Daesh regains full control of last urban bastion in Syria

Syrian pro-government forces patrol in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor on November 4, 2017. Syrian and allied forces converged on holdout Daesh fighters in the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal, the jihadists' very last urban bastion following a string of losses. (AFP)
Updated 11 November 2017

Daesh regains full control of last urban bastion in Syria

BEIRUT/JERUSALEM: Daesh terrorists have recaptured nearly all of Albu Kamal, putting up a fierce fightback for what had been the last significant Syrian town under their control, a monitor said Saturday.
Syrian regime forces and allied militia overran Albu Kamal, which lies on the border with Iraq, on Thursday, but have since faced a string of Daesh counterattacks.
On Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Daesh had “ambushed” the attacking forces and managed to oust them from most of the town.
“IS (Daesh) has almost completely retaken control of Albu Kamal, pushing pro-regime forces to their southern and eastern edges,” said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Britain-based monitor.
Clashes were still raging there on Saturday, he said.
Daesh began counterattacking on Thursday night, swiftly retaking several northern districts of Albu Kamal from pro-regime fighters.
“It was Daesh’s biggest ambush operation, tricking the attacking forces into thinking they had controlled the city,” Abdul Rahman said.
Albu Kamal lies at the heart of what used to be the sprawling “caliphate” that Daesh declared in 2014 across swathes of Iraq and Syria.
Losing it completely would have capped the group’s reversion to an underground guerrilla organization with no urban base.
Russian-backed Syrian regime forces and allied fighters had steadily advanced on Albu Kamal from the south and west for weeks, while Iraqi forces had closed in on the border area from the east.
The observatory has said most of the fighting was done by the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and elite forces from its backer Tehran, as well as militia groups from Iraq.
On Saturday, Abdul Rahman said Albu Kamal was being pummeled by airstrikes, but he could not specify whether they were Iraqi or Russian raids.
Across the border on Saturday, Iraqi forces launched an assault to capture the last pocket of Daesh territory in their country.
The Euphrates valley town of Rawa and nearby villages were bypassed by regime troops and allied militia when they retook the border town of Al-Qaim last week.


UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

Updated 40 min 12 sec ago

UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

  • Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east
  • Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves

GENEVA: The United Nations said Friday that the two sides in Libyan military talks had reached a “historic achievement” with a permanent cease-fire agreement across the war-torn North African country.
After mediation this week led by UN envoy for Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission reached what the UN called an “important turning point toward peace and stability in Libya.”
Details were not immediately available, but the two sides were taking part in a signing ceremony in Geneva on Friday morning.
Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers. The country was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
“The road to a permanent cease-fire deal was often long and difficult,” Williams, a former US State Department official, said in Arabic at the signing ceremony.
“Before us is a lot of work in the coming days and weeks in order to implement the commitments of the agreement,” she said. “It is essential to continue work as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the many problems due to this conflict facing the Libyan people.”
“We have to give people hope of a better future,” Williams added. She expressed hope the agreement will succeed “in ending the suffering of Libyans and allowing those displaced by the conflict to return to their homes.”
Ali Abushahma, the head of the delegation and a field commander for the UN-supported administration in Tripoli, said: “We have had enough suffering, enough bloodshed ... We hope we will change the suffering on all the territories of Libya, especially in the south.”
“I appeal to all Libya: Be one hand,” he said, warning about polarization by factions.
The meetings this week mark the fourth round of talks involving the Joint Military Commission under Williams’ watch. The Geneva-based military talks come ahead of a political forum in Tunisia in November. That forum aims to “generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections,” the UN mission said.
On Wednesday, Williams had said the two warring factions agreed on issues that “directly impact the lives and welfare of the Libyan people,” citing agreements to open air and land routes in the country, to work to ease inflammatory rhetoric in Libyan media, and to help kickstart Libya’s vital oil industry.
Libya’s prized light crude has long featured in the country’s civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.
Last month, the two sides reached preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country’s divided territory. This breakthrough also accompanied the resumption of oil production after a months-long blockade by powerful tribes allied with military commander Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the eastern-based forces.
Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, the seat of the UN-supported government in the west. But his campaign collapsed in June.
Fighting has since died down amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil export terminals.