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Syria war: As the conflict grows WHO is providing weapons

A place to talk about domestic politics in Middle East (Iran, Iraq , Turkey, Syria) Also includes topics about Assyrian, Armenian, Chaldean .

Syria war: As the conflict grows WHO is providing weapons

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Feb 08, 2018 7:51 pm

U.S.-led coalition, pro-Assad forces clash in east Syria
Phil Stewart, Lisa Barrington

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT (Reuters) - A U.S.-led coalition and its local allies in Syria struck pro-government forces with air and artillery fire overnight to repel “an unprovoked attack” near the Euphrates, the coalition said on Thursday.

The incident underscores the potential for further conflict in Syria’s oil-rich east, where the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias holds swathes of land after its offensive against Islamic State.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is supported by Russia and by Shi‘ite militias backed by Iran, has said he wants to take back every inch of Syria.

The pro-government forces were “likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham” east of the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor province, said a U.S. official on condition of anonymity.

The attack was carried out by 500 troops backed by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars but the coalition and its allies killed more than 100 of them, the official said.

Syrian state television reported that the coalition had caused “dozens of dead and wounded” by bombing pro-government forces. But a commander in the military alliance supporting Assad disputed the death toll, saying seven members of the pro-government forces were killed and 27 injured.

In a letter to the United Nations, Syria’s foreign ministry described the strike as a “war crime” and called for the coalition to be dismantled, Syrian state news agency SANA said. “We demand (that the international community) condemn this massacre and hold the coalition responsible for it.”

U.S. TELLS SYRIA: WE‘RE NOT SEEKING CONFLICT

The U.S.led coalition was set up in 2014 to battle Islamic State fighters in both Syria and Iraq, who were largely defeated last year. Some 2,000 U.S. forces remain on the ground in Syria, allied to the Kurdish-led SDF alliance, which holds the largest swathe of territory still outside the control of the government.

The Syrian civil war, now entering its eighth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes, while drawing in regional countries and global powers supporting client factions on the ground.

For the most part, the U.S.-backed SDF and the government forces backed by Russia and Iran avoided direct confrontation while both were fighting the common Islamic State enemy. Moscow and Washington maintain contacts in eastern Syria to prevent unexpected confrontation between forces they support.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White stressed the coalition strikes were purely defensive, as she explained the muscular coalition response at a news briefing. Washington was not seeking to fight Syrian forces, she said.

“We are not looking for a conflict with the regime,” White said.

Still, the incident underscored growing tensions in Syria amid reports of Syrian chemical weapons use elsewhere in the country.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday deplored the alleged use of chemical weapons and backed a call from the United Nations to put violence in Syria on pause for a month in order to deliver humanitarian aid and facilitate the evacuation of civilians. Russia said the proposal was a non-starter.

“That’s not realistic. We would like to see a ceasefire, the end of war in Syria, but the terrorists, I’m not sure they are in agreement,” said Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of the proposed one-month ceasefire.

SKIRMISHES

The coalition said the attack occurred around 8 km (5 miles) “east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line in Khusham”, a town southeast of the provincial capital, Deir al-Zor.

The U.S.led coalition had alerted Russian officials about the presence of SDF forces, the U.S. official said.

“Coalition officials were in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the thwarted (enemy) attack,” the official said.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the pro-government militias involved in the incident had been carrying out reconnaissance and their activities had not been previously agreed with Russia.

No American troops were killed or wounded in the incident, officials said. Some U.S. troops had been embedded at the time with the SDF, whose headquarters in Deir al-Zor province had been a target of the attack.

One SDF fighter was wounded, the official said. Nouri Mahmoud, spokesman for the SDF’s most powerful element, the Kurdish YPG militia, described the clash as “skirmishes” and said each side had returned to their former positions.

“We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from Daesh (Islamic State) in September 2017,” the U.S. official said.

Neither U.S. officials nor the U.S.-backed coalition have offered details on the identity of attacking forces.

