Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Showcase


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

The latest news on Syria from Business Insider

older | 1 | .... | 181 | 182 | (Page 183) | 184 | 185 | .... | 232 | newer

    0 0

    rangers syriaSeveral days ago, a convoy of U.S. troops was spotted crossing the border into Syria from Iraqi Kurdistan.

    The convoy, comprised mostly of hulking Stryker armored fighting vehicles, was en route to the Syrian village of Manbij, which was recently liberated from ISIS.

    It’s the most overt U.S. military action on the ground in Syria to date. In fact, each vehicle in the convoy was outfitted with a large American flag. The soldiers were meant to be seen. It didn’t take long for photos to surface on the internet, and the Department of Defense was prepared with an explanation.

    According to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, the soldiers were deployed to Syria to keep peace among the myriad militias and other forces who have temporarily set aside longstanding feuds to focus on repelling ISIS from Manbij.

    “It’s a visible reminder, for anybody who’s looking to start a fight, that the only fight that should be going on right now is with ISIS,” Davis told the Associated Press.

    Until now, the American mission in Syria has been limited to training, advising, and equipping local forces, and the occasional clandestine raid. But the troops who just arrived in Syria do not specialize in standing up or bolstering indigenous armies (a mission set known as Foreign Internal Defense, which is exclusive to certain units under the military’s Special Operations Command). They’re not Green Berets, or Navy SEALs, or MARSOC Raiders. They are members of the U.S. military’s premier raid force — the 75th Ranger Regiment.  

    The Rangers have a storied history of spearheading brazen offensives behind enemy lines. In 1989, the entire 75th Ranger Regiment — which is currently composed of four battalions — parachuted into Panama the day before the bulk of conventional U.S. military forces arrived on the ground. Several years later, 3rd Ranger Battalion fought a savage 18-hour battle alongside Delta Force in Mogadishu — an event immortalized in Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down.”

    army rangers at night with dogs

    Immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, members of 3rd Battalion parachuted into Kandahar during the invasion of Afghanistan, and on March 28, 2003, 3rd Battalion executed the first airborne assault in Iraq.

    Simply put, Rangers take the fight to the enemy. You can read all about it in the section dedicated to them on the website for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, which oversees the 75th Ranger Regiment. “Their capabilities include air assault and direct action raids seizing key terrain such as airfields, destroying strategic facilities, and capturing or killing enemies of the Nations,” it reads. “Rangers are capable of conducting squad through regimental size operations using a variety of infiltration techniques including airborne, air assault, and ground platforms.”               

    The Rangers who entered Syria in a convoy of those “ground platforms” were identified by Jack Murphy, the editor-in-chief of SOFREP, a subscription-based website that covers U.S. military special operations from an insider’s point of view.

    Murphy, a former Ranger himself, was able to identify the Rangers as members of 3rd Battalion by the callsigns plastered on the backs of their vehicles; in doing so, he sparked outrage (of the Facebook and Twitter variety) from people in the special operator community who believe he violated the classified information non-disclosure agreement that all operators sign when they leave Special Operations Command.  

    But, hey, the cat is out of the bag. There are Rangers in Syria.

    Their mission, the Pentagon says, is temporary, although no specific time frame has been provided. And the mission is to keep the peace in a village that was just cleared by local forces, aided by U.S. special operations troops and American bombs. Threatening that peace is a multiplicity of armed groups that don’t normally get along — including Russian-backed Syrian regime forces, Kurdish rebels, and an American-backed coalition of Syrian Arabs. According to the AP, the Turkish government has vowed to eject any Kurds who remain in Manbij by force if necessary. And of course, ISIS and its sympathizers may still lurk in the battle space, as well.

    Clear and hold, clear and hold, clear and hold — if that phrase looks familiar, it’s because it was the core counterinsurgency strategy employed by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The premise is simple: soldiers clear a city or village of insurgents and then a residual force hangs around to keep the peace and win over the local population. The tactic was used in Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul, Kandahar, Kunar, and just about every other insurgent hotbed that claimed the lives of American soldiers during the wars. Many of those soldiers were killed long after the “clear” phase of the operation was over. Now, it seems, the Rangers are playing the role of the residual force.

    The Rangers, however, aren’t known to stay in any one place for long. They’re usually in and out. According to one former Ranger, who asked not to be named to avoid being accused of violating the NDA he signed when he left Regiment, 72 hours on the ground is “all they are trained or equipped to do.” He added: “Haditha Dam was a week, but that was one of the longest [operations] of the entire war.”

    army ranger awards

    So what happens when the Rangers leave the objective? Well, when the goal is to ensure peace in a key area of the battle space — which Manbij certainly is — the Rangers typically hand the objective off to a conventional infantry unit, like the 82nd Airborne (which is currently deployed to Iraq).

    Then the Rangers move on. In this case, they’d probably head east, toward the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.

    The U.S. military is now fully invested in the war against ISIS. In northern Iraq, American forces have the benefit of clear battle lines and the fact that friendly Kurds control the road that connects Mosul with Erbil, where the U.S.-led coalition is headquartered. In Syria, however, the logistics are a lot trickier.

    The presence of competing armed groups and a beleaguered central government mean that any ground taken on the way to Raqqa must be held to prevent infighting. And the arrival of the Rangers in Manbij seems to indicate that the U.S military is willing to hold it. More troops will follow them across the berm.

    SEE ALSO: This is the advanced anti-missile defense system being deployed to Korea — and it has Beijing spooked

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A Navy SEAL explains what to do if you're attacked by a dog


    0 0

    us marines firing shooting

    A Marine detachment from an amphibious task force has left its ships to deploy to Syria near Raqqa, defense officials told The Washington Post.

    While special-operations advisers have been on the ground in the country for some time, the move shifts more conventional personnel into the country and represents a new escalation of the US's involvement there.

    Two officials, speaking anonymously, told The Post that the troops were part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit out of San Diego. The units on the ground include elements of an artillery battery that can fire 155-millimeter shells from M777 Howitzers. Other infantrymen will provide security and other members of the expeditