SDF begins operation to drive out Daesh from Hajjin

A member of the Asayish, Kurdish internal security police forces, walks by a government forces' pick-up truck as she arrives at the site of clashes with regime forces in Qamishly, northeastern Syria, on September 8, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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SDF begins operation to drive out Daesh from Hajjin

  • The SDF had broken into Hajjin from its northwestern edge and taken control of part of the area, while opening a humanitarian corridor to allow residents to flee
  • Daesh declared a self-styled “caliphate” in 2014 across swathes of Syria and Iraq

QAMISHLI: US-backed fighters have launched a fierce assault against a dwindling pocket of territory held by Daesh in East Syria, said a commander and a war monitor.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, have been closing in for months on the town of Hajjin in eastern Deir Ezzor province.
On Monday, they began an offensive for the Daesh-held town itself.
An SDF commander said the assault, relying heavily on artillery and US-led coalition airstrikes, had killed at least 15 Daesh fighters. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said the Daesh death toll was at least 17.
“Our forces today began attacking the last bastions of Daesh in Hajjin, with intense artillery and air support,” said the SDF commander.
“The clashes will be fierce in Hajjin because Daesh has reinforced their positions, but we will take control of it,” said the commander.
The Britain-based Observatory said the SDF had been amassing fighters and equipment and beefing up their positions for weeks ahead of the attack.
“The operation to end Daesh’s presence in this pocket began today, with the heaviest airstrikes, artillery fire, and ground attacks in months by the SDF and the coalition,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said the SDF had broken into Hajjin from its northwestern edge and taken control of part of the area, while opening a humanitarian corridor to allow residents to flee.
Daesh declared a self-styled “caliphate” in 2014 across swathes of Syria and Iraq, but various separate offensives by the national armies of both countries, Kurdish forces and international backers have seen the extremists’ territory shrink dramatically.
In Syria, Daesh controls part of Deir Ezzor as well as some territory in the south.
The SDF, founded in October 2015, has been backed by US-led coalition airstrikes, artillery, and special forces advisers.
It ousted Daesh from swathes of Syria’s north last year, including from their main bastion Raqqa.
In Deir Ezzor, the SDF is battling Daesh on the eastern side of the Euphrates River while Syrian regime troops backed by Russia battle them west of the river.
In July, a coalition official said a few hundred IS fighters remain in the eastern pocket.
In a purported new audio recording released on August 22, Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi remained defiant.
“The caliphate will remain... and is not confined to Hajjin,” he said.


Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

Updated 19 July 2019
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Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

  • Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place
  • The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions

BEIRUT: Retired Lebanese soldiers on Friday came close to clashing with the country’s army when weeks of protests over planned benefit cuts reached boiling point in the capital Beirut.
Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place.
A military source told Arab News that the Lebanese army leadership had decided to block access to Najma Square, in Beirut’s Central District, where Parliament members were sitting.
But former soldiers, joined by the parents of army martyrs and activists from the Sabaa and Communist parties, surrounded the building in nearby streets before attempting to push through barbed wire, concrete and metal barriers erected by the Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces.
The protesters, waving Lebanese and army flags, got as far as the entrance to Maarad Street, on which Parliament is located, putting them in direct confrontation with the Lebanese troops.
Ten brigades of reinforcements were drafted in to help push back the veterans before protest leaders eased tensions by calling for a retreat to a nearby square to avoid any further clashes.
The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions. Before entering the parliamentary session, Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab said that “misleading the retired soldiers” would be “harmful to the image and demands of the protesters” and called on them to carry out “peaceful demonstrations.” He added that there had been mixed and confused messages regarding benefit cuts.
However, retired Brig. Gen. Georges Nader had vowed that protesters would not back off until the vote on their benefits was dropped.
Discussing the protests in Parliament, Samy Gemayel, president of the Phalange party, objected to the reduction in the army budget, to which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said: “This has been concluded on the bases of an understanding with the army and the military establishment.”
MP Paula Yacoubian said that “retired soldiers are trying to storm Parliament,” to which Berri said: “Those who want to storm Parliament have not yet been born.”
The row had centered on a controversial article concerning amendments to the country’s income tax act, and Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted on defending it. He said: “It does not cost the retired soldiers, for instance, more than 3,000 Lebanese pounds ($2) per month. This amount rises to 400,000 pounds for brigadiers.” He added: “Which country in the world gives a retiree 85 percent of his salary?”
After a meeting between the minister and Nader in Parliament, the retired brigadier general went out to reassure the veterans that cuts from their salaries in respect of medicine and income tax would be reduced. Less intense protests continued for more than three hours before Parliament approved the relevant article in the budget.
Meanwhile, Berri had started the Parliament session by reading a resignation submitted by Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi.