Assad’s forces retake Golan Heights frontier with Israel

Smoke rises above buildings across the border during a regime-led offensive in Quneitra, Syria. (AFP)
Updated 31 July 2018
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Assad’s forces retake Golan Heights frontier with Israel

  • Opposition captured the area along the Golan Heights after a popular uprising broke out against Bashar Assad in 2011
  • The Observatory said an estimated 1,200 Daesh-linked fighters agreed to give up their pockets near the Golan Heights on Monday

BEIRUT: The Syrian regime regained control of the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time in seven years on Monday, after Daesh-linked militants gave up their last pocket of territory in the area.

The breakthrough against the militants, reported by state media and an opposition-linked war-monitoring group, capped a six-week-long campaign to retake the southwest corner of the country.

Opposition captured the area along the Golan Heights after a popular uprising broke out against Bashar Assad in 2011. A Daesh-linked outfit known as the Khaled bin Al-Waleed Army later seized the area from the opposition fighters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militants surrendered control of the Yarmouk Basin in southwestern Syria on Monday.

The regime-affiliated Central Military Media outlet said Syria’s military secured the length of the Golan Heights frontier.

 Israel seized the Golan Heights in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.

UN peacekeeping forces first deployed along the frontier in 1974 to separate Syrian and Israeli forces.

Israel has largely kept to the sidelines of the Syrian civil war, but has said it will not allow Iran or the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to establish a permanent military presence near the frontier. Both are allied with Assad and have provided crucial military support to his forces.

Syrian regime forces pressed ahead with their offensive despite threats by Daesh to kill civilians it recently captured in a nearby province.

The extremists abducted around 18 people, mostly women, in a wave of attacks in the nearby province of Sweida last Wednesday that killed more than 200 people.

On Saturday, the group released a hostage video of a woman saying she was being held along with other women from Sweida. The woman said she would be freed if the regime halted its offensive against the militants and released Daesh detainees. She said she was being threatened with death if the regime pressed its offensive.

The Sweida 24, an activist collective in Sweida, said Daesh sent the photos of 14 women they are holding to their relatives, saying they want to negotiate over them.

Sweida 24 said Daesh is believed to be holding 30 people, including 20 women whose ages range between 18 and 60. It said Daesh is also believed to be holding 16 young boys and girls.

The activist group said the bodies of two women were found near the village of Shabki, a focus of Wednesday’s attack. One had been shot in the head and the other, an elderly woman, apparently died of exhaustion. Four other women were found alive hiding in a cave, it said.

Those abducted are members of the minority Druze sect. Daesh has been driven from virtually all the territory it once controlled in Syria and Iraq, but holds scattered pockets in southern Syria and along the border.

The Observatory said an estimated 1,200 Daesh-linked fighters agreed to give up their pockets near the Golan Heights on Monday. Their fate was unclear.


Iran, US tension is a ‘clash of wills’: Guards commander

Updated 23 May 2019
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Iran, US tension is a ‘clash of wills’: Guards commander

  • The commander said they will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for their enemies
  • Tensions between Iran and US escalated after Trump restored sanctions

GENEVA: The standoff between Iran and the United States is a “clash of wills,” a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday, suggesting any enemy “adventurism” would meet a crushing response, Fars news agency reported.
Tensions have spiked between the two countries after Washington sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.
“The confrontation and face-off of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the malicious government of America is the arena for a clash of wills,” Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri said.
He pointed to a battle during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war where Iran was victorious and said the outcome could be a message that Iran will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for any enemy “adventurism.”
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!“
Trump restored US sanctions on Iran last year and tightened them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
Trump wants Iran to come to the negotiating table to reach a new deal with more curbs on its nuclear and missile programs.
Reiterating Iran’s stance, the spokesman for its Supreme National Security Council said on Thursday that “There will not be any negotiations between Iran and America.”
Keyvan Khosravi was also quoted as saying by the state broadcaster that some officials from several countries have visited Iran recently, “mostly representing the United States.”
He did not elaborate, but the foreign minister of Oman, which in the past helped pave the way for negotiations between Iran and the United States, visited Tehran on Monday.
“Without exception, the message of the power and resistance of the Iranian nation was conveyed to them,” he said.
In Berlin, a German diplomatic source told Reuters that Jens Ploetner, a political director in Germany’s Foreign Ministry, was in Tehran on Thursday for meetings with Iranian officials to try to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cool tensions in the region.