Daesh ambush kills 21 regime fighters in southern Syria

Daesh has killed 21 regime fighters in Syria’s southern province of Sweida. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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Daesh ambush kills 21 regime fighters in southern Syria

  • The attack occurred late Monday in the rural Tulul Al-Safa area of the province
  • Daesh has killed 21 regime fighters in Syria’s southern province of Sweida

BEIRUT: Daesh militants have killed 12 Syrian regime fighters in an ambush as the group faces separate assaults on its last desert strongholds, a war monitor said Tuesday.
The attack late Monday in Syria’s southern province of Sweida came as US-backed forces advanced against the militants on the border with Iraq, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It also comes with President Bashar Assad’s forces poised to launch an attack on the northwestern province of Idlib, the last major region in Syria still controlled by rebels and extremists.
The Daesh ambush in Sweida’s volcanic plateau of Tulul Al-Safa sparked fighting that killed eight militants, the Britain-based Observatory said.
State news agency SANA reported heavy clashes with Daesh in the area, which lies some 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Damascus, adding that government aircraft and artillery “targeted hideouts and positions” held by the group.
Government forces have been fighting Daesh in Sweida since militants carried out a wave of attacks in the mainly Druze province on July 25, killing 250 people according to the Observatory.
During their rampage, which targeted the provincial capital as well as rural areas, the militants also seized around 30 hostages, mostly women and their children.
At least 27 are believed to still be held, according to Human Rights Watch, after Daesh said it had beheaded a 19-year-old man and announced an elderly woman had died.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the hostages were believed to be held captive in the Tulul Al-Safa area.
A source in Sweida told AFP that families had had no word of their kidnapped relatives in weeks.
Daesh has lost nearly all of the great swathes of territory straddling Iraq and Syria which it seized in 2014, but retains a presence in the vast Badiya desert that lies between Damascus and the Iraqi border, and holds a pocket in the Euphrates Valley in the east.
In that eastern pocket, a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance has for months been closing in on the town of Hajjin east of the Euphrates River near the Iraqi border, and on Monday launched an assault to retake it.
In the early hours of Tuesday, the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance advanced inside the town, the Observatory said, with backing from the US-led coalition fighting Daesh.
“They have seized control of the northwestern part of Hajjin” after residents fled, the monitor’s chief Abdel Rahman said.
An SDF commander said the offensive on Hajjin aimed to oust an estimated 3,000 militants, including a large portion of foreign fighters, from the town and surrounding areas.
“Most of the frontline commanders in this pocket are Iraqi,” said Ahmad Abu Khawla, a commander with the Deir Ezzor Military Council, which is part of the SDF.
After humanitarian corridors were opened to allow residents to flee the Daesh-held area, most civilians remaining inside were “directly linked to the group — hostages or the families of Islamic State fighters,” he said, referring to Daesh.
Abu Khawla said Daesh had “secret jails where they hold civilians” captured in other areas of Syria.
Last year Daesh lost its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa in the north of the country, and this spring militants bussed out of the southern suburbs of Damascus.
Since Monday, 27 militants and 10 SDF fighters have been killed in the fighting for the Hajjin pocket, the Observatory says.
More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since Syria’s war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.


Netanyahu: Israel will continue operations in Syria against Iran

Updated 57 min 44 sec ago
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Netanyahu: Israel will continue operations in Syria against Iran

  • Russia said on Monday it would supply an S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria in two weeks despite strong Israeli objections
  • Israel has long lobbied Moscow not to provide the S-300 to Syria

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday Israel would continue its military operations in Syria, after Russia announced it would supply an advanced anti-aircraft system to its Syrian ally.
“We will continue to act to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and we will continue the military coordination between the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and the Russian army,” Netanyahu told reporters before boarding a flight to New York, where he will address the UN General Assembly.
Russia said on Monday it would supply an S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria in two weeks despite strong Israeli objections, a week after Moscow accused Israel of indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military jet in Syria.
Russia, which fights in Syria to support the government against rebels and militants, has said Syrian anti-aircraft batteries shot its IL-20 surveillance plane down by mistake shortly after Israeli jets hit a nearby target.
Moscow accused Israel of creating dangerous conditions that caused the incident.
Israel, which has carried out air strikes in Syria many times during the civil war, said after the incident it would work to improve “deconfliction” of its missions with Russian forces, but would not halt them.
Netanyahu spoke by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. In his remarks on Tuesday, Netanyahu said he had agreed with Putin “that the working teams from the IDF and the Russian army will meet soon.”
The Israeli leader made the remarks after convening his security cabinet to discuss the tensions with Moscow.
“Over the past three years, Israel has been highly successful in preventing the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and Iranian attempts to transfer lethal weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Netanyahu said.
But he said there had been occasions when things had not gone smoothly, calling Syria’s downing of the Russian plane “tragic.”
Israel has long lobbied Moscow not to provide the S-300 to Syria, fearing this would hinder its aerial capability to strike the forces of Iran and its Hezbollah allies in Syria.