Iran threatens Saudi Arabia after Iran parade attack

MIDDLE EAST

Tehran has blamed Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US for acting from the shadows in the terror attack on a military parade in Ahvaz. Will Iran retaliate with military action as threatened— or is it just posturing?

    
Military and civilians prepare coffins of the victims of the Ahvaz attack (picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Noroozi)

Iran’s relations with its Gulf neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), along with the United States, are tense after a terrorist attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz on Sunday left at least 25 people dead.  Both the “Islamic State” (IS) and Arab separatists groups in Iran have claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Iranian government pointed fingers at its regional rivals, the Saudis and the UAE, as well as at the US for backing the attackers. “Based on reports, this cowardly act was done by the people who are rescued by the Americans when they are in trouble in Syria and Iraq, and are paid by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Monday on his official website. The same day the deputy head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard warned the US and Israel, a close American ally and Iran’s perpetual enemy, on Monday that they should expect a “devastating response” from the Islamic Republic.

So far Saudis have responded to Iran’s announcement with silence while the UAE’s foreign minister, Anwar Gargash, tweeted “formal incitement against the UAE from within Iran is unfortunate, and has escalated after the Ahvaz attack.” “Tehran’s allegations are baseless,” he added. The US responded by saying that Iran “should look in the mirror.” 

military members carry a bleeding individual (ISNA/S.H. Najaf)Members of Iran’s military were among those injured in the terror attack in Ahvaz

Terrorist attack on a national holiday

Holly Dagres, an Iran expert and nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, told DW that the terrorist attack on the military parade was a “big deal” for the Iranians, as the celebration marked the start of the bloody Iran-Iraq war that lasted from 1980 through 1988.

“This was essentially Iran’s Memorial Day, with parades happening all around the country,” she said. “In Ahvaz, the parade wasn’t just attended by members of the army and the Iranian Revolutonary Guard, but also by veterans of the war, as well as families with young children.”

Dagres said that Iran’s threats made against its Gulf neighbors and the US seem to be a case of saber rattling. “Tehran isn’t in a position to make good on its threats in lieu of the pressure resulting from the United States reimposing sanctions,” she said, adding that the goal is to show that “the Iranian government is in a position of strength after the Ahvaz terrorist attacks.”

Iran says Saudi Arabia, UAE support Arab separatists

In Iran, there is a growing consensus that Arab separatist groups were likely behind the attack. Iranian Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi told the state news agency IRNA Monday that the “the terrorists have undergone training in two countries in the Persian Gulf” and that they were not from IS.

Arab separatists in Iran allege that Iran’s ethnic Persian majority discriminates against them. They are seeking independence for Khuzestan, a province bordering Iraq where Ahvaz is also located. The Iranian Foreign Ministry also believes that the UAE and its Gulf neighbors are harboring members of these movements.

Karte Iran Tehran Ahvaz Khuzestan ENArab separatists are currently pushing for the province of Khuzestan to split from Iran

Although there is no concrete evidence that Arab separatist groups in Iran receive support from Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations such as the UAE, Dagres said that it could be possible. “Separatist movements, whether they be in Ahvaz or Sistan [region in eastern Iran and souther Afghanistan] and Balochistan [Pakistan], would gain a lot from the backing of a state such as Saudi Arabia,” she noted. “State backing could provide them not just with funding and moral support, but legitimacy.”

Military conflict not on the horizon, experts say  

Saudi Arabia and Iran maintain a fraught relationship; The two countries  cut ties in January 2016. In the past, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made threats towards Iran, warning of consequences should the Islamic Republic take military action or endanger the kingdom’s national security. In a 2017 interview the Saudi prince went further, saying, “We are not waiting until there becomes a battle in Saudi Arabia, so we will work so that it becomes a battle for them in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.”

Although experts say the attack in Ahvaz will ratchet up tension between the two nations, they view a consequent military conflict as unlikely.  “I don’t think that this will lead to a direct military conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” Jens Heibach, a Saudi Arabia expert and research fellow at the GIGA Institute of Middle East Studies in Hamburg, told DW.  “Saudi Arabia is already engaged in a costly military conflict, such as the war in Yemen. Plus the Saudi army would not be in a position to conventionally challenge Iran’s military.”

