Syrian regime ousts Daesh from Hama

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Updated 04 October 2017

Syrian regime ousts Daesh from Hama

BEIRUT: The Syrian Army and allied fighters drove Daesh from their last positions in the central province of Hama on Wednesday after heavy fighting, a monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said Daesh was no longer present anywhere in the province for the first time in three years.
The army, backed by ally Russia, launched a campaign against Daesh in Hama in early September, capturing some 50 villages and the strategic town of Uqayribat, the observatory said.
“On Wednesday, regime forces managed to take control of all the last remaining villages in the hands of Daesh in eastern Hama province after more than a month of fierce clashes between the two sides,” observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The monitor said more than 400 Daesh fighters and nearly 190 Syrian soldiers and allied militiamen had been killed in the fighting.
There was no immediate announcement in Syrian state media, but Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime, reported that “the army has taken complete control of eastern Hama province.”
“Daesh is no longer present in Hama province,” it added.
The regime holds large parts of Hama province and all of the provincial capital.
Meanwhile, samples from an attack by Syrian forces in March on an opposition-held town tested positive for the banned nerve agent sarin in an examination by the global chemical weapons watchdog, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
The March 30 airstrike in the town of Latamneh, in the northern Syrian Hama area, injured around 70 people who suffered nausea, foaming at the mouth and muscle spasms.
“Samples analysis results show a clear presence of sarin,” a source told Reuters of the findings by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Military officials have repeatedly denied that forces under Syrian President Bashar Assad have used chemical weapons during the country’s civil war.
UN war crimes investigators, however, said in a report last month that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons more than two dozen times, including in a sarin attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in April that killed more than 80 people.
A Joint UN-OPCW investigation found that regime forces used chlorine barrel bombs at least three times, while Daesh militants had used sulfur mustard gas.
The latest finding by the OPCW is expected to be included in a report by its Fact-Finding Mission for Syria, due to be finalized in coming weeks.
Separately, a Russian airstrike killed at least 20 civilians on Wednesday as they tried to cross the Euphrates river to escape fighting in eastern Syria’s Deir Ezzor province, the observatory said.
It said children were among those killed as they tried to cross the river aboard rafts, escaping from areas where Russian-backed regime forces are battling Daesh.
In another development, two men shown on a video disseminated by Daesh have been identified as Russian by their respective paramilitary associations, though it was unclear why they were in Syria.
The video distributed by Daesh’s Amaq news agency on Tuesday shows two handcuffed men sitting in grey robes against a wall. One man appears to have bruises on his face.
A veterans’ organization and a Cossack group on Wednesday identified the men as Grigory Tsurkanu and Roman Zabolotny, although neither said the men were fighting in Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday denied any of its enlisted servicemen have been captured. However, the participation of Russian mercenaries in the Syrian conflict has been widely reported.
“This is our active Cossack Roman Zabolotny. We don’t know how he ended up in Syria,” Lyudmila Bondar, spokeswoman for the Don Cossack Host organization, told AFP.
Bondar said Zabolotny is a chef from southern Russia who has worked across the country.
The second man, Tsurkanu, is from the Moscow region, according to Military Brotherhood, a veterans’ organization.
“It pains us to have learned that Grigory Tsurkanu is in the hands of terrorists in Syria,” the organization said on its website.

Lebanon president calls on protesters to go home

Updated 23 sec ago

Lebanon president calls on protesters to go home

Lebanese President Michel Aoun called on protesters to go home, saying their demands had been heard, and warned of a "catastrophe" if they stay in the streets.

In a televised interview, Aoun also urged the Lebanese not to rush to the banks to withdraw their money, which he said was safe.

Aoun alos said he supports the formation of a government made up from both politicians and technocrat.

The interview was the latest attempt by the president to address the protesters who took to the streets last month. The demonstrations were initially against tax increases but soon turned on the countries leaders, who they accuse iof corruption, and the sectarian political system.

They forced the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and have led the country into its worst economic crisis since the civil war.

"If you continue in this way, you will strike Lebanon and your interests ... I am placing you in front of this choice," Aoun said. "We are working day and night to get the situation in order. If they keep going, there is a catastrophe. If they stop, there is still room for (us) to fix things."

The UN has4 urged Lebanon to form a competent new government better able to seek international aid.
Indicating no breakthrough in talks over the next government, Aoun said he was still waiting for answers before calling formal consultations with MPs to designate the next prime minister.
"A technocrat government cannot define the policy of the country...and I back forming a government that is half political and half technocrat," Aoun said. "I met Hariri and I found him hesitant between yes and no." 

With Reuters