- Syrian Army attempts to overwhelm Islamist forces in East Ghouta (video)
- US threatens Turkey with sanctions in case of Russian S-400 purchase – reports
- Humanitarian corridor ‘has been created’ in E. Ghouta – Russian MoD
- Syrian Army presses into key East Ghouta suburb – map
- Russia is alarmed by US threats of force in Syria
- [Graphic 18+] FSA fighters kidnap 9 year old boy, demand $1 million ransom (video)
- US sees no evidence of chemical weapons being used now in Syria – Pentagon
- Breaking: US allegedly bombs Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor (unconfirmed)
- Breaking: Russia Vetoes U.N. Resolution Condemning Iran over Yemen
- US-led Coalition denies reports of deadly airstrikes in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor
- ‘Disinformation’ on alleged chemical weapons use may sabotage Syrian ceasefire – Lavrov
- Breaking: Syrian Army scores new advance in East Ghouta
- ‘It’s high time to stop this hell on earth’ – UN Security General on Ghouta
- Russian MoD announces corridor to be opened in East Ghouta allowing civilians to leave (video)
- Turkish-backed rebels open first supply route to northern Aleppo
- Jihadist civil war spreads to strategic base in southwest Aleppo
- EU adds two Syrian ministers to sanctions list, total sanctioned now 257
- Russian jets carry out several airstrikes over northern Hama (video)
- Over 135 former rebels surrender themselves to Syrian gov’t in northern Homs (video)
- Macron to Erdogan: Syrian ceasefire must apply to Afrin operation
- HTS captures largest Ahrar Al-Sham military camp in northern Syria
- Syrian Army scores fresh gains in Nusra-held Harasta
- Breaking: Putin orders daily 5 hour ceasefire in East Ghouta
- Recent infighting costs jihadist forces several fighters
- Gulf crisis upends fiction of a separation of sports and politics
- New footage of alleged Israeli-made weapons found in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor
- Lebanese President accuses Israel of ethnically cleansing Palestine
- Militants preparing chemical weapons provocation in East Ghouta: Russian MoD
- Islamist rebels ambush government troops while advancing in East Ghouta [+Video]
- Latest battle map of Turkish-led Operation Olive Banch
- Breaking: Russia declares Jaysh Al-Islam legitimate target in East Ghouta, Idlib
- Turkey to deploy special forces to Syria’s Afrin – Deputy PM
- Erdogan seeks extradition of Syrian Kurdish leader arrested in Prague
- HTS militants kicked out of strategic town in west Aleppo
- Turkish-backed rebels take control of another town in western Afrin
- Syrian Army resumes offensive in large East Ghouta suburb
- Possible reason for deployment of Russia’s 5th generation Su-57 to Syria revealed
- 15 yr old Mohammad Tamimi arrested after being shot in the head by Israeli forces
- Pro-Turkey Kurdish militia to join Operation Olive Branch against YPG in Afrin
- US Coalition kills 29 civilians in Deir Ezzor just days after US envoy slams Syrian gov’t at UN
- Iraq sentences 16 Turkish women to death for links with Daesh
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 12:13 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:00 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) attempted to advance along the Shifouniyah-Hawsh Dawahra axis, yesterday, as they continued the second day of their East Ghouta offensive.
Led by shock troops and the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Arab Army was engaged in a fierce battle on Monday with the Islamist rebels of Jaysh Al-Islam near the town of Hawsh Dawahra.
The Syrian Army attempted to overwhelm the Jaysh Al-Islam forces at Hawsh Dawahra, while capturing several tunnels and trenches that were used by the aforementioned Islamist group in this region.
This assault would pay off, as the Tiger Forces and their allies managed to capture several important trenches and tunnels, forcing Jaysh Al-Islam to withdraw to the town of Hawsh Dawahra.
Below is the video from this operation on Monday:
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 11:13 PM PST
The United States has urged Turkey to abandon the purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia, warning Ankara of the consequences of its decision, Haberturk reported citing a source in Washington.
According to the Turkish newspaper, an unnamed American official expressed his concerns over Ankara's purchase of Russian surface-to-air missile systems, explaining that they could "negatively influence the interoperability of NATO" and assuming that Washington could impose sanctions in response to the recently adopted law.
"We want to help Turkey find a better alternative to meet its air defense needs," the official said.
Earlier in February, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke out against the language of threats regarding its purchase of the S-400 systems.
“We do not use and will not accept the language of threats. Yes, the US Congress adopted a law [on anti-Russia sanctions]. But we need to ensure our national security. We would like to purchase the means to ensure it from our allies … We spoke to not only Russia but with other countries too. We finished talks with Russia long before the Congress, only small details were left,” he told a press conference with his American counterpart Rex Tillerson.
The US State Department has previously threatened to apply "appropriate measures" against countries willing to buy Russia's S-400 systems.
In December 2017, Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 10:49 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:20 A.M.) – The Eastern Ghouta humanitarian corridor announced earlier in the day “will open at 9 am and close at 2 pm near Douma and Arbeen,” beginning February 27, said Yuri Yevtushenko, head of the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in the Syrian Arab Republic, during a briefing from the Khmeimim airbase on Monday.
“During this time Syrian governmental forces will stop striking terrorists. With the help of the Red Crescent Society a humanitarian corridor with an exit near Muhayam al-Wafedin has been created,” he stated.
Damascus, he also said, was struck by 228 shells launched from Eastern Ghouta over the course of the last week, killing four and injuring 50.
