Archive for the ‘ Levant News ’ Category

Syrian army breaks siege of army base near Damascus

2018-01-08

BEIRUT – Syria’s army has broken the siege of an army base encircled by opposition forces on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, state television and a war monitor reported on Sunday.

Last Sunday, rebels, mainly belonging to the Islamist Ahrar al Sham faction, widened their control of parts of the Military Vehicles Administration base in the Eastern Ghouta town of Harasta.

Army elite forces, backed by Russian jets, launched an offensive to break the siege and liberate at least 200 troops who were believed to be trapped within its sprawling, heavily defended grounds.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Syrian forces had “opened a loophole” that led them into the base.

Extensive bombing and violent clashes were taking place inside and around the base late at night, while the army fought its way to recapture the compound’s buildings, the state tv reporter said during a live broadcast from a nearby location.

“Fighting is underway to expand the route that was opened into the base … and the army will press on with its offensive beyond liberating the base,” he added, expecting the battle for the base to end in the coming few hours.

The tv station aired footage of the battles earlier in the day that showed heavy smoke billowing from the battered buildings targeted by the army fire.

Rebel fighters had stormed the base last November in a drive to relieve pressure on Eastern Ghouta’s towns and villages.

The base has long been used to strike at the densely populated Eastern Ghouta in an attempt to force the rebel enclave into submission. More than 300,000 people there have lived under siege by army troops since 2013.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86688.

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Syrians continue to flee violent clashes in Idlib

January 1, 2018

Thousands of Syrian families have fled violent clashes between Daesh and the Syrian forces in the country’s north-western province of Idlib, Anadolu Agency reported yesterday. Many have taken refuge in camps scattered along the border with Turkey.

Early last week, the Syrian army, backed by Russian air power and pro-Iranian fighters, launched intense airstrikes targeting areas in the southern countryside of Idlib province. Idlib and the eastern countryside of Hama province are the only areas that still remain outside government control.

The ten-day offensive and clashes between the regime army and Daesh fighters have also forced the refugees to head to Idlib’s southern countryside of Sinjar, which was later targeted by the army, displacing at least 6,500 civilians.

At least nine civilians were reported dead by the regime airstrikes over the weekend.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180101-syrians-continue-to-flee-violent-clashes-in-idlib/.

Displaced from Syria’s Beit Jin Arrive in Idlib, Daraa

Sunday, 31 December, 2017

Hundreds of opposition fighters arrived on Saturday in the Syrian provinces of Idlib and Daraa after they were displaced from the towns of Beit Jin and Mogher al-Meer in Damascus’ western Ghouta suburb.

The evacuation was made possible after an agreement with the Syrian regime forces that began sweeping the two towns.

State television showed footage of the convoy of buses containing the rebels moving out of Beit Jin.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that six bus convoys left Beit Jin as part of the agreement between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other factions and between the regime.

The buses that arrived in the southern region of Daraa were transporting some 100 fighters from the factions, as well as some 30 of their family members. The buses that arrived in the northern Idlib province also held similar numbers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent said on Friday they had finished a medical evacuation of 29 very sick people from eastern Ghouta as part of a swap deal for prisoners held by the rebels.

Beit Jin’s location near Israeli-controlled territory made it a strategic flashpoint given the role of Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” in fighting the rebels there.

Israel has bombed “Hezbollah” convoys and weapons caches several times in Syria this year and fired on military positions in Syria after projectiles landed in the Golan Heights.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1128841/displaced-syria%E2%80%99s-beit-jin-arrive-idlib-daraa.

Free Syrian Army subgroups unite to form national army

December 31, 2017

Around 30 sub-groups of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have unified under the banner of the country’s “National Army”, the Syrian interim government announced on Saturday.

The announcement came after the head of the interim government, Jawad Abu Hatab, met the subgroup leaders in the northern city of Azaz.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Abu Hatab noted their primary aim as keeping hold of the area liberated from Daesh through Operation Euphrates Shield and defending people by standing against the Assad regime and terror groups like Daesh and the PKK/PYD.

In the wide-ranging Euphrates Shield Operation launched last summer, the Free Syrian Army — with the support of the Turkish army — had cleared 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles) of land along the Turkish-Syrian border of terrorist elements.

Abu Hatab said they have unified three army corps through the project totaling 22,000 soldiers.

“First army corps is the one trained in Turkey. The second and the third consists of nearly 30 groups,” he said, adding that the most important matter is to form an army from the whole region.

“This is possible with Turkey’s support,” Hatab said, who also recalled Turkey’s efforts through Operation Euphrates Shield, which let thousands of Syrian refugees to return to their country.

Chief of General Staff of the interim government Col. Haitham Ofeisi said the formation of the “National Army” was the result of the unification of three corps.

“First we took this decision in the Euphrates Shield Operation Zone. Of course, we have made this decision with the support of Turkey,” he said adding that they would continue the process in remaining places.