The coalition said in an email the pro-government forces had initiated hostilities with artillery fire, tank maneuvers and mortar fire after a steady buildup of forces over the past week.

A reporter for Syrian state TV station Ikhbariya described the groups it said had been bombed by the U.S.-led coalition as “local people fighting (Islamic State) and the SDF”.

Russia’s Interfax cited the Defence Ministry as saying the incident showed the U.S. goal in Syria was not to battle Islamic State but “the capture and withholding of the economic assets”, an apparent reference to the Khusham oil field.

Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Lisa Lambert in Washington, Lisa Barrington and Dahlia Nehme in Beirut, Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Peter Graff and James Dalgleish

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mide ... SKBN1FR3BB
Last edited by Anthea on Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:37 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Syria war: As the conflict grows WHO is providing weapons

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Re: U.S.led coalition & pro-Assad forces clash in east Syria

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Feb 08, 2018 7:57 pm

Syria war: Assad's government accuses US of massacre

Syria has accused the US of carrying out a "brutal massacre" with a bombing attack in Deir al-Zour province.

The overnight air strikes killed an estimated 100 pro-government fighters near the Euphrates river, according to the US.

The Syrian foreign ministry said it had written to the United Nations, demanding international condemnation.

The US claimed a right to self-defence, saying it was responding to an attack on allied Kurdish and Arab fighters.

It happened in the Middle Euphrates Valley, which serves as an informal demarcation line in eastern Syria. The government controls the western side and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) the east.

The two sides have clashed over the past year while trying to drive Islamic State (ISIS) militants from their last major stronghold in the country.

Syria described the latest strikes as "a war crime and a crime against humanity", and said the US was directly supporting terrorism.

Elsewhere in Syria on Thursday, government warplanes bombed towns in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region, near the capital, Damascus, for a fourth day.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said at least 36 civilians were killed, bringing the death toll to 185 since Monday.

The Syrian government has also been accused of using chemical weapons on a rebel-held town in Idlib province earlier this week.

Were there Russian casualties?

A Pentagon official said Russian mercenaries were among the dead after the strike, US media report. If confirmed, this would be the first time US forces have killed Russians in Syria.

However, the Russian Defence Ministry said it had no service personnel in the area. It said it was aware of 25 Syrian militia, who had been wounded in the strikes, but no casualties.

Russia accused the US of being motivated by economic concerns, as the strikes took place near an oil field.

Pentagon officials also said they believed Russia was trying to seize control of local oil operations.

Where did the US strikes happen and why?

The Syrian pro-government forces that were hit had allegedly tried to take ground east of the River Euphrates, captured from ISIS by the SDF.

The US led coalition against ISIS accused pro-government forces of initiating "an unprovoked attack against well-established SDF headquarters" late on Wednesday.

"Coalition service members in an advise, assist, and accompany capacity were co-located with SDF partners during the attack 8km east of the agreed-upon Euphrates river de-confliction line," a statement said.
Map of Syria

"In defence of coalition and partner forces, the coalition conducted strikes against attacking forces to repel the act of aggression," it added, asserting its "non-negotiable right to act in self-defence".

Unnamed US military officials subsequently told reporters that about 500 pro-government fighters, backed by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars, were involved in the assault.

One SDF fighter was reportedly wounded in the incident. There were no American casualties.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed there had been an attack on SDF positions near the town of Khusham, 10km (6 miles) south-east of Deir al-Zour city, and put the death toll at about 20.

Why did the pro-government forces attack?

"We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from [IS] in September 2017," one US official told Reuters news agency.

The forces were "likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for [IS] from 2014 to 2017", the official added.

Syrian pro-government forces patrol the eastern city of Deir al-Zour on 4 November 2017 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pro-government forces control the city of Deir al-Zour and territory west of the River Euphrates

Before the war, the Omar oil field was producing 30,000 barrels of oil per day, while the Conoco gas field was producing 13m cubic metres of gas per day.

The US-led coalition had observed a slow build-up of pro-government forces in the area over the past week and had alerted Russia, which backs the Syrian government, to the presence of SDF forces in the area, according to the official.

