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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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Pictures: Huge SAA reinforcements arrive ahead of looming ahead of the Battle for Idlib

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 04:58 PM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (3:47 AM) – Pictures of Major General Muhammad Khaddour inspecting the front lines southwest of Khanasser located in Aleppo’s southern countryside have circulated Syrian internet spheres confirming widespread suspicions of a planned government offensive in the region complimenting efforts in northern Hama’s countryside.

Under Major General Khaddour’s command are thousands of troops and an abundance of vehicles in what seems to be the largest operation against rebel forces in northern Syria since Operation Dawn of Victory which had the Syrian Arab Army permanently expel rebel presence inside Aleppo, Syria’s once prosperous economic capital. Notably, Khaddour is the commander of the Idlib operation room.

Syrian forces continue to deploy in the aforementioned region as reports suggest that the first target set by the Syrian command for the operation is the strategic village of Al-Rashadiyah and its surrounding hills. Large areas are expected to be secured within a short time’s notice due to the large concentration of forces and assets on the relevant front.

Overall goal of the operation is to eradicate Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s Badiya sector whose commanders consist of foreign terrorists veteran to the Afghan and Iraqi theaters. Parallel efforts in north Hama and west Khanasser will conclusively secure the Ithriya-Khanasser Highway that feeds Aleppo and will overwhelm al-Qaeda’s cadres and assets as the extremist group continues to experience a shortfall of resources and finances as it finds itself surrounded by hostile actors within the rebel sphere and former foreign sponsors.

So far, the large advances by the SAA in northeast Hama have been led by loose poorly equipped NDF militias understating the collapse of the terrorist group to a shadow of its former self. Syrian Forces in northern Hama and south Aleppo likely aim to capture Abu al-Duhour Airbase on the boundaries of Idlib’s eastern countryside.

Such a feat would link Aleppo’s southern countryside to Hama’s northeastern countryside setting the stage for an all-encompassing offensive on Idlib whilst enabling the Syrian Army to bypass the rebel forces’ unbreakable defenses in northern Hama and the Ghab plains (the network of towns stretching from Al-Qahira and Frikka in Jisr al-Shughour’s southern countryside to Qala’at al-Mudiq located north of the loyalist Christian town of Mahardeh and the towns east of it comprising of Morek, Khan Sheikhoun, Lataminah, and Kafr Nabudah where government forces encountered huge losses attempting to tackle those towns’ defenses.)

Time is not in the insurgents’ favor as operations against ISIS in the east draw to a close and the bulk of the SAA’s shock troops and offensive units prepare to return to bring a decisive end to HTS’s jihadist dynasty in the Syrian north. Against all odds, the Syrian state is there to stay- a permanent player in the troubled Middle East and a stabilizing agent in a time where radical militant groups harass the Middle East’s fledgling secular states in Libya, Egypt, Jordan, and Tunis.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Final preparations being made for massive Syrian Army offensive in Idlib

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 04:58 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:50 A.M.) – Over the last 48 hours, the Syrian Arab Army’s High Command has been sending a large number of reinforcements to the southern countryside of the Aleppo Governorate.

The reinforcements arrived at the town of Al-Rashidiyah and were comprised of 4th Division, Republican Guard, and NDF personnel that were previously in the Hama, Deir Ezzor, and Homs governorates.

In addition to the reinforcements, the Syrian Army commander leading the operation, Major General Mohammad Khaddour, was pictured inspecting his forces in the southern countryside of the Aleppo Governorate.

The main objective of this offensive will be to liberate the strategic Abu Dhuhour Military Airport, which has now become Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham’s main base in the eastern countryside of the Idlib Governorate.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Russia, Turkey, Iran Statement Lays Ground for Political Settlement in Syria

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 04:16 PM PST

The trilateral Russian-Iranian-Turkish statement urged the Syrian government and opposition groups, which are committed to sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, to constructively participate in the National Dialogue Congress.

