Syrian army gains ground on Jordan border in southwest

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Updated 10 August 2017

Syrian army gains ground on Jordan border in southwest

BEIRUT/AMMAN: The Syrian army and its allies seized control of a 30 km (19 mile) stretch of Syria’s border with Jordan from rebels in an attack on Thursday, two rebel groups said.
A military media unit run by Hezbollah, a close ally of the Syrian government, said the army and its allies had gained control over all checkpoints and border posts on the border in Sweida, one of four Syrian provinces that border Jordan.
Rebel groups, some of them backed by Western and Arab states, still control much of Syria’s southwestern frontier with Jordan and Israel.
Sweida province was not included in a US-Russian brokered cease-fire that took effect in nearby areas of the southwest in July.
Said Saef, spokesman for the Western-backed rebel group Martyr Ahmed Abdo brigade, said Thursday’s attack came from two sides in Sweida’s east countryside. “Most of the eastern Sweida countryside is now in the hands of the regime,” he added.
The army had advanced to the border and retaken posts it abandoned in the early years of the conflict when rebels took over large parts of south western Syria.
“They are now on the Jordanian border and back to outposts they had evacuated early in the conflict,” said Saef.
Another rebel spokesman said the army gains were helped by a sudden pull-back by Jaish Al-Ashair rebel group, which is backed by Jordan and had been responsible for patrolling that stretch of the border.


Turkey sends armed drone to northern Cyprus amid gas dispute

Updated 26 min 7 sec ago

Turkey sends armed drone to northern Cyprus amid gas dispute

  • The breakaway northern Cyprus government approved the use of the airport for unmanned aerial vehicles
  • A recent agreement between Turkey and Libya claims extensive areas of sea for Turkey in the Mediterranean

FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus: A Turkish military drone was delivered to northern Cyprus on Monday amid growing tensions over Turkey’s deal with Libya that extended its claims to the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean.
The Bayraktar TB2 drone landed in Gecitkale Airport in Famagusta around 0700 GMT, an AFP correspondent said, after the breakaway northern Cyprus government approved the use of the airport for unmanned aerial vehicles.
It followed a deal signed last month between Libya and Turkey that could prove crucial in the scramble for recently discovered gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
The agreement claimed extensive areas of the sea for Turkey, undercutting claims by Greece and the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, which runs the southern part of the island.
Analysts say Turkey was pushing back against rival efforts to claim exploration rights in the area after Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and Israel excluded Turkey from a new “East Mediterranean Gas Forum” that also includes Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian territories.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Turkey, said approval for the drone was given last week “in light of the latest developments in the eastern Mediterranean region” and “to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the TRNC and Turkey.”
The TRNC’s transport minister, Tolga Atakan, said Turkish drones were partly a response to the acquisition of Israeli drones by Cyprus in October to monitor its exclusive economic zone.
Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.
Turkey already has two drilling vessels in the eastern Mediterranean despite the threat of European Union sanctions.
Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member, and says the TRNC has the right to explore around the entire island.