10 pro-Iranian militiamen killed in eastern Syria

A heavily damaged building is seen in Idlib, in northwestern Syria. (AFP/File)
Updated 17 September 2019

10 pro-Iranian militiamen killed in eastern Syria

  • The strikes came as tensions mounted between archfoes Iran and the United States after Washington blamed Tehran for weekend attacks on Saudi oil installations

BEIRUT: Overnight airstrikes killed 10 pro-Iranian Iraqi militiamen in eastern Syria, a war monitor said Tuesday, without specifying who carried them out.

The strikes targeted “three positions of the (Iranian) Revolutionary Guards and allied (Iraqi) militias” in Albu Kamal, in the Euphrates Valley just across the border from Iraq, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Ten Iraqis from pro-Iranian militias were killed,” the Britain-based monitor said.

The strikes came as tensions mounted between archfoes Iran and the US after Washington blamed Tehran for weekend attacks on Saudi oil installations.

They were the second to hit pro-Iranian forces in eastern Syria in little more than a week.

On Sept. 9, airstrikes killed 18 fighters, including Iranians, according to the Observatory.

In June last year, strikes near the Iraqi border killed 55 fighters, most of them Syrian or Iraqi. A US official speaking on condition of anonymity said Israel was responsible.

Much of the east of Syria was held by Daesh militants before their defeat in March.

It is now divided by the Euphrates Valley into a zone held by forces loyal to the Syrian regime and its ally Iran and another held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and their allies in a US-led coalition, which has in the past carried out air raids on pro-regime forces.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed on Monday to ease tensions in northwest Syria’s Idlib region, but disagreements between the countries appeared to linger, especially over the threat from Daesh.

The summit of the three countries aimed to find a lasting truce in Syria. Recent attacks by the regime forces risk deepening regional turmoil and pushing a new wave of migrants toward Turkey.

“We are in a period when we need to take more responsibility for peace in Syria, when we (three countries) need to carry more weight,” Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that all three leaders were in agreement that a political solution was necessary to end the crisis in Syria.


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.”