The statement of the presidents of three ceasefire guarantors on Syria after their meeting in Sochi on Wednesday lays practical ground for the political settlement in Syria and gives a push forward to the Geneva negotiations process, leader of Moscow platform of the Syrian opposition Qadri Jamil told Sputnik.

"I believe this statement is very important, I can compare its importance only with the creation of the Astana platform, which helped the Geneva process from a military perspective. Now there are difficulties in the Geneva process, that is why a political process in Sochi starts helping and giving a fresh impetus to the Geneva process. I believe that this meeting and decision are very important because that means for us that a ground for the practical launch of the political process in Syria has been laid. We have already come to an end of the fight against the IS and terrorism and these results must be supported — but they can be supported only with the political process,” Jamil said.

He also expressed no concern over some groups’ decision not to visit the National Dialogue Congress.

“Given what is happening in Raqqa now… I think that the extremist [opposition] groups that have not understood the balance of power will not attend [the meeting in Sochi]. Let them miss the meeting, let them be in isolation. But there are other groups, including those in the armed opposition, that signed the ceasefire agreement and want to take part in the political process. That is why I think that the Sochi process will not be less important than the Astana process, which was positively assessed by three presidents,” Jamil added.

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran have also agreed that they would continue cooperation until the final defeat of the Daesh terrorist organization.

Meantime, some Syrian opposition parties have already chosen their delegates who will take part in the National Dialogue Congress that will be held in the Russian city of Sochi, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

“The Syrian National Dialogue Congress is being prepared. According to the reports from opposition in Syria, the meeting of Russian and Syrian presidents in Sochi on November 20 was lively discussed. In course of sessions, some oppositional parties have elected delegates to the Syrian National Dialogue Congress,” the ministry’s center for Syrian reconciliation said in its daily bulletin.

The Russian Defense Ministry also said that with the help of the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation 36 people had left the al-Taymadah-Albaltarya temporary facility for displaced persons for the settlement of Qum-Khana in the province of Hama where the civil infrastructure has been partially reconstructed.

“Another 330 people are being prepared to make their way back home from the al-Taymadah-Albaltarya temporary housing area. Over the last 24 hours, 95 people have made their way back home in the provinces of Aleppo (45), Hama (36) and Homs (14),” the statement said.

Within last 24 hours 238 people received medical aid provided by the Russia Defense Ministry with 53 of them having got surgical care.

“The Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides has held a humanitarian action to deliver food supplies (rice, flour, canned meat, sugar) for the citizens of Rasm al-Alam [Aleppo province],” the statement added.

Russia is actively involved in solving the Syrian conflict by engaging in a military operation against terrorist organizations, serving as a mediator in the Astana reconciliation talks and guarantor of the Syrian ceasefire, as well as by providing civilians with humanitarian aid.

Syria has been engulfed in a civil war since 2011, with government forces fighting numerous opposition factions and terrorist groups. The international community has taken a number of steps aimed at settling the crisis, including through talks in Geneva and Astana.

Source: Sputnik

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Watch the operation that led to Abukamal’s liberation

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 03:07 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:00 A.M.) – The Syrian city of Abu Kamal which was considered as the last city under the control of Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIS/ISIL) in the country, was liberated by the Syrian Army and its allies on November 19, footage from Wednesday reveals.

The city was seized by allies earlier this month but the militants staged a counter attack through terrorists hidden in the town.

The city is situated in the Deir ez-Zor Governate of eastern Syrian near the border with Iraq.

“The coordination of the Syrian army and actions of its allies was carried out at the highest level and facilitated the complete liberation of the city of Abu Kamal,” a Syrian army officer said.

Another Syrian army military official recounted the terrors performed by the ISIS militants saying that children were being used as traps.

“There was another situation when a girl and a boy were together in a house, and the girl had a suicide belt. I do not know exactly how, but the girl exploded and the person who was with her was killed too” he said.

On 21 November, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared the end of IS, stating that the jihadi group was completely defeated in Syria and Iraq.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

ISIS completely overwhelms HTS in northeast Hama, 10+ towns captured – map

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 02:13 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:05 A.M.) – The Islamic State (ISIS) continued their onslaught in the northeastern countryside of the Hama Governorate, Wednesday, capturing several towns from the Al-Qaeda linked Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham rebel group.

ISIS began the assault by advancing the towns they recently captured, striking several of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham’s flanks near the Idlib Governorate axxis.

According to the terrorist group’s official media wing, their forces captured the HTS stronghold of Srooj, along with the towns of Aliya, Abu Maro, Abu Khanadiq, Abyan, Jubb Zreiq, Samiriyah, Judaydah, and Wasitah.

As a result of this advance, the HTS militants are now on the verge of losing their last positions inside the northeastern countryside of the Hama Governorate.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Saudi Prince Mohammed’s Achilles Heel: Misreading tea leaves in Washington

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 01:51 PM PST

Emboldened by perceived White House support, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to have stepped up his risky, so far faltering effort to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East.

The kingdom, despite Prime Minister Saad Hariri complicating Saudi efforts to curb the political and military power of Hezbollah, the country's Shiite militia, by putting on hold his decision to resign, is signalling that it is looking beyond Lebanon to fulfil Prince Mohammed's vow in May that the fight between the two rivals would be fought "inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia

Speaking earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir warned that "any way you look at it, they (the Iranians) are the ones who are acting in an aggressive manner. We are reacting to that aggression and saying, 'Enough is enough. We're not going to let you do this anymore.'"

Militant Iranian Arab nationalist exiles this week started broadcasting .

Pakistani militants in the province of Balochistan have reported a massive flow of Saudi funds in the last year to Sunni Muslim ultra-conservative groups while a Saudi thinktank believed to be supported by Prince Mohammed published a blueprint for support of the Baloch and called for "immediate countermeasures" against Iran.

Prince Mohammed's track record in confronting Iran more aggressively is at best mixed. The kingdom's 2.5-year old intervention in Yemen has driven Iran and the Houthis closer together and raised the spectre of the rebels organizing themselves on Saudi Arabia's border with Hezbollah as their model.

Saudi backing of Syrian rebels failed to turn the tables on President Bashar al-Assad, a key Iranian ally, while the kingdom reversed its 13-year boycott of Iraq in a bid to counter Iranian influence through engagement with Baghdad.

In Lebanon, the odds are against Hezbollah bowing to pressure that it disarms and halt its military involvement beyond the country's borders even if the group appeared to want to avert a crisis by announcing that it was withdrawing forces from Syria and Iraq. Hezbollah also denied that it was supplying weapons to the Houthis, including a ballistic missile fired at the airport of the Saudi capital Riyadh earlier this month.

"So far, the Iranians have effectively won in Lebanon, are winning in Syria and Iraq, and are bleeding the Saudis in Yemen… There is precious little evidence to suggest that the Saudis have learned from their earlier failures and are now able to roll back Iranian influence in the Middle East," said researcher and Jerusalem Post columnist Jonathan Spyer.

If Prince Salman's apparent strategy and track records risks escalating regional tensions and raising questions about Saudi Arabia's ability to successfully confront Iran, it also may be based on a misreading of the dynamics of US policymaking.

Prince Salman appears to believe that he can ignore signals from the State Department, Pentagon and members of Congress, who have been counseling greater caution, as long as he is backed by US President Donald J. Trump and Jared Kushner, a senior advisor and the president's son-in-law. The Saudi crown prince appears to be reinforced in this belief by his United Arab Emirates counterpart, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, with whom he coordinates closely.

The evolution of the US approach to the six-month-old UAE-Saudi-led boycott of Qatar suggests a complexity of policy making in Washington that both princes have so far failed to take into account or effectively address.

