Syria army overruns key Idlib crossroads town

Saraqeb is the second key highway town to be recaptured by government forces in the past two weeks, after the rebels were pushed out of Maaret al-Numan last month. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 February 2020

Syria army overruns key Idlib crossroads town

  • Syrian troops said they were combing the area for landmines and explosives left behind by the militants and allied rebels
  • The violence has displaced 586,000 people since December

ISTANBUL: The Syrian army took control of the strategic northwestern crossroads town of Saraqeb on Saturday in the latest gain of a weeks-long offensive against the country’s last major rebel bastion of Idlib.
“Army units now exercise full control over the town of Saraqeb,” state television reported, over footage of the town's streets deserted after weeks of bombardment.
It said Syrian troops were combing the area for landmines and explosives left behind by the militants and allied rebels.
Saraqeb is the second key highway town to be recaptured by government forces in the past two weeks, after the rebels were pushed out of Maaret al-Numan last month.

Weeks of intensive air strikes and a bruising ground offensive have emptied entire towns in the Idlib region and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing.
The violence has displaced 586,000 people since December, according to the United Nations, and killed more than 300 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Saraqeb is a strategic prize for the government it seeks to take back control of two major highways that meet in the town.
The M5 motorway connects the capital to second city Aleppo. Running up from the Jordanian border in the south, it is Syria's longest highway.
The Observatory said on Friday that government forces were in control of the whole extent of the M5 in Idlib province.
Only a 30 kilometre section in neighbouring Aleppo now remains in rebel hands.
Saraqeb sits at the crossroads with the M4, the main east-west highway in Idlib which linking Aleppo with the Mediterranean port city of Latakia, a government bastion.
After a string of advances since the intervention of Russia on its side in 2015, the government now controls more than 70 per cent of Syrian territory.
The conflict has killed more than 380,000 people since it broke out in 2011.


Egyptian ministry of irrigation — torrent season begins

A general view of the High Dam in Aswan, Egypt February 19, 2020. (REUTERS
Updated 18 min 48 sec ago

Egyptian ministry of irrigation — torrent season begins

  • Preliminary indications of the flood showed that it is higher than average and that the incoming waters during August and September are so far higher than those of last year

CAIRO: Egypt’s flood season began in August and will continue for three months — and the torrent season is about to begin — Mohamed El-Sebaei, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, has confirmed.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation continues to prepare for the torrent season and to deal with flooding, which has caused the levels of the Nile to rise significantly over the past few days.

El-Sebaei said the ministry is monitoring the quantities of water that reach Egypt and accumulate in front of the High Dam on a daily basis, pointing out that the Minister of Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel-Ati, has been in Aswan since yesterday to inspect the water facilities of the High Dam.

He said that the torrential season is about to start in the period between autumn and winter, and that the ministry is following up with all torrent, canal and drain networks to ensure that they are ready to receive any volume of water and to preserve private and public property.

The ministry is preparing to cope with the torrents and rains expected to occur during autumn and winter by preparing Lake Nasser, located behind the High Dam, which is one of the most important strategic points in containing the quantities of water coming from the Ethiopian plateau.

The Egyptian River Revenue Regulatory Committee, in its meeting headed by Abdel-Ati, reviewed the situation of the Nile flood, the procedures for monitoring, analyzing and evaluating its condition, and the quantities of water expected to arrive until the end of the current water year 2021-2022.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Irrigation, the rates of rain in the sources of the Nile is expected to start decreasing by the end of September.

Preliminary indications of the flood showed that it is higher than average and that the incoming waters during August and September are so far higher than those of last year. Is still too early to make a final judgment on the type and size of this year’s flood.

Eman El-Sayed, head of the planning sector and head of the forecast center at the Ministry of Irrigation, said the center works to calculate the rates of rain that fall on the upper Nile River countries until it reaches the country on a daily basis. She explained that the latest technology is used to take satellite images and download mathematical models to determine the amount of rain falling and when it will fall.

El-Sayed added that the ministry holds two meetings every week to discuss the developments of the flood season, which have been confirmed more than once to be very high — once during the meeting of the River Revenue Regulatory Committee and the other during the Leadership Committee meeting.

She pointed to the development of three scenarios to deal with a flood. If it comes at a power 10 percent stronger than expected, it will be water drainage as usual. If it comes 50 percent stronger than expected, the excess will be dealt with through drains and waterways and the Toshka spillway will open. If it is stronger than that, the country will declare a state of emergency, she said.