Nearly 70 dead in Syria regime clashes with Idlib militants

Smoke billows during reported airstrikes by Syrian pro-regime forces on the village of Kafr Rumah, in the southern countryside of Idlib province, on Nov. 26, 2019. (File/Omar Hajj Kadour/AFP)
Updated 01 December 2019

Nearly 70 dead in Syria regime clashes with Idlib militants

  • On Sunday morning, clouds of smoke rose over the Maaret Al-Numan region as warplanes pounded militants
  • At least 36 regime forces were among those killed

SURMAN, Syria: Two days of clashes between regime forces and armed groups in Syria’s last major opposition bastion have killed nearly 70 on both sides, a war monitoring group said Sunday.
The battles in the northwestern province of Idlib are the most violent there since a Russian-brokered cease-fire agreement went into effect in late August, said the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
On Sunday morning, clouds of smoke rose over the Maaret Al-Numan region as warplanes pounded militants and allied rebels in positions they had recently recaptured from regime forces, said an AFP correspondent.
Residents of affected villages fled north to escape the fighting, adding to the tens of thousands who have already flooded out of the province’s violence-plagued south since an escalation started earlier this year.
The Observatory on Sunday put the death toll from fighting at 69 combatants since battles started the previous day.
At least 36 regime forces were among those killed.
It said an attack led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate on several regime positions had initially sparked the fighting.
Overnight, the Syrian army backed by Russian warplanes launched a counter-push to reclaim territory it had lost in the battles, according to the Britain-based war monitor.
Regime forces have since regained lost ground but violent clashes are ongoing, the war monitor and an AFP correspondent said.
The Idlib region, home to around three million people including many displaced by Syria’s eight-year civil war, is controlled by the country’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham jihadist alliance also controls parts of neighboring Aleppo and Latakia provinces where battles with regime forces have also recently taken place.
The region is one of the last holdouts of opposition to forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
A cease-fire announced by Russia in late August has reduced violence in the area.
Between the end of April and the end of August, Idlib was pounded ceaselessly by Syrian soldiers backed by Russian air power.
The Observatory estimates that nearly 1,000 civilians were killed in that period, and the UN says that more than 400,000 people were displaced.
The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011.


Anger at Erdogan’s ‘sea grab’ in the Mediterranean

Updated 06 December 2019

Anger at Erdogan’s ‘sea grab’ in the Mediterranean

  • Cyprus petitioned the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday to safeguard its offshore mineral rights

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced growing anger on Thursday over Turkey’s “sea grab” in the Mediterranean.

Ankara signed a maritime border agreement last month with the Libyan government in Tripoli that gives Turkey control over a vast area of sea stretching from its southern coast to North Africa. The Turkish Parliament approved the deal last night.

The agreement gives Turkey lucrative rights to drill for oil and gas in areas that include the island of Crete’s territorial waters. Ankara says such islands are not entitled to territorial waters.

The deal has infuriated Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, who dismissed it as “illegal.” Cyprus petitioned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Thursday to safeguard its offshore mineral rights. The ICJ has the power to issue binding decisions on countries that recognize its jurisdiction.

President Nicos Anastasiades said the island was committed to protecting its sovereign rights with every legal means possible. “Our recourse to The Hague has that very purpose,” he said.

The maritime border deal was also condemned by Khalifa Haftar, commander of the rival Libyan National Army in the eastern city of Benghazi. Haftar said the government in Tripoli had no authority to sign such an agreement, which was therefore void.