Al-Monitor Washington correspondent Laura Rozen reported that UAE ambassador Youssef al-Otaiba in June called then-US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones in the middle of the night to give him advance notice of the boycott. "What are you guys doing? This is crazy," Mr. Jones told the ambassador. To which Mr. Otaiba responded: "'Have you spoken to the White House?'"

Despite Mr. Trump's expressed support for the Saudi UAE position involving a refusal to negotiate or lift the boycott unless Qatar accepts demands that would compromise its ability to chart its own course, US policy administered by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis' has pushed for a negotiated resolution – a position far closer to that of Qatar.

Speaking at a conference in the UAE, Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers urged Gulf countries to broaden their outreach in Washington from one narrowly focused on Mr. Trump's White House to other branches of government as well Democrats in Congress. "I made the point that lobbying efforts and Washington should not ignore the Democrats in Congress and that they may be coming back in one house or another in 2018," Mr. Rogers told Al-Monitor.

The US House of Representatives last week, in an indication of the risk of relying exclusively on the White House, set the stage for a debate of US military support for Saudi Arabia's ill-fated Yemen by overwhelmingly adopting a non-binding resolution that recognized that the aid was being provided without Congressional authorization. The resolution noted that Congress had exclusively authorized operations against jihadist militants in Yemen, not against domestic rebel groups like the Houthis.

The Saudi and UAE reading of the lay of the land in the US capital and singular reliance on the White House is somewhat surprising given that both Mr. Al-Otaiba and Mr. Al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, have a track record as savvy Washington operators, and the fact that a host of public relations and lobby firms are paid hefty fees to advise the kingdom.

Widely viewed as one of the most well-connected and influential foreign diplomats in Washington, Mr. Al Otaiba has been ambassador to the United States for almost a decade. Educated in the US, Mr. Al-Jubeir served in the kingdom's Washington embassy, and years later became ambassador to the US before being appointed foreign minister.

The Saudi and UAE focus on the White House is rooted in Prince Salman's efforts, dating back to his initial rise in early 2015, two years before Mr. Trump came to office, to counter President Barak Obama's policy of reducing US engagement in the Middle East.

"The United States must realise that they are the number one in the world and they have to act like it," Prince Mohammed told The Economist in early 2016. He suggested that the sooner the US re-engages the better. Reengagement meant to the Saudi leader, aggressive US support for the kingdom's efforts to shape the Middle East and North Africa in its image.

Mr. Trump's policy priorities in the region, including confronting Iran, fighting extremism, and solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a bid to open the door to overt Israeli-Saudi cooperation, stroked with those of the crown prince. Those goals are shared in Washington beyond the White House, but many in the administration and Congress worry that Prince Mohammed's way of achieving them may either backfire or be counterproductive.

In a sign of concern, the State Department this week cautioned Americans traveling to Saudi Arabia. In a statement, it warned "US citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Saudi Arabia due to continuing threats from terrorist groups and the threat of ballistic missile attacks on civilian targets by rebel forces in Yemen."

Salman Al-Ansari, the head of the Washington-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), advised Saudi Arabia, days after Mr. Trump was inaugurated, to reach out to different segments of American society in what he described as the kingdom's real battle.

"One of Saudi Arabia's glaring weak points is public diplomacy, especially with regards to communicating its economic and national security concerns to the American public. The Kingdom's media efforts remain woefully behind where it needs to be… In an age where information is disseminated so rapidly, the Kingdom has no excuse but to reach out to the American people," Mr. Al-Ansari said.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Syrian Army’s most elite division deploys new deadly weapon in east Damascus

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 01:49 PM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:50 P.M.) – The IRAM missile launcher, nicknamed the Golan-300 by troops using it, has been put into service by the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) 4th Mechanized Division as the latter prepares to squeeze the East Ghouta pocket into submission through deadly close-range ‘Elephant’ missiles.

This type of mobile artillery piece is capable of launching twelve large missiles towards hostile positions in less than a minute and will prove vital for further counter-insurgency operations in the East Ghouta.

Somewhat low-quality footage of the 4th Division’s new weapon can be found below:

The 4th Mechanized Division, generously supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry by the Military High Command, is considered the most seasoned branch of the SAA and has singlehandedly eliminated a dozen opposition pockets in and around Damascus since 2012.

Since the beginning of the conflict, the 4th Mechanized Division has been deployed exclusively in Damascus to safeguard the Syrian capital. In 2017 however, the division has been split up with elements serving in Deir Ezzor, Hama, Rif Dimashq and the East Ghouta all at once.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Syrian Army scores new gains near Golan Heights amid Israeli interference

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 01:05 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:45 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) made advances against militants in the towns of Kafr Hoor and Kafr Al-Awameed in al- Quneitra province, some 77 kilometers (47 miles) south west of Damascus, near Israeli-controlled Golan Heights on Tuesday.

The SAA operation aimed to advance against militants stationed on the border between Syria and Israel.

Reportedly the Syrian forces came under Israeli Defence Forces fire.

The Syrian Army is currently advancing inside the militant controlled Beit Jinn pocket as they look to expel the Al-Qaeda linked Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham terrorist group from the area.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

VIDEO: Syrian Army stops huge shipment of weaponry from being smuggled into Damascus

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 11:44 AM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (9:45 P.M.) – Amid reports of militants running low on ammunition and anti-tank weaponry, Islamist rebels based in the East Ghouta pocket tried to smuggle tons of armaments into the opposition-held farmland, located on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, on Wednesday.

After a truck driver was bribed by opposition forces, he reportedly drove his vehicle from Sweida Province and crossed into the Rif Dimashq Governorate before reaching the outskirts of the East Ghouta. However, at a checkpoint near the frontline, security forces discovered a hidden compartment inside the truck where hundreds of anti-tank missiles, anti-tank mines and improvised explosives were stored.

Footage of the captured armaments were then broadcasted on Syrian state television:

Despite denying any knowledge of the hidden weapons, the truck driver was arrested and will face prosecution shortly. He stands charged for aiding and abetting terrorism.

Several similar incidents have occurred in and around Damascus throughout 2017, but somehow jihadist militants in the East Ghouta continue to fight on, causing some analysts to speculate that corrupt army officials are turning a blind eye to the smuggling in return for cool cash, most of which is said to come from Saudi Arabia.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Putin thanks Iran, Turkey for counter-terrorism efforts in Syria

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 11:10 AM PST

Large-scale combat actions against terrorists are coming to an end and the efforts of Russia, Iran and Turkey have helped to prevent Syria's breakup, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday opening a trilateral meeting in Sochi.

“The large-scale combat actions against terror groups in Syria are coming to an end,” Putin said. “I note that the efforts of Russia, Iran and Turkey have helped to prevent Syria's breakup, not allow its takeover by international terrorists and avoid a humanitarian crisis.”

The Russian leader noted that a decisive blow had been dealt to militants in Syria, and “a real chance has emerged to end the civil war that has raged for many years.”

Putin thanked his counterparts for accepting the invitation and coming to Sochi to discuss further joint efforts on the Syrian track.

Putin has pointed to a special role played by the Turkish and Iranian Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani in the Astana process, a political settlement in Syria would be impossible without their participation.

“Less than a year ago, we initiated the launch of the Astana process undertaking to guarantee the implementation of the agreements and promote the UN-brokered intra-Syrian dialogue,” Putin said.

“I want to note a special role played by the Turkish president and the Iranian president. If it were not for your stance, the Astana process would have not existed, there would be no cessation of hostilities, no ceasefire, no de-escalation zones,” the Russian leader said.

Putin noted that representatives of the government and the armed opposition had been brought together at the negotiating table in Astana for the first time. The Russian leader added that some fateful decisions for Syria had been made after seven rounds of consultations. The ceasefire is being observed, and four de-escalation zones have been set up and are functioning in the country's key regions.

Source: TASS News.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

ISIL presence in the Euphrates threatened by new SAA advance

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 08:59 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:00 P.M.) Units from the Syrian Arab Army’s elite Tiger Forces have captured the entire ISIS pocket between the towns of Al-Salhiyah and Diban.

The Tiger Forces had besieged the pocket earlier this fall after their successful operation on ISIS’s former capital of Mayadeen before they were deployed to Deir Ezzor on a special mission to restore security to the embattled provincial capital.

Soon after clearing the city from militant presence, the Tiger Forces were tasked with rooting out ISIS from the villages between Mayadeen and the recently liberated city of Albukamal on the Iraqi border. Seizing this area will strip ISIS of its last remaining population centers in Syria expelling them to the unforgiving and inhospitable dunes of the Syrian Badiya where they will await their destined demise.

So far, the captured villages are Ajrama, Al-Safsafeh, Qaso Um Saba, Al-Jadleh, Al-Duwyar, Abu Jasem Canyon, Gharbiyah, Sabikhan, and Sourat Al-Kashmeh – all of which are located on the western banks of the Euphrates.

The Syrian command is looking to wrapping up the battle in eastern Syria before redeploying the bulk of the Syrian Army’s shock troops and offensive units to northern Syria in order to bring a decisive end to Al-Qaeda’s dominance over Idlib province.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Footage: Jihadist rebels capture tank in northeast Hama, pound Syrian Army positions

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 06:24 AM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (3:00 P.M.) – Various jihadist factions have released a string of photos and videos over the past 24 hours, extensively documenting their activities amid heavy clashes with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the northeast Hama sector.

On Tuesday, the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) confirmed their presence on the battlefield by releasing drone photos of the SAA supposedly fleeing its positions near the town Mustarihah. In addition, TIP published a photo (seen above) of a T-62 tank with clear Russian markings it had captured on this axis:

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘Free Idlib Army’ (Free Syrian Army branch) released footage of a TOW missile strike on an SAA tank in the town of Rubdah on Wednesday morning:


Hours earlier, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) – the primary faction battling in the area – knocked out a SAA tank in the town of Arfa, also with guided missile of the same type:

In addition, HTS, TIP and various Free Syrian Army groups bombarded government lines with 107 mm rockets and 122 howitzer missiles to deter further SAA advances:

The exact SAA death toll following these jihadist attacks remains unbeknownst to Al-Masdar News although casualties are said to be very high on both sides.

Despite some human and material losses, the SAA still holds significant momentum in northeastern Hama, liberating over a dozen villages in November alone.

A map of the region can be found here.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Iraq to declare final victory over ISIS after desert campaign: PM

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 03:53 AM PST

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said on Tuesday ISIL had been defeated from a military perspective but he would only declare final victory after ISIL militants were routed in the desert.

Iraqi forces on Friday captured the border town of Rawa, the last remaining town under ISIL control, signaling the collapse of the group's "caliphate" proclaimed after it overran much of Iraq's north and west in 2014.

Securing desert and border areas is what remains in the campaign against ISIL, military commanders say.

Abadi's comments came as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared the end of ISIL while a senior Iranian military commander thanked the "thousands of martyrs" killed in operations organized by Iran to defeat the militant group in Syria and Iraq.

Source: Reuters

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Syrian Army begins final phase of northeast Hama offensive

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 03:24 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:15 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) kicked off their final phase of their northeast Hama offensive this afternoon, following a successful one month long operation west of the Khanasser Highway.

Led by the Qalamoun Shield (3rd Division) and 11th Tank Division, the Syrian Arab Army made their first significant push to capture the jihadist strongholds of Al-Mustariha, Umm Maiyal, and Al-Rahjan near the Idlib provincial axis.

According to a military source in Hama, the Syrian Arab Army has broken through Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham’s front-lines at Al-Mustariha, resulting in the capture of several parts of this jihadist-held town.

