Syrian regime forces ‘foil drone attack’ on army base in northwest

An opposition fighter belonging to National Liberation Front in southwest Idlib province as the Russian Defense Ministry urges insurgent factions to join the cease-fire. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2019

Syrian regime forces ‘foil drone attack’ on army base in northwest

  • Idlib region saw a lull in air raids after Russia announced unilateral cease-fire on Aug. 30

BEIRUT: The Syrian regime forces claimed on Saturday its air defenses foiled a drone attack by “terrorist” groups on a main military base in northwestern Syria, where a Russian-brokered cease-fire has stopped months of fighting. The three drones, which were carrying explosives, were shot down on Friday and destroyed without causing any losses, the army said in a statement reported on Syrian state media.
The Idlib region saw a lull in air raids that have been pounding opposition-held territory after Russia’s Defense Ministry announced on Aug. 30 that Syrian forces would unilaterally cease fire in an “de-escalation zone” brokered two year ago.
The Russian Defense Ministry, which urged insurgent factions to join the truce, has long said along with its ally they were targeting Al-Qaeda-inspired militants and responding to attacks.
Moscow’s deployment of more special forces before the cease-fire succeeded in shrinking opposition-held territory after months of stalemate on the frontlines, where opposition fighters had earlier been holding back the army from major advances, Western intelligence sources said.
The opposition says although the heavy airstrikes by Russian and Syrian jets have stopped since the cease-fire, heavy shelling on opposition-held villages and towns continue to force thousands of civilians to leave to the safety of areas closer to the Turkish border.
They also say Russian special forces and Iranian-backed militias fighting alongside the Syrian army have breached the cease-fire by launching several major attempts to storm opposition-held areas in recent days that have so far been repelled.

Anti-regime protests
A day earlier, hundreds of Syrians held anti-regime protests in opposition-held Idlib province.
Some demonstrators gathered near the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, where Turkish border guards last week fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse Syrian protesters. They waved the three-star flag of the eight-year-old uprising and chanted against Bashar Assad’s regime, while some called on opposition backer Turkey to open its borders.

FASTFACT

Opposition says although the heavy airstrikes by Russian and Syrian jets have stopped since the cease-fire, heavy shelling on opposition-held villages and towns continue to force thousands of civilians to leave to the safety of areas closer to the Turkish border.

“We only want the Turkish government to open its borders for our brothers who live under the olive trees,” protester Abu Haytham told AFP, referring to displaced Syrians living in the open air.
Airstrikes have stopped since the agreement went into effect last Saturday morning, but sporadic artillery fire has continued. Russia-backed regime forces have been pressing an offensive against Idlib since the end of April.
More than 960 civilians have been killed in four months of heavy bombardment, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. More than 400,000 people have been displaced. Last week, an Assad adviser said the Idlib cease-fire was “temporary.”

It “serves the grand strategy of liberating every inch of Syrian territory,” Buthaina Shaaban told Lebanon’s pro-Damascus Al-Mayadeen TV.
According to Al-Watan newspaper in Damascus, the truce sets an eight-day deadline for militants and opposition fighters to withdraw from areas around a key highway which the regime wants to control.
But anti-opposition forces have yet to pull out.
Syria’s conflict has killed more than 370,000 people and driven millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of anti-opposition protests in 2011.


Lebanese protests swell as cabinet to hold key meeting

Updated 21 October 2019

Lebanese protests swell as cabinet to hold key meeting

  • Hundreds of thousands of people from across Lebanon’s sectarian divides rallied on Sunday
  • The protests have grown steadily since public anger first spilled onto the streets Thursday

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters were expected to return to the streets for a fifth day Monday, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri holding a cabinet meeting to try to calm the unprecedented demonstrations.
Hundreds of thousands of people from across Lebanon’s sectarian divides rallied against corruption and the entire political class Sunday, the largest such demonstrations in the country for years.
Early Monday morning protesters began to block main roads and prevent employees going to work, while calls on social media urged people to boycott work.
Banks, universities and schools closed their doors Monday, with Hariri expected to offer reforms in a bid to stem the anger.
“It’s a day of destiny for us. All our hard work and efforts in previous days and years were to get us to this moment,” said Roni Al-Asaad, a 32-year-old activist in central Beirut.
“If they could have implemented these reforms before, why haven’t they? And why should we believe them today?”
At the nerve center of the demonstrations near the country’s houses of government in central Beirut, volunteers were once again collecting rubbish from the streets, many wearing face masks and plastic gloves.
The protests have grown steadily since public anger first spilled onto the streets Thursday evening in response to a proposed tax on calls via WhatsApp and other messaging services.
While the government quickly dropped that plan, the leaderless protests morphed into demands for a sweeping overhaul of the political system, with grievances ranging from austerity measures to poor infrastructure.
Hariri had given his coalition partners three days to support reforms he said were crucial to get the economy back on track.
On Sunday evening a cabinet official said that the parties had agreed.
The cabinet will hold a meeting chaired by President Michel Aoun at 10:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) to discuss the reforms.
Demonstrators said Hariri’s proposals would not be enough, with demands for the entire political class to resign.
“All of them are warlords,” said Patrick Chakar, 20. “We waited 30 years or more for them to change and they didn’t.”
More than a quarter of Lebanon’s population lives below the poverty line, the World Bank says, while the political class has remained relatively unchanged since the end of a devastating 15-year civil war in 1990.
Lebanon ranked 138 out of 180 in Transparency International’s 2018 corruption index, and residents suffer chronic electricity and water shortages.
Lebanese media hailed the demonstrations.
Al-Akhbar newspaper, which is close to Shiite Muslim militant party Hezbollah, published a picture of protesters carrying a giant flag on its front page with a commentary on “Test Day: Power or People?”
The French-language newspaper L’Orient-Le Jour said “The hour of truth has arrived,” while the English-language The Daily Star said: “Lebanon’s only paths: reform or abyss.”