthi militia in Khadair district.
Separately, medical sources said Sunday a mother and three of her children were killed in a double suicide bombing in Aden, raising the death toll to 12.
The family was among seven people who succumbed to wounds sustained in Saturday's attack, which was claimed by Daesh.
Five other people, including security officers and a child, were killed on the spot when two suicide car bombings hit the headquarters of an anti-terror unit on a beach near the Tawahi district of Aden.
Daesh claimed the attack through its propaganda arm Amaq. Daesh has repeatedly attacked Aden, where the government is based, claiming hundreds of victims and mainly targeting government forces.


Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

Updated 12 min 16 sec ago
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Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

  • Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces
  • After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Putin and Erdogan, agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15

ANKARA: The partial transfer of control of the airspace over the de-escalation zone in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib from Moscow to Ankara is being discussed by the two sides, Russian sources said. 

The aim is to enable Turkey to conduct an aerial campaign against Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which Ankara recently designated a terrorist organization. 

A former Al-Qaeda affiliate, HTS is the strongest armed group in Idlib, the last stronghold of Syrian anti-government rebels. 

In February, HTS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian warplane in Idlib using a surface-to-air missile.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are monitoring the de-escalation zone in the province as part of a trilateral agreement. 

Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces.

“Discussions are ongoing about the details of this transfer (of airspace control). I guess it will be limited to the buffer zone in Idlib for now,” Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Arab News.

“If Russia is taking steps to allow Turkey to use Idlib’s airspace, it will give Turkey more room for maneuver in the region.”

But airstrikes by Ankara against HTS might create another refugee influx into Turkey, which already hosts more than 3 million Syrian refugees, Barmin said. 

Idlib is home to more than 1 million displaced Syrians, and its population exceeds 3 million. Turkey is concerned that the creation of a humanitarian crisis near its border would further swell its own refugee population. 

After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two countries agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15.

The deal requires that all radical groups, including HTS, withdraw from the area and that all heavy weapons be removed.

Russian and Turkish troops will conduct coordinated patrols to ensure that all armed groups respect the deal.

Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said a transfer of airspace control would mean that Ankara and Moscow are determined to implement their latest agreement regarding Idlib. 

“Until now, Idlib’s airspace has been fully controlled by Russia, which weakened Turkey’s hand in trying to convince rebel groups in the region to abandon their arms,” he told Arab News.

Transferring airspace control “would give Ankara additional diplomatic leverage in its dealings with HTS,” he said. 

“If Ankara fails to persuade HTS to comply with the Putin-Erdogan deal regarding Idlib, it’s almost certain that Russia and Syrian government forces will start a military operation in the region.”

So Turkey is sending a message to HTS that if carrots do not work, it has some sticks at its disposal, Ersen said.