"Despite Jaysh al-Islam's statements regarding reconciliation, Damascus is still being shelled from the territory it [Jaysh al-Islam] controls,” Yevtushenko stated.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 09:11 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:55 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) resumed their operation in eastern Ghouta, the Harasta area being a focal point, on Monday despite the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) mandate for a nationwide 30-day ceasefire announced on Saturday.
The SAA was seen advancing in new directions – from Khosh-Nasri in the direction of Khosh-Davahiri, Khosh-Ashary and the Al-Maamil district in Chifoniya.
The locations were chosen in accordance with the concentration scheme of the Jabhat An-Nusra militia in these areas which is excluded from UNSC resolution as it is deemed a ‘terrorist group’.
The militia occupies a large territory in eastern Ghouta.
Syrian forces have been making significant progress by destroying militant fortifications, artillery points and ammunition stores while the militants have countered with continued bombardments of Damascus and putting up trenches to slow down the SAA.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 08:41 PM PST
Moscow is alarmed by the threats of using force against Damascus coming from some countries, including the United States, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Monday, stressing that this runs counter to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2401.
“We are seriously alarmed by the reports that amid the overall increase in the rhetoric against Damascus and anti-Russian rhetoric in Washington threats are heard again of using force, which is unlawful,” the diplomat said. “They are searching for pretexts and this fully runs counter to the meaning and content of the UN Security Council Resolution 2401.”
The diplomat noted that Western partners who have recently voiced great concerns over the humanitarian situation in Syria need to fully comply with the UN Security Council's decisions. “A different behavior will mean that the US and its allies violate the UN Security Council Resolution 2401.”
On February 24, the United Nations Security Council in a unanimous vote approved Resolution 2401 demanding a 30-day ceasefire across Syria to allow aid access to the population in need.
Russia's UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya said Moscow “supported this document because it spurs the Syrian conflict sides to end hostilities as soon as possible, to implement previously agreed decisions on the issue and to engage in negotiations on general de-escalation and on introduction of long humanitarian pauses throughout the country's entire territory.” The diplomat stressed that the ceasefire could not be applied to operations against terrorist organizations in Syria, and counter-terrorism missions would continue.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 08:33 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:20 A.M.) – A group of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters kidnapped a nine year old boy that was traveling to his school in the eastern countryside of the Dara’a Governorate last month.
According to pro-opposition activists, members of the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front Brigades kidnapped the nine year old boy 28 days ago in the Dara’a Governorate town of Al-Jeezah.
Since the nine year old boy’s kidnapping, the Free Syrian Army fighters have demanded the child’s family pay a ransom of $1 million (USD) in exchange for securing their son’s release.
Below is the video that was sent by the FSA rebels to the child’s family:
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 08:09 PM PST
The United States is following reports about possible disinformation campaigns on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but possesses no evidence of such use at present, US Department of Defense Press Operations Director Col. Rob Manning said in a briefing on Monday.
“We don’t have any evidence right now that chemical weapons are being used,” Manning said when asked to comment on the statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday that Russia expects new disinformation campaigns regarding alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria to derail existing ceasefire agreements.
“We’ve seen the reports,” Manning said. “We’ll closely watch that, and condemn any use of chemical weapons on the Syrian people.”
On Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that militant group leaders in Syria are preparing provocations by using poisonous substances in the Eastern Ghouta enclave in order to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons.
Lavrov explained the media has already reported disinformation by citing an anonymous individual in the United States that last night or this morning chlorine gas was used in Eastern Ghouta.
On Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution urging all parties to the conflict in Syria to immediately stop all clashes and adhere to a long-term humanitarian ceasefire on the entire territory of the country in order to ensure safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, as well as medical evacuation of those injured.
The Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta is one of the Syrian de-escalation zones that were created during the Astana talks on Syrian reconciliation, with Russia, Iran and Turkey serving as guarantors of de-escalation agreements.
The United Nations estimates that almost 400,000 people have been trapped in Eastern Ghouta besieged by government troops, while Russia argues that the Syrian capital has been attacked by militants controlling the enclave.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 03:50 PM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:40 A.M.) – According to preliminary reports from Deir Ezzor, the U.S. Coalition has allegedly bombed the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) near the town of Al-Salihiyah in the northern part of the province.
No further information has been released.
Both the Syrian Army and U.S. Coalition have yet to comment on these rumors.
Al-Salihiyah is a frontline town that separates the Syrian Army and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Deir Ezzor.
In January, the U.S. Coalition bombed the pro-government Forces in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor; this attack resulted in the death of many tribesmen and military personnel.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 01:19 PM PST
Russia on Monday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have called out Iran for failing to prevent its weapons from falling into the hands of Yemen's Houthi group.
However, the 15-member Council unanimously adopted a rival, Russian-proposed resolution that did not mention Iran and that extended a targeted sanctions regime related to the civil war in Yemen.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 09:43 AM PST
The US-led coalition denied to Sputnik on Monday launching airstrikes in Syria's Deir ez-Zor over the past 72 hours, following reports of a deadly attack in the province.
"There were no reported Coalition strikes conducted in Syria on Feb. 25, 2018. Nor have there been any reported Coalition strikes in the area you reference in the past 72 hours. The Coalition makes every effort to minimize civilian casualties and damage to civilian property to the greatest extent possible," the coalition said.
