Archive for September 14, 2017


2017-09-05

DAMASCUS – Syria’s army broke a years-long Islamic State group siege on the government enclave of Deir Ezzor city on Tuesday as it battles to expel the jihadists from a key stronghold.

The jihadist group has already lost more than half of its nearby bastion of Raqa to US-backed forces, and the loss of Deir Ezzor city and the surrounding oil-rich province of the same name would leave it with only a handful of isolated outposts.

Syria’s army and allied fighters, backed by Russian air support, have been advancing towards Deir Ezzor on several fronts in recent weeks, and on Tuesday arrived inside the Brigade 137 base on its western edge.

“The Syrian Arab Army this afternoon broke the siege on Deir Ezzor city after its advancing forces arrived from the western province to Brigade 137,” state news agency SANA said.

“This great achievement is a strategic shift in the war on terror and confirms the ability of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies,” the army command said.

A local journalist said a minesweeper moved ahead of troops as they arrived at the base.

As they reached the soldiers who have been besieged inside the base and adjacent parts of the city, the troops embraced and shouted patriotic slogans.

Others fired in the air and flashed victory signs, as Syrian and Russian warplanes flew overhead.

Civilians gathered on either side of the road connecting the base to neighborhoods of the city to welcome the arriving troops.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad congratulated troops in a call to commanders at the base, his office said.

“Today you stood side-by-side with your comrades who came to your rescue and fought the hardest battles to break the siege on the city,” he said.

A source in the Deir Ezzor governorate said trucks loaded with food and medicine were expected to arrive inside the besieged city from Aleppo by this evening.

Government forces and tens of thousands of civilians in the city have been trapped under IS siege for over two years, facing food and medical shortages.

Early this year, the government-held parts of the city were cut in two by an IS offensive.

The army’s advance Tuesday breaks the siege on the northern part of the city, but a southern section, which includes a key military airport, remains surrounded, with the army now 15 kilometers (nine miles) away.

Around 100,000 people are believed to be inside government-held areas of Deir Ezzor, with perhaps 10,000 more in parts of the city held by IS.

Earlier Tuesday, the national flag was raised throughout government-held areas of the city in anticipation of celebrations upon the arrival of government soldiers.

Some residents had begun greeting each other with “Good morning of victory.”

The army still faces a potentially difficult battle to break the siege on the south of the city and free its remaining neighborhoods, and the surrounding province, from IS.

But for the government, its success would be “one of the most symbolic victories in its six-year war,” wrote Syria analyst Aron Lund in a recent analysis.

– ‘Spiral of defeats’ –

“The reopening of the Deir Ezzor road is a strategic disaster for IS, which is now at its weakest since 2014 and seems unable to break out of an accelerating spiral of defeats,” he added.

IS has lost over half its other Syrian stronghold, the city of Raqa, to an offensive by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

And in neighboring Iraq, it has lost 90 percent of the territory it once held, including the city of Mosul.

Inside Deir Ezzor, residents have faced years of privation, with food becoming scare or unaffordable, and medicine and healthcare unavailable.

The government has continued to fly in limited supplies by helicopter, and the UN last year began airdropping humanitarian aid to the city.

Syria’s army began its offensive to reach the city in earnest last month, and has advanced on multiple fronts, including from the neighboring Raqa province to the west and central Homs province to the south.

It has been supported by Russia’s military, which began an intervention in support of the government in 2015.

The Syrian army’s breaking of the years-long siege of Deir Ezzor city is a “very important strategic victory,” the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

“Commander-in-chief Vladimir Putin has congratulated the Russian military command (in Syria) as well as the command of the Syrian government troops with this very important strategic victory over the terrorists with the aim of freeing Syria from ISIL,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Earlier Tuesday a Russian warship in the Mediterranean fired cruise missiles at IS fighters near the town of Al-Shula to aid the Syrian army, the Russian defense ministry said.

“As a result of these strikes there was damage to the infrastructure, underground communications, weapon stockpiles of the terrorists, and this allowed the armed contingents of government forces… to rapidly advance, break through IS defenses and unblock the city (of Deir Ezzor),” Peskov said.