While the Syrian Army attempts to capture Al-Mustariha, the Russian Air Force is heavily bombarding the towns of Al-Rahjan, Qasr bin Wardan, and Umm Maiyal in a bid to weaken the jihadist defenses.

The Syrian Arab Army is expected to attack the aforementioned towns in the coming days, as they ramp up their operations in the northeastern countryside of the Hama Governorate.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Israel won’t allow Iran to gain foothold in Syria, Netanyahu tells Putin

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 03:03 AM PST

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin during their phone conversation on Tuesday that Israel won't accept Iran's attempts to gain a foothold in Syria, his press secretary said.

“A conversation took place and it lasted for around half an hour. They discussed Syria and also Iran's attempts to consolidate on the Syrian territory,” Anna Jonathan-Leus said. “The prime minister maintained his position on Israel's security and the non-acceptance of the Iranian forces' consolidation in Syria.”

The Kremlin's press service said on Tuesday Putin and Netanyahu discussed prospects of developments in the Middle East region, first of all in the context of an ending stage in fight against international terrorism in Syria.

They also hashed over practical issues linked to the situation in the southern de-escalation zone in Syria. The sides expressed interest in bolstering mutually advantageous cooperation in different areas, including contacts of intelligence services.

The phone conversation was held at the initiative of Israel, the Kremlin press service said.

More:
http://tass.com/world/976839

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Syrian Army fends off Al-Qaeda assault on gov’t stronghold in rural Hama: video

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 02:55 AM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (12:55 A.M.) – Overnight, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) tried to infiltrate the predominately Alawite town of Ma’an by sneaking into army outposts in its eastern countryside.

However, entrenched units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) were on duty and responded with machine-gun fire, effectively neutralizing the hit-and-run attack before it did any damage.

According to a military source close to Al-Masdar News, dozens of HTS militants were spotted retreating with bullets flying around their ears once they were spotted by SAA troops whom recently have been equipped with night vision goggles on this axis:

Footage of an SAA technical repelling the HTS assault can be found below:

The source added that the SAA sustained zero casualties in Ma’an but could not determine the HTS death toll as most of the wounded and slain militants were retrieved by the jihadist faction upon calling off the attack.

Ma’an is located in northeastern Hama and has changed hands several times over the past year due to a series of offensives and counter-offensives by the warring parties.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Breaking: Lebanon PM Hariri says resignation on hold

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 02:27 AM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (12:30 A.M.) – Lebanon’s Saad Hariri said on Wednesday he would hold off presenting his resignation as prime minister in response to a request from president Michel Aoun to allow more dialogue.

“I presented today my resignation to president Aoun and he urged me to wait before offering it and to hold onto it for more dialogue about its reasons and political background, and I showed responsiveness,” Mr. Hariri said in a televised statement.

In his surprise resignation announced from Riyadh on November 4, Mr. Hariri blamed Iran for its overbearing influence on his country and said he feared an assassination attempt.

Fireworks were heard in Beirut last night as Mr. Hariri's supporters celebrated his return.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Highly graphic video: ISIS executes, decapitates scores of Iraqi prisoners

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 02:12 AM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (10:50 A.M.) – Over a dozen captured soldiers were executed by either beheading or close-range gunshots in the latest underground propaganda video released by the Islamic State, this time showcasing fourteen minutes of ambushes and executions taking place across various rural locations in Iraq.

The footage starts off with classic jihadist music and then shows battle footage from more recent hit-and-run raids and ambushes supposedly conducted against the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a predominately Shiite wing of the Iraqi Armed Forces.

The full video, provided by Al-Masdar News with no form of censorship, is available below and should not be watched by minors. Viewer discretion is advised:

Once a lesser known insurgent group, ISIS rose to notoriety in 2014 after it began beheading western journalists and captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria, prompting the US to form a regional coalition to crush the terror group.

