Temporary humanitarian ceasefire in Daesh-held area of south Damascus

Soldiers loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Assad forces are deployed near the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus. The Syrian army and its allies have been battling for weeks to recapture the tiny Daesh enclave Al-Hajjar Al-Aswad. (Reuters)
Updated 21 May 2018
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Temporary humanitarian ceasefire in Daesh-held area of south Damascus

BEIRUT: A temporary humanitarian ceasefire is in place to allow women, children and the elderly to evacuate the Daesh-held area of Al-Hajjar Al-Aswad in south Damascus, Syrian state media said on Monday citing a military source.
The Syrian army and its allies have been battling for weeks to recapture the tiny Daesh enclave, the last area outside government control in or around the capital.
On Sunday, state media denied a war monitor’s report that fighters had begun withdrawing from the area toward Daesh territory in eastern Syria under a surrender deal.
The temporary ceasefire came into effect on Sunday night and will end at 12pm and the army offensive will start again immediately, state media cited the military source as saying.
The war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported early on Monday that buses had already started leaving south Damascus for the Daesh areas in eastern Syria.
The ultra-hardline militant group now controls only the tiny pocket in south Damascus and two besieged desert areas in eastern Syria, while another insurgent group that has pledged loyalty to it holds a small enclave in the southwest.
Pro-Syrian government forces have staged an intensive operation to recover Daesh’s south Damascus pocket in Al-Hajjar Al-Aswad and the adjacent Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp since driving rebels from eastern Ghouta in April.


Iran must stop supporting militias for peace offer to be taken seriously: Expert 

Updated 26 May 2019
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Iran must stop supporting militias for peace offer to be taken seriously: Expert 

  • Iran has for long pursued a policy of outsourcing its meddling to external militias
  • Among these are the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen

JEDDAH: Iran needs to dismantle its proxies and end its interventions in Arab affairs before seeking to normalize relations with its Gulf neighbors, a political expert told Arab News on Sunday.

“The Gulf countries have been calling for normal relations with their neighbors for years, but their calls have fallen on deaf ears on the Iranian side,” Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations scholar, said.

Accusing Tehran of “playing games,” Al-Shehri described Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s suggestion that Iran wanted to improve relations with its Gulf neighbors as worthless “as long as it continues meddling in the affairs of other countries, and fails to halt its evil militias from sabotaging and destabilizing regional security.”

Iran has for long pursued a policy of outsourcing its meddling to external militias, which indirectly supports, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. 

Zarif, who is on a two-day visit to Iraq, told a joint news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Al-Hakim that Iran wants to build balanced relations with its Gulf Arab neighbors and had proposed signing a non-aggression pact with them.

However, Al-Shehri said that Tehran needs to address three key issues — its nuclear program; its terrorist militias, which have been spreading chaos in the Gulf region and beyond; and its ballistic missile program — before making any such proposals.

“The question is, would Iran be ready to give up all three files? If they want their neighbors to accept them and normalize relations with them, they have to be honest and stop playing games,” he said.

Al-Shehri described Zarif’s regional tour as an attempt to rally support and send a false message that Iran has friends and allies who would stand by them in their crisis with the US.

“Where were these countries when Iran’s terrorist proxies in Yemen, the Houthi militias, launched missiles and drones attacking the holiest Islamic site in Makkah and other Saudi facilities?” Al-Shehri asked.

Zarif said Iran will defend itself against any military or economic aggression, calling on European states to do more to preserve a nuclear agreement his country signed.

“We will defend (ourselves) against any war efforts, whether it be an economic war or a military one, and we will face these efforts with strength,” he said.

Strains have increased between Iran and the US following this month’s sabotage attack on oil tankers in the Gulf. Washington and other regional allies have concluded that Iran is most likely behind the attacks. 

Tehran has distanced itself from the bombings, but the US has sent an aircraft carrier and extra 1,500 troops to the Gulf, sparking concerns over the risk of conflict in the volatile region.