On Sunday, the SANA news agency reported that 29 civilians were killed in a US-led coalition attack in Deir ez-Zor, and dozens were reportedly injured.
Dozens of people were injured in the attack, the news agency added.
The US-led coalition of more than 70 members is conducting military operations against the Daesh terrorist group in Syria and Iraq. The coalition’s activities in Iraq are conducted in cooperation with Iraqi officials, but those in Syria are not authorized by the government of President Bashar Assad or the United Nations Security Council.
Since the start of the operation, at least 841 civilians have been confirmed dead in Syria and Iraq as a result of the coalition's airstrikes, according to Operation Inherent Resolve’s Combined Joint Task Force’s report.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 09:18 AM PST
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Moscow considers it likely that there will be further “disinformation” about the alleged chemical weapons used in Syria, which he said may sabotage ceasefire agreements in the country.
Lavrov made the statement at a press conference held alongside his Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva in Moscow on Monday.
Lavrov said, “There has already been disinformation in the mass media that last night or this morning chlorine gas was used in Eastern Ghouta as a toxic substance, citing an anonymous individual who lives in the United States.”
“Other disinformation is likely”, he said.
The Russian Foreign Minister stressed that the US will continue such attempts “for the sole purpose of denigrating the government forces” and “implementing the scenario of creating a quasi-state, the scenario of a split of Syria.”
Lavrov also noted that a ceasefire in Syria does not extend to the actions carried out by the Syrian government, with the support of Russian forces, aimed at fighting against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIS/ISIL), Al-Nusra Front (also known as Jabhat al-Nusra/Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) and other armed groups that are affiliated with them.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 08:55 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:50 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) scored a new advance in the East Ghouta region of Damascus this afternoon, following a fierce battle with the Islamist rebels of Jaysh Al-Islam.
Led by the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Arab Army was able to achieve this advance along the Shifouniyah-Hawsh Dawahra axis after SyAAF jets heavily bombarded the defenses of Jaysh Al-Islam in the area.
According to a military source in Damascus, the Syrian Army captured a large number of trenches, tunnels, fortified buildings, and farms that were previously under the control of Jaysh Al-Islam and their allies.
The source added that Jaysh Al-Islam used these tunnels and trenches to ambush the Syrian Arab Army’s Republican Guard forces at the Hawsh Dawahra axis yesterday.
The Syrian Army is now working on clearing the remaining tunnels used by Jaysh Al-Islam in the area.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 08:48 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:40 P.M.) – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the recent adoption by the UN Security Council of a 30-day ceasefire across Syria, at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.
Despite welcoming the resolution, however, Guterres said that “Security Council resolutions are only meaningful if they are effectively implemented.”
“I expect the resolution to be immediately implemented and sustained, particularly to ensure the immediate, safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services, the evacuation of the critically sick and wounded”, he said.
“Human rights are not a luxury; they are a collective responsibility that all member states have signed on to”, Guterres added.
On Saturday, the vote for the 30-day ceasefire was unanimously approved after previously having failed attempts when members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) were unable to reach an agreement. The ceasefire will allow aid deliveries to Syria and medical evacuations.
Russia asked for the resolution to not apply to those working in cooperation with the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIS/ISIL), al-Qaeda and the Nusra Front. The final resolution now states operations can continue against “individuals, groups, undertakings and entities” that are associated with IS, al-Qaeda or other groups deemed by the Security Council as “terrorists”.
American ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accused Russia of deliberately stalling the vote on the Syrian resolution. “The Syrian people should not have to die waiting for Russia to organise their instructions from Moscow, or to discuss it with the Syrians,” she said, stressing the fact that the resolution could have been approved three days earlier.
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said that they took more time, “because we did not support the ceasefire top-down pattern on sufficiently long term.”
The finalised Security Council resolution contains a part, which states that the ceasefire does not include Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda and other ‘terrorist’ groups.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 08:38 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:30 P.M.) – Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced an order by Russian President Vladimir Putin for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to leave Syria's Eastern Ghouta, in a statement delivered from Moscow on Monday.
The minister stressed that the decision follows the recently adopted UN Security Council resolution for establishing a humanitarian pause in Eastern Ghouta for 30 days.
"A humanitarian corridor will be opened for civilians to leave. The coordinates have been prepared and will be announced in the nearest future," stated Shoigu. He also stressed that "Eastern Ghouta is not the only hotbed of tension for civilians and refugees" proposing similar humanitarian corridors and pauses for the areas of al-Tanf and Rukban.
Russia's defence minister also announced a proposal to create "an international assessment humanitarian commission," likely under the auspices of the UN, to monitor and "assess" the situation in Raqqa.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 08:06 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:55 P.M.) – The Turkish-backed rebels have opened their first supply to the strategic city of ‘Azaz in northern Aleppo after successfully capturing much of the Aleppo Governorate’s border with Turkey.
Led by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Turkish-backed rebels managed to seize the last towns under the control of the YPG forces along the Turkish border with the Afrin region this past weekend.
As a result of this advance, the Turkish-backed rebels were able to open their first supply route from the Idlib Governorate to ‘Azaz city.
In addition to opening this imperative supply route, the Turkish-backed rebels have captured more than 23 percent of the Afrin region since launching Operation Olive Branch on January 20th.
French President Emmanuel Macron called on Turkey to adhere to the 30 day ceasefire that was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council this past weekend; however, the Turkish military ignored his request.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 07:50 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:45 P.M.) – The jihadist civil war taking place in northern Syria has spread to one of the largest bases in the southwestern countryside of the Aleppo Governorate.
According to pro-opposition activists, Jabhat Tahrir Souriya (Ahrar Al-Sham/Nouriddeen Al-Zinki alliance) attacked Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham’s positions at the key Regiment 46 base near the Idlib Governorate border.
No gains have been reported.
This latest attack comes just two hours after Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham seized Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham’s largest base in Syria.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 07:36 AM PST
The Council of the European Union on Monday added the Syrian Minister of Industry and the Minister of Information to the anti-Syria sanctions list, bringing the total number of targeted persons to 257, the Council said in a statement.
“On 26 February 2018, the Council added the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Information of the government of Syria to the list of those targeted by EU restrictive measures against the Syrian regime in view of the gravity of the situation in the country… Today’s decision brings to 257 persons the total number of persons targeted by a travel ban and an assets freeze for being responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria, benefiting from or supporting the regime, and/or being associated with such persons,” the statement read.
Additionally, 67 Syrian entities are targeted by the assets freeze. The EU restrictive measures are in place until June 1, 2018.
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 negotiations in Geneva, Astana and Sochi.
The European Union first imposed sanctions “against Syria and persons responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population” in May 2011.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 07:27 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:10 P.M.) – The Russian Aerospace Forces carried out a large number of airstrikes over the northern countryside of the Hama Governorate, the Syrian military reported today.
According to the Syrian military, the Russian Aerospace Forces primarily conducted airstrikes over the towns of Kafr Zita, Al-Lataminah, and Al-Saiyad.
These airstrikes were conducted in retaliation for the jihadist shelling of the government-held towns of Salhab and Al-Suqaylabiyah in the northwestern countryside of Hama.
Below is a video showing one of the Russian airstrikes over the northern countryside of the Hama Governorate – footage was released by pro-opposition activists:
The jihadist rebels have responded to the Russian airstrikes this afternoon by attacking the Hama Military Airport with several grad missiles – no casualties reported, as the missiles did not reach the installation.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 07:08 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:00 P.M.) – Over 135 former rebels surrendered themselves to the Syrian government in northern Homs on Monday, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.
According to the SANA report, the former rebels surrendered themselves to the Syrian government forces in the districts of Talbiseh and Al-Rastan.
Most of these rebels had previously fought the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the Old Homs District before they were transferred to the Al-Rastan pocket in late 2014.
Below is the video of the rebels that surrendered themselves to the Syrian government on Monday:
These former rebels will now have their cases settled by a Syrian reconciliation committed; if they have committed no crimes, they will be eligible for amnesty.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 06:54 AM PST
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discussed the new UN Security Council resolution on the Syrian ceasefire as well as Ankara's operation in Afrin in a phone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Monday.
During the conversation between the two leaders, Macron stressed that the 30-day ceasefire “covered all Syrian territory, including Afrin, and must be put into effect everywhere and by everyone without delay”, according to the French presidency.
Erdogan and Macron also touched upon the issues of bilateral relations.
This comes as on Sunday Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said that the latest UN Security Council's resolution does not cover Turkey's military operation in the Syrian region of Afrin against Kurdish militias as it is being conducted against terrorists.
On Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2401 that urges all parties to the conflict to immediately stop all clashes and adhere to a long-term humanitarian pause on the entire territory of Syria in order to ensure the safe and unhindered humanitarian aid supplies as well as medical evacuation of those injured.
The resolution underlined that the ceasefire regime does not apply to military operations against the Daesh, al-Qaeda, and Jabhat Fatah al Sham (formerly known as Nusra Front) terrorist groups.
The Olive Branch operation was launched by Ankara on January 20. Ankara considers the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish political party in northern Syria, and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia affiliates of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) listed as a terror organization in Turkey.
Damascus has expressed its opposition to the Turkish operation, saying that such actions violated Syrian sovereignty.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 06:43 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:35 P.M.) – Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham has taken control of Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham’s largest military base in northern Syria after a short battle today.
According to HTS’ official media wing, their forces captured the Khirbet Bantanta Military Camp in the northern Idlib after a series of fierce clashes.
In addition to capturing the base, HTS also seized all the contents that were inside this military installation, including 20 tanks, 4 technical vehicles, and towed artillery field guns.
Below are the photos from the captured base that was released by HTS this afternoon:
This latest advance by HTS comes just hours after they were expelled from the key town of Daret ‘Izza in western Aleppo.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 06:35 AM PST
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (4:40 P.M.) – The battle to re-take a key rebel-controlled suburb along the Damascus-Homs highway heats up with the government troops making new advance.
Today, the Syrian Army’s elite 4th Division managed to control large swathes of Harasta orchards including a complex network of tunnels that stretch out to the proximity of al-Beirouni Hospital and Police Hospital.
A military source confirmed that the tunnels were well-dug and wide enough to fit a military vehicle or a tank in it.
The new advance was propelled by heavy airstrikes conducted by Russian fighter jets. Up to 15 sorties were reported.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 06:21 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:10 P.M.) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a daily five hour ceasefire in the East Ghouta region of Damascus that will allow civilians time to reach safety.
According to a military source in Damascus, the Russian President’s ceasefire will take place each day from the hours of 9 A.M. – 2 P.M. (Damascus Time).
This latest humanitarian pause will specifically take place in all parts of the East Ghouta region, including the areas that have a Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham presence.
The Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) operations will not likely be affected by this daily ceasefire, as they usually launch their operations at dawn and dusk.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 06:06 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:55 P.M.) – The recent jihadist infighting has cost Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and Jabhat Tahrir Souriya several fighters in the last seven days, pro-opposition activists reported on Monday.
According to opposition activists, at least 156 jihadist combatants have been killed in the last seven days, including 94 members of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and 62 members of Jabhat Tahrir Souriya.
In addition to the 156 dead, over 200 jihadist combatants have been killed during these intense battles in northern Syria.
The recent jihadist infighting has been most costly for Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham, as they have lost over 150 fighters and several important towns in the last week.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 05:43 AM PST
The Gulf crisis that has pitted World Cup host Qatar against a United Arab Emirates-Saudi Arabia-led alliance for the past eight months is showing up the fiction of a separation of sports and politics.
Regional and international soccer bodies seeking to police the ban on a mixing of sports and politics are discovering that it amounts to banging their heads against a wall. As they attempted in recent months to halt politics from subverting Asian tournaments, domestic and regional politics seeped into the game via different avenues.
Soccer governance bodies have long struggled to maintain the fiction of a separation in a trade off that gave regulators greater autonomy and created the breeding ground for widespread corruption while allowing governments and politicians to manipulate the sport to their advantage as long as they were not too blatant about it.
The limits of that deal are being defined in the Middle East, a region wracked by conflict where virtually everything is politicized. While bodies like FIFA, the world soccer regulator, and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), have focused in recent months on the Gulf crisis, Saudi domestic politics as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Saudi-Iranian rivalry reared their ugly heads.
Saudi businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, in one of his first public acts since being released from three months of detention in Riyadh's Ritz Carlton hotel and in a demonstration of fealty to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, donated $533,000 to Saudi soccer club Al Hilal FC.
Prince Alwaleed, who was among the more recalcitrant of the hundreds of members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family, senior officials, and prominent businessmen in what amounted to a power and asset grab under the mum of an anti-corruption campaign, said the donation was in response to a call by the government.
Saudi authorities said they expected to collect some $106 billion in assets and funds from released detainees as a result of the campaign, yet that figure is in doubt.
"It has come as no surprise that the total haul will be a mere fraction of the sum anticipated… Authorities are only counting on the acquisition of $13.3 billion in settlements by the end of the year, equivalent to the amount of revenue the country would receive from a small increase in the oil price," said Ambrose Carey, director of Alaco, a London-based business intelligence consultancy, who has been involved in some of the most high profile asset-tracing cases in past decades, and an expert on Saudi Arabia.
Prince Mohammed reportedly had demanded that Prince Alwaleed, one of the world's richest men with investments in a host of Western blue chips, pay $6 billion for his release. It is not known on what terms he was set free.
Similarly, limits to Prince Mohammed's power and contrasting efforts by Gulf rivals to forge closer covert relations with Israel and woo the American Jewish community played out on multiple sports arenas.
Media reporting on this month's participation of Israeli teams in a handball tournament in Doha suggested that social media criticism may have been engineered, a fixture of the Gulf crisis, that was sparked last May by fake news published on Qatari websites in a hack allegedly engineered by the United Arab Emirates. "It is not known whether the tweets critical of Doha actually originated from Qatar," Agence France Press reported in its coverage of the criticism.
Despite Israeli athletes repeatedly competing in tournaments in the Gulf over the years, Prince Mohammed, the heir-apparent to the title of Custodian of the Holy Cities, Mecca and Medina, opted not to risk criticism by barring Israeli players from participating in a chess match in December in the kingdom.
The decision suggested that Prince Mohammed was walking a tightrope in prioritizing the kingdom's rivalry with Iran at the expense of the Palestinian issue in his relations with Israel and the Trump administration.
Its on the soccer pitch, however, that Gulf states may hit a wall in the willingness of international sports associations to look the other way in their increasingly difficult effort to maintain the fiction that sports and politics are separate as the divide in the region spills onto the field and Saudi Arabia and the UAE seek to engineer an environment in which Qatar would be deprived of its World Cup hosting rights.
In an indication of the importance Gulf leaders attribute to Qatar's ability to garner soft power on the soft pitch, Dubai security chief Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan suggested in October that the UAE-Saudi-led diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar would be lifted if the Gulf state surrendered its hosting rights.
That may have been an overstatement by the notoriously bombastic law enforcement official, but nonetheless reflected thinking about the political importance of sports in Qatar and among its detractors.
The political manipulation of sports in the Gulf crisis has however prompted FIFA to closely monitor the Saudi and UAE efforts while the AFC has put its foot down in preventing the Gulf crisis from shaping the Asian Champions League following incidents in December during the Gulf Cup in Kuwait.
Pro-Qatari and Spanish media said state-controlled Saudi media had offered Bahraini players bonuses during the Gulf Cup if they “defeated the (Qatari) terrorists”. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, together with Bahrain and Egypt, accuse the Gulf state of funding militants and political violence.
Saudi and UAE players and officials, moreover, refused to participate in news conferences in which Qatari media were present.
The AFC thwarted a UAE-Saudi attempt to get Asian tournament matches that were scheduled to be hosted by Qatar moved to a neutral venue. The AFC warned the two countries that they would be penalized if they failed to play in Doha or host Qatari teams.
