Iraq tries hard to save Ramadi

Updated 16 May 2015

Iraq tries hard to save Ramadi

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s military has dispatched reinforcements to help its battered forces in Ramadi, a city now largely held by the Islamic State group after its militants swept across it the day before, an Iraqi military spokesman said Saturday.
The spokesman of the Joint Operations Command, Brig. Gen. Saad Maan Ibrahim, told Iraqi state television that the US-led coalition was supporting Iraqi troops with “painful” airstrikes since late Friday.
Ibrahim didn’t give details on the ongoing battles, but described the situation on the ground as “positive” and vowed that the Islamic State group would be pushed out of the city “in the coming hours.”
Local officials said dozens of security forces and civilians were killed, mainly the families of the troops, including 10 police officers and some 30 tribal fighters allied with Iraqi forces.
In a sign of how the latest advance is worrying Washington, US Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi on Friday, promising the delivery of heavy weapons, including AT-4 shoulder-held rockets to counter suicide car bombs, according to a US Embassy statement.
The statement said both leaders agreed on the “importance and urgency of mobilizing tribal fighters working in coordination with Iraqi security forces to counter IS and to ensure unity of effort among all of Iraq’s communities,” using a different acronym for the group.
Meanwhile, the terror group massacred dozens of civilians as they closed in on Syria’s ancient metropolis of Palmyra.
Women and children were among 23 people executed in cold blood outside Palmyra, monitoring groups said, as fears grew that advancing IS troops would destroy the ancient city renowned as a world heritage site.
Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old desert oasis site known in Arabic as Tadmor, is one of Syria’s most prized historical gems and experts fear IS plans to destroy the city after it sacked the Iraqi archaeological sites of Nimrud and Hatra.
“It is our responsibility to alert the (UN) Security Council so that it will take strong decisions,” UNESCO chief Irina Bokova said, adding that the world body was “very worried.”
US President Barack Obama said Friday Syria would not likely see peace before he leaves office in early 2017 and reaffirmed his belief that there is no “military solution” to the conflict.
“The situation in Syria is heartbreaking but it’s extremely complex” Obama told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television network, adding that “too often in the Middle East region, people attribute everything to the United States.”

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 10 min 9 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.