Dagres also agreed with the notion that escalation between Tehran and Riyadh was unlikely, also pointing out that “any direct conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two regional powers, would draw in the world powers like the United States.”

Read more: Saudi Arabia vs. Iran: From ‘twin pillars’ to proxy wars   

Iran could respond by “heating up” proxy wars in the region, Dagres said. It could use proxy groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or Syria to direct more attacks towards Israel, a close American ally. Iran could also provide more military support to the Houthis in Yemen, who have in the past shot rockets at Saudi Arabia. “Iran would most likely not directly retaliate against Saudi Arabia but rather depend on its [Iran’s] proxies in the region to send a message,” she said.

US seeking to isolate Iran

Any such retaliatory action by Iran would draw the ire of the United States, which under the Trump administration is pushing to isolate Iran in international community and to lessen Iranian influence in the region. “The tension is likely to escalate,” Emad Abdul Hadi, a political analyst in Washington, DC, told DW. “The United States will not accept less than Iran’s withdrawal from Arab countries in the region, such as Syria and Iraq.”

Diplomatic animosity between the US and Iran will be on display this week as President Trump attempts to convince the United Nations that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism in the region and justify America’s decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

COURTESY: DW

Made in America: Shrapnel found in Yemen ties US bombs to string of civilian deaths over course of bloody civil war

Exclusive Report

A wounded Yemeni child awaits treatment after a strike on a school bus in Saada on August 9, 2018. (AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, a CNN investigation found remnants of a US-made bomb at the scene of an airstrike that left dozens of schoolboys dead. Now, an independent Yemen-based human rights group called Mwatana has given CNN exclusive access to a trove of documents that show fragments of US-manufactured bombs at the scene of a string of other incidents since 2015, when the civil war began. In each of those cases, civilians were either killed or put at risk.

Mwatana, which documents violations by all parties in Yemen’s conflict, used its network of trained field researchers to photograph evidence at the scene of strikes. The group consulted weapons experts to identify the weapons used from serial numbers found on the fragments. Mwatana was recognized last month with an award by US body Human Rights First.

While CNN was not on the ground, we have made our own checks using image metadata and publicly available government websites linking each of these incidents to a US manufacturer. An internationally renowned weapons expert also analyzed each image for CNN.

The incidents give a snapshot of US involvement in Yemen’s conflict through its support for the Saudi-led coalition that is battling a Houthi-led rebel insurgency. The United States says it does not make targeting decisions for the coalition. But it does support its operations through billions of dollars in arms sales, the refueling of Saudi combat aircraft and some sharing of intelligence.

Play Video

Video: US-made weapons linked to Yemen deaths 5:25

Mwatana’s chairwoman, Radhya al-Mutawakel, told CNN that the US bore a “legal and moral responsibility for selling weapons to the Saudi-led coalition” that are worsening the conflict in Yemen.

“In more than one way and during more than one incident, remnants of American weapons have been found at the site of airstrikes that killed civilians,” she told CNN from Geneva, Switzerland. “Yemeni civilians are dying every day because of this war and you (America) are fueling this war, so stop fueling this war. It is a shame that financial interests are worth more than the blood of innocent people.”

Cdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, told CNN that “the final decisions on the conduct of operations in the campaign are made by the members of the Saudi-led coalition, not the United States.” Rebarich called “upon all parties to take all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians” and said the US took “all credible accounts of civilian casualties seriously.”

Col. Turki al-Malki, the Saudi-led coalition spokesman, told CNN that the coalition would investigate.  The “coalition takes any allegations of incidents very seriously” and “targeting operations are carried out in conformity to the rules of engagement, which resemble the highest international standards,” he added.

US defense contractor Raytheon has not yet responded to a CNN request for comment.

  • 2015

    • Mwatana

      APRIL 30, 2015

      Strike on home kills one, injures six

      Coalition jets drop a bomb on a residential neighborhood in al-Basateen District, Dar Sa’ad District, Aden Governorate, according to Mwatana. The bomb lands on the home of Haifa’ al-Zawqari, who was killed in the attack, while six others, including a young girl and two women, are wounded, Mwatana says.

