Assad regime forces gain ground in deadly Idlib push

Syrian boys play with plastic guns on the first day of Eid Al-Adha in Al-Dana in Syria's opposition-controlled Idlib region, near the border with Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2019

Assad regime forces gain ground in deadly Idlib push

  • Most recent fighting focused on an area straddling Idlib and Hama provinces

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces seized a town on the edge of Idlib province on Sunday, a monitor said, their first ground advance since resuming an offensive on the opposition-dominated enclave more than three months ago.

The region of northwestern Syria, which is home to an estimated 3 million civilians, has come under almost daily Syrian and Russian bombardment since late April.

The most recent fighting focused on an area straddling Idlib and Hama provinces, a war monitor said, and claimed dozens of lives on both sides.

“Regime forces seized the town of Al-Habeet, in Idlib’s southern countryside, at dawn,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

The regime’s latest gains were in the north of Hama province, which lies to the south of Idlib.

The area has escaped the control of Bashar Assad’s regime since 2015 and is the last major bastion of opposition to his regime and its allies.

The capture of Al-Habeet, one of several strategic targets for advancing pro-regime forces, came after another night of deadly fighting, the Observatory said.

According to the Britain-based monitor’s tally, 70 combatants were killed on Saturday alone, 32 of them pro-regime forces. The remaining 38 were from the opposing ranks of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham and allied opposition fighters.

Abdel Rahman said another 27 combatants, nine of them regime fighters, were killed in early fighting on Sunday.

He described Al-Habeet as “the first town in southern Idlib to be taken by the regime since the start of the escalation” in April.

The town is seen as a stepping stone toward Khan Sheikhun, one of the main towns in Idlib and the target of some of the eight-year-old conflict’s deadliest air strikes.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in recent weeks and aid groups have warned that an all-out assault on Idlib could turn the current humanitarian emergency into a catastrophe of proportions previously unseen.

The fighting is a violation of a deal which was reached by the battle’s two main foreign brokers — Russia and Turkey — but was never implemented.

Russia is Damascus’ main backer while Turkey holds sway over some opposition and militant forces along its border. The deal’s terms were never realistic but the agreement sealed in the Russian resort of Sochi in September 2018 staved off a fully fledged offensive that risks triggering the Syrian civil war’s bloodiest phase yet.

UAE reports 1,083 new COVID-19 cases, a hike from the previous day

Updated 7 min 29 sec ago

UAE reports 1,083 new COVID-19 cases, a hike from the previous day

  • Dubai Police say 721 violations committed on beaches since March
  • Kuwait records 616 cases and 2 deaths, Oman reports 628 cases and 10 deaths

DUBAI: The UAE on Wednesday recorded 1,083 new cases of COVID-19 and one death, bringing the total to 87,530 and 406 respectively.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention said 970 cases had recovered in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 76,995 since the pandemic emerged.
Meanwhile, Dubai Economy said it issued four fines to shops Al-Rigga and Al- Muraqqabat areas and gave warnings to two commercial establishments for not adhering to anti COVID-19 measures.

Inspection teams have been carrying out daily tours to ensure shopping centers, open markets and commercial businesses are complying with the government’s preventative measures.
Dubai Police said on Wednesday that a total of 721 violations have been committed on beaches from March to September .
Col. Saeed Al-Madhany said “maritime security teams operate patrols on foot, motorbikes and boats to monitor the public’s adherence to the precautionary measures.

The station also uses drones equipped with hi-tech infrared cameras and loudspeakers to broadcast messages to beachgoers.
Elsewhere, Kuwait recorded 616 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 101,299, while the death toll stood at 590 after two new deaths were registered.

Oman recorded 628 new COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths, bringing the total numbers to 95,339 and 875 respectively.