Israel Strikes Iranian Targets In Syria: Military


Israel’s military said on Sunday its air defence systems intercepted a rocket fired from Syria. (File)

Damascus, Syria: 

Israel’s military said it carried out strikes on Iranian targets in Syria early Monday after it intercepted a rocket fired from Syrian territory hours before.

It said in a statement it was “currently striking” the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force in Syria and warned Syria’s military against “attempting to harm Israeli territory or forces”.

It provided no further details on the raids.

Israel’s military said on Sunday its air defence systems intercepted a rocket fired from Syria, after Damascus accused Israel of carrying out air raids in the country’s south.

As Israel announced its strikes early Monday, Syrian state news agency SANA said its country’s air-defence systems had targeted “enemy” fire.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported Israeli missile strikes in the area of the Damascus airport and areas around the capital.

It said the missiles hit apparent Iranian and Hezbollah arms depots.

Israel has pledged to stop its main enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in neighbouring Syria.

It has carried out hundreds of air strikes there against what it says are Iranian military targets and advanced arms deliveries to Tehran-backed Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.

Israel rarely publicly confirms its strikes in Syria.

Its fighter planes have faced anti-aircraft fire during such raids, but Israeli media reported that Sunday’s response included a surface-to-surface missile from Syria.

Israel’s military said only that it had intercepted a rocket fired at the northern Golan Heights.

‘Permanent policy’ 

On Sunday, SANA quoted a military source saying Syria’s air defences went into action after Israel earlier in the day launched air strikes on the south of the country.

The Russian army said Syrian air defences destroyed seven Israeli projectiles, after four of the Jewish state’s F-16 military planes “fired rockets into Syrian territory”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Sunday that “we have a permanent policy: to strike at the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us.”

Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have been speaking more openly about the Syria strikes in recent days, with some analysts saying the premier seems to want to further burnish his security credentials ahead of April 9 elections.

But Israel also risks an escalation with Syria and Iran, as well as possibly further angering Russia.

Military coordination between Israel and Russia took a hit after a friendly fire incident in September that led to a Russian plane being downed by Syrian air defences during an Israeli strike.

The incident angered Russia and complicated Israel’s operations in Syria, particularly after Moscow’s delivery of the advanced S-300 air defence system there in response.

Israel has sought to keep its coordination with Russia on track and maintain its ability to strike in Syria.

On Thursday, Israeli military officials concluded a series of talks with their Russian counterparts aimed at improving coordination in the war-torn country.

Both Russia and Iran are backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in his country’s civil war.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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4 Americans Killed In ISIS Suicide Attack Targeting US Forces In Syria


Rubble littered the outside of the eatery in the city centre and its facade was blackened by the blast

Qamishli, Syria: 

A suicide attack killed four US personnel in northern Syria Wednesday, costing Washington its worst combat losses in the war-torn country since 2014 as it prepares to withdraw.

The bombing, claimed by the ISIS, comes after US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month that he was ordering a full troop withdrawal from Syria because the terrorists had been “largely defeated”.

The Pentagon said “two US servicemembers, one Department of Defense (DoD) civilian and one contractor supporting DoD were killed and three servicemembers were injured while conducting a local engagement in Manbij”.

“Initial reports indicate an explosion caused the casualties, and the incident is under investigation,” it said, adding that the names of the dead were being withheld until 24 hours after their families were informed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier said two Americans soldiers, nine Syrian civilians, and five US-backed fighters were killed in the attack on a restaurant in the northern city of Manbij near the Turkish border.

Rubble littered the outside of the eatery in the city centre and its facade was blackened by the blast, footage from a Kurdish news agency showed.

According to Pentagon statistics, Wednesday’s blast was the deadliest attack for US anti-ISIS forces in Syria since they deployed in 2014.

The US Department of Defense has previously only reported two American personnel killed in combat in Syria, in separate incidents.

The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources in Syria, said it was the first suicide attack in the city in 10 months.

