US-backed fighters brave sandstorm to battle terrorists in Syria

Syrian rebel-fighters with the National Liberation Front (NLF) in a trench overlooking the regime areas in Aleppo province on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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US-backed fighters brave sandstorm to battle terrorists in Syria

  • Daesh terrorists launched a counter-attack against SDF positions around Hajjin and nearby towns on Wednesday
  • In recent years the SDF, with US air support, has driven Daesh from much of northern and eastern Syria

BEIRUT: US-backed fighters braved a sandstorm to battle the Daesh group in eastern Syria on Thursday in heavy clashes that killed several fighters on both sides.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group, said it was fighting to retake the village of Sousah, where the extremists took advantage of the poor visibility to launch a counteroffensive.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting began Wednesday and killed at least 10 US-allied fighters, with the fate of 35 others unknown. It said 18 Daesh militants were killed.

On Wednesday, Daesh launched “a counter attack against SDF positions around Hajjin and nearby towns,” the Observatory said.

“Violent clashes subsequently erupted and are still ongoing,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

The SDF denied any of its fighters had been captured during the attack.

“No fighter from the SDF was captured by Daesh on the Deir Ezzor front. This information is not true,” SDF media official Mustefa Bali told AFP.

The Daesh-linked Aamaq news agency reported 18 deaths among the SDF fighters and posted photos online of what it said were some of the bodies.

In recent years the SDF, with US air support, has driven Daesh from much of northern and eastern Syria. The extremists have also suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces and Iraqi forces, losing virtually all the territory that once made up their self-styled caliphate.

Sousah is in one of the last pockets of territory held by Daesh, which has put up stiff resistance. The advancing SDF has had to contend with mines, sniper fire and suicide attacks.

Founded in 2015, the SDF is spearheaded by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a powerful Kurdish armed movement.

Hundreds of foreigners have joined the YPG to fight Daesh.

On Wednesday, the force announced that a French national fighting among its ranks had been killed near Hajjin.

Farid Medjahed, born in the French city of Marseilles, died on Oct. 6 fighting Daesh there, the YPG said. It did not say when he arrived in Syria but said it had only been a “short stay.” 

In February, the YPG announced that three European nationals had been killed in clashes in Syria.

In one month of fighting for Hajjin, at least 139 SDF fighters and 267 extremists have been killed, the Observatory said.


Israeli forces wound 77 Palestinians at protest near Gaza Strip border

Protesters run for cover from teargas during Friday’s protests in Gaza. (AP)
Updated 20 October 2018
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Israeli forces wound 77 Palestinians at protest near Gaza Strip border

  • Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948

GAZA: Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 77 Palestinians during protests near the Gaza Strip border on Friday, the enclave’s Health Ministry said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said about 10,000 demonstrators massed at the border and that some threw burning tires, grenades and explosive devices at the troops across the fence. About 30 Palestinians suffered tear gas inhalation, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
But the protest was relatively small — some of the previous gatherings included about 30,000 people, a sign that tensions that have built up in the past few days may be easing.
On Thursday, Israel had ramped up armored forces along the Gaza border, a day after a rocket fired from the enclave destroyed a home in southern Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed “very strong action” if attacks continued. A Palestinian official said Egyptian security officials had held separate meetings in the past few days with Israeli counterparts and with leaders of the Palestinian Hamas group that rules Gaza in an effort to prevent an escalation in violence.
Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948. About 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the protests started, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. Pale stinians have launched incendiary balloons and kites into Israel and on occasion breached the Israeli frontier fence. More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave. Israel pulled troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders.
Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border. Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s Mideast peace envoy, earlier urged Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint ahead of the protests. Mosque loudspeakers in the Palestinian enclave urged Gazans to attend Friday’s demonstrations, despite statements by Gaza’s leaders that Hamas seeks to rein in the protests. “In light of today’s planned Gaza march, I urge all to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement. “The UN is working with Egypt and its partners to avoid violence, address all humanitarian issues and support reconciliation.”
Egyptian intelligence officials met with Hamas and Israeli officials on Thursday in efforts to broker a cease-fire and ease months of deadly border protests. Egypt and the UN have attempted to negotiate a truce between Israel and Hamas for weeks in a bid to ease tensions in the beleaguered Gaza Strip.
Hamas has organized weekly protests since March that seek, in part, to secure an easing of the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 in an armed coup.
At least 156 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire at the protests, and an Israeli solider was killed by a Palestinian sniper.
The protests have intensified in recent weeks as Egyptian and UN cease-fire negotiations have faltered, and cross-border violence earlier this week has brought tensions to a simmer.
On Wednesday, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip destroyed a house in the Israeli city of Beersheba in the worst bout of violence in recent weeks. Israel retaliated with airstrikes and has beefed up its military forces along the border. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet resolved to retaliate more severely to cross-border attacks, but has thus far refrained from further action, suggesting it was giving the Egyptians a chance to restore calm.