Over 30 regime troops killed in blast at Syrian air base: Monitor

A munitions blast killed 31 regime and allied fighters at a military airport in central Syria Saturday. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 August 2019

Over 30 regime troops killed in blast at Syrian air base: Monitor

  • The Shayrat airbase is one of the regime's most significant installations in the centre of the country
  • In 2017, US air strikes hit the base in response to a suspected sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in northwest Syria that killed more than 80 people

BEIRUT: A munitions blast killed 31 regime and allied forces at a military airport in central Syria on Saturday, a war monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain and relies on a network of sources on the ground, said it was unclear what had caused the deadly explosion at the Shayrat Airbase in Homs province.
But state news agency SANA reported that a “technical fault during the transport of expired ammunition” had killed an unspecified number of victims.
The Shayrat Airbase is one of the regime’s most significant installations in the center of the country.
Iranian fighters — who support the regime in Syria’s ongoing civil war — are based there, according to the Observatory.
In 2017, US airstrikes hit the base in response to a suspected sarin gas attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhun in northwest Syria that killed more than 80 people.
According to the Pentagon, US intelligence had established that the base was the launchpad for the alleged chemical attack.
The opposition dominating Idlib warned that regime violations would effectively “nullify” the cease-fire, which Damascus said will depend on rebel backer Turkey implementing a buffer zone in the area.

FASTFACT

The Shayrat Airbase is one of the regime’s most significant installations in the center of the country.

Most of Idlib province and parts of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia are controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.
The region is supposed to be protected from a massive government offensive by a Turkish-Russian deal struck in September in the Russian resort of Sochi.
On Thursday, a new ceasefire went into effect as Syria peace talks resumed in Kazakhstan between Turkey and regime allies Russia and Iran.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,00 people since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

 


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 25 January 2020

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.