Russia resumes air strikes in Daraa as talks with Syrian opposition fighters collapse

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Smoke rises above opposition-held areas of the city of Saida, some 10 kilometers east of Daraa, during airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on July 4, 2018. (AFP / Mohamad Abazeed)
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Syrian government forces' soldiers display weapons confiscated from opposition fighters in the town of Ezraa, province of Daraa, on July 4, 2018. (AFP / Youssef Karwashan)
Updated 05 July 2018
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Russia resumes air strikes in Daraa as talks with Syrian opposition fighters collapse

  • Assad regime forces backed by Russian air power launched an offensive last month to recapture the region from opposition groups led by the Free Syrian Army, and have seized a large chunk of their territory.
  • The peace talks collapsed because the Russians insisted that opposition forces hand over all their heavy weapons immediately and unconditionally, Free Syrian Army spokesman Abu Shaima said.

AMMAN, Jordan: Russia launched its first airstrikes in four days in the southern Syrian region of Daraa on Wednesday after talks aimed at restoring the Assad regime rule collapsed.

The airstrikes targeted Tafas, northwest of the provincial capital Daraa, and Saida to the east. Barrel bombs were also dropped on Saida.

Regime forces backed by Russian air power launched an offensive last month to recapture the region from opposition groups led by the Free Syrian Army, and have seized a large chunk of their territory.

Opposition delegates had been negotiating with Russia since Saturday to end fighting by accepting the return of state sovereignty, but they failed to agree. The talks collapsed because the Russians insisted that opposition forces hand over all their heavy weapons immediately and unconditionally, Free Syrian Army spokesman Abu Shaima said.

Arab News obtained a copy of the 13-point opposition plan rejected by Russian negotiators. In it, the Free Syrian Army offers to surrender its heavy weapons immediately on condition of international or Arab guarantees to any deal, and the simultaneous release of half the prisoners held by the Assad regime.

It also demands the right of all displaced Syrians to return to their homes without any restrictions or punishment. Other issues to be resolved were the status of former Syrian army officers, and the right of Free Syrian Army fighters in Daraa to join the remaining opposition forces in the northwestern province of Idlib.

The opposition also suggested Jordan could guarantee the agreement, but sources in Amman said this was unlikely. 

“Jordan is keen on the stability of south Syria and will do everything it can to make a peaceful resolution work, but it is unlikely that Jordanian troops will be deployed to guarantee any agreement,” Naser Tahboub, chairman of the international development department at the University of Jordan, told Arab News.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi held talks in Moscow on Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and said a humanitarian catastrophe risked unfolding in southern Syria if there were no cease-fire. 

Jordan was working to find a political solution that can “guarantee the security of Syrians and their dignity in their own country,” he said.

Lavrov said Syria would be discussed at the coming summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 


Manama charges 169 over terror ring

Local Shiite militant groups have carried out several attacks on security forces. (AP)
Updated 14 min 46 sec ago
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Manama charges 169 over terror ring

  • Prosecutors also accused Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard of providing arms and training for the militants

ABU DHABI: Bahrain charged 169 people on Tuesday with being part of a militant group they referred to as the “Bahraini Hezbollah.” 

Prosecutors said in a statement they already have 111 people in custody after a series of raids on the island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Charges against suspects in the case range from attempted murder to damaging property, as well as illegally possessing and hiding weapons.

It offered no names for the accused. It wasn’t immediately clear if they had legal counsel.

Prosecutors also accused Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard of providing arms and training for the militants. 

In recent years, the kingdom has revoked the citizenship of over 700 people since 2012, including 115 in a mass terrorism trial in May.

Amid the crackdown, local Shiite militant groups have carried out several attacks on security forces.

“The Public Prosecution had been informed by the Department of criminal investigation ... that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have ordered some of their members to work on unifying different Bahraini militant groups,” the statement said.

“(The groups) would get involved in one terrorist organisation which they called Bahrain’s Hezbollah,” it said, adding the group was planning to send Bahrainis to Iraq, Lebanon and Iran for military training. A trial is set for Oct. 3, Bahrain News Agency said.

The kingdom has seen occasional unrest since 2011.

Bahrain is a strategic island where the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based.