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Deir ez-Zor cleared of last Islamic State fighters , says monitoring group



Smoke following airstrike in Deir ez-Zor  - 4084 - Deir ez-Zor cleared of last Islamic State fighters , says monitoring group

Syrian government forces have expelled the last Islamic State group fighters from the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor in a two-month-long campaign backed by Russian air power, according to a monitoring group.

Syrian regime and allied fighters broke a three-yearIsis siege of a regime enclave in the city in early September.

There was no immediate confirmation from official sources. A Syrian military source earlier said government troops only held around 80% of the city.

The city’s fall marks another key defeat for the militants, who have in recent months lost most of the territory they seized in a lightning 2014 advance across Syria and Iraq.

Deir ez-Zor is the capital of an oil-rich province of the same name that borders Iraq. After Syria’s uprising broke out in 2011 with anti-government protests, rebel groups and jihadists seized parts of Deir ez-Zor and the surrounding province.

But in 2014, as Isis rampaged across Syria and Iraq, it seized the territory held by rival jihadist and rebel forces in the province and closed in on Deir ez-Zor.

By January 2015, it had seized parts of the city and imposed a siege on government forces and civilians in the rest of it. Regime forces managed to cling on to their enclave despite regular attacks.

Along with ally Russia, the regime has regularly carried out airstrikes on Isis-held rural areas, but the militants were still able to seize more territory in January.

Their advance split the government-held zones in two: a northern enclave and a southern area near the city’s military airport. At one point, Isis held around half of Deir ez-Zor, including several central neighbourhoods, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

But the army and allied fighters broke the siege on the northern part of the city on 5 September, entering via the Brigade 137 base on its western edge. Estimates of the number of people living in the city vary, but many agree the population has shrunk dramatically from its pre-war figure of 300,000.

Before the siege was broken, the United Nations said more than 90,000 people remained in areas under government control.

The siege created food shortages, sent prices soaring and limited access to medicine and health care. Syria’s government brought in supplies via military aircraft, a process hampered by security concerns and damage to the airport by Isis bombardment.

The UN began air dropping aid into the city in April 2016, but the programme was briefly suspended after the militant advance in January overran the aid drop zone.

Activists have also reported dire humanitarian conditions in Isis-held territory, particularly as Syria’s army neared, cutting supply routes.

With regime forces back in control of most of the city, heavy clashes claimed more than 70 lives as government forces captured two new districts and the municipal stadium from 28 to 29 October, the Observatory said. The advance left Isis encircled between the city and the Euphrates river, it added.

The group has already been expelled from neighbouring Raqqa province and is now confined to just a few pockets of territory in Deir ez-Zor province.

The province is rich with oil and gas fields that served as a key revenue stream for Isis at the height of its power in 2014.

The regime offensive against the group has been waged largely on the western side of the Euphrates, which cuts diagonally across the province.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Arab alliance backed by a US-led coalition, is waging a second, separate offensive against the militants in the east of the province.

The SDF announced the recapture of Al-Omar, one of Syria’s largest oilfields, on 22 October – a week after regime forces had seized the nearby town of Mayadeen from Isis.

On Thursday, the Observatory said Syria’s army and allied fighters had captured the last areas held by the militants, with Russian air support, after seizing three new neighbourhoods.

theguardian

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SOHR Reveals Latest Statistics of Casualties in Afrin

- 0687d493ba6ea9e690c5a0e84edb08cd L - SOHR Reveals Latest Statistics of Casualties in Afrin


The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights (SOHR) revealed the latest statistics of the casualties in Afrin.

According to SOHR report released on Monday, January 22th, the number of casualties has risen to 21 due to the Turkish bombardments on Afrin.

“War has started in Shingal, Edmani, Shadiya, Sorka,Hamam, Kurdo which are located in Afrin, among the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which is the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Tukish army.

The Media sources belonging to PKK pointed out that 7 civilians were found dead, and 11 others wounded under the devastated buildings in the village of Jilbar due to the Turkish attacks on Afrin.

Turkey on Saturday launched a new air and ground operation on Afrin, a Kurdish city in the northern Syria, under the name of “Olive Branch Operation”.
 
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to eliminate every single YPG fighter in Syria. Meanwhile, PKK had already given orders to have immediate reactions if the Turkish army attempts to attack Afrin.





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Turkey says campaign against Kurdish YPG in Afrin will be swift – Middle East

- 413711 - Turkey says campaign against Kurdish YPG in Afrin will be swift – Middle East


Turkish soldiers are seen near the town of Hassa on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

HASSA, Turkey – Turkey shelled targets in northern Syria on Monday and said its three-day-old operation against Kurdish YPG fighters who control the Afrin region would be completed swiftly.

Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies began their push to clear YPG fighters from the northwestern enclave on Saturday, opening a new front in Syria’s civil war despite calls for restraint from United States, which has armed the YPG.

YPG spokesman Birusk Hasaka said clashes between Kurdish and Turkey-backed forces persisted on the third day of the operation. He said Turkish shelling had hit civilian areas in the northeast of the Afrin region.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organisation with ties to Kurdish militant separatists within Turkey, and it has been infuriated by US support for the fighters. Washington, which is backing the YPG in the battle against Islamic State in Syria, said on Sunday it was concerned about the situation.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to crush the YPG in Afrin and then target the Kurdish-held town of Manbij to the east, part of a much larger swath of northern Syria controlled by YPG-dominated forces.

That raises the prospect of protracted conflict between Turkey and its allied Free Syrian Army factions on one side and on the other the Kurdish YPG, who spearheaded the US-backed campaign to drive Islamic State out of its Syrian strongholds last year.

But Mehmet Simsek, Turkey’s deputy prime minister who oversees economic affairs in the government, played down the potential for a damaging and drawn-out military campaign.

“Our investors should be at ease, the impact will be limited, the operation will be brief and it will reduce the terror risk to Turkey in the period ahead,” Simsek said at a ceremony in Ankara.

TURKISH SHELLING

A Reuters cameraman near Hassa, across the border from Afrin, saw Turkish shelling on Monday morning. Dogan news agency said Turkish howitzers opened fire at 1 a.m. (2200 GMT) against YPG targets.

It said militia targets were also being destroyed by Turkish warplanes and multiple rocket launchers.

On Sunday a Turkish official said Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army rebel factions had captured a Kurdish village with no resistance and were clearing landmines. The YPG said it had repelled the Turkish forces.

Turkey’s military operation to drive back Islamic State and YPG fighters, which it launched in August 2016 and named “Euphrates Shield”, lasted seven months. So far there has been no indication of major gains on the ground by Turkey-backed forces in Afrin.





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Turkey gave advance warning of Afrin attack, urges restraint

- Jimmattis342 - Turkey gave advance warning of Afrin attack, urges restraint


WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – On Sunday, as he flew to Indonesia, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters traveling with him that Turkey “warned us” before its assault began on Saturday on the Kurdish canton of Afrin in northwest Syria.

Mattis explained that US military officials received a phone call from Turkish military officials and that the communication was at a high level. However, he did not reveal the US response to the Turkish notification, including whether it cautioned against an attack.

Mattis spoke sympathetically of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish group that leads the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and constitutes the majority of its troops. The SDF has been America’s main ally in fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

“They have proven their effectiveness,” Mattis said. “It has cost them thousands of casualties, but you have watched them, with coalition support, shred [IS’] caliphate in Syria.”

However, he also expressed sympathy with Ankara’s position.

“Turkey is a NATO ally,” Mattis stated. “It’s the only NATO country with an active insurgency inside its borders. And Turkey has legitimate security concerns.”

Some 2,000 US troops are deployed in Syria, but they are east of Afrin and not threatened by the Turkish offensive “at this time,” the Defense Secretary said.

US officials are in ongoing contact with their Turkish counterparts. “Our top levels are engaged,” Mattis affirmed. “We’ll work this out.”

Also on Sunday, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert issued a statement explaining that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had spoken with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the day before.

Tillerson emphasized to his counterparts that the US “is very concerned about the situation in northwest Syria, especially the plight of innocent civilians who are now faced with an escalation in fighting.”

“We continue to be supportive of addressing the legitimate security concerns of Turkey as a NATO Ally and critical partner in the effort to defeat [IS],” Nauert’s statement continued.

“However, we urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” she added. And “we call on all parties to remain focused on the central goal of defeating [IS.]”

Russia has taken Turkey’s side in this crisis. Lavrov complained on Friday that the US is “creating alternative government bodies on a vast part of Syrian territory,” while Russia’s Defense Ministry on Saturday said that the US was responsible for the Turkish assault because of its “uncontrolled deliveries of modern weapons” to the YPG.

An emergency session of the UN Security Council, convened at France’s request, will be held later on Monday.

Editing by Nadia Riva



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