Trucks evacuate civilians from last Daesh pocket in Syria: SDF official

Reporters near the front line saw the trucks leaving the enclave. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 February 2019
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Trucks evacuate civilians from last Daesh pocket in Syria: SDF official

  • Isolating the civilians in the enclave at Baghouz from the remaining extremists is a crucial step toward the final capture of the area, SDF said
  • The civilians are coming from the last Daesh pocket in eastern Syria at Baghouz

BAGHOUZ, Syria: A convoy of trucks carrying hundreds of civilians, including men, women and children, left the last enclave held by Daesh militants in eastern Syria on Wednesday, signaling a possible end to a standoff that has lasted for more than a week.
An Associated Press team in Baghouz, a village near the Iraqi border where the Daesh group is making its final stand, counted at least 17 trucks that emerged through a humanitarian corridor used in past weeks to evacuate people from the militants’ last patch of territory along the Euphrates River.
Women, children and men, some with checkered headscarves, or keffiyehs, could be seen through a flap opening on the flatbed trucks. One man carried a crutch; the women were engulfed in conservative black garments covering their faces known as niqabs.
Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, the US-backed militia spearheading the fight against Daesh in Syria, confirmed the trucks were carrying civilians out of the enclave.
It was not immediately clear if militants were also on board the trucks. Around 300 militants are believed to be holed up in the enclave, along with several hundred civilians. On Tuesday, Bali said a military operation aimed at ousting the extremists from the area will begin if they don’t surrender, adding that such an operation would take place after separating or evacuating the civilians from the militants.
An SDF commander, Zana Amedi, said most of the militants remaining inside the enclave are seriously wounded or sick.
The Daesh group has been reduced from its self-proclaimed “caliphate” that once spread across much of Syria and Iraq at its height in 2014 to a speck of land on the countries’ shared border.
The SDF has been encircling the remaining Daesh-held territory for days, waiting to declare the territorial defeat of the extremist group.
Nearly 20,000 civilians had left the shrinking area in recent weeks before the evacuation halted last week when the militants closed all the roads out of the tiny area.


Iran, US tension is a ‘clash of wills’: Guards commander

Updated 23 May 2019
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Iran, US tension is a ‘clash of wills’: Guards commander

  • The commander said they will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for their enemies
  • Tensions between Iran and US escalated after Trump restored sanctions

GENEVA: The standoff between Iran and the United States is a “clash of wills,” a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday, suggesting any enemy “adventurism” would meet a crushing response, Fars news agency reported.
Tensions have spiked between the two countries after Washington sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.
“The confrontation and face-off of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the malicious government of America is the arena for a clash of wills,” Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri said.
He pointed to a battle during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war where Iran was victorious and said the outcome could be a message that Iran will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for any enemy “adventurism.”
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!“
Trump restored US sanctions on Iran last year and tightened them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
Trump wants Iran to come to the negotiating table to reach a new deal with more curbs on its nuclear and missile programs.
Reiterating Iran’s stance, the spokesman for its Supreme National Security Council said on Thursday that “There will not be any negotiations between Iran and America.”
Keyvan Khosravi was also quoted as saying by the state broadcaster that some officials from several countries have visited Iran recently, “mostly representing the United States.”
He did not elaborate, but the foreign minister of Oman, which in the past helped pave the way for negotiations between Iran and the United States, visited Tehran on Monday.
“Without exception, the message of the power and resistance of the Iranian nation was conveyed to them,” he said.
In Berlin, a German diplomatic source told Reuters that Jens Ploetner, a political director in Germany’s Foreign Ministry, was in Tehran on Thursday for meetings with Iranian officials to try to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cool tensions in the region.