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.


In Jordan’s ancient Petra, sirens warn of flash floods

Updated 2 min 10 sec ago
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In Jordan’s ancient Petra, sirens warn of flash floods

  • Earlier this month, sirens blared minutes before a torrent fed by heavy rains approached the UNESCO World Heritage site
  • The last fatal flash flood struck Petra in 1963 when 22 French tourists and a local guide were killed by rapidly rising waters

PETRA, Jordan: In ancient times, Arab tribesmen dug diversion tunnels to protect their low-lying trading post of Petra against desert flash floods. More than two millennia later, an alarm system warns visitors if flood water rushes toward what has become Jordan’s main tourist attraction.
Earlier this month, the alarms were activated for the first time, said Hussein Al-Hasanat of the Petra Development & Tourism Region Authority. Sirens blared minutes before a torrent fed by heavy rains approached the UNESCO World Heritage site carved into rose-hued rock face.
Hundreds of tourists were able to seek higher ground and were later evacuated, he said.
Amateur video posted online at the time showed visitors running through a steep, narrow canyon leading to the Treasury, Petra’s main draw, as guides urged them to hurry. Later, visitors were seen standing on a higher patch near the Treasury as knee-high water poured through the canyon.
Elsewhere in Jordan, such alarms are still missing. Thirty-four people were killed in flash floods in late September and early November.
The last fatal flash flood struck Petra in 1963 when 22 French tourists and a local guide were killed by rapidly rising waters. In response, Jordan’s Department of Antiquities built a dam to keep water from entering the canyon leading to the Treasury.
In 2014, the alarm system was installed as added protection, with sirens set to go off when flood water rises above four meters (yards).
On Nov. 9, the system was triggered for the first time, through a computer in the Petra Authority’s control room. The computer is connected to eight rain forecast systems and two water detection stations placed in the area, within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of Petra.
The network generates instant data allowing officials to measure possible danger and warn people by the time the water reaches Petra.
Omar Dajani, a meteorologist at the Arabia Weather company, said alarms should be installed in all vulnerable areas in Jordan.
He said urban sprawl has exacerbated the flood risk, which is particularly high in dry areas.
“Now towns have spread so much and many of them were not built with respect for the geography of the region, such as valleys for example, where the water has naturally caused floods for millions of years,” Dajani said.