‘Security Zone’

Addressing a gathering of US ambassadors in Washington, Vice President Mike Pence did not comment on the attack, saying only that the United States would ensure the defeat of ISIS.

“We’ll stay in the region and we’ll stay in the fight to ensure that ISIS does not rear its ugly head again,” he said.

The bombing comes as Syrian Kurds present in areas around Manbij rejected any Turkish presence in a planned “safe zone” to include Kurdish-held areas along the frontier.

Turkey has repeatedly threatened to attack Washington’s Syrian Kurdish allies, who Ankara views as “terrorists” on its southern flank.

Washington, which has relied heavily on the Kurds in its campaign against ISIS in Syria, has sought guarantees for their safety since Trump’s pullout announcement.

On Tuesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara would set up a “security zone” in northern Syria following a suggestion by Trump.

But senior Syrian Kurdish political leader Aldar Khalil said any Turkish deployment in Kurdish-held areas was “unacceptable”.

He said the Kurds would accept the deployment of UN forces along a separation line between Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops.

But “other choices are unacceptable as they infringe on the sovereignty of Syria and the sovereignty of our autonomous region,” Khalil told AFP.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been a key US ally in the fight against ISIS.

They have taken heavy losses in a campaign now nearing its conclusion, with the jihadists confined to an ever-shrinking enclave of just 15 square kilometres (under six square miles).

But the jihadists have continued to claim attacks nationwide and abroad.

Ankara has welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal of some 2,000 US troops from Syria, but the future of Kurdish fighters has poisoned relations between the NATO allies.

On Monday, Erdogan and Trump had a telephone conversation to ease tensions after the US leader threatened to “devastate” Turkey’s economy if Ankara attacked Kurdish forces in Syria, and called for a “safe zone”.

No ‘Outside Interference’

Erdogan said he and Trump had a “quite positive” conversation in which they spoke of “a 20-mile (30 kilometre) security zone along the Syrian border… set up by us”.

The YPG-led forces fighting ISIS in a statement said they would provide “necessary support to set up the safe zone” — if it came with international guarantees to “prevent any outside interference”, in an apparent reference to Turkey.

The Turkish army has launched two major operations in Syria in recent years.

In the latest, Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies seized the northwestern enclave of Afrin from the Kurds last year.

Critics have accused Turkish troops and their proxies of military occupation and abuses in Syrian sovereign territory.

But while Ankara has spoken of a YPG-free “security zone” under its control, analyst Mutlu Civiroglu said it was not immediately clear what the US president meant by a “safe zone”, or who he thought would patrol it.

Analysts were “waiting for a clarification from Washington to see what the president really meant”, he told AFP.

The US planned withdrawal has sent the Kurds scrambling to seek a new ally in Damascus, which has long rejected Kurdish self-rule.

With military backing from Russia since 2015, Syria’s regime has advanced against terrorists and rebels, and now controls almost two-thirds of the country.

A northwestern enclave held by terrorists and pockets held by Turkish troops and their allies remain beyond its reach, along with the much larger Kurdish region.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Syrian government must take control of the north.





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Donald Trump, Turkey’s Erdogan Consider Creating Security Zone In Syria


Donald Trump earlier warned the US would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds”. (Reuters)

Ankara: 

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US counterpart Donald Trump mooted Monday the creation of a “security zone” in northern Syria as tensions rose over the fate of Kurdish fighters in the war-torn country.

In a telephone conversation, the leaders “discussed the idea of creating a security zone cleared of terrorism in the north of the country,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Trump confirmed this in a tweet later, but referred to the proposed area as a “safe zone.”

This came after Turkey vowed it “will not be intimidated” by Trump’s threats of economic devastation if Ankara attacked Kurdish forces as US troops withdraw from Syria.

Trump on Sunday warned the US would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds“.

Ankara has repeatedly threatened to carry out a cross-border operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have been working closely with the United States in the war on ISIS terrorists.

US support for the YPG has been a major source of friction between the NATO allies.

The White House said in a statement that Trump had warned Erdogan against harming Kurdish military units.

“The president expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian democratic forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

‘Security Zone’

But in his subsequent tweet, Trump put a more positive spin, noting that he and Erdogan “also spoke about economic development between the U.S. & Turkey — great potential to substantially expand!”

The strained relationship between Ankara and Washington initially seemed to improve after Trump announced last month that 2,000 US troops would withdraw from Syria.

Ankara welcomed the decision and Erdogan told Trump that Turkey could finish off the last remnants of ISIS.

Trump has been pushing for the creation of a 30-kilometre (20-mile) “safe zone” in Syria.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday talks were under way on Washington’s proposal to establish the zone in flashpoint border areas of northeast Syria.

“We want to make sure that the folks who fought with us to down the (ISIS) have security… and also that terrorists acting out of Syria aren’t able to attack Turkey,” Pompeo said on a visit to Riyadh.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier that Turkey was “not against” a “security zone” in Syria.

And in their conversation Monday, Erdogan assured Trump that Turkey was ready to provide “any kind of support” to the United States in its withdrawal from Syria.

Turkey views the YPG as a “terrorist offshoot” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States, and the European Union.

‘Radical Solution’

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara would “continue to fight against them all”, referring to ISIS and the YPG.

There has been growing tension between Turkey and the US over the fate of the YPG, especially after Pompeo this month said Washington would ensure Turkey does not “slaughter” Kurds.

And before a visit to Ankara last week, White House National Security Advisor John Bolton said the US retreat was conditional on the safety of Kurdish fighters, provoking angry retorts from Turkish officials.

Turkey previously launched military offensives in northern Syria in 2016 and 2018 respectively against ISIS and the YPG. In early 2018, Syrian rebels backed by Turkish military forces captured the YPG’s northwestern enclave of Afrin.

Ankara, which supports Syrian opposition fighters, is also involved in the last rebel bastion of Idlib, where Turkey has agreed a buffer zone deal with Damascus ally Russia.

But the deal has not stopped an assault by terrorists in Syria.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by terrorists from Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, last week extended its administrative control over the whole of the Idlib region.

Syria’s National Coalition, the leading opposition body, on Sunday called for a “radical solution” to put “an end to its (HTS) presence” in Idlib.

Cavusoglu however said the Idlib deal was being “successfully applied” and that statements that HTS took 50 percent of Idlib are “not true”.





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Donald Trump Warns Turkey Of Economic Devastation If It Hits Kurds As US Troops Pull Out Of Syria


Washington: 

President Donald Trump warned Turkey on Sunday of economic devastation if it attacks Kurdish forces in the wake of the US troop pullout from Syria, while also urging the Kurds not to “provoke” Ankara.

“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” Trump tweeted, while pushing for the creation of a 20-mile (30-kilometer) safe zone.

“Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term US policy of destroying ISIS in Syria – natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!”





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America begins the process of withdrawing troops from Syria । अमेरिका ने सीरिया से सैनिकों की वापस बुलाने को प्रक्रिया शुरू की


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US Has Begun Pulling Equipment, Not Troops From Syria: Official


Washington: 

The US military has started moving non-essential equipment out of Syria but it is not withdrawing troops for now, a defense official said Friday as the Pentagon sought to clarify an earlier statement.

“We are not withdrawing troops at this stage,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, US military spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan had said the US had begun “the process of our deliberate withdrawal” from Syria.

President Donald Trump last month claimed the ISIS group had been defeated and said US troops would return home “now.”

A second US defense official said the military had conducted a number of preparations for a deliberate withdrawal.

“That includes planning for the moving of people and equipment, preparation of facilities to accept retrograde equipment,” the official said, noting that no troops had been withdrawn yet.

The Pentagon stressed it would not telegraph its troop movements or give timelines for when they may leave Syria.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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US-Led Coalition Begins Withdrawal Of Troops From Syria


Hasakeh: 

The US-led coalition in Syria has begun withdrawing its troops, a spokesman said Friday, less than a month after US President Donald Trump made his shock announcement.