As a result, an Asian Champions League game in Abu Dhabi between Al Gharafa of Qatar and Al Jazira of the UAE constituted the first breach of the eight-month old boycott of the idiosyncratic Gulf state.
The AFC and FIFA's record in dealing with the inseparable relationship between sports and politics in the Gulf is, however, at best mixed.
In a bizarre and contradictory sequence of events at the outset of the Gulf crisis, FIFA president Gianni Infantino rejected involving the group in the dispute by saying that "the essential role of FIFA, as I understand it, is to deal with football and not to interfere in geopolitics.”
Yet, on the same day that he made his statement, Mr. Infantino waded into the crisis by removing a Qatari referee from a 2018 World Cup qualifier at the request of the UAE. FIFA, beyond declaring that the decision was taken "in view of the current geopolitical situation," appeared to be saying by implication that a Qatari by definition of his nationality could not be an honest arbiter of a soccer match involving one of his country's detractors. In FIFA's decision, politics trumped professionalism, no pun intended.
Similarly, the AFC has been less principled in its stand towards matches pitting Saudi Arabia and Iran against one another. Iranian club Traktor Sazi was forced earlier this month to play its home match against Al Ahli of Jeddah in Oman. It wasn't clear why the AFC did not uphold the principle it imposed on Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the case of Iran.
"Saudi teams have been able to select host stadiums and cities, and Saudi teams will host two Iranian football representatives in the UAE and Kuwait. In return, Iranian football representatives should be able to use their own rights to choose neutral venues, " said Mohammad Reza Saket, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Football Federation in a recent letter to the AFC.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 05:30 AM PST
Warehouses filled with weapons and ammunition, including those manufactured in Israel, have been discovered by Syrian servicemen in the Al Boukamal and Al Mayadin areas of the Deir ez-Zor province following its liberation from Daesh militants.
The Syrian state-run news agency SANA has released new footage showing the cache of rockets, mortars, tank shells and other munitions that the extremists left behind while fleeing the area. A bundle of documents can also be seen in the video.
According to the agency, Syrian government troops discovered a plant for the production of shells and explosives and barrels containing an unspecified liquid that could possibly be used for manufacturing toxic substances.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 05:08 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:50 P.M.) – Lebanese President Michel ‘Aoun accused Israel of ethnically cleansing Palestinian lands, while criticizing the latter’s recent decision to collect taxes from holy sites.
“Israel’s decision is systematic targeting what’s left of the Christian presence in the Occupied Lands,” Aoun said, adding that Israel is resorting to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Israel recently decided to tax holy sites, prompting outrage from many Palestinians and regional leaders.
The Lebanese President has been on a diplomatic offensive against Israel since the Israeli Defense Minister stated that the Block 9 oil and gas site in the Mediterranean belongs to Israel, not Lebanon.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 04:28 AM PST
The leaders of the militant groups are preparing provocation with the use of poisonous substances in the Eastern Ghouta enclave in order to accuse Damascus of using the chemical weapons, the Russian Defense Ministry said late on Sunday.
"Evidence has shown that the leaders of illegal armed formations in the Eastern Ghouta are preparing a provocation using poisonous agents in order to accuse the government forces of using chemical weapons against civilians," the ministry's statement read.
The ministry also said that the shelling of the Syrian capital had continued over the last 24 hours from the territory, controlled by the Jaysh Al-Islam militant group despite its pledge to comply with the ceasefire regime.
"Despite reconciliation statements made by the Jaysh al-Islam, insurgents continue shelling from the controlled territory targeting the city of Damascus," the ministry's statement read.
The ministry noted that Damascus’ residential areas were attacked by 31 mortar shells over the last 24 hours, resulting in 13 civilians and one Syrian serviceman injured.
Eastern Ghouta, located near Damascus, is controlled by Jaysh al-Islam and other armed opposition groups as well as by Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group. The militant groups are trying to break the ceasefire by attempting to provoke the backfire from the Syrian army.
The Russia Defense Ministry also reported that the illegal armed groups have targeted the Syrian army at various sites on the line of contact, while Damascus' positions near the Hazrama and Nashabiyah settlements were attacked by the car bombs.
"In the morning of February 25, illegal armed formation tried to attack the Syrian government forces on a line of contact. The SAA [Syrian Arab Army] positions near the settlements of Hazrama and Nashabiyah were subject to car bomb attacks," the statement read.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 04:26 AM PST
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (2:30 P.M.) – Up to 15 Syrian Army soldiers were killed in an ambush executed by the Islamist rebels in Eastern Ghouta region as the government troops attempted to advance in longtime-rebel bastion.
According to rebel sources, a Syrian Army unit was storming Hawsh al-Dwahrah town when successfully ambushed by the Saudi-backed Jaysh al-Islam militants who used a network of tunnels to besiege and eventually terminate all the soldiers, as well as seizing their tank.
Following the battle, the Islamist rebels managed to hold Hawsh al-Dwahrah.
Yesterday, the government forces, supported by heavy airstrikes, succeeded in liberating several towns including al-Nashabiyah, al-Salihiyah and Tal Farzat.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey lavrov declared Jaysh al-Islam ‘a legitimate target‘ for the Syrian Army for being an ally for the internationally-designated terror group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 04:20 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:10 P.M.) – The Turkish-backed rebels scored a new advance in the Afrin region of Aleppo, today, following a short battle with the Kurdish-led YPG forces.
Led by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the rebels seized the town of Qarmanlaq in western Afrin after the Turkish Air Force hammered the YPG’s positions for several hours on Monday morning.
