Syria clashes kill 45 fighters: monitor

A fighters with the Syrian regime forces holds a position in Syria’s Hama governorate during clashes with militants earlier on June 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Syria clashes kill 45 fighters: monitor

  • The fighting flared on the edge of Hama province in Syria’s northwest
  • More than 400 civilians died since the flare-up of bombardments started in April

BEIRUT: Clashes between pro-government forces and extremist-led groups that control Syria’s northwest killed at least 45 combatants on Tuesday, a war monitor said.

The fighting flared on the edge of Hama province when extremist group Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham launched a dawn attack on regime positions, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

At least 14 pro-government forces died in ensuing clashes, said the Britain-based monitor.

“Regime forces foiled the attack,” Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP.

State news agency SANA also said the offensive had been thwarted.

Hama’s northern countryside lies on the edge of an extremist-controlled region including most of Idlib province.

The frontline had been relatively calm since clashes on Saturday killed more than 35 combatants, including extremists and regime forces, Abdul Rahman said.

Regime airstrikes on northern Hama and neighboring Idlib had also paused for more than 24 hours, before resuming Tuesday following the latest bout of fighting, according to the monitor.

The bombardment killed one civilian in southern Idlib, it said.

The latest battles come after rocket fire by HTS — led by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate — and allied rebels killed more than 12 civilians in a regime-held village in Aleppo province late Sunday.

Parts of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib are supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented as extremists refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarised zone.

In January, HTS extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian government and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing more than 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.


Stena Impero operator says tanker’s crew safe and well

Updated 45 min 31 sec ago
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Stena Impero operator says tanker’s crew safe and well

  • ‘... they’re all okay and in good health and they’re getting good cooperation with the Iranians on board the vessel’

STOCKHOLM: All 23 crew on a British-flagged tanker seized last week by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz are safe and well, the vessel’s Swedish operator Stena Bulk said on Wednesday after speaking to them.

Iran said on Saturday it had seized the Stena Impero because it had collided with a fishing boat. Stena Bulk has said it has received no evidence of such a collision.

“We had direct contact with the crew on board the vessel last night by telephone and they’re all okay and in good health and they’re getting good cooperation with the Iranians on board,” the firm’s spokesman Pat Adamson said.

Its CEO Erik Hanell said he hoped Tuesday’s contact was “a first sign that we will soon see more positive progress from the Iranian authorities.”

Britain described the seizure as piracy and called on Monday for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait, a strategic waterway for oil transportation.

Adamson said the next step for the operator would be to try and get somebody on board to check up on the crew, but that he had no timeline for when the crew might be repatriated.

“We haven’t had any direct response from the Iranian authorities about visiting the vessel as yet but we hope we will have that soon,” he said.

“All the appropriate governments and embassies are supporting and helping us.”