Saudi foreign minister warns of mass atrocities if Shiite militias enter Mosul

People who fled the Islamic State's strongholds of Hawija and Mosul, receive aid at a camp for displaced people in Daquq, Iraq, in this October 13, 2016 photo. (Reuters)
Updated 18 October 2016
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Saudi foreign minister warns of mass atrocities if Shiite militias enter Mosul

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces advanced Monday after launching an offensive aimed at retaking Mosul and dealing a death blow to the Daesh group’s “caliphate” in the city where it was declared two years ago.
The start of the long-awaited assault raised deep concerns for hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in Iraq’s second-largest city, with aid groups warning of a massive humanitarian crisis.
Some 30,000 federal forces are leading the offensive, backed by air and ground support from a 60-nation US-led coalition, in what is expected to be a long and difficult assault on Daesh’s last major Iraqi stronghold.
Iraqi forces could be seen readying weapons and ammunitions as columns of armored vehicles headed toward Mosul from the town of Al-Shoura, some 45 km south of the city.
The Pentagon described the operation as a “decisive moment” in the fight against Daesh but the US-led coalition’s top commander warned it could last weeks or more. It said early indications were that Iraqi forces were meeting objectives and were ahead of schedule.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced the beginning of the assault in a televised address in the early hours of Monday. “Today I declare the start of these victorious operations to free you from the violence and terrorism of Daesh,” Abadi said.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said that Riyadh had urged the Iraqi government not to let Shiite militias enter Mosul, fearing “mass atrocities.”
Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir warned against a repeat of the events in Fallujah, which Daesh was chased out of in June. “We oppose any kind of involvement by the Shiite militias,” Al-Jubeir told a press conference in London.


Israel warns Syrians away from frontier as Assad closes in

Updated 27 min 36 sec ago
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Israel warns Syrians away from frontier as Assad closes in

  • The Syrians who approached the fence were 200 meters away, when an Israeli soldier told them to leave
  • The crowd, which included women and children, then walked back slowly toward the refugee encampment

GOLAN HEIGHTS: Dozens of Syrians approached the Israeli frontier on the Golan Heights on Tuesday in an apparent attempt to seek help or sanctuary from a Russian-backed Syrian army offensive, before turning back after a warning from Israeli forces.
Tens of thousands of Syrians have arrived near the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in the past month, fleeing a rapidly advancing offensive which has defeated rebels across a swathe of territory near Jordan and Israel.
“Go back before something bad happens. If you want us to be able to help you, go back,” an Israeli army officer on the Israeli side of a frontier fence told the crowd in Arabic through a megaphone. “Get a move on.”
The offensive has triggered the single biggest displacement of the war, with several hundred thousand people uprooted. Both Israel and Jordan have said they will not allow Syrians to cross into their territory.
Israel, which seized the Golan in the 1967 Middle East War, has given humanitarian aid to refugees in encampments close to a 1974 Israeli-Syrian disengagement line. Many of the displaced are sheltering within the disengagement zone that is monitored by a UN force.
The Syrians who approached the frontier fence stopped some 200 meters (yards) away, before an Israeli soldier told them to leave.
“You are on the border of the State of Israel. Go back, we don’t want to hurt you,” the soldier shouted in Arabic through a loudspeaker at the crowd, live Reuters TV footage showed.
The crowd, which included women and children, then walked back slowly toward the refugee encampment. Some stopped mid-way and waved white cloths in the direction of the Israeli frontier.
The Russian-backed offensive has advanced swiftly, unopposed by President Bashar Assad’s foreign adversaries. The United States, which once armed the southern rebels, told them not to expect it to intervene as the attack got underway last month.
A witness on the Syrian side of the Golan frontier said the sound of bombardment was drawing ever nearer. The United Nations said last week up to 160,000 Syrians had fled to Quneitra province, some in close proximity to the Golan area.

Government forces celebrate
Israel has threatened a harsh response to any attempt by Syrian forces to deploy in the disengagement zone, complicating the government offensive as it draws closer to the frontier.
Israel does not want its enemies Iran and Hezbollah, both allies of Assad, to move forces near its border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking alongside US President Donald Trump on Monday, cited the need to restore the situation along the Golan borders to the state that prevailed before the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011.
At least 14 people, including five children and some women, were killed when Syrian government forces dropped a barrel bomb on the village of Ain Al-Tineh 10 km (6 miles) from the Golan frontier, according to UOSSM, a medical aid charity that operates in the area.
Ahmad Al-Dbis, UOSSM safety and security manager, said another 35 people had been wounded in the attack which he said had hit a school. The casualties had fled to the village from nearby parts of the southwest.
Syrian state TV broadcast from a hilltop captured from rebels on Monday and overlooking the Golan frontier. Government fighters waved rifles and held aloft pictures of Assad as they celebrated on camera from the location, Al-Haara hill.
“We will liberate all Syria,” said one of the soldiers.