Russian jets strike Syrian rebel-held bastion in heaviest strikes since cease-fire

Smoke billows following a reported Russian airstrike on the western outskirts of the mostly rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib, on September 20, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 20 September 2020

Russian jets strike Syrian rebel-held bastion in heaviest strikes since cease-fire

  • 30 areas struck the western outskirts of Idlib city
  • There were no immediate reports of casualties

AMMAN: Syrian opposition sources said Russian jets bombed rebel-held northwestern Syria on Sunday in the most extensive strikes since a Turkish-Russian deal halted major fighting with a cease-fire nearly six months ago.
Witnesses said the warplanes struck the western outskirts of Idlib city and that there was heavy artillery shelling in the mountainous Jabal al Zawya region in southern Idlib from nearby Syrian army outposts. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
“These 30 raids are by far the heaviest strikes so far since the cease-fire deal,” said Mohammed Rasheed, a former rebel official and a volunteer plane spotter whose network covers the Russian air base in the western coastal province of Latakia.
Other tracking centers said Russian Sukhoi jets hit the Horsh area and Arab Said town, west of the city of Idlib. Unidentified drones also hit two rebel-held towns in the Sahel Al-Ghab plain, west of Hama province.
There has been no wide-scale aerial bombing since a March agreement ended a Russian-backed bombing campaign that displaced over a million people in the region which borders Turkey after months of fighting.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow or the Syrian army who have long accused militant groups who hold sway in the last opposition redoubt of wrecking the cease-fire deal and attacking army-held areas.
The deal between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin also defused a military confrontation between them after Ankara poured thousands of troops into Idlib province to hold back Russian-backed forces from new advances.
Western diplomats tracking Syria say Moscow piled pressure on Ankara in the latest round of talks on Wednesday to scale down its extensive military presence in Idlib. Turkey has more than ten thousand troops stationed in dozens of bases there, according to opposition sources in touch with Turkish military.
Witnesses say there has been a spike in sporadic shelling from Syrian army outposts against Turkish bases in the last two weeks. Rebels say the Syrian army and its allied militias were amassing troops on front lines.
Two witnesses said a Turkish military column comprising at least 15 armored vehicles was seen overnight entering Syria through the Kafr Lusin border crossing in the direction of a main base in rural Idlib.


Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

Updated 45 min 34 sec ago

Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

  • Hariri immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan
  • He has previously led three governments in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Three-time Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was named to the post for a fourth time Thursday and immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan.
Hariri said he would “form a cabinet of non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap.”
“I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out and this is the only and last chance facing our country,” he added.
President Michel Aoun named Hariri to form a new cabinet to lift the country out of crisis after most parliamentary blocs backed his nomination.
Hariri, who has previously led three governments in Lebanon, stepped down almost a year ago under pressure from unprecedented protests against the political class.
“The president summoned... Saad Al-Deen Al-Hariri to task him with forming a government,” a spokesman for the presidency said.
Hariri was backed by a majority of 65 lawmakers, while 53 abstained.
Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades and still reeling from a devastating port blast that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of Beirut in August.
Aoun warned Wednesday that the new prime minister, the third in a year, would have to spearhead reforms and battle corruption.
A relatively unknown diplomat, Mustapha Adib, had been nominated in late August following the resignation of his predecessor Hassan Diab’s government in the aftermath of the deadly port blast.
Adib had vowed to form a cabinet of experts, in line with conditions set by French President Emmanuel Macron to help rescue the corruption-ridden country from its worst ever economic crisis.
He faced resistance from some of the main parties however and threw in the towel nearly a month later, leaving Lebanon rudderless to face soaring poverty and the aftermath of its worst peacetime disaster.