      CNN found that the National Stock Number (NSN) and part number on this remnant are those of a GBU-12 laser guided bomb manufactured by Raytheon, a US defense contractor. The bomb weighs 230-330 kilograms and contains 87 kilograms of highly explosive H6.

      GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb

      GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb

    • Mwatana

      MAY 26, 2015; OCTOBER 9, 2015

      Airstrikes hit a school

      A coalition airstrike hits the Ahmed Bakri School in the al-Taheta area of Hodeidah on two separate occasions, according to Mwatana. There are no recorded casualties, the group says.

      CNN found that the Commercial And Government Entity (CAGE) number on the shrapnel — “96214” — sources this weapon to Raytheon. “ADAPTER ASSY FORWARD” may relate to a GBU forward control unit used to modify a roughly 450-kilogram MK-83 bomb. It’s unclear which of the two strikes produced these remnants.

      MK-83 bomb modified with a GBU

      MK-83 bomb modified with a GBU

    • Mwatana

      AUGUST 10, 2015

      Cluster bombs hit farmer’s home, kill 10 civilians

      Saudi-led coalition planes drop three cluster bombs on the home of 28-year-old farmer Majed Ali in Bani Haddad Village, Haradh District, Hajjah Governorate, according to Mwatana. Six children and three women are among the dead, and six other civilians are injured, the group says.

      Mwatana researchers found the outer shell of a CBU-58A/B — a 430-kilogram US-made cluster bomb. CNN determined that the NSN on the remnant linked the munition to an aircraft dispenser and bomb manufactured in 1977 by the Air Armament Center, a division of the US government’s Air Force Materiel Command. The center, which closed in 2012, was once responsible for the development, acquisition, testing, and deployment of all air-delivered weapons for the US Air Force. Weapons experts told Mwatana there are usually about 630 BLU-63 spherical bomblets inside the type of shell found. According to Human Rights Watch, the United States exported 1,000 cluster bombs of this type to Saudi Arabia between 1970 and 1995. The United States is one of seven nations — including China, Israel, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia — that have rejected a ban on the sale or use of cluster bombs.

      CBU-58A/B

      CBU-58A/B

    • Mwatana

      AUGUST 28, 2015

      Strike on two houses kills 8 people

      Coalition jets drop three bombs targeting two adjacent houses in the governorate of al-Zahar, Ibb province, according to Mwatana. The attack kills eight people and injures 12 others, according to the group.

      According to an internationally renowned weapons expert consulted by CNN, this fragment appears to be part of a rear fin for a guidance unit. The CAGE number “78301” sources the part to Simonds Machinery, a company based in San Francisco. Simonds is not a weapons manufacturer, but Mwatana’s experts believe this is a part from a US-made bomb.

    • Mwatana

      SEPTEMBER 15, 2015

      Two hurt in bombing of home

      Saudi-led coalition fighters drop a bomb targeting the home of a civilian in Sana’a governorate, according to Mwatana. Two people are injured, the group says.

      The CAGE number and data on this image identify the fragment as a piece of a control actuator manufactured by Raytheon for use with its bombs. The date stamp shows this part was made in September 2010.

  • 2016

    • Mwatana

      JANUARY 6, 2016

      Factory burns for three days

      An airstrike hits a factory that stocks thousands of car parts in the Kilo 7 commercial area of Hodeidah province, Mwatana says. There are no reported casualties, but the bombing causes a fire that burns for three days, an eyewitness tells the group.

      CNN found that the CAGE number “96214” on this piece of shrapnel belongs to Raytheon. The NSN indicates that this is a guidance kit which may have been used to modify an MK-82 bomb. The markings show it was made in May 2015.

      MK-82 bomb modified with guidance kit

      MK-82 bomb modified with guidance kit

    • Mwatana

      FEBRUARY 2, 2016

      Missile strike kills 1 civilian, injures 8

      A missile from a coalition aircraft strikes the village of Al-Saar in the Hajar district of Hajjah province, according to Mwatana. One civilian is killed and eight are wounded, the group says.

      CNN found the NSN on the remnant was linked to an aircraft dispenser and bomb manufactured by the Air Armament Center, a division of the US government’s Air Force Materiel Command. The dispenser seen in the image is marked as model type CBU-52B/B, which holds 220 bomblets that would disperse in mid-air across an area roughly the size of several football fields.

      CBU-52B/B

      CBU-52B/B

    • Mwatana

      SEPTEMBER 20, 2016

      Strike on vehicle kills 15 members of one family

      An airstrike blows up a vehicle in Al-Mutama district, Al-Jawf governorate, killing 15 members of a single family including 12 children, the youngest a one-year-old boy, according to Mwatana. “Their bodies were torn to shreds. Flesh was hanging from the plants and trees,” an eyewitness tells Mwatana.

      CNN found that the CAGE number “96214” on this piece of shrapnel belongs to Raytheon. The NSN indicates this is part of a control system for a GBU-12 laser guided bomb.

      GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb

      GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb

    • Mwatana

      SEPTEMBER 24, 2016

      Apartment bombing kills 6

      An airstrike in the Dahar district of Ibb province targeted an apartment building, killing six people and wounding one, Mwatana says. Eyewitnesses tell the group they fled, terrified after the explosion and returned to find an entire family, their neighbors, wounded and dying in the street.

      The CAGE number “96214” on this part belongs to Raytheon. The Manufacturing Parts Number (or SKU) indicates this is the fin of a guidance kit that may have been used to modify an MK-82 bomb.

      MK-82 bomb modified with guidance kit

      MK-82 bomb modified with guidance kit

    • Mwatana

      OCTOBER 5, 2016

      Man killed in cluster bomb strike on fishing boat

      A cluster munition fired by Saudi-led coalition forces hits a fishing boat on the coast of Al-Hima village in Hodeidah Governorate, according to Mwatana. One man is killed, the group says.

      CNN found that the CAGE number “18894” on the remnants correlates to the US government’s Air Armament Center, a division of the Air Force Materiel Command. An arms expert for Mwatana found the parts number “ASSY 8562837-5” linked to a large-scale anti-armor submunition, one of four carried by the US-manufactured cluster bomb BLU-108. Each submunition dangles under a parachute at a predetermined altitude, scans through a built-in infrared device, and explodes when it finds a target or upon impact.

      BLU-108 submunitions contained within a Sensor Fuzed Weapon

      BLU-108 submunitions contained within a Sensor Fuzed Weapon

  • 2018

    • Mwatana

      APRIL 22, 2018

      Strike on wedding kills 21, including children

      Saudi-led coalition forces target a wedding party in Bani Qais District, Hajja Governorate, on a Sunday evening, Mwatana says. The strike kills 21 civilians, including 11 children, and injures another 97, 48 of them children, according to the group.

      Mwatana’s researchers found parts of the missile tail used in this attack. According to a weapons experts consulted by Mwatana, the part in the above photo is part of a retractor mechanism, which is used with the model GBU-12 or any other model within the set of the US-made GBU bombs. Another image from Houthi rebel-run media of the same attack showed a piece of shrapnel with the CAGE number “96214,” linking the bomb to Raytheon, and the serial number in the photo indicates it is a wing assembly part from a GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb. Investigations website Bellingcat also identified the remnant as a wing assembly part from a GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb based on a photograph published by local media.

      GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb
      GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb
      COURTESY: CNN

Russia, Turkey agree to create demilitarized zone around Syria’s Idlib

NEWS

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed to forge a demilitarized zone between rebels and Syrian government forces in Syria’s Idlib region.

    
Syrien Idlib - Zerstörter Marktplatz nach Luftangriff (picture-alliance/AA/A. Sayid)

The presidents of Turkey and Russia agreed on Monday to declare Syria’s Idlib province as a “demilitarized zone,” with the aim of halting the Syrian government’s assault on the rebel-held region.

The agreement marks a major diplomatic victory for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was eager to prevent a major Syrian government assault, backed by Russian air power, on the last remaining rebel stronghold in Syria.

What’s in the Idlib deal?