Since capturing Qarmanlaq, the Turkish-backed rebels have turned their attention to the key district of Sheikh Hadid.
If the Turkish-backed forces manage to capture all of Sheikh Hadid, they will open the road between their areas in Aleppo and Idlib.
According to opposition activists, this advance could be worrying due to the current infighting with Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in both Idlib and Aleppo.
Opposition activists are worried that HTS may attempt to infiltrate the FSA’s areas in Aleppo using this road in order to avenge the Turkish-backed rebels for their recent attacks against them.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 03:47 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:40 P.M.) – Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on Monday that any group allied with the jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham is considered a legitimate target.
“In the East Ghouta and Idlib province, a number of groups considered ‘moderates’ by western nations, such as Ahrar Al-Sham and Jaysh Al-Islam, continue to cooperate with the terrorist group (Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham) named in the latest U.N. resolution,” Lavrov stated.
“This circumstance makes the allies of the Al-Nusra Front (now HTS) unprotected by the ceasefire regime,” Lavrov continued.
“They are also subject to legitimate actions by the Syrian Armed Forces and all those who support the Syrian Army,” he added.
Lavrov’s comments come just 48 hours after the 30 day ceasefire was announced via the latest U.N. resolution.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 02:58 AM PST
On Saturday, the UN Security Council adopted the resolution stipulating a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. However, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag has said that the truce won’t affect Ankara’s ongoing operation against terrorists in Afrin.
Turkey will deploy army and police special forces in Syria’s Afrin with the aim of “successfully completing the operation and protecting civilians,” Bozdag said on Monday.
He also stated that the air strikes of the Turkish armed forces’ on the positions of the Kurdish groups in Afrin would continue.
Turkey’s statement comes in the wake of the UN Security Council resolution on the cessation of hostilities in Syria, which was prompted by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. On February 18, the Syrian army launched an offensive in the region in order to eradicate the terrorist groups that remain there.
The leaders of the extremist organizations which include Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaysh al-Islam, Failak al-Rahman groups, prevent civilians from leaving the battle zones and thus provoke Syrian troops to launch retaliatory operations, according to the Russian military.
Meanwhile, since January 20, Ankara has been conducting its anti-terrorist operation in Syria’s northern Kurdish enclave of Afrin. According to the Turkish deputy prime minister, the Syrian ceasefire regime, anchored in the UN resolution, will not affect Ankara’s offensive, as the resolution doesn’t cover military efforts against terrorist groups like Daesh, al-Qaeda, and the Nusra Front.
On February 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone conversation with his German and French counterparts, Merkel and Macron, stressed that the cessation of military activity in Syria would not apply to the operations against terrorist groups.
This position was also echoed by Iran, who supported the provision of the resolution, which says that the truce in Syria does not cover terrorists in Eastern Ghouta, adding that militants would continue to be targeted by the Syrian army.
Turkey began its Olive Branch Operation in Afrin in the wake of the US announcement that a new border force largely dominated by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers to be terrorists, would be formed by Washington. Damascus strongly condemned Turkey’s actions in Afrin, stressing the importance of the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 02:51 AM PST
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes that the Czech Republic will extradite the former leader of a Syrian Kurdish political party, he said in a speech from Urfa on Sunday.
“Now the head of the PYD (Democratic Union Party), is captured. This is our wish that Czech Republic will give him back to us”, Erdogan told a group of loyal supporters in the eastern city close to the Syrian border.
Early on Sunday, the former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Saleh Muslim was arrested in Prague after Turkey issued a warrant for his arrest.
Muslim is wanted for his alleged involvement in a car bomb attack in March 2016 in Ankara, which killed 36 people. He currently has a $1 million (€813,000) bounty on his head.
The Turkish government views the PYD and its armed wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as an extension of the banned militant group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 02:38 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:25 P.M.) – The jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham have been kicked out of the strategic town of Darat ‘Izza in western Aleppo after several days of fighting with the rebel alliance of Jabhat Tahrir Souriya.
Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham was active in Darat ‘Izza for a long time before they were officially kicked out by Jabhat Tahrir Souriya this morning.
With Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham expelled, Jabhat Tahrir Souriya can now focus many of their fighters to the southern countryside of the Afrin region in order to aid their rebel allies.
Making things worse for HTS, they have also been kicked out of a lot of towns in the Idlib Governorate, forcing them to consolidate their positions elsewhere.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 02:19 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:05 P.M.) – The Turkish-backed rebels took control of another town in the Afrin region after a short battle with the Kurdish-led YPG forces.
According to pro-opposition activists, the Free Syrian Army captured the town of Qarmanlaq after the Turkish Armed Forces heavily bombarded the YPG’s positions in western Afrin.
Turkish-backed rebels have now set their sights on the town of Sheikh Hadid, which is heavily fortified by the YPG forces.
Since launching their offensive in Afrin on January 20th, the Turkish-backed rebels have captured at least 23 percent of this imperative region in Aleppo’s northwestern countryside.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 02:05 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:55 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) resumed their offensive in the East Ghouta suburb of Harasta this morning after a successful start on Sunday.
Led by their 4th Mechanized Division, the Syrian Arab Army stormed the defenses of Faylaq Al-Rahman and Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in Harasta, attacking the last buildings under their control in the Al-Ajami District.
According to a report from Damascus, the Syrian Arab Army is currently on the move in the Al-Ajami District, while they receive close air support from the SyAAF.
