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.


Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

Updated 25 January 2020

Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

  • President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats
  • The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis met Iraq’s president on Saturday and the two agreed that the country’s sovereignty must be respected, following attacks on Iraqi territory this month by the United States and Iran.
President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, its foreign minister.
The talks “focused on the challenges the country currently faces and on the importance of promoting stability and the reconstruction process, encouraging the path of dialogue and the search for suitable solutions in favor of citizens and with respect for national sovereignty,” a Vatican statement said.
On Jan. 8, Iranian forces fired missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing US troops in retaliation for Washington’s killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike a Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.
The Iraqi parliament has passed a resolution ordering the 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq to leave the country.
Soon after the Iranian attack, Francis urged the United States and Iran to avoid escalation and pursue “dialogue and self-restraint” to avert a wider conflict in the Middle East.
The pope discussed the Middle East with US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday.
The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year.
The Vatican said the pope and Salih also discussed “the importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country.”
The Christian presence in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East has been depleted by wars and conflicts.
Iraq’s several hundred thousand Christians suffered particular hardships when Daesh controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered.