ISIS/ISIL conflict in Syria/Iraq (No OpEd, No Politics)

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Syria's FM says army forces ready if Idlib rebels refuse to leave demilitarized zone
Xinhua| 2018-10-15 18:04:31
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Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Monday said the Syrian army forces are ready around Idlib if the terror-designated groups refused to pull out of the demilitarized zone.

Speaking in a press conference in Damascus with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari, al-Moallem warned that there will be other options if the terror-designated groups rejected to abide by the demilitarized zone deal in northern Syria.

He said Idlib province, like any other Syrian area, will definitely return under the government control.

He said if the demilitarized zone deal, which was reached by Russia and Turkey last month, is not implemented, Syria will have other options.

His remarks came as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and its umbrella of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham rejected to withdraw from the planned demilitarized zone in northern Syria.

On Sunday evening, the al-Qaida-linked group said in a statement for the first time in response to the deal that it will continue to fight the government forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said none of the extremist groups left the demilitarized zone as they were supposed to evacuate by Oct. 15 in accordance with the Russian-Turkish deal to establish a buffer zone in certain areas in northern Syria.

The UK-based watchdog group said that cautious calm prevailed the demilitarized zone on Monday.

It added that the jihadi groups control 70 percent of the demilitarized zone.

The planned demilitarized zone stretches from the northeastern countryside of Latakia province to the northern countryside of the province of Hama and western countryside of Latakia as well as areas in the countryside of Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

The Tahrir al-Sham, or Nusra Front, is considered as the most powerful among the rebel groups in Idlib Province, which is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.

In his remarks Monday, al-Moallem said the Nusra Front must be rooted out from Idlib because it's a terrorist group.

He said the government has been prioritizing the reconciliation deals to finish the situation in Idlib out of concern for the lives of civilians in that province, where 3.5 million people live.

He, however, noted that "we cannot stand indifferent about the current situation in Idlib if Nusra Front refused to abide by the agreement."

While hinting that no military action is imminent, al-Moallem said: "We have to wait, but the Syrian Army is ready in the vicinity of Idlib."

The withdrawal of the extremist groups from the buffer zone is the second step of the Russian-Turkish deal to establish such a zone in northern Syria.

The rebels have withdrawn their heavy weapons recently but the fighters didn't.

The deal was reached in September between the leaders of Turkey and Russia, aiming at averting Idlib province, which is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, a wide-scale offensive by the Syrian Army.

The Syrian government has welcomed the deal but noted that it was temporary not a permanent one.
noted (dated October 21, 2018)
Coalition airstrike targets mosque used by Islamic State
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An airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group targeted a mosque in Syria last week because it was determined to be an insurgent command-and-control center, the U.S. said Sunday.

The coalition said in a statement that while the law of war protects mosques, the use of the building as a headquarters by IS caused it to lose that protected status. It said a dozen fighters were killed.

U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the top American commander for the Middle East, said Sunday that he is very satisfied that commanders went through the proper procedures to determine that the mosque was being used by IS and that it was a legitimate target.

"The determination that was made by the leadership on the ground that this was this mosque was not being used as a mosque," Votel told reporters traveling with him in Qatar. "These aren't hastily made decisions."

Syrian state media and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said last week that a series of strikes in Sousa near the Iraq border killed and wounded dozens; civilians as well as IS fighters.

The coalition's statement, focused on the mosque, said monitoring of the building "made us aware" of when only IS fighters were present. It said the strike took place Thursday when it was being used to coordinate attacks on the coalition and on U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Sousa is in the last IS-held pocket in Syria and Syrian Democratic Forces have been on the offensive for weeks trying to clear the area of the extremists.

The statement did not acknowledge or refute the reports of civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in the area. "We conduct inquiries into all credible allegations of civilian casualties," it said.

IS fighters recently stormed a settlement for displaced people in the area and kidnapped 130 families.


SYRIA - The leaders of Russia, Turkey, France and Germany have called for a lasting ceasefire in Syria following violence in last remaining major rebel stronghold.

A constitutional committee should meet by the end of the year, the leaders of the four countries, who gathered for a summit in Istanbul, said.

Ankara, which supports the rebels seeking to overthrow president Bashar al-Assad, and Moscow, Assad's key foreign ally, recently brokered a deal to create a demilitarised zone in Syria’s Idlib region. French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that the international community would be watching to make sure that Russia and Turkey respect the agreement they have negotiated.

Speaking after the four-way summit on Saturday, he said: "We will all be extremely vigilant to ensure that these commitments are met and that the ceasefire is stable and sustainable.

"We are counting on Russia to exert a very clear pressure on the (Syrian) regime which very clearly owes it its survival."

Under their deal last month, Turkey and Russia agreed to create a buffer zone around Idlib amid fears of an impending assault on the northwestern province. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Turkey was fulfilling its obligation regarding the agreement on Idlib. The process was not easy and Russia plans to continue cooperating, he said.

In a joint statement, Macron, Putin, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also called for a committee to be established to draft a new Syrian constitution. Mr Erdogan told reporters that should be done "as soon as possible", adding he hoped it would be before the end of the year.

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SYRIA - The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Wednesday afternoon that their troops had destroyed a Turkish military vehicle in a retaliatory attack in northern Syria.

“While our forces are leading a fierce struggle against the ISIS terrorist organization, the invader Turkish army targeted our positions along the border, violating all military engagement rules,” the SDF statement began. “We, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, emphasize that we have the right to retaliate against any attack on our lands and, if necessary, we will not refrain from exercising this right,” they continued.

“In this context, on October 31st, the invader Turkish army violated our borders, shelling the civilian population of Selim village in the Kobane region. In accordance with the rules of military engagement, our forces carried out an action. As a result, a Turkish military vehicle was destroyed,” they added.

The SDF has released an image that they claim is the destruction of the Turkish military vehicle. The Turkish Ministry of Defense has yet to respond to these claims from the Syrian Democratic Forces.

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SYRIA - US forces have been handing over suspected jihadists captured in Syria to the authorities in Iraq

SYRIA - US forces have been handing over suspected jihadists captured in Syria to the authorities in Iraq, where they face torture and botched trials, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday. The New York-based watchdog said the United States had transferred suspected Daesh members for trials in Baghdad.

“The US should not be transferring Daesh suspects from Syria to Iraq or elsewhere, if they will be at risk of torture or an unfair trial,” HRW’s Nadim Houry said.

The rights group said independent observers told them that several foreign defendants — including from France, Australia, and Lebanon — were tried in Baghdad recently and reported being captured in Syria. In some cases, the defendants said they had never been to Iraq before.

“Faced with the refusal by many countries to take back their nationals, the US seems to have taken the easy way out by transferring some to Iraq and be done with it,” Houry said.
The fate of hundreds of foreign suspected Daesh members detained by the Kurdish forces in the semi-autonomous northeastern region of Syria has become something of an international political and legal hot potato.

Most of their governments have refused to repatriate them for trials at home and the Kurdish administration holding them has signalled it did not intend to try them locally.

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Tyrant King
“The US should not be transferring Daesh suspects from Syria to Iraq or elsewhere, if they will be at risk of torture or an unfair trial,”
It's the Middle East where would they not have the risk of a Kangaroo court?