Pentagon denounces any unilateral military action in ‘their’ part of Syria as unacceptable

The US is worried that “unilateral” military action against its proxy forces might jeopardize its foothold in Syria, claiming that the Kurds are vital in the battle against IS, as Turkey vows to get rid of “separatist terrorists.”

Despite major breakthroughs in the battle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists and in the ongoing reconciliation process in Syria, the US has repeatedly made clear its intention to remain in the country indefinitely, pledging to continue to back the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to counter Bashar Assad and Iranian influence in the Kurdish-dominated part of Syria. The presence of some 2,000 US military ‘advisers’ in the country has not only angered Damascus, but has also placed Ankara in direct confrontation with its NATO ally, especially after US-backed fighters attempted to set up parallel government structures.

To get rid of what he called a “separatist terrorist organization” east of the Euphrates, where the US-supported YPG Kurdish militia of the SDF now controls much of the territory, the Turkish president earlier this week promised to launch a new military campaign in Syria “within a matter of days.”

Washington, keen to protect its interest in the area, has –somewhat hypocritically– warned Ankara against launching a “unilateral” military campaign that might endanger US soldiers, who have recently established observation posts along the Turkish-Syrian border. Kurds, the Pentagon stressed, remain a “committed partner” in Washington’s fight against Islamic State.

We would find any such actions unacceptable

“Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as US personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern,” Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. “We would find any such actions unacceptable.”

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, believes that there is not much of a threat from the crippled Islamic State in Syria anymore, and that the Turkish military has the right to act to get rid of what he called a “terrorist corridor” forming alongside its border. “It is time to realize our decision to wipe out terror groups east of the Euphrates,” Erdogan said.

It is clear that the purpose of these US observation posts is not to protect our country from terrorists but to protect terrorists from Turkey.

“Our target is not the American soldiers, it is the terror organizations that are active in the region,” Erdogan added in a televised speech, which triggered a strong response from the Pentagon.

Ankara has already conducted two major offensives in northern Syria with the help of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army. Earlier this year, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria after the US announced its renewed commitment to maintaining support of the predominantly-Kurdish militia with training and weapons. Another cross-border incursion by the Turkish military, called Operation Euphrates Shield, was held from August 2016 to March 2017 with the aim of driving out IS terrorists, and the US-backed forces away from the border.

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More Displaced People Return to Syria

Damascus, Dec 9 (Prensa Latina) The number of displaced Syrians who have returned home since 2015, not only from within the country but also from abroad, exceeds 1.5 million, according to updated statistics.

Since August, the Syrian Government has promoted the work by the Coordination Committee for the Return of Displaced Persons Abroad, which is headed by the minister for Administration, Hussein Makhlouf.

The Committee is developing links and contacts with friendly nations to take operational measures to facilitate the return of more than three million Syrian refugees in territories of the region.

Since early 2018, the country has been working for the gradual return of 890,000 refugees from Lebanon through authorities in that neighboring country, the aforementioned Syrian Committee, Russia and the United Nations agencies.

In that regard, conditions have been created in the territories liberated from terrorist groups so that internally displaced persons can return to their homes, especially in the provinces of Aleppo, Homs and Hama.

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Syria, Russia accuse rebels of wounding scores in Aleppo gas attack

BEIRUT (Reuters) - More than 100 people were wounded in a suspected toxic gas attack in Syria’s Aleppo late on Saturday, which a health official said was the first such assault in the city.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia blamed the attack on insurgents, which rebel officials denied.

Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday its warplanes bombed militants who had fired chlorine gas at Aleppo.

Moscow said it would talk to Turkey, which backs some rebel factions and helped broker a ceasefire in the insurgent stronghold of Idlib.

A monitoring group said air strikes hit rebel territory in the northwest on Sunday for the first time since Russia and Turkey agreed a buffer zone there in September.

In Aleppo city which the government controls, the shells had spread a strong stench and caused breathing problems, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said.

State news agency SANA said on Sunday 107 people were injured, including children, after militants hit three districts with projectiles containing gases that caused choking.

It marks the highest such casualty toll in Aleppo since government forces and their allies clawed back the city from rebels nearly two years ago.