As part of the Russia-Turkey agreement:

  • Both forces will establish a 15 to 20 kilometer (9 to 12.5 mile) wide demilitarized zone around the Idlib province by October 15
  • Radical rebel groups, such as the Al-Nusra Front, will be ordered to leave the region
  • Rebel forces must give up their heavy arms, including tanks and rockets
  • The Syrian government and Russia will gain access to a key highway passing through Idlib that connects the north of the country with other major cities
  • Both Turkish and Russian military troops will patrol the region

Watch video00:24

Putin: ‘There will be a demilitarized zone’

‘A serious result’

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Monday’s deal as a “serious result,” adding that “Russia and Turkey have confirmed their determination to counter terrorism in Syria in all its forms.”

Putin also said he believed the agreement would also go some way in ending Syria’s bloody seven-year civil war. “It is our common belief that the practical realization of the planned steps will provide an additional impulse for the process of a political settlement of the Syrian conflict,” he said.

Erdogan said the Idlib buffer zone was crucial to preventing a “big humanitarian crisis.”

The Turkish president added: “Our solidarity on regional issues will give hope to the region. At the moment, I believe, not only our region but also the world is looking at Sochi today.”

Read more: What is Iran’s role in Syria if Assad wins the war?

Infografik Karte Streitkräfte im Idlib-Region Syrien EN

Turkey’s diplomatic win: The creation of a demilitarized zone around Idlib marked a significant U-turn by Putin, who just last week during talks in Iran dismissed Erdogan’s calls for a ceasefire. According to the exiled Syrian opposition, Russia’s decision to abstain from the offensive represented a diplomatic success for Turkey and the United States, who had also warned against further strikes on Idlib.

Bloodbath averted: The threat of a Syrian onslaught on Idlib had prompted several countries, including Germany, to warn of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the region. Despite coming under almost non-stop bombardment for several years, the area is still home to some 3 million Syrians, around 60,000 of whom are believed to be rebel fighters. Turkey also said it feared that an attack on the rebel bastion would trigger a mass exodus across it borders.

Idlib: A ‘hotbed’ for terrorism? The Russian government has repeatedly described Idlib as a “hotbed” for terrorism, even claiming that rebel forces were preparing a chemical attack that would ultimately be blamed on the Syrian regime. Turkey, however, has criticized the Assad government for using the presence of jihadists as pretext for a potential onslaught.

Syria still determined to wipe out Al-Nusra Front: A key part of Monday’s deal appeared to be Turkey agreeing to order the evacuation of Al-Nusra Front forces from Idlib. Earlier on Monday, the Damascus’ ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva indicated that the government would continue its onslaught against the group, which it views as a terrorist organization.

Watch video26:00

Battle for Idlib: Endgame in Syria?

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

dm/rc (AP, AFP, dpa)

COURTESY: DW

Foreign fighters in Syria’s Idlib face last stand

World

Maya Gebeily

,

AFP
1 / 3

Rebel fighters take part in a mock battle as they prepare for an expected Syrian government offensive on Idlib province at a training camp of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham on August 14, 2018

Rebel fighters take part in a mock battle as they prepare for an expected Syrian government offensive on Idlib province at a training camp of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham on August 14, 2018 (AFP Photo/OMAR HAJ KADOUR)

Beirut (AFP) – Hailing from far and wide, they flocked to Syria to wage “holy war”. Now foreign jihadists face a fight to the last to hold onto Idlib, their final bastion.

Syrian troops, backed by Russia and Iran, have massed around the northwestern province ahead of an expected onslaught against the largest rebel-held zone left in the country.

Since 2015, Idlib has been home to a complex array of anti-regime forces: secular rebels, Islamists, Syrian jihadists with ties to Al-Qaeda — and their foreign counterparts.

The non-Syrians include fighters from Uzbekistan, Chechnya and China’s ethnic Uighur minority who cut their teeth in other wars but then swarmed to Syria to take up the cause.

The threatened assault by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime could deprive the few thousand left of their last stronghold in their adopted homeland.

“These are people who cannot be integrated into Syria really, under any circumstances, who have nowhere to go and who may just be ready to die in any case,” says Sam Heller, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group.

“So they’re a real stumbling block to any solution,” Heller tells AFP.

In a bid to avert an assault, the top three powerbrokers in Syria’s war — Russia, Iran, and Turkey — agreed on Friday to work together on “stabilising” Idlib.

But they revealed few details.

A major obstacle to a substantive agreement, observers say, is the fate of jihadists in the province, including foreign hardliners.

– Uighurs with street cred –

Chased out of their own homelands and targeted in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, experienced foreign jihadists embraced Syria’s war as their own starting around 2013, two years into the conflict.

Many joined the Islamic State group but others stuck by Al-Qaeda and its former Syrian affiliate — which now leads the powerful Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance dominating Idlib.

One of the largest is the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), whose members belong to the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority facing a stifling crackdown in China’s Xinjiang region.

They gained fighting experience in Afghanistan before heading to Syria and helping to oust regime troops from Idlib in 2015.

“From there, they raided weapons stocks and ever since have been among the most potent factions in the north, so they’re not a joke,” says Heller.

Their fighters, estimated to number between 1,000 to several thousand, are based around the town of Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib’s southwest, hit in recent days by escalating artillery and rocket fire.

TIP will likely fight hard in an all-out assault, probably as a key battlefield ally for HTS, says Tore Hamming, a specialist on jihadist movements at the European University Institute.

“Not necessarily because of the group’s numbers, but because they have become known as good fighters and they’re really well-respected in the jihadi and rebel environment,” he says.

But since the TIP cannot operate in Xinjiang, a potential loss in Idlib would deprive them of one of their major “alternative battlefields”, says Hamming.

– Uzbeks, Chechens –

The TIP aren’t the only battle-hardened Asians in Idlib — Uzbek fighters have joined a smattering of groups close to HTS.

They honed their skills alongside the Taliban or Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, before heading to Syria as allies of Al-Qaeda’s then-branch there.

One group is Katiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which Russian and Kyrgyz security services say is headed by Sirozhiddin Mukhtarov, 28, also known as Abu Saloh al-Uzbeki.

Another is the Imam al-Bukhari Brigade, whose online propaganda often depicts child soldiers and which was designated as a “terror” group by the US this year.

Both are known to have fought in Idlib, but there is little other information available.

Perhaps the most infamous foreign combatants are Chechens, veterans of brutal wars with Russia and linked to HTS.

The two most prominent Chechen groups in Syria are Junud al-Sham and Ajnad al-Kavkaz, but they have kept mum in recent months to avoid picking sides in Idlib’s rebel infighting.

A regime assault could put them back in the limelight.

“Everyone is holding their breath to see what happens,” says Joanna Paraszczuk, who tracks foreign jihadists for the intelligence review IHS Jane’s.

Many travelled to Syria as early as 2012, marrying Syrian women and starting families there, so they are likely to do all they can to protect their new home.

Paraszczuk says that would mean joining battlefield coalitions with larger groups like HTS, and providing snipers and shock troops.

Moscow, in particular, would be keen to make sure any jihadists opposed to it do not make it back to Chechnya to combat its forces.

“Killing them, from that perspective, would be a psychological bonus for Russia,” says Paraszczuk.

COURTESY: YAHOO NEWS

Russia pounds Idlib, accuses US of using white phosphorus bombs

NEWS

Moscow has accused Washington of using white phosphorus in bombing raids in Syria. This comes as Russia’s ally, Syria, reportedly drops barrel bombs on civilians in Idlib.

    
F-15 planes (picture-alliance/EPA/US Air Force/M. Bruch)

Russia’s military said on Sunday that the US had carried out bombing attacks on military targets in civilian areas in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province using white phosphorus, according to the TASS and RIA news agencies.

“Two American F-15 planes carried out bombings on September 8 targeting the area of Hajin in the Deir el-Zour region using incendiary phosphorus ammunition,” Russian General Vladimir Savtchenko said in a statement.

“These strikes resulted in fierce fires. We are clarifying the information concerning possible deaths and injuries,” he said.

The jihadi “Islamic State” (IS) group, which the US under President Donald Trump has pledged to wipe out, still holds sway in a small area of Deir el-Zour.

Read moreWhat is Iran’s role in Syria if Assad wins the war?

International ban

The Geneva Conventions bans the use of bombs with white phosphorus against civilians and against legitimate military targets in areas where the population is mostly civilian.

Russia, which is giving military assistance to its ally Syrian President Bashar Assad in combating an insurgency, was itself accused in March by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights of using incendiary bombs in an offensive against the rebel stronghold of eastern Ghouta near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Moscow has described the allegations by the group, which is monitoring the conflict in Syria via a network of activists on the ground in the country, as a “shameless lie.”

Read more: Rebuilding Assad’s Syria: Who should foot the bill?

Apparent glowing white phosphorus raining from the sky over eastern Ghouta (Getty Images/AFP/H. Al-Ajweh)Russia was accused of using white phosphorus over eastern Ghouta

Idlib under attack

Moscow’s accusations against Washington come as Syrian regime and Russian aircraft on Sunday flew air strikes for a second day on the country’s last rebel bastion of Idlib.

Residents and rescuers said that Syrian army helicopters had dropped barrel bombs on villages in southern Idlib, killing at least two children, while Russian jets were reported to have carried out raids on rebel positions in the neighboring province of Hama.

Smoke rising over a village in Idlib (Getty Images/AFP/O.H. Kadour)Air strikes are gaining momentum in Idlib province

The Syrian army has denied using barrel bombs, which typically contain high explosives and shrapnel, but UN investigators have found extensive evidence to bear out the accusation.

The bombing campaign in Idlib was resumed on Saturday after a summit of the Turkish, Iranian and Russian leaders failed to reach a ceasefire agreement to avoid a military assault.

Turkey and Western countries have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if a major Russian-backed bombing offensive is launched on the region of Idlib and adjacent areas, which are home to almost 3 million people, many of them displaced by fighting elsewhere in the country. The UN has warned that such a campaign could drive up to 800,000 people from their homes.

Syria’s civil war, which has its roots in peaceful protests against Assad’s rule in 2011, has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions more.

Read more: Idlib’s civilians in survival mode for Syrian assault

Watch video01:33

Fears of a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib

tj/kl (Reuters, AFP)

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Syria war: ‘Russian’ planes bomb targets in Idlib province

  • 4 September 2018

Related Topics

Syrian firefighters try put out a fire in a building that was hit by reported Russian air strikes in the rebel-hold town of Jadraya, about 35km south-west of the city of Idlib, on September 4, 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe rebel-held town of Jadraya was among those hit on Tuesday

Russian planes have reportedly bombed rebel-held targets in the Syrian province of Idlib, as government troops mass before an expected offensive.

If confirmed, they would be the first such air strikes there in three weeks.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump warned Syria’s Bashar al-Assad against launching a “reckless attack” on Idlib.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the warning and said the Syrian army was “getting ready” to clear a “cradle of terrorism” there.

Mr Peskov said the al Qaeda-linked jihadists dominating in the north-western province of Idlib were threatening Russian military bases in Syria and blocking a political solution to the civil war.

The UN has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if an all-out assault takes place.

The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called on Russia and Turkey to act urgently to avert “a bloodbath” in Idlib.

He said telephone talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Regep Tayyip Erdogan “would make a big difference”.

Mr de Mistura also welcomed Mr Trump’s comments on the issue, saying it was sending “the right message”.

What did the air strikes target?

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that Russian jets had carried out about 30 strikes on about 16 rebel-held areas in western Idlib, the mountains of Latakia province, and the Sahl al-Ghab plain.

The pro-opposition Step News Agency reported Russian strikes on the villages of Inab, al-Janudiya, Tal Aawar, Sririf, Jadraya and al-Bariya.

A news outlet affiliated to the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist alliance Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) posted photographs showing plumes of smoke rising from several villages.

Map: Areas of control in Syria as of 3 Sep 2018
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The Syria Civil Defence, whose rescue workers are commonly known as the White Helmets, reported that three civilians had been killed in the strikes on Jisr al-Shughour.

The Syrian Observatory said the Russian air strikes were the first for 22 days and had come hours after three pro-government fighters were killed by rebel rocket fire in the Jabal Turkmen area of Latakia.

What are pro-government forces doing?

Syrian army soldiers and allied militiamen have been gearing up for what has been described as a phased offensive on Idlib, the rebels’ last remaining stronghold.

HTS, which is designated by the UN as a terrorist organisation and has an estimated 10,000 fighters in Idlib, and rival rebel factions backed by neighbouring Turkey have said they will fight back.

On Monday night, Mr Trump warned Russia and Iran, which has sent military advisers and thousands of militiamen to Syria, that they “would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy”.

On Tuesday, Mr Peskov questioned the US president’s approach to solving the problem of HTS and other jihadists operating in Idlib.

National Liberation Front fighters prepare for a government attack on Idlib province (3 September 2018)Image copyrightAFP
Image captionRebel fighters in Idlib are preparing for an attack by pro-government forces

“To just make some warnings, not taking into account a very dangerous negative potential of the whole situation in Syria, is probably an incomplete, not all-encompassing approach,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

The Kremlin spokesman said the situation in Idlib would top the agenda at a summit of the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey in Iran on Friday.

Why is the international community so worried?

Mr de Mistura has warned of a “perfect storm” if the government goes ahead with a full-scale offensive.

The jihadists must be defeated but not at the expense of thousands of civilian lives, the UN envoy said last week.

Camp for displaced people in Kafr Dariyan, near the Syrian border with TurkeyImage copyrightAFP
Image captionHundreds of thousands of people in Idlib are already experiencing dire conditions

He called for further talks on a political solution, or for humanitarian corridors to be set up to allow civilians to be evacuated temporarily to a safer area, most likely one under government control.

The UN says Idlib is home to some 2.9 million people, including a million children. More than half of the civilians have already been displaced at least once from elsewhere in Syria and have nowhere left to go.

UN officials say as many as 800,000 people could be displaced and that the already high number of people in need of aid could increase dramatically.

“A worst-case scenario in Idlib will overwhelm capacities and has the potential to create a humanitarian emergency at a scale not yet seen through this crisis,” John Ging of the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned.

COURTESY: BBC

Saudi Arabia plans to dig canal turning Qatar into an island

NEWS

A senior Saudi official has appeared to confirm Riyadh’s plans to dig a canal separating Qatar from the mainland, turning it into an island. Qatar has been diplomatically isolated from its neighbors for over a year.

    
A port in Doha, Qatar (picture-alliance/dpa/Zumapress)

A senior adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared to confirm that the kingdom is considering digging a canal along the border with the Qatari peninsula, effectively turning it into an island.

“I am impatiently waiting for details on the implementation of the Salwa island project, a great, historic project that will change the geography of the region,” Saud al-Qahtani posted on Twitter Friday.

Reports of the canal first emerged back in April on Sabq, a news website with close links to the Saudi royal family. However, al-Qahtani’s remarks were the clearest reference yet that the Saudi regime is serious about the initiative.

Watch video04:47

Qatari FM: Saudis ‘refuse to engage in dialogue’

The original report suggested that the canal would stretch some 60 kilometers (37 miles) along the Qatari border and measure around 200 meters (650 feet) in width. The cost of the project is expected to reach up to 2.8 billion riyals (€645 million, $750 million). Part of the canal is expected to host a nuclear waste facility.

Further reports in the Makkah newspaper suggested that five unnamed construction companies had been invited to bid on the project, with a winner set to be announced in September.

Read more: Qatar’s foreign minister accuses Saudi Arabia of sparking humanitarian crisis

Karte Countries that severed ties with Qatar ENG

Qatar’s regional row

Saudi Arabia’s canal project marks the latest stress point between the two oil-rich nations. The Saudi kingdom and its regional allies — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt — cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of harboring close ties to Iran and supporting various terrorist groups.

Read more: Could America’s hardline policies towards Iran be a dilemma for Arab countries?

Doha denies the charges and claims the boycott is an attempt to encroach its sovereignty.

Since the dispute erupted last year, Qatar has seen its only land border closed and residents expelled from the boycotting countries. Its state-owned airline Qatar Airways is also barred from flying over its neighbors’ airspaces.

Mediation efforts by the US and Kuwait have so far failed to resolve the diplomatic row.

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

dm/aw (AFP, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW