Fighting in northwestern Syria strains truce, kills 15

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A man carries an injured child after the bombing in Bab Al-Nayrab neighborhood of Aleppo, as Damascus has vowed to take back the northwestern region. (Reuters)
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Syrian government bombed two towns, Saraqeb and Nerab, held by insurgents. (AFP/File)
Updated 08 April 2019

Fighting in northwestern Syria strains truce, kills 15

  • 45 people had been killed in the last five days, mostly by regime shelling of opposition-held area

BEIRUT: At least 15 people were reported killed on Sunday in shelling by regime and insurgent forces in northwestern Syria, further straining a Russian-Turkish cease-fire deal for the region.

The northwest is the last major foothold of fighters opposed to Syria’s Bashar Assad, many of whom were forced to retreat there after military defeats at the hands of regime forces backed by Iran and Russia.

Last year, Damascus was poised to mount an offensive into the northwest, raising fears of a humanitarian catastrophe. The assault was postponed after Moscow struck a deal with Ankara that included the creation of a “demilitarized zone.”

But the agreement has come under strain in recent weeks: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 45 people had been killed in the last five days alone, most of them by regime shelling of opposition-held areas.

On Sunday, regime shelling killed seven people in opposition-held Nerab, the Observatory and the pro-opposition TV station Orient reported. Three more people were killed in opposition-held Saraqeb, civil defense rescue workers said on a Twitter feed.

Syrian state media said five people had been killed in opposition rocket fire that hit regime-held Masyaf.

The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Britain, Canada, the US, Italy, and Japan on Saturday noted “with mounting concern the escalation in Syrian military activity in the de-escalation zone in Idlib over recent weeks,” according to a communique issued on Saturday after a Group of Seven meeting.

The Syrian regime has vowed to take back the northwestern region, comprising Idlib and adjacent areas of Hama and Aleppo provinces.

Last week, Damascus said its ally Russia had started to feel that its patience was running out over the northwest. However Moscow had told Damascus that Turkey was still determined to implement the agreement reached in September.

Turkey has deployed forces into Idlib under an agreement with Russia and Iran. Militant insurgents of the Tahrir Al-Sham group hold sway on the ground.

The UN says Idlib and the adjacent areas are sheltering some 3 million people, half of whom have been uprooted from other parts of Syria by the war.

The UN humanitarian office OCHA has said the escalating violence had already killed 90 civilians in the Idlib region in March, nearly half of them children. The escalation pushed more than 86,500 people to flee their homes in February and March, it added.

At least 370,000 people have died in Syria since the civil war erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Dozens killed near Sanaa as army targets rebel supply lines

Updated 6 min 8 sec ago

Dozens killed near Sanaa as army targets rebel supply lines

  • Brig. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesperson, told Arab News on Thursday that a large number of Houthis were killed after army troops resumed an offensive

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of Houthi militia fighters and loyalist soldiers have been killed in heavy fighting outside the rebel-controlled Yemeni city of Sanaa, local army commanders said.

Brig. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesperson, told Arab News on Thursday that a large number of Houthis were killed after army troops resumed an offensive aimed at cutting supply lines and expelling rebel fighters from the city.

“The national army is making major territorial gains on the battlefield. Dozens of Houthi militia fighters have been killed and the national army soldiers are counting the dead,” Majili said by telephone from the city of Marib.

A number of loyalist troops had died in fighting to seize control of several mountain locations in Nehim, he added.

Clashes intensified outside Sanaa on Sunday, a day after a drone and missile strike killed more that 110 government soldiers at a mosque near a military training camp. The army vowed to punish Houthis for the deadly attack.

Nehim is the closest battlefield to Sanaa, but there have been no major territorial gains since 2016 when government forces pushed deeper into Houthi areas and seized control of the Faradhat Nehim military base.

Military commanders say the difficut terrain and thousands of land mines planted by rebels have slowed their advance. 

Saudi-led coalition warplanes carried out dozens of airstrikes on Houthi military sites and reinforcements.

“There is a great air support and soldiers’ morale is high,” Majili said.

State television showed footage on Wednesday night of smoke billowing from mountainous areas as tanks and anti-aircraft guns shelled Houthi militants. Government soldiers were also seen storming Houthi outposts. Heavy fighting also broke out in Jawf, Marib’s Serwah and other locations in northern Yemen on Wednesday and Thursday.

In Marib, Yemen’s minister of interior on Wednesday said that a cell linked to the Houthis that gathered information about military movements in the city had been dismantled.

Two Houthi groups are believed to have been responsible for sending the location of the military training site in Marib that was shelled by Houthis on Saturday.

Thousands of government troops and Saudi-led military training officers have been based in Marib since 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition intervened in support of the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

A mother and child were killed on Wednesday when a Houthi missile ripped through their house in the city. Coalition air defenses in Marib have intercepted dozens of Houthi missiles aimed at military bases and residential areas in the past the past four years.