“We can not know the kinds of gases but we suspected chlorine and treated patients on this basis because of the symptoms,” Zaher Batal, the head of the Aleppo Doctors Syndicate, told Reuters.

Patients suffered difficulty breathing, eye inflammation, shivering and fainting, he said. Hospitals had discharged many people overnight.

Batal said this was the first gas attack against civilians in the city since the conflict erupted more than seven years ago.

STRETCHERS AND OXYGEN MASKS

No group has claimed the attack so far. Russia said it came from territory that former al-Qaeda militants control in Idlib.

“The explosive (shells) contain toxic gases that led to choking among civilians,” Aleppo police chief Issam al-Shilli told state media.

Pictures and footage on SANA showed medical workers carrying patients on stretchers and helping them with oxygen masks.

State media said the army hit back at militants near the city but did not elaborate. Syria’s foreign ministry urged the U.N. Security Council to condemn and punish the attack.

Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razak, an official from the Nour el-Din al-Zinki insurgent faction, said rebels did not own chemical weapons or have the capacity to produce them.

“The criminal regime, under Russian instructions, is trying to accuse the rebels of using toxic substances in Aleppo. This is purely a lie,” he tweeted.

Abu Omar, a Failaq al-Sham spokesman, accused Damascus of trying to create “a malicious charade” as a pretext to attack rebel towns.

The UK-based Observatory said government shelling earlier on Saturday had killed two women and seven children in a village in Idlib.

The Russian-Turkish deal in September had staved off an expected army offensive against the Idlib region, including nearby parts of Aleppo and Hama provinces.

The dominant force among an array of factions holding sway in Idlib is Tahrir al-Sham, an Islamist alliance led by fighters formerly linked to al-Qaeda.

A past U.N.-OPCW inquiry found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in April 2017 and has also used chlorine several times. It also blamed Islamic State for using mustard gas.

Assad’s government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the war.

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Over 100 Affected by Gas Attack in Aleppo, Syria

Damascus, Nov 25 (Prensa Latina) The number of civilians affected by terrorist attacks with toxic gas projectiles reached 107 people in three neighborhoods of the Syrian city of Aleppo, 350 kilometers north of Damascus, officials said on Sunday.

The areas attacked were the neighborhoods of Kahldiyeh, Nilo and Jameyit Zahraa, in the west of the city and all the cases showed signs of suffocation, said Issam al Shali, police chief in Aleppo.

For his part, the governor of the province, Hussein Diab, toured the University and Razi health centers where those affected receive treatment, some of them reported in serious conditions.

Razi, in statements to the media, indicated that this terrorist attack confirms once again the possession of chemical weapons by terrorists, and urged the international community to assume its responsibility in this regard.

According to the sources, the symptoms of the injured respond to intoxication by inhalation of gases of a type of chlorine.

Terrorists are positioned west of Aleppo, which is less than 80 kilometers from the administrative borders with the province of Idlib.

Groups of extremists concentrate there without respecting truce or accepting negotiations, more than 40,000 terrorists led by former Al Nusra Front are stationed in Idlib.

That region, as well as northern Latakia and Hama, is contemplated in the demilitarized zone that Russia and Turkey agreed to establish last September with the acceptance of Syria.

Insistent denunciations, both from Moscow and Damascus, indicate that extremists in Idlib and areas near Aleppo frequently launch provocations and attacks with chemical substances.

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Syrian Movie Wins Golden Award at LA Film Festival

Damascus, Nov 21 (Prensa Latina) Widely acclaimed is receiving Wednesday in Syria the new award for the short film Jasmine Throes, awarded this time, and for the fifth occasion internationally, at the LA Film Festival, USA.

The characteristics of Alaa Al Sahnawi's work are described in the national newspapers and on television. This time, Alaa Al Sahnawi received the Golden Award in the direction category.

According to the news, the dramatized documentary focuses on a Syrian family living in the midst of siege and terrorism, reflecting moments of pain and death, and the the throes of a mother and her struggle to give birth to Jasmine and protect her whatever the price.

The film presents a human message and raises the issue of terrorism and extremism in a true story reflecting Syrians' pain and sadness', the director told the media.

Al-Sahnawi said the film is still on its international tour and will participate later this month in a film festival in France and another in India, and early next month in one in Australia.

This is the fifth international award that joins those of Toronto, Canada, Galveston and New York United States and at the Riven event in Ukraine.

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US promises to ‘disrupt’ oil shipments to Syria, sanctions Russian & Iranian companies

The US has introduced sanctions against what it called a network of petroleum shipments to Syria, including Russian and Iranian companies and individuals. Washington says it wants to disrupt shipments to Syrian-owned ports.

Six individuals have been sanctioned over oil shipments to Syria, the US Treasury Department has said. Three institutions have also been sanctioned.

In addition to the fresh sanctions, the US Coast Guard has issued an advisory warning of “significant sanctions risks” on petroleum shipments to Syria. The US has promised that it will “disrupt” any attempted shipments to government-owned ports in Syria.

The Treasury Department claims that the individuals and companies sanctioned are involved in a “complex and malign scheme” to bolster the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. It claims that oil is imported into Syria from Iran in defiance of American sanctions. The Syrian government then allegedly transfers cash to Islamic militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, at Iran’s direction.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

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US-led coalition bombs Syrian town with banned white phosphorus munitions – state media

The US-led coalition has reportedly targeted a Syrian town in the province of Deir ez-Zor with white phosphorus bombs. The coalition has been repeatedly accused of deploying banned munitions, yet it denies its involvement.

The coalition attacked the town of Hajin in the province of Deir ez-Zor with white phosphorus incendiary munitions, which are banned under the Geneva Convention, SANA news agency reported on Monday. No information on casualties or damage was immediately available.

FILE PHOTO. © Scott Nelson

Earlier on Monday, the agency reported another coalition airstrike in the same province, which killed three children in the village of Al-Shafah. It remains unclear, which type of munition was used during that attack.

Over the past few months, the US-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of using white phosphorus munitions in the province of Deir ez-Zor, where it supports the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting the remnants of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

In October, the Syrian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the UN Security Council, condemning the use of white phosphorus and accusing the US-led coalition of using the so-called “scorched earth” tactics. Moscow also blamed the coalition for using the banned bombs in the town of Hajin back in September, stating that the munitions triggered massive fires in the area.

Despite numerous reports of the banned weaponry usage, the coalition has repeatedly denied its involvement.

Use of any incendiary munitions in populated civilian areas was banned by the 1980 Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Washington joined the protocol back in 2009.

READ MORE: Damascus seeks UN probe over 60 civilians killed in US-led coalition strikes in Deir ez-Zor

The document, however, does not cover other white phosphorus-based munitions, namely flares, smoke screens and signals. Such a loophole allows several nations, including the US, to keep weaponry based on the compound in stock.

White phosphorus ignites on contact with oxygen, producing bright light, high-temperature heat and white smoke. Fumes of the chemical are extremely toxic, while exposure to burning phosphorus causes deep, slow-healing burns.

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Syrian Army Rejects Terror Attacks in Two Provinces

Damascus, Oct 8 (Prensa Latina) The Syrian Army rejected terror attacks in northern Hama province and neutralized similar actions in southern Sweida, military sources said on Monday.

Terrorist groups affiliated with the so-called Turkestan Party attacked the Army positions near Mansoura and Tel Waset towns, on the northern tip of Al-Ghab plain in Hama northern field.

The source stated that they tried to take advantage of the farms and olive plantations to infiltrate, but reconnaissance units detected their movements and opened fire.

'Dozens of terrorists were killed and wounded, while the rest fled to the areas under their control in southern Idlib,' the source said.

Joint units of the Army and popular forces strengthened their siege in Sweida province, some 100 kilometers south of Damascus, to the areas still controlled by the Islamic State, Daesh, in the Al-Safa mountains.

The reports stated that several suicide bombers attacked one of the Army's points in northwestern Safa, but the Syrian soldiers repelled the attack and eliminated dozens of terrorists some of them snipers, while the sappers deactivated explosives belts the attackers carried.

According to reports, the Syrian soldiers continued their operations in the liberated areas and cleaned up the cracks and caves of weapons and mine the extremists left behind.

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