Putin has also “sent a telegram to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad” praising the victory, he added.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests which were violently suppressed, leading the country into a vicious and complex civil war.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=84687.

2017-08-25

LONDON – At least 34 Syrian soldiers and allied fighters have been killed in an Islamic State counterattack in the east of Raqa province, rolling back regime gains, a monitor said Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said the jihadist group had recaptured large swathes of territory from government forces in the fighting on Thursday.

Syria’s army is seeking to advance through Raqa province to reach neighboring Deir Ezzor, where jihadists have besieged government forces and civilians in the provincial capital since 2015.

Earlier this month, government troops and allied fighters arrived at the outskirts of Madan, the last IS-held town in the eastern Raqa province countryside before Deir Ezzor.

But in Thursday’s counterattack, IS “made major progress and… expanded the area under its control along the southern bank of the Euphrates,” the Observatory said.

“IS has managed to push regime forces back 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the western outskirts of Madan,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The Syria army operation in the area, backed by air support from ally Russia, is separate from the battle for provincial capital Raqa city.

The effort to oust IS from the city, once the jihadist group’s Syrian stronghold, is being led by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

The SDF has captured just under 60 percent of Raqa city since it entered in June after months of fighting to encircle it.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=84537.

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto

Sep 09,2017

AMMAN — A study conducted by the Chinese Railway Engineering Corporation (CREM) for the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) has confirmed that the topography of the city allows the implementation of the Amman Metro, a GAM official told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

Following a memorandum of understanding signed in December 2016 between the two parties, CREM started a field study in the capital with the aim of analyzing the potential path the metro would take if established in Amman.

The study concluded that the launch of such a project would be possible on the ground.

The GAM official called these results “very positive” and “encouraging”, noting that CREM is currently preparing a more detailed study on the implementation of the metro in the city — which is expected to connect the north and south of the city through a single line.

Furthermore, the official said that, if the project was found feasible, it would be implemented in parallel with the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), with a common station connecting both systems.

“Amman needs the metro as part of the integrated transportation system, which aims to build a comprehensive transportation network where the two systems would work together,” the official stated.

Once completed, the detailed study will be submitted to the GAM later this year, along with the estimated cost and the detailed plans for the project.

If feasible, the construction and the operation of the Amman Metro will “probably” be conducted under a DBOT (design, construction, operation, transfer) model, the official said, adding that other options are yet to be considered.

The establishment of the Amman metro would reduce the “frustration” of commuters facing daily transportation hustle, the official added, stressing that many complaints were expressed over the lack of regulations in the bus service earlier this year.

However, the project still raises discrepancies among the population.

“We definitely need a new transportation infrastructure”, said student Ghazal Aburaad. “However, finding the necessary funds and organisations will present great challenges,” she continued, noting that “the government will not be able to do this without partnerships”.

This view was shared by Hazem Zureiqat, founder of the public transportation advocacy campaign Maan Nasel, who stated that “the main challenge is going to be with institutions and management”.

“If the government wants to implement this plan, it will probably have to subsidize it,” said Zureiqat, adding that the metro is a very costly system.

Furthermore, Zureiqat pointed out that this is not the first study on the implementation of a metro line in Amman, referring to the feasibility study conducted in 2010 by a French company.

“When the results of that study came out, the cost of line per kilometer was up to JD140 million, and that is why the priority was given to the BRT,” he said.

“However, the BRT is not enough and Amman needs a rail-based transportation system”, he concluded.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/amman-suitable-metro-project-%E2%80%94-field-study.

September 10, 2017

Local and charitable institutions in the city of Derna organized a balloon festival in the city where parents and children participated in releasing dozens of balloons into the city sky from different places.

Each group of balloons carried several messages calling for peace. Balloons were released from the roofs of houses and the local children’s park and the Emilia tourist resort.

The aim of this demonstration as a civil initiative is to remove the minds of people from the difficult atmosphere they are experiencing in the city because of the siege imposed by the Dignity Operation forces.

Source: The Libya Observer.

Link: https://www.libyaobserver.ly/inbrief/balloons-peace-released-over-city-derna.