Jordan seeks ceasefire for southwest Syria after army gains

Jordanian soldiers stand guard during the Jordan's Prime Minister visit to the border crossing at the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Jordan on Sunday, July 1, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 02 July 2018

Jordan seeks ceasefire for southwest Syria after army gains

  • Talks in the town of Bosra Al-Sham broke down on Saturday as the army seized more ground
  • Syrian Bashar Assad’s offensive in the southwest aims to reclaim one of two remaining opposition strongholds in Syria

AMMAN: Jordan stepped in to try to avert further violence and stem another wave of displacement across its border with Syria on Sunday, mediating new talks between fighters and the government’s main ally Russia for a truce in the southwest.
Talks in the town of Bosra Al-Sham on Saturday broke down as the army seized more ground in its offensive, with insurgent lines in some areas collapsing, and a string of towns and villages accepting the return of government rule after intense bombardment.
Fighting and bombardment calmed overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, but reignited on Sunday around Tafas, northwest of Daraa, along with heavy airstrikes.
Syrian Bashar Assad’s offensive in the southwest aims to reclaim one of two remaining opposition strongholds in Syria, the other being Idlib and adjacent areas in the northwest. Assad’s forces captured the last enclaves near Damascus and Homs earlier this year.
Southwest Syria is a “de-escalation zone” of reduced warfare and bombardment agreed by Russia, Jordan and the US last year. Washington warned it would respond to violations of this agreement, but has done nothing so far.
Last week, fighters said the US had told them not to expect any American military support.
The opposition’s chief negotiator in wider UN peace talks, Nasr Al-Hariri, last week accused the US of complicity in Assad’s southwest offensive, saying American silence could only be explained by “a malicious deal.”
Peace talks in the town of Bosra Al-Sham, home to a UNESCO world heritage site, failed on Saturday when insurgents rejected Russian terms for their surrender, but began again on Sunday under the auspices of Jordan, opposition spokesman Ibrahim Al-Jabawi said.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the kingdom was engaged in intensive diplomacy with all parties in the conflict to help broker a cease-fire that would ease plight of displaced civilians.
“We are moving in all directions and with all the parties to bring a cease-fire and protect civilians,” he said in a Tweet on Saturday.

Airstrikes
Airstrikes have pounded the region since the offensive ramped up two weeks ago, causing at least 160,000 people to flee their homes according to the UN.
On Saturday at least 10 civilians were killed when bombs were dropped on the opposition-held village of Ghasam, relief workers said. The Observatory says more than 100 civilians have been killed since an escalation in fighting on June 19.
Many who fled have sought refuge along the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Both Jordan, which already hosts more than half a million Syrian refugees, and Israel, have said their borders will stay shut.
Both countries’ militaries have distributed aid supplies to the people seeking shelter near the borders.
On Sunday, Israel also said it had deployed more tanks and artillery to the Syrian front as a precaution because of the fighting there.
An Israeli army commander told Reuters that it was hard to quantify how many people had sought shelter in the area immediately across the border, but that it was in the thousands and there were hundreds more arriving each day.
Southwest Syria was an early hotbed of the uprising against Assad in 2011 that morphed into the seven-year conflict that has cost over half a million lives and pushed half the country’s pre-war population from their homes.
Until Assad’s offensive began this month, its front lines had been mostly stable. However, the army has now taken much of the eastern side of the opposition territory there and forced two large towns on the western side, Dael and Ibta, to accept deals to come back under state rule.
That pattern of local groups in towns and villages agreeing deals with the government independently of the main opposition factions has been repeated in locations across the southwest.


Iran to give a ‘calculated’ response to nuclear scientist killing, says official

In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, Aviation Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Marnell Maglasang, from La Puente, Calif., directs an F/A-18E Super Hornet on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Arabian Sea, Friday Nov. 27, 2020. (AP)
Updated 16 min 24 sec ago

Iran to give a ‘calculated’ response to nuclear scientist killing, says official

  • Iranian hard-line media called on Sunday for a tough revenge

DUBAI: Iran will give a “calculated and decisive” response to the killing of its top nuclear scientist, said a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, while a hard-line newspaper suggested Tehran’s revenge should include striking the Israeli city of Haifa.
“Undoubtedly, Iran will give a calculated and decisive answer to the criminals who took Martyr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh from the Iranian nation,” Kamal Kharrazi, who is also head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said in a statement.
Fakhrizadeh, long suspected by Western and Israeli government of masterminding a secret nuclear weapons program, was ambushed on a highway near Tehran on Friday and gunned down in his car.
Iran’s clerical and military rulers have blamed the Islamic Republic’s longtime enemy, Israel, for the killing. Iran has in the past accused Israel of killing several Iranian nuclear scientists since 2010.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has declined to comment on the killing. An Israeli Cabinet minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, said on Saturday he did not know who carried it out.
Iranian hard-line media called on Sunday for a tough revenge. The hard-line Kayhan daily, whose editor in chief is appointed by Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for an attack on the Israeli port city of Haifa, if an Israeli role in Fakhrizadeh’s killing is proven.
“The attack should be carried out in such a way that in addition to destroying the facilities, it should also cause heavy human casualties,” wrote Saadollah Zarei in an opinion piece.
However, Iran’s rulers are aware of daunting military and political difficulties of attacking Israel. Such an attack would also complicate any effort by US President-elect Joe Biden to revive detente with Tehran after he takes office on Jan. 20.
Tensions have been high between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when President Donald Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers and reimposed sanctions that have hit Iran’s economy hard. In retaliation, Tehran has gradually breached the deal’s curbs on its nuclear program.
Biden has said he will return the US to the deal if Iran resumes compliance. Iran has always denied pursuing nuclear weapons.