100 fighters killed in 48 hours in northwest Syria: monitor

The Observatory said the fighting is still ongoing. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 June 2019

100 fighters killed in 48 hours in northwest Syria: monitor

  • At least 19 government troops were killed today
  • The Observatory said Russian and regime jets are still bombing the area

BEIRUT: Fighting raged in northwest Syria on Thursday as clashes between regime forces and extremist-led fighters killed more than 100 combatants in two days, a war monitor said.
The Idlib region, home to some three million people, is supposed to be protected by a months-old international truce deal, but it has come under increased bombardment by the regime and its Russian ally since late April.
On the southwestern edges of the extremist-run enclave, strikes and fierce fighting since Tuesday killed 75 anti-regime fighters and left 29 dead on the government side, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
This included at least 14 anti-regime fighters and 19 pro-government forces killed early Thursday, it said.
The fighting has centered around Tal Meleh in the north of Hama province, according to the Britain-based monitoring group.
“The clashes are ongoing,” with both regime and Russian war planes pounding the area, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
On Wednesday, 16 civilians were killed in regime bombardment on several parts of the rebel region, he said.
Russia and rebel backer Turkey brokered an agreement intended to stave off an all-out regime assault on Idlib in September, but that deal was never fully implemented as extremists refused to withdraw from the planned buffer zone.
The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham group, led by ex-members of Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, extended its control over the region, which spans most of Idlib province as well as slivers of the adjacent provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo.
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 at home and abroad 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.