Syria clashes kill 45 fighters: monitor

A fighters with the Syrian regime forces holds a position in Syria’s Hama governorate during clashes with militants earlier on June 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019

Syria clashes kill 45 fighters: monitor

  • The fighting flared on the edge of Hama province in Syria’s northwest
  • More than 400 civilians died since the flare-up of bombardments started in April

BEIRUT: Clashes between pro-government forces and extremist-led groups that control Syria’s northwest killed at least 45 combatants on Tuesday, a war monitor said.

The fighting flared on the edge of Hama province when extremist group Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham launched a dawn attack on regime positions, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

At least 14 pro-government forces died in ensuing clashes, said the Britain-based monitor.

“Regime forces foiled the attack,” Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP.

State news agency SANA also said the offensive had been thwarted.

Hama’s northern countryside lies on the edge of an extremist-controlled region including most of Idlib province.

The frontline had been relatively calm since clashes on Saturday killed more than 35 combatants, including extremists and regime forces, Abdul Rahman said.

Regime airstrikes on northern Hama and neighboring Idlib had also paused for more than 24 hours, before resuming Tuesday following the latest bout of fighting, according to the monitor.

The bombardment killed one civilian in southern Idlib, it said.

The latest battles come after rocket fire by HTS — led by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate — and allied rebels killed more than 12 civilians in a regime-held village in Aleppo province late Sunday.

Parts of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib are supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented as extremists refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarised zone.

In January, HTS extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian government and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing more than 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.


Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

Updated 23 January 2020

Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

  • Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region
  • Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region

DUBAI: The US special representative for Iran said the successor to Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike, would suffer the same fate if he followed a similar path of killing Americans, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region. US President Donald Trump ordered the Jan. 3 drone strike in Iraq after a build up of tension over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran responded to the killing of Soleimani, who was charged with expanding Tehran’s influence across the Middle East, by launching missile strikes on US targets in Iraq, although no US soldiers were killed.

After Soleimani’s death, Tehran swiftly appointed Esmail Ghaani as the new head of the Quds Force, an elite unit in the Revolutionary Guards that handles actions abroad. The new commander pledged to pursue Soleimani’s course.

“If (Esmail) Ghaani follows the same path of killing Americans then he will meet the same fate,” Brian Hook told the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said in the interview in Davos that US President Donald Trump had long made it clear “that any attack on Americans or American interests would be met with a decisive response.”

“This isn’t a new threat. The president has always said that he will always respond decisively to protect American interests,” Hook said. “I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it.”

After his appointment, Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region, which has long been Iran’s stated policy.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have steadily increased since Trump withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and imposed tough news sanctions that have hammered the Iranian economy.

This month’s military flare-up began in December when rockets fired at US bases in Iraq killed a US contractor. Washington blamed pro-Iran militia and launched air strikes that killed at least 25 fighters. After the militia surrounded the US embassy in Baghdad for two days, Trump ordered the drone strike on Soleimani.