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.


Egyptian president uses UN address to call for peace in Libya

Updated 18 min 27 sec ago

Egyptian president uses UN address to call for peace in Libya

  • In speech to 75th General Assembly, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi again warns that Egypt will intervene if forces in the country cross ‘red lines’

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi told the UN on Tuesday that the crisis in Libya continues to have repercussions for neighboring nations and is affecting international stability.

In a recorded speech to the organization’s 75th General Assembly, he said that Egypt remains determined to support the Libyan people in their efforts to rid their nation of terrorist groups and militias, and end interference by regional powers that have deployed foreign fighters in the country.

He reiterated that if previously stated “red lines” are crossed by forces aligned with the Government of National Accord in Tripoli advancing on Sirte and nearby Al-Jufra, Egypt will intervene in defense of its own national security and the safety of its people.

El-Sisi renewed his call for both sides in the conflict to return to the negotiating table to find a political solution that can bring the peace, security and stability the Libyan people deserve. He added that Egypt continues to support UN-led efforts to reach a political settlement based on the 2015 agreement signed in Skhirat, Morocco, and this year’s Berlin conference and Cairo Declaration. The declaration, announced on June 6, is a joint political initiative designed to end the conflict, restore order and establish a consensus government.

Ambassador Mohammed Badr El-Din, a former assistant minister of foreign affairs, said that El-Sisi’s speech covered all the main issues currently dominating Egyptian foreign policy and national security, and highlighted the importance of international cooperation to confront the problems and, in particular, hold accountable those who violate international law.

“(The president) talked about the issue of countries that support terrorism and facilitate the movement of terrorists to conflict areas, especially to Libya and Syria,” said El-Din.

He added that the situation in Libya is one of the greatest concerns for Egypt, and that some countries, led by Turkey, are threatening international peace and security by supporting terrorists and deploying Daesh elements in conflict zones in the region.

“Egypt has surpassed the parties that are allied with the terrorist forces,” said El-Din. “It is no secret from the world that there are elements of ISIS who were transferred from Syria to Libya, and thus President El-Sisi repeated and clarified this position,” he added, using another name for the terror group Daesh.

He added that El-Sisi in his speech also confirmed Egypt’s stance on the Palestinian issue and support for a just resolution, and highlighted the importance of reaching political solutions in Syria and Yemen that preserve their territorial integrity.

Salah Hasaballah, a spokesman for the House of Representatives, noted that El-Sisi had expressed his regret that the international community continues to turn a blind eye to the support provided to terrorists by a handful of countries, through the provision of funds and weapons, by offering safe havens and media and political platforms, and even transporting terrorist fighters to conflict zones, especially Libya and Syria.

He also called on the international community to embrace El-Sisi’s vision for a solution to the Palestinian issue, and commit to working to achieve peace and establish a Palestinian homeland.