Syria regime unleashes its brutal air power on Idlib

Syria regime unleashes its brutal air power on Idlib
People look at the damage in the aftermath of an explosion at a base in an opposition-held area of the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 08 January 2018

Syria regime unleashes its brutal air power on Idlib

Syria regime unleashes its brutal air power on Idlib

BEIRUT: Regime forces upped the pressure on two of the last opposition bastions in Syria, with airstrikes in Idlib province and a move to break a siege near Damascus Monday.
Syrian and Russian aircraft pounded targets in the northwestern region of Idlib, pressing a week-old operation targeting the last province in the country to escape government control.
Raids Sunday left “at least 21 dead, including eight children and 11 members of the same family" west of the town of Sinjar in the southeast of the province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Regime and Russian strikes are continuing today on several parts of Idlib” province, Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organization, told AFP.
Russian-backed regime forces launched an operation on the edge of Idlib province in the last days of 2017 and have retaken villages every day since.
After the collapse of Daesh group in both Syria and Iraq late last year, President Bashar Assad’s regime is bent on restoring its grip over the country.
Idlib province, which borders Turkey, is almost entirely controlled by anti-government forces that are dominated by an outfit known as Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS).
An explosion on Sunday in the city of Idlib at a base for the group Ajnad Al-Qawqaz made up of fighters from the Caucasus that operates alongside HTS, left at least 34 dead, including 19 civilians, the Observatory said.
The initial death toll for the attack, the origins of which remain unclear, was 23 but the number went up on Monday when more bodies were found in the wreckage.
Abdel Rahman said the casualty count could yet rise because more victims were believed to be buried under the rubble and many of the wounded were in critical condition.
“Rescue teams are still sifting through the wreckage,” he said.
It was not immediately clear whether the blast was caused by airstrikes or was the result of the kind of internal clashes that sometimes break out between different opposition factions.
After shrinking to barely a sixth of the country at the height of the nearly seven-year-old conflict, the areas under government control now cover more than 50 percent of Syrian territory.
Another pocket where opposition groups are still holding out, however, is Eastern Ghouta, a semi-rural area east of the capital Damascus that is home to some 400,000 people.
Rebels led by the Jaish Al-Islam group had in recent days surrounded the army’s only military base in the area but the state news agency SANA said Monday the siege had been broken.
“Units from the Syrian Arab Army have brought an end to the encirclement of the Armored Vehicles Base in Harasta,” it said, adding that operations were ongoing to fully secure the base.
According to the Observatory, the fighting in Harasta since the base was surrounded in late December left 72 regime fighters and 87 opposition men dead.
The shelling and bombardment of besieged Eastern Ghouta, where the humanitarian conditions have sharply deteriorated in recent months, has also claimed a heavy toll on civilians.
The latest casualties came on Monday when airstrikes killed a child and two other civilians in Madira, a village in Eastern Ghouta, the Observatory said.
More than 340,000 people have been killed and millions have been driven from their homes since Syria’s conflict erupted with anti-government protests in 2011.


Iran kicks off ground forces drill on coast of Gulf of Oman

Iran kicks off ground forces drill on coast of Gulf of Oman
Updated 19 January 2021

Iran kicks off ground forces drill on coast of Gulf of Oman

Iran kicks off ground forces drill on coast of Gulf of Oman
  • Commando units and airborne infantry were participating in the annual exercise along with air assets

TEHRAN: Iran’s military kicked off a ground forces drill on Tuesday along the coast of the Gulf of Oman, state TV reported, the latest in a series of snap exercises that the country is holding amid escalating tensions over its nuclear program and Washington’s pressure campaign against Tehran.
According to the report, commando units and airborne infantry were participating in the annual exercise, along with fighter jets, helicopters and military transport aircraft. Iran’s National Army chief Abdolrahim Mousavi was overseeing the drill.
Iran has recently stepped up military drills as part of an effort to pressure President-elect Joe Biden over the nuclear deal that President Donald Trump pulled out of. Biden has said the US could rejoin the multinational accord meant to contain Iran’s nuclear program.
On Saturday, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill, launching anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target at a distance of some 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles) in the Indian Ocean, a day after the Guard’s aerospace division launched surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and drones against “hypothetical enemy bases” in the country’s vast central desert.
Last Thursday, Iran’s navy fired cruise missiles as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman, under surveillance of what appeared to be a US nuclear submarine. Earlier last week, the Guard’s affiliated forces carried out a limited maneuver in the Arabian Gulf after a massive, drones-only drill across half of the country earlier in January.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased amid a series of incidents stemming from Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. In the final days of the Trump administration, Tehran seized a South Korean oil tanker and begun enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels, while the US sent B-52 bombers, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine into the region.
Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump cited Iran’s ballistic missile program among other issues in withdrawing from the accord.
When the US then stepped up economic sanctions, Iran gradually abandoned the limits that the deal had imposed on its nuclear development.