The force which has battled the ISIS group since 2014 started scaling down but it remained unclear how long the drawdown process would last.

“CJTF-OIR has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria,” spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan told AFP in a statement, referring to the US-led anti-ISIS force.

“Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements,” he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the coalition had started scaling down its presence at Rmeilan airfield in the Hasakeh province in northeastern Syria.

“On Thursday, some American forces withdrew from the Rmeilan military base,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organisation, said.

“This is the first such pullout of American forces since the US president’s announcement” of a military withdrawal from Syria last month, he said.

The US-led coalition has several other bases across northeastern Syria, as well as in neighbouring Iraq, where Trump has said his forces would remain.

A US defence official in Washington had earlier confirmed to AFP that equipment was being removed from Syria.

Pompeo visit

The US-led coalition, which also includes countries such as France and Britain, was formed in mid-2014 to counter the expansion of the ISIS group after it proclaimed its self-styled “caliphate”.

Trump claimed last month that the ISIS had been defeated and that US troops could therefore come home.

Fighter jets and special forces have played a key role in efforts to claw back the territory lost to ISIS.

A Kurdish-led group, the Syrian Democratic Forces, is currently flushing out the very last pockets of land controlled by the ISIS in the Euphrates River Valley.

The beginning of the drawdown coincided with a visit to the Middle East by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who insisted in Cairo Thursday that the withdrawal would go ahead despite widespread criticism.

Earlier this week, US National Security Advisor John Bolton laid out conditions for the pullout, including the defeat of the ISIS in Syria and guarantees for the safety of Washington’s Kurdish allies in the campaign, who have been threatened with an imminent offensive by Turkey.

Bolton’s comments were widely seen as backtracking on Trump’s announcement, including by Turkey which described them as “unacceptable”.

The battle against die-hard ISIS in remote areas along the Iraqi-Syrian border and the hunt for ISIS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted man, could last indefinitely however.

Anti-ISIS fight

And the Kurdish militia which has spearheaded the ground battle against the ISIS group is left exposed to a Turkish offensive by the US withdrawal.

The People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian offshoot of the PKK group which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has already started cosying up to Damascus and its Russian sponsor.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist announcement and has repeatedly threatened to move into Syria to create a buffer zone along the border.

Critics of Trump’s decision, including within his own Republican camp, have said that a precipitous withdrawal would shatter US policy in Syria and allow ISIS to rebuild.

They have also argued that it would further allow Damascus ally Iran to extend its influence across Syria and potentially threaten Israel.

Since his surprise announcement last month, Trump has stressed any withdrawal would be coordinated, gradual and “prudent”.

But observers have stressed that the announcement of the withdrawal was having the same impact in reshuffling the cards of the conflict as the withdrawal itself.

“The damage is done. On the ground, the announcement of the pullout is as if they were already gone,” said Fabrice Balanche, a geographer and Syria expert.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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US Troop Withdrawal From Syria Will Happen, Says Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo


Mike Pompeo is scheduled to head to the capitals of the six Gulf Arab states to make his case.

Cairo, Egypt: 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that a full US troop withdrawal from Syria announced by President Donald Trump last month will go ahead despite widespread criticism.

The US top diplomat made his remarks while on a whistlestop tour of the Middle East to address the concerns of regional allies about the surprise pullout plan.

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that,” Pompeo told a joint press conference in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

Earlier this week, US National Security Advisor John Bolton laid out conditions for the pullout, including the defeat of the Islamic State group in Syria and gurantees for the safety of Washington’s Kurdish allies in the campaign, who have been threatened with an imminent offensive by Turkey.

Bolton’s comments were widely seen as backtracking on Trump’s announcement.

But Pompeo insisted the two statements were entirely consistent.

“There is no contradiction whatsoever. This is a story made up by the media,” said Pompeo, underscoring Washington’s continuing commitment to preventing any resurgence by IS.

