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Isis ousted from last major stronghold in Syria



Syrian pro-government forces patrol in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor on 4 November, after taking the former Isis stronghold.  - 3932 - Isis ousted from last major stronghold in Syria

Syrian troops have declared victory against Islamic State in the eastern town of Albu Kamal, the terror group’s last major stronghold in the country.

The Isis withdrawal caps a series of major defeats in recent months that have virtually eliminated the self-styled caliphate, which it proclaimed in Syria and Iraq in 2014; millions of people have since suffered under its hardline, repressive strictures.

The Syrian military, backed by Shia fighters from Iraq, said it had reclaimed the border town of Albu Kamal from Isis, clearing the militants from their last key redoubt on the Iraqi border.

Albu Kamal had long been crucial to the ferrying of jihadists from Syria into Iraq during the American occupation, and vice versa during the war in Syria.

Its loss heralds the near-complete collapse of Isis in Syria. The group retreated from the eastern cities and into the surrounding desert after losing the provincial capital of the oil-rich province of Deir ez-Zor to the Syrian army, and the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa to Kurdish paramilitaries backed by the United States.

“Forces loyal to the regime … have advanced in the Albu Kamal border city and established complete control after the withdrawal of the remaining [Isis] fighters to areas under their control in the countryside,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said on Thursday.

The loss sealed “the fall of the terrorist Daesh organisation’s project in the region”, a Syrian army statement said, using an Arabic term for Islamic State.

Isis now controls minor swaths of the desert in central and eastern Syria, a significant retreat from its position just two years ago, when it controlled half the country’s landmass along with vast stretches of the plains of Nineveh in northern Iraq and Anbar province.

The group has faced concerted campaigns that drove them from one stronghold after another. Kurdish militias backed by the US-led coalition swept through most of Raqqa province, while Turkish-backed Syrian rebels reclaimed northern Syrian towns that were used as waypoints by foreign fighters. Iraqi forces and tribal militias across the border wrested back control of the cities of Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah in gruelling months-long campaigns that left those strongholds flattened.

The regime’s victory in Deir Ezzor now leaves it with control over a larger portion of the country than its adversaries, and with momentum after six and a half years of civil war, but also cements its divisions with portions controlled by al-Qaida-affiliated jihadists, Kurdish fighters, and Turkish-backed rebels.

Meanwhile, the United Nations warned on Thursday that some 400 civilians were in urgent need of medical evacuation from Syria’s eastern Ghouta region, including 29 who will die if they are not allowed to leave immediately.

The region, near the capital Damascus, is one of the last strongholds of rebels fighting the regime of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

Jan Egeland, head of the UN’s humanitarian taskforce for Syria, said the region was now “the epicentre of suffering” in the war-ravaged country, with some 400,000 civilians stuck in a dozen besieged towns and villages.

The region, where a “de-escalation zone” deal was agreed by regime allies Iran and Russia and rebel backer Turkey in July, is now seeing increasingly dire conditions, he said.

“Since September, it has been completely sealed off,” he said, pointing out that UN convoys were now the only lifeline to the area, and more often than not, those convoys are unable to get through.

“We cannot continue like that. If we get in only a fraction of what is needed, it would be a complete catastrophe,” he said.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests, before spiralling into a complex, multi-front war that drew in international forces and jihadists.

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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