Syrian army breaks siege of army base near Damascus

Syrian army breaks siege of army base near Damascus
A crowd gathers in front of a building and car damaged after a bomb explosion in the Mezzeh 86 area in Damascus on Monday. (Reuters/SANA)
Updated 08 January 2018

Syrian army breaks siege of army base near Damascus

Syrian army breaks siege of army base near Damascus

BEIRUT: Syria’s army has broken the siege of an army base encircled by opposition forces on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, state television and a war monitor reported on Sunday.
Last Sunday, rebels, mainly belonging to the Islamist Ahrar al Sham faction, widened their control of parts of the Military Vehicles Administration base in the Eastern Ghouta town of Harasta.
Army elite forces, backed by Russian jets, launched an offensive to break the siege and liberate at least 200 troops who were believed to be trapped within its sprawling, heavily defended grounds.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Syrian forces had “opened a loophole” that led them into the base.
Extensive bombing and violent clashes were taking place inside and around the base late at night, while the army fought its way to recapture the compound’s buildings, the state tv reporter said during a live broadcast from a nearby location.
“Fighting is underway to expand the route that was opened into the base ... and the army will press on with its offensive beyond liberating the base,” he added, expecting the battle for the base to end in the coming few hours.
The tv station aired footage of the battles earlier in the day that showed heavy smoke billowing from the battered buildings targeted by the army fire.
Rebel fighters had stormed the base last November in a drive to relieve pressure on Eastern Ghouta’s towns and villages.
The base has long been used to strike at the densely populated Eastern Ghouta in an attempt to force the rebel enclave into submission. More than 300,000 people there have lived under siege by army troops since 2013.


UN chief hails progress in Libya talks

UN chief hails progress in Libya talks
Updated 19 min 33 sec ago

UN chief hails progress in Libya talks

UN chief hails progress in Libya talks
  • Breakthrough over selection of executive authority that will shepherd country to elections

NEW YORK: The advisory committee of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) has agreed on a mechanism for selecting the new executive authority, whose formation has been the subject of sparring among the various factions in the war-ravaged country.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended the participants at the UN-brokered talks in Geneva for their “constructive discussions” during their four-day meeting.

The 18-member committee is part of a larger forum that represents all three main regions of Libya.

It has proposed that each region’s electoral body nominate a representative to a three-member presidential council. A prime minister would be chosen by the 75-member forum.

Guterres mentioned in particular “the decisive role played by women representatives and the southern members” in reaching a consensus on a mechanism for the selection of the executive authority, which will shepherd the country to national elections in December, in line with the Tunis Roadmap adopted last November. 

Calling on the members of the LPDF to “participate constructively” in the vote on the selection mechanism, Guterres reiterated the UN’s support for the Libyan people “in their efforts to advance peace and stability.”

Acting Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams also hailed the breakthrough at the Geneva talks, at the conclusion of which she told the press that the advisory committee members “had risen to the occasion.”

She added: “They met their responsibility with a constructive spirit, cooperative efforts and a great deal of patriotism. They have taken a decisive step towards meeting the goals that were set in Tunis.”  

Guterres said he was grateful to “the commitment and outstanding leadership” of Williams in moving the political process forward in Libya.

Last week, the Security Council approved Guterres’s nomination of Jan Kubis of Slovakia as his special envoy on Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Kubis had held a similar position in Lebanon and Iraq.

Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Kubis “brings with him many years of experience in diplomacy, foreign security policy and international economic relations, both internationally and in at home in Slovakia.”

Kubis will take up his function in early February. Until then, Williams will continue as acting special representative through January “to ensure a smooth transition.”