What does Syrian media say?

State media reported that the US led coalition had bombed "popular forces" fighting ISIS and SDF forces east of the River Euphrates, denouncing what they called a "new aggression".

An Al-Ikhbariyah TV correspondent said the bombing left "dozens of dead and wounded" and identified the pro-government fighters as "local people".

The Syrian Observatory said they were local tribesmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and Afghan Shia militiamen.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-42994235
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Re: Syria war: Assad's government accuses US of massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:30 pm

Syria: the suffering grows and the world turns away

Thirteen million people are in desperate need across the country as its intersecting conflicts burn – but who will help?

After seven years of carnage, at the cost of half a million lives, the violence in Syria is not dwindling but multiplying. The mighty pursue power, territory and resources, while civilians pay in blood. The United Nations warns of unprecedented levels of suffering in a country that has already witnessed so many crimes and such desperation. Its calls for a ceasefire are ignored.

The disintegration of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate has thrown these overlapping wars into sharper relief. The ISIS threat is not over, despite high-profile captures. Its fighters will do their best to continue their butchery in the region and further afield. But as the focus shifts, other conflicts are enmeshing and intensifying, as this week has shown.

On Thursday alone, more than 100 pro-regime fighters were killed by American forces repelling an assault on a US-controlled base in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor – while in eastern Ghouta, which has already suffered so much at the hands of Bashar al-Assad, 59 civilians, including 15 children, died on the same day.

A political solution to the original crisis is more distant than ever, with the failure not only of the UN-sponsored Geneva talks but of Russia’s overconfident attempts to outflank that process and push through a deal at Sochi last month. Mr Assad has accelerated his bloody drive for military victory; 400,000 are under siege in eastern Ghouta. Damascus granted the UN just over a quarter of its requests for access to opposition areas in 2017; not one has been approved this year. But though the rebels have lost, Mr Assad has not yet won.

Russia has discovered that it is easier to bomb a country than bring peace. It wants a strategic hub in the region and control of gas and oil resources; but it does not want an indefinite drain on its military. The differences and mutual suspicion between Mr Assad’s patrons are increasingly obvious; Iran is happy to see a weak state and the extension of its own control across ever more territory, preferably with reduced Russian influence.

Meanwhile, Kurdish militias, which hoped their contribution to the battle against ISIS would mean increased support from the west for their long-term aspirations, as well as the defence of newly taken territory, are under assault from Turkey, determined to curb their ambitions.

The US wants to prevent the remergence of ISIS or a similar group, and hunt down remaining fighters, stabilise territory, reassert its role in the region against Russia’s increased weight and counter Iran’s growing power, and reassure its allies Saudi Arabia and Israel. These complex interests are in the hands of a chaotic and unpredictable administration. Even allies question whether the US really knows what it wants, while at home critics warn of mission creep. The pledge to keep US forces on the ground for the foreseeable future risks not only further conflict with pro-Assad forces but also Turkey, given US reliance on the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Defence Forces.

As the dangers grow, waves of Syrians flee again. The regime’s punishing attacks on rebel-held Idlib province have displaced at least 300,000 people since December. Around a million of Idlib’s inhabitants fled there from other areas, in some cases by arrangement with the government when rebel groups elsewhere surrendered; yet the regime seeks to use the heavy presence of jihadi forces to tar them all. In all, half the country’s population has been displaced: six million have fled abroad. But indifference and outright hostility are subsuming the anguish that once greeted their trauma and desperation. Last year, more countries kept their borders closed or sent refugees back.

This week, international charities warned of the risk that hundreds of thousands could be forced to amid anti-refugee sentiment and the mistaken belief that the war is winding down. Syria’s neighbours have been generous hosts, in stark contrast to richer nations, which have resettled less than 3% of vulnerable refugees, the charities say. It is alarming but not surprising if they prove unwilling to continue without adequate support. The staggering human toll in Syria highlights the urgent need for a decent, humane international response.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... turns-away
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