From Cairo, Pompeo is scheduled to head to the capitals of the six Gulf Arab states to make his case.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Man Who Returned From Syria To Attack Europe Faces Trial This Week


Mehdi Nemmouche is accused for Europe’s first attack by a terrorist returning from the war in Syria.

Brussels: 

Mehdi Nemmouche stands accused of carrying out Europe’s first attack by a terrorist returning from the war in Syria.

But his journey from a French foster home to a Brussels court began not in a Middle Eastern desert but in a run-down industrial town.

This week, he will go on trial for four anti-Semitic murders during a shooting spree at Belgium’s Jewish Museum.

Separately, he is also accused of acting as the jailer of four French journalists taken hostage by terrorists in Aleppo in 2013.

The trial will last several weeks, but the 33-year-old is already a case study in the radicalisation of some young European Muslims.

Belgium and France, in particular, fear the defeat of groups like the ISIS in Syria will send more angry young men homewards.

But Nemmouche seems to have been on a radical path long before he set off, in early 2013, for the so-called “caliphate” on the Euphrates.

The investigation into the May 2014 massacre in the museum has pieced together elements of his background.

Troubled and angry youth

Nemmouche was born April 17, 1985, in the northern French town of Roubaix, to a family of Algerian origin.

He never knew his father and his mother was judged not “capable” of raising him, investigators say.

Aged only three months, he was moved to a foster family in the northern industrial city of Lille, where he would stay — off and on — until he was 16.

But his upbringing was not stable. He would make difficult trips to stay with his grandparents, and sometimes to care homes or a Parisian orphanage.

His foster parents, in documents seen by AFP, describe him as an “angry” youth, “capable of the worst as well as the most kindly” acts.

He committed his first known crime at 13, then at 16, he spent three weeks in a juvenile prison for a hold-up with an air pistol after being convicted by a children’s court.

His criminal record grew ever longer in his late teens, with traffic offences and muggings, and his grandmother lost track of him after his second jail term.

In 2007, aged 22, he headed to Provence in southern France after gaining a vocational qualification as an electrician, but soon fell back into trouble.

“What an enormous waste,” his former lawyer Soulifa Badaoui said after the museum murders, lamenting the fact that the authorities had not helped Nemmouche integrate.

“No one knew what to do with an intelligent, lively young man who wanted to get out, become an ordinary French citizen,” she told AFP.

“Strict and violent”

Between December 2007 and December 2012, he spent five years in custody — and investigators believe this is when his ideas hardened.

In prison, he was known as an “extremist proselytiser” who tried to organise group prayer and spoke of terrorism and the 1995 “genocide of Muslims in Bosnia”.

This linked him to the “Roubaix gang” — French terrorists who returned from the Bosnian war and carried out robberies to fund Al-Qaeda, some of whom he knew.

When his grandmother saw him in Tourcoing in December 2012, he had a long beard and was praying daily, something she had not seen before.

Less is known about his experiences in Syria, but three former French hostages have identified him as their “strict and violent” overseer.

They say he did not hide his admiration for Mohammed Merah, who murdered three French soldiers, a Jewish teacher and three young children in 2012.

Nemmouche, who was extradited to Belgium over the museum shooting after being arrested in Marseille, will go on trial in France over the hostages at a later date.

Held under tight security at a prison in Leuze-en-Hainaut, his lawyers describe him as a man of “steely will” who was bearing up well under incarceration.

“When he greets me with a warm, relaxed smile it’s as if we’re not in prison,” defence counsel Francis Vuillemin told AFP. “The walls seem to slip off him.”





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2 british armymen injured in ISIS missile attack in syria


ऑब्जर्वेटरी के निदेशक रमी अब्देल ने ‘एएफपी’ से कहा, ‘‘दोनों सैनिकों को इलाज के लिए हेलीकॉप्टर से ले जाया गया है.’’

पूर्वी सीरिया में ISIS के मिसाइल हमले में दो ब्रिटिश सैनिक घायल

(फाइल फोटो)





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