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.


250 German navy soldiers join EU mission to enforce Libya arms embargo

Updated 04 August 2020

250 German navy soldiers join EU mission to enforce Libya arms embargo

  • The frigate left from the port of Wilhelmshaven to start an EU five-month mission
  • The mission aims to enforce the embargo, collect data on illegal oil exports, and tackle migrant crisis

CAIRO: A German navy frigate carrying 250 soldiers headed to the Mediterranean on Tuesday to join an EU mission aimed at enforcing a UN arms embargo on Libya. 
The frigate left from the port of Wilhelmshaven to start a five-month mission tasked with preventing the flow of weapons into war-torn Libya.
The EU mission Operation Irini, launched in May, was hampered by escalating fighting across the country, which saw Turkey intervene in recent months. 
The mission aims to enforce the embargo, collect data on Libya’s illegal oil exports as well as its migrant smuggling crisis.  
The crew members are set to return on Dec. 20, DPA, an international German news agency reported. They may not land until the mentioned date due to coronavirus fears, the report added. 
Turkey has been accused of exacerbating the war in Libya, providing drones, weapons and allied fighters from Syria to help Libya’s government based in the capital, Tripoli.
That administration, which is backed by an array of militias, has been fighting the forces of commander Khalifa Haftar, who is loyal to a rival administration in the east of the country.
Libya has been torn by violence since long-time ruler Muammar Qaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.