Airstrikes kill 22 at market in Idlib

A picture taken on March 22, 2018 shows Syrian civilians gathering at a scene of destruction following an air strike in the rebel-held town of Harem in the northwestern Idlib province. (AFP / Aaref Watad)
Updated 22 March 2018

Airstrikes kill 22 at market in Idlib

BEIRUT: Airstrikes, likely to be Russian, on Thursday killed 22 civilians in a market in the northwestern province of Idlib, which is largely controlled by radical fighters, a monitor said.
The strikes hit the area of Harem, which is controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Britain-based monitor says it identifies who carried out airstrikes based on flight patterns, munitions used, and aircraft.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition fighters have released 13 of their prisoners to the regime.
The men, who identified themselves to the media as soldiers and civilians attached to the Syrian Army, who were captured by opposition fighters in the battle for Harasta, cried in relief. They thanked God, the Syrian Army, and President Bashar Assad for their freedom.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said the regime released five “terrorists” in exchange.


Pompeo offers help in call to Lebanon PM

Updated 22 min 35 sec ago

Pompeo offers help in call to Lebanon PM

  • US defense secretary meanwhile played down President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the explosion was a bomb
  • Pompeo did not describe how the United States would help Lebanon

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered assistance to Lebanon Wednesday after the massive explosion that leveled a huge section of Beirut and left at least 113 dead.
A day after the explosion in the Lebanese capital’s port, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper meanwhile played down President Donald Trump’s suggestion that it was a bomb, supporting instead Lebanese official accounts that it came from 2,750 tons of a volatile fertilizer ingredient, ammonium nitrate, stored in warehouse.
“I’m still getting information on what happened,” Esper told the Aspen Security Forum.
“Most believe that it was an accident as reported,” he said.
In a call with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Pompeo voiced “our steadfast commitment to assist the Lebanese people as they cope with the aftermath of this terrifying event,” a State Department statement said.
He “further stressed our solidarity with and support for the Lebanese people as they strive for the dignity, prosperity and security they deserve.”
The State Department only referred to a “horrible explosion,” despite Trump’s claim Tuesday that unnamed US generals indicated to him that “It was a bomb of some kind, yes.”
The Pentagon would not confirm Trump’s account.
Pompeo did not describe how the United States would help Lebanon, which was already in a deep economic crisis and seeking more than $20 billion in external funding.
The United States has been hesitant about supporting an aid package from the International Monetary Fund, insisting on reforms and the exclusion of Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian Lebanese militia and political party.