Airstrikes on Syria pro-government positions kill 12

File photo showing airstrike survivors in Syria (Reuters)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Airstrikes on Syria pro-government positions kill 12

  • At least 12 pro-government fighters who are reportedly foreigners, were killed in a series of overnight airstrikes in eastern Syria.
  • The Syrian government-run media blamed the strikes on the US-led coalition fighting Daesh.

BEIRUT: At least 12 pro-government fighters who are reportedly foreigners, were killed in a series of overnight airstrikes in eastern Syria, said a war-monitoring group on Thursday. The Syrian government-run media blamed the strikes on the US-led coalition fighting Daesh.
In Damascus, the SANA news agency said coalition aircraft struck military positions between the towns of Boukamal and Hmeimeh in Deir Ezzor province. It did not report any casualties.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war through a network of activists on the ground, said the fatalities were not Syrian nationals but foreign fighters. It said the coalition was likely behind the strikes.
The Pentagon said it had “no information” to substantiate reports the coalition was behind the latest airstrikes.
Syria’s government forces have relied on the support from the Lebanese group Hezbollah and other regional militias, organized by Iran to wage war on Syrian rebels and Daesh militants.
Their reach in Syria has alarmed the Trump administration in Washington and Netanyahu’s government in Tel Aviv, which say that Iran’s expansive networks in the war-torn country threaten Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel will not allow Iran to threaten Israel from Syria. The Israeli military is believed to be behind dozens of airstrikes in recent years against Hezbollah, Iran, and Syrian military positions.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, days after President Donald Trump revoked America’s participation in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, has threatened Iran with the “strongest sanctions in history” unless Tehran withdraws all its forces from Syria and terminates its support for Hezbollah.
Iran has dismissed those threats, saying its forces are in Syria at the invitation of President Bashar Assad’s government.
The strikes targeted “movements” of pro-government forces, near the T2 oil pumping station, the Observatory said.
In February, coalition forces struck pro-government forces in eastern Syria that the US said had attacked US-backed Kurdish forces battling IS militants. It was later revealed the fatalities included a number of Russian private contractors. Russia is a key ally to Assad.
The Iraqi air force is also known to strike targets in eastern Syria. Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi has said it is part of his country’s effort to defeat Daesh militants at its borders, after the government declared it had defeated the jihadist group inside Iraq last year.
The United States, Britain and France bombed government facilities in April in retaliation for a suspected gas attack blamed on Assad’s forces.
Earlier this month, Israel bombed Iranian military positions in Syria in what it said was retaliation for Iranian strikes on the occupied Golan Heights. Israel called it its most serious operation in Syria since the 1973 Mideast war.


Yazidi ‘ex-sex slave’ trapped both in Iraq and in German exile

Ashwaq Hajji
Updated 2 min ago
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Yazidi ‘ex-sex slave’ trapped both in Iraq and in German exile

  • Life in Iraq is not easy for Ashwaq or for the 3,315 other Yazidis who escaped from the Daesh
  • The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority that was brutally persecuted by the terrorists who despise them as heretics

LALISH: A young Yazidi woman who fled to Germany but returned home to northern Iraq says she cannot escape her Daesh captor who held her as a sex slave for three months.
Ashwaq Hajji, 19, says she ran into the man in a German supermarket in February. Traumatized by the encounter, she returned to Iraq the following month. Like many other Yazidis, she was kidnapped by Daesh when the extremists seized swaths of Iraq in the summer of 2014.
In their ancestral region of Sinjar in northwestern Iraq, thousands of Yazidi women were killed or sold off as sex slaves.
The teenager was held from Aug. 3 until Oct. 22 of 2014, when she managed to escape from the home of an Iraqi extremist using the name Abu Humam who had bought her for $100, she told AFP in the Yazidi shrine of Lalish, north of second city Mosul.
The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority that was brutally persecuted by the terrorists who despise them as heretics.
Under a German government program for Iraqi refugees, Ashwaq, her mother and a younger brother were resettled in 2015 in Schwaebisch Gmuend, a town near Stuttgart.
Her refuge in Germany, where she took language lessons, was cut short on Feb. 21 when a man called out her name in a supermarket and started talking to her in German.
“He told me he was Abu Humam. I told him I didn’t know him, and then he started talking to me in Arabic,” she said.
“He told me: ‘Don’t lie, I know very well that you’re Ashwaq’,” she said, adding that he gave her home address and other details of her life in Germany.
After that experience, she immediately phoned the local police, who told her to contact a specialized department.
The judicial police in the Baden-Wuerttemberg region of southwestern Germany said an inquiry was opened on March 13 but that Ashwaq was not present to answer questions.
A spokesman for the German federal prosecutor’s office said that so far the man’s identity could not be confirmed “with certainty.”
Germany says it has opened several investigations over terrorism charges or crimes against humanity involving asylum seekers linked to extremist groups in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan.
Ashwaq said she had viewed surveillance videos filmed in the supermarket together with German police and was ready to keep them informed of her whereabouts.
But she said that she was not willing to return to Germany for fear of seeing her captor again.
She is back in northern Iraq with her mother and brother, but living in fear because she says Abu Humam has family in Baghdad.
She wears black in a sign of mourning for five brothers and a sister still missing since their own capture by Daesh.
At a camp for the displaced in nearby Iraqi Kurdistan where he has been resettled, her father, Hajji Hamid, 53, admits returning was not an easy decision, even though the government proclaimed victory over IS at the end of last year.
“When her mother told me that she’d seen that jihadist... I told them to come back because Germany was obviously no longer a safe place for them,” he said.
Life in Iraq is also not easy for Ashwaq or for the 3,315 other Yazidis who escaped from the jihadists. A similar number are still being held or have gone missing, according to official figures.
“All the survivors have volcanos inside them, ready to explode,” warned Sara Samouqi, a psychologist who works with several Yazidis.
“Ashwaq and her family are going through terrible times.”