Ofeisi vowed that they would clear Daesh and PKK/PYD terrorists group as well as Assad forces from the region while more army corps would be formed under the General Staff in the freed areas.

“We believe that the future of Syria will be good and we will go to all lengths of this revolution that we have started in 2011.

He said one of the targets “is to give all type of struggles against the division of our lands by Daesh and PKK/PYD terrorist organizations”.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171231-free-syrian-army-subgroups-unite-to-form-national-army/.

Syria Muslim Brotherhood rejects Russia-sponsored peace talks

December 28, 2017

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has categorically rejected the Sochi conference sponsored by Russia scheduled for the end of January.

In a statement released yesterday, the group said that the conference is an attempt to consolidate the Russian occupation and ignore the political solution stipulated in the Geneva resolutions, which starts with the formation of a fully-fledged transitional authority which does not include Bashar Al-Assad and his regime.

The group reiterated its adherence to the principles of the Syrian revolution of overthrowing Al-Assad and his regime and rebuilding the country as a state of justice, freedom, equality and human dignity.

It also called on all revolutionary forces and Syrian national figures to boycott the Sochi conference. The Syrian opposition negotiating body said there was widespread rejection of the conference among opposition groups.

Russia, Turkey and Iran, the guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria agreed at the conclusion of the Astana 8 meeting last week to hold the Syrian national dialogue conference in the Russian resort of Sochi on 29-30 January.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171228-syria-muslim-brotherhood-rejects-russia-sponsored-peace-talks/.

Syria rebels reject Russian-led peace initiative

2017-12-26

BEIRUT – More than three dozen Syrian rebel groups, including influential Islamists, have rejected a Russian-led initiative for talks next month in Sochi on ending Syria’s war.

Russia and Iran, both key allies of Syria’s regime, agreed with opposition backer Turkey on Friday to hold a “Congress of National Dialogue” in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 29 and 30.

Syria’s government swiftly said it would attend but rebels have pushed back, calling it a Russian bid to eclipse a United Nations-led process in Geneva.

“We completely reject Russia’s attempt to circumvent the Geneva track,” the rebels said in a joint statement published Monday.

“We call on all forces to stand in one rank against these alarming dangers.”

It was signed by 40 factions, including Islamist powerhouse Ahrar al-Sham and groups that have been backed by the United States such as the Mutasem Brigades.

Some of the factions played a significant role in the rebellion since the war broke out in 2011 but most have either been sidelined by other groups or control only small pockets of land.

Mustefa Sejari, a top Mutasem Brigades figure, said on Tuesday that rebels could not see Russia as an honest broker.

“From the beginning, we said whoever wants to play an intermediary and guarantor role in Syria needs to be neutral, fair, and honest in its support of political transition,” Sejari said.

“Russia has not done these things — it is a partner in the killing of the Syrian people,” he added.

Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011 with anti-government demonstrations, but it has since morphed into a complex war drawing in world powers, including Russia.

Repeated attempts to reach a political solution to the war have failed, with the UN-backed process in Switzerland bearing little fruit.

Russia, Turkey, and Iran began hosting talks between Syria’s government and armed rebels in Kazakhstan earlier this year, and announced the Sochi conference at the most recent round last week.

The United Nations has yet to firmly endorse the summit, and opposition representatives have largely been wary of it.

The main stumbling block over any political solution remains the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with much of the opposition sticking firm to calls for his ouster.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86561.

Fatah lights 53rd anniversary torch in Gaza

January 1, 2018

The Palestinian Fatah movement lit its 53rd anniversary torch of freedom in Gaza on Sunday, Anadolu has reported. The event took place in the presence of hundreds of Fatah supporters in the Square of the Unknown Soldier in the middle of Gaza City.

The movement’s yellow flag was raised alongside photographs of the late President Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah regards itself as the torchbearer of Palestinian liberation, and has lit a symbolic torch every year since its foundation on 1 January, 1965.

Fatah’s Central Committee member Ahmed Hellis told the rally that the torch will be kept alight as a symbol against all aggressors. The movement, he pointed out, has been involved in several struggles to achieve Palestinian national unity.

“This is the choice of the movement,” he insisted. “Today, we are sticking with national unity more than any time in the past due to the dangers engulfing our cause and our national rights.” He added that Fatah will continue its unity efforts with other national and Islamic factions despite “disparities” in their views. “We will continue looking for the common factor among the Palestinian factions because Palestine needs all the Palestinians.”

Earlier, Fatah had announced that it would turn the celebration of its anniversary into popular resistance activities in solidarity with Jerusalem and against the US move.

Fatah was founded as a military movement with the goal of liberating Palestine. It became involved in direct and indirect secret talks with Israel until a peace deal was agreed in 1993. In 1998, Fatah dropped all articles of its Charter calling for military resistance against the Israeli occupation.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180101-fatah-lights-53rd-anniversary-torch-in-gaza/.