Reaching its territorial peak in 2015, the Islamic State has since suffered a series of losses on the battlefield, leaving it reduced to a narrow strip of land along the border between Iraq and Syria.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Hariri attends Independence Day celebrations in Beirut – video

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 01:31 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:25 A.M.) – Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri attended the Lebanese Independence Day military parade in Beirut on Wednesday.

Hariri returned to Lebanon on Tuesday night, after his sudden resignation on a visit to Riyadh on November 4. Saudi Arabia was accused of detaining Hariri against his will, but both the Saudis and Hariri deny this.

The Lebanese prime minister appeared alongside President Michel Aoun, who has yet to accept the former’s resignation. They will meet to discuss the political crisis later today.

Independence Day celebrates the end of the French Mandate over Lebanon on 22 November 1943.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

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Israel watches closely as Syrian Army troops tighten siege on Beit Jinn near the Golan Heights

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 01:12 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:55 A.M.) – The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have been monitoring closely the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) recent advances near the occupied Golan Heights, a military source in Damascus told Al-Masdar News this morning.

According to the military source, the IDF has occasionally fired artillery shells towards the Syrian Army’s positions near the Beit Jinn pocket in an effort to halt their advance against the Al-Qaeda linked Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham terrorist group.

While Israel’s actions have not gone unnoticed, the Syrian Arab Army has chosen to ignore the IDF’s aggression and continue their operations in the Beit Jinn pocket.

Any response from the Syrian Arab Army would likely be met with a powerful attack from the Israeli forces, which will further prevent them from finally clearing this pocket in the western countryside of Damascus.

Furthermore, the Syrian Army has reached a critical stage in their Beit Jinn offensive, as their forces managed to impose fire control over the northern part of this pocket.

The Israeli military does not want the Syrian Army to retake Beit Jinn because they perceive the latter’s success as a victory for Iran and Hezbollah; however, at the same time, their options are limited because they will not commit their ground forces in this battle.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Hariri slams Iran over Syria while praising Saudi leaders in recent interview

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 12:33 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:20 A.M.) – Saad Hariri conducted an interview with Saudi Arabia’s Arrajol magazine this week to discuss several topics, including his resignation and contempt for Iran’s role in the Arab world.

The former Prime Minister specifically called out Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over his recent comments regarding the situation in Lebanon.

"Rouhani can’t tell us what to do. Iran is trying to show its strength in the region and a part of this is the propaganda that the Iranians are practicing to show that they are in control in Syria, but where is this control?" Hariri stated, as quoted by Naharnet.

Following his tirade about Iran, Hariri praised the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for his ‘vision.’

"The crown prince has a vision and only a few leaders possess a vision. Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a man of vision and he has capabilities and resolve and he is working to meet the challenges," Hariri added.

Hariri would conclude the interview by denying he was under house arrest in Saudi Arabia, adding that he was free to leave the country whenever he chose.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Israeli minister recognizes Israel’s secret ties with ‘many’ Arab States

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 12:17 AM PST

Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz has recognized the existence of secret ties between Israel and “many” Muslim and Arab states, including Saudi Arabia.

Israeli authorities perceive Saudi Arabia as the central link in the bloc of moderate Middle Eastern nations, which deter the spread of radical Islam and the growth of Iran’s influence in the region.

Tel Aviv is seeking rapprochement with Riyadh on the basis of common interests and coinciding threats, despite the fact that the two states have no diplomatic relations and that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far from being resolved.

“Contacts with the moderate Arab world, including with Saudi Arabia, help us deter Iran… We have ties, which are partially secret, with many Muslim and Arab states… As a rule, the opposite side is interested in keeping these ties in secret,” Steinitz told Israeli Army Radio in an interview published on Sunday.

Earlier this week, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot told Saudi online newspaper Elaph that Israel was ready to share intelligence with Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia. The IDF chief of staff said that US President Donald Trump’s harsh stance on Iran allowed for a new chance to build a regional alliance of Arab states and to develop a strategy to stop Iran’s expansion.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز