US warns Syria of ‘firm’ measures for cease-fire violations

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Syrian civil defense members conduct search and rescue operations and rescue a baby after an explosion was carried out with a bomb-laden vehicle in Idlib, on Saturday. Getty Images
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A Syrian youth plants his national flag on top of a bullet-riddled water container on the destroyed Thalateen Street in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 26 May 2018
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US warns Syria of ‘firm’ measures for cease-fire violations

  • The government is now in its strongest position since the early months of the war in 2011
  • Anti-Assad fighters still control two large contiguous areas of territory in the northwest and southwest

The US warned Syria on Friday it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to cease-fire violations, saying it was concerned about reports of an impending military operation in a de-escalation zone in the country’s southwest.
Washington also cautioned Syria’s Bashar Assad against broadening the conflict.
“As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the US will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement late on Friday.
A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported on Wednesday that Syrian government forces fresh from their victory this week against a Daesh pocket in south Damascus were moving into the southern province of Daraa.
Syrian state-run media have reported that government aircraft have dropped leaflets on opposition-held areas in Daraa urging fighters to disarm.
The US warning comes weeks after a similar attack on a de-escalation zone in northeastern Syria held by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. US ground and air forces repelled the more than four-hour attack, killing perhaps as many as 300 pro-Assad militia members, many of them Russian mercenaries.
Backed by Russian warplanes, ground forces from Iran and allied militia, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have helped Assad drive opposition fighters from Syria’s biggest cities, putting him in an unassailable military position.
They have recaptured all remaining insurgent areas near Damascus in recent weeks, including the densely populated eastern Ghouta area, as well as big enclaves in central Syria.
The government is now in its strongest position since the early months of the war in 2011, although still a long way from achieving Assad’s aim of reasserting sway over all of Syria.
Anti-Assad fighters still control two large contiguous areas of territory in the northwest and southwest. Kurdish and allied Arab militia backed by the US hold the quarter of Syria east of the Euphrates.
The government’s gains have brought it to a point where any new military campaign risks putting it in conflict with foreign powers.

Pre-2011 conscripts return
Meanwhile, the regime forces have issued orders to return home for men conscripted for compulsory service in 2010, the year before war broke out, fighters and local media said on Saturday.
The decision ends the drawn-out deployment of thousands of Syrians who enlisted for the mandatory 18 months of military service in 2010, but who ended up serving for eight years because of the war.
Al-Watan, a Syrian daily close to the government, reported that the army had “issued a decision to demobilize the officers and reservists of Recruitment Class 102 as of June 1, 2018”.
The decision comes in the wake of a string of military gains around the capital Damascus and in the central province of Homs.
Mohammad, 27, has been serving for eight consecutive years after enlisting in 2010, but will finally go home next month.
Before Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011, men 18 and older had to serve between 18 months and two years in the armed forces, after which they remained part of the reserves.
But when war broke out, anyone enlisted remained deployed on active duty.

 


Israeli minister says Trump peace plan a ‘waste of time’

Updated 21 November 2018
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Israeli minister says Trump peace plan a ‘waste of time’

  • “I think that the gap between the Israelis and Palestinians is much too big to be bridged”
  • “I think personally it’s a waste of time”

JERUSALEM: A senior Israeli minister said Wednesday that US President Donald Trump’s long-awaited plan for peace with the Palestinians was “a waste of time.”
“I think that the gap between the Israelis and Palestinians is much too big to be bridged,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said at a conference organized by the Jerusalem Post newspaper.
“I think personally it’s a waste of time,” she said when asked what she thought about the peace initiative Trump is expected to unveil in the weeks or months ahead.
Shaked is part of the far-right Jewish Home party, a key member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.
She and other members of her party openly oppose a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians have already vowed to block Trump’s peace plan and severed ties with his administration after his December decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and declare the city Israel’s capital.
The Palestinians also see the city as the capital of their future state and international consensus has been that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated between the two sides.
Trump has also cut some $500 million in aid to the Palestinians, who accuse the White House of seeking to blackmail them into accepting a plan they view as blatantly biased in favor of Israel.
Trump aide Jason Greenblatt said recently in an interview with the Times of Israel news site that the plan would “be heavily focused on Israeli security needs” while remaining “fair to the Palestinians.”
While expressing her pessimism on the chances for making peace with the Palestinians for now, Shaked however said she would keep an open mind on the US plan.
“Although I want peace like anyone else, I’m just more realistic, and I know that in the current future it is impossible,” she said, speaking in English.
“But let’s wait and see what they (the US) will offer.”