Daesh audio calls on followers to avenge Syria push

Civilians who streamed out of the Daesh group’s last Syrian stronghold sit at a screening point for new arrivals run by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces outside Baghouz in the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province on March 5, 2019. (AFP/Delil Souleiman)
Updated 12 March 2019
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Daesh audio calls on followers to avenge Syria push

  • The audio calls on Muslim “brothers, in Europe and in the whole world” to “rise against the Crusaders and ... take revenge for your religion”
  • The recording’s authenticity couldn’t be independently verified

BAGHOUZ, Syria: Besieged by US-backed forces in their last foothold in eastern Syria, Daesh militants are calling on supporters across the world to stage attacks in their defense, according to a newly released audio recording.

The recording, purportedly from Daesh, came as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces continued to face stiff resistance Tuesday from Daesh gunmen as US-backed fighters try to push deeper into the village of Baghouz on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

The brief, minute-and-a half recording, released by Daesh supporters on social media and reported by the SITE Intelligence Group late on Monday said that men, women and children in Baghouz are being subjected to a “holocaust by the Crusaders,” which is militant jargon for the US-led coalition against Daesh.

In the audio, an unidentified Daesh militant calls on Muslim “brothers, in Europe and in the whole world” to “rise against the Crusaders and ... take revenge for your religion.” As the man speaks, cracks of gunfire can be heard in the background, apparently meant to suggest that he is in Baghouz.

“Crusaders warplanes” and “Kurdish atheists” are attacking his people, the man says. The recording's authenticity couldn't be independently verified.

The US-backed forces resumed their offensive against the Daesh group on Sunday night, after thousands of civilians and hundreds of fighters left the last sliver held by the extremists. Since then, 38 militants and three SDF fighters have been killed, according to SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali.

Argish al-Deiri, an SDF commander in Baghouz who identified himself by his nom de guerre told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his men advanced overnight and secured some positions on the edge of a tent settlement where Daesh militants are making their last stand.

“We entered the camp, then stopped,” he said. “There was resistance, and we withdrew. The planes struck the ammunition depot,” setting off explosions that halted the push.

He said Daesh militants were fighting back with heavy weapons, rifles and sniper fire, forcing SDF fighters to slow their advance rather than advancing quickly so that “you don't lose your men.”

He said he hoped the Daesh fighters will surrender in the coming “few days.”

The capture of Baghouz would be a milestone in the devastating four-year campaign to defeat Daesh's so-called “caliphate,” which once covered a vast territory straddling both Syria and Iraq.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.