Daesh kills 20 US-backed fighters in Syria

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters celebrate victory in Raqqa last year. (Reuters)
Updated 14 September 2018
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Daesh kills 20 US-backed fighters in Syria

  • The fighters were advancing during a sandstorm when they were surrounded
  • The US-backed SDF had been closing in on a Daesh pocket for months

BEIRUT: At least 20 fighters from a US-backed force fighting the Daesh group were killed Friday in an ambush in eastern Syria, a war monitor said.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces is waging an offensive around the town of Hajjin in the province of Deir Ezzor, Daesh’s last stronghold in the country’s east.
“The fighters were advancing during a sandstorm, they were surrounded, Daesh members used explosives and opened fire,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The US-backed SDF had been closing in on the Daesh pocket for months before formally launching its offensive on Monday.
Since then, 53 militants and 37 SDF fighters have been killed in fierce clashes, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
The Daesh group once held nearly all of Deir Ezzor, but separate offensives last year by the SDF and Russian-backed regime forces left the extremists clinging to a small area of territory near the Iraqi border.
The SDF estimates Daesh has some 3,000 fighters in its besieged holdout, many of them foreigners.
A senior US diplomat visited Kurdish-held territory in Syria last month and pledged Washington’s lasting support.
“We are prepared to stay here, as the president (Donald Trump) has made clear, to ensure the enduring defeat of Daesh,” said Ambassador William Roebuck.
The Daesh group once held swathes of territory across Syria and Iraq but has since seen its self-declared “caliphate” collapse.
The extremists now control less than three percent of Syria and are mostly present in the vast Badiya desert, which lies between Damascus and the Iraqi border.
On Monday Daesh fighters killed 12 Syrian regime fighters in an ambush in the southern province of Sweida. Eight extremists were also killed, the Observatory said.


Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

Palestinians celebrate the resignation of Israel's defense minister. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

  • The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM: A knife-wielding Palestinian attacker sneaked into a Jerusalem police station and lightly wounded four police officers before he was shot and captured, Israeli police said on Thursday.

The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip that ended two days of heavy fighting, the area’s most severe violence since the 50-day Gaza war in 2014.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the knife-wielding attacker climbed over the station’s fence late on Wednesday night and began stabbing officers inside. Other officers then shot the assailant and captured him; he was later taken to hospital.

In the two days of heavy fighting, Palestinian militants had fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel, while Israel carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. A rocket fired from Gaza killed a Palestinian laborer in Israel.

The latest round of violence was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinians and a senior Israeli military officer dead. Before the raid, Egyptian and UN mediators had made progress in reducing tensions.

In recent days, Israel had allowed fuel shipments to increase the power supply in Gaza, which suffers from frequent blackouts, and agreed to additional Qatari assistance to allow Hamas to pay the salaries of its thousands of government workers.

The cease-fire led to the resignation of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had demanded a far stronger Israeli response to the Palestinian rocket attack but appeared to have been overruled by Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Resignation

The resignation threw the government into turmoil and pushed the country toward an early election. Netanyahu presented the decision to step back from a full-blown conflict as a unified one made by his Security Cabinet and based on the military’s recommendations. 

But Lieberman and fellow hard-liner Education Minister Naftali Bennett later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.

Hamas has staged  near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the coastal strip in 2007.  This has inflicted heavy damage on Gaza, but Hamas remains firmly in power. Demonstrators each week approach the border fence, throwing firebombs, grenades and burning tires at Israeli troops. Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, most of them unarmed.

Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party was demanding to be given the defense portfolio or he would withdraw his eight seats from Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Another key coalition partner, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of center-right Kulanu, reportedly told Netanyahu elections should be called as soon as possible because a stable government was needed to keep the economy on track.

Premier Netanyahu’s political popularity is in large part due to his reputation as Israel’s “Mr. Security,” as he has often been dubbed, and he has defended his decision saying: “Our enemies begged for a cease-fire.

“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said.