Fighting kills 43 in Syria’s northwest: monitor

Syrians prepare to leave their houses in the village of Rabaa Jour in the the militant-held Syrian province of Idlib on May 6, 2019 following reported shelling and air strikes in the area. (AFP)
Updated 06 May 2019

Fighting kills 43 in Syria’s northwest: monitor

BEIRUT: Clashes between Syrian government forces and militants on Monday killed 43 fighters in the country’s northwest, where the regime and its Russian ally have stepped up bombardment in the past few days, a monitor said.
Militants also fired rockets at a Russian air base in the region but were repelled with the attack causing no casualties or damage, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.
Twenty-two pro-government fighters were among those killed in fierce fighting in the northern countryside of Hama province, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Twenty-one militants, including members of Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian branch, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), and its ally the Turkistan Islamic Party, were also killed, the war monitor said.
The fighting came as regime forces advanced on two villages and a strategic hilltop in the region, it said.
State news agency SANA said Syrian troops launched “intensive operations,” targeting supply lines and areas where armed groups operate in northern Hama and neighboring Idlib.
The region held by HTS has faced intensifying bombardment in the past month, prompting a new wave of displacement.
Earlier Monday, five civilians were killed in shelling and air strikes on Idlib and neighboring areas by Syrian government forces and their Russian allies, said the Observatory.
An AFP photographer in Idlib saw several houses completely destroyed by recent attacks.
One man who lost his wife, his daughter-in-law, and his two grandchildren during shelling overnight prepared a pickup truck to relocate surviving members of his family.
“I don’t know where I’m going,” he told AFP.
More than 140,000 civilians have been forced to flee attacks since February, Refugees International said on Monday.
“It is difficult to overstate the urgency of this looming humanitarian disaster if nothing is done to protect these people,” the non-governmental organization said in a statement.
Escalated attacks have hit schools and medical facilities, according to the UN.
Since 28 April, at least seven health care facilities have reportedly been struck, including four in Hama and three in Idlib, said David Swanson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Russia and rebel-backer Turkey in September inked a buffer zone deal to prevent a massive regime offensive on the Idlib region, near the Turkish border.
But the region of some three million people has come under increasing bombardment since HTS took full control of it in January.
A statement by the Russian defense ministry said that the Hmeimim air base in Latakia province neighboring Idlib was the target Monday of rocket fire.
“Altogether there were 36 rockets fired,” during two separate attacks which were “repelled by air defense systems,” it said.
The civil war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it began with the bloody repression of anti-government protests in 2011.


Iraq PM in talks with UK's Boris Johnson on security, political reforms

Updated 22 October 2020

Iraq PM in talks with UK's Boris Johnson on security, political reforms

  • Johnson expressed his strong support for the Iraq government
  • Both leaders discussed issues of bilateral interest, and discussed recent political and security issues

LONDON: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson discussed security challenges in the Middle East on Thursday.
A-Khadimi met the UK leader at Downing Street as part of an a European tour. 
Johnson expressed his strong support for the Iraq government as they discussed economic reforms, the coronavirus pandemic and the continued effort to defeat Daesh.
The Twitter account of Al-Kadhimi's office said both leaders discussed issues of bilateral interest, and discussed recent political and security issues in Iraq and the region. 
They also agreed on more cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
“It was agreed to increase more cooperation in the field of combating terrorism, as well as in the political and economic sectors, in light of the economic challenges that Iraq faces,” his office said.
Prior to his UK trip, Al-Kadhimi met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
During these visits, Al-Kadhimi discussed Iraq’s main challenges such as the fight against terrorism and foreign interference in its affairs.
The Iraqi leader, who became prime minister in May, has a particularly affinity with the UK, having lived there for many years after fleeing Iraq in the 1980s.