If the Syrian Army can take control of the Al-Ajami District from the jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and Faylaq Al-Rahman, they will be in control of Harasta’s western sector.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 01:38 AM PST
Four state-of-the-art Russian Su-57 stealth fighters, which have reportedly been deployed to Syria, will not be engaged in active combat, according to Kommersant, a Russian daily.
The newspaper Kommersant cited military sources as saying that the Russian fifth-generation Su-57 fighter jets were deployed to Syria to test radar systems and electronic warfare.
The Su-57s will not take part in combat missions in Syria, the sources said, adding that the decision on the deployment was made during last year’s MAKS airshow in Zhukovsky outside Moscow.
According to Kommersant, the planes were due to be deployed to Syria on the eve of Russia’s Defender of the Fatherland Day, which is celebrated on February 23.
Another goal of the deployment is to promote the capabilities of Russia’s military-industrial complex by showcasing Russian military activity in Syria.
On Sunday, Sputnik Arabic reported the arrival of two more Su-57 fighter jets at Syria’s Hmeymim Airbase, referring to the photos of the aircraft on Wael Al Hussaini’s Twitter page.
Earlier last week, Al Hussaini posted the photos of the first two Su-57 arriving at Hmeymim. The Russian Defense Ministry has yet to confirm the information.
Formerly known as Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation (PAK-FA), or Sukhoi T-50, the Su-57 is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics and an active airborne phased array radar which allows the plane to effectively destroy air, ground and naval targets.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 12:39 AM PST
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (10:00 A.M)- Fithteen year old, Mohammad Tamimi -cousin of Ahed Tamimi, currently in Israeli detention- has been arrested by Israeli forces during the early hours of this morning, he was shot in the head two months prior to this.
Mohammad Tamimi was in coma for several days, before under going major surgery – in which part of his skull was removed.
The 15 year old was shot in the head, with a rubber-coated steel bullet, by an Israeli occupation soldier, in his native village of Nabi Saleh, back in December of 2017.
After surgery, doctors recommended that, Mohammad Tamimi, take a complete break from physical activities, consuming the medication he was prescribed and resting until his next surgery squeduled for sometime around May (This Year).
It is feared by Mohammad’s family that he will be abuse in the custody of the Israelis and dis-allowed his absolutely essential medicine (in order to recover), meaning the possibility of inflicting serious harm or death upon the Palestinian youth.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 12:38 AM PST
The “Kurdish Falcons” brigade, formed by the "Al-Hamza Division" members of the Syrian Free Army, will join the “Olive Branch” operation in Syrian Afrin on Monday, Anadolu reported.
According to the news agency, the brigade will include 400 Kurds and 200 Arabs who have completed special forces training. They will take part in the siege of the city of Afrin and will assist the Turkish armed forces.
According to the commander of the group Hasan Abdullah Culli, it consists of Kurds, inhabiting the Syrian region of Aazaz, and its purpose is to “release the Afrin population from the terrorists of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK).”
Since January 20, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Turkey has been conducting the operation “Olive Branch” against the formation of Kurds in Syrian Afrin.
Damascus strongly condemned Turkey’s actions in Afrin, noting that this territory is an integral part of Syria. Moscow in connection with the situation in Afrin called on all parties to restrain and respect the territorial integrity of the country.
On Saturday, the UN Security Council adopted on Saturday the resolution stipulating a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. However, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said that the truce won’t affect the Turkish operation against terrorists.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 12:32 AM PST
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:25 A.M.) – The U.S. Coalition killed up to 29 civilians inside two towns in rural Deir Ezzor this past weekend, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Sunday evening.
Citing local sources, SANA claimed that the 29 civilians were killed after the U.S. Coalition bombed the rural Deir Ezzor towns of Al-Sha’afa and Dharat ‘Allouni near the Iraqi border.
Dozens of other civilians were reportedly wounded by these airstrikes that targeted the Islamic State’s positions in the eastern part of the Deir Ezzor Governorate.
This massacre took place just 24 hours after the U.S. envoy to the United Nations (U.N.) slammed the Syrian government for their military operations in the East Ghouta region of Damascus.
Prior to U.N. vote on the 30 day ceasefire in the East Ghouta, the U.S. Coalition had reportedly killed a dozen civilians in the small town of Hajin near the Iraqi border.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 12:17 AM PST
The central criminal court of Iraq has sentenced 16 Turkish female citizens to death for involvement with the Islamic State (Daesh) terrorist group, the Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq said in a statement, obtained by Sputnik on Sunday.
"The central criminal court of Iraq, after reviewing the case of 16 Turkish citizens, have confirmed the latter’s involvement with the IS activities… The court has issued a death sentence in relation to the accused women in accordance with the counterterrorism law," the statement read.
According to the council's member Abdel Sattar Birkadar "the defendants have admitted during the investigation that they have arrived [in Iraq] in order to marry the Daesh members and provided logistical support to them." The sentence is preliminary and could be appealed, Birkadar noted.
In January, the Iraqi court sentenced to death a German female citizen of Moroccan origin for ties with Daesh. In late December 2017, the Iraqi forces detained eight women from Germany charged with participation in the activities of the notorious terrorist group.
Earlier, 38 Sunni Muslim militants were sentenced to death via hanging on terrorism charges in the southern province of Dhi Qar. The prisoners were reportedly associated with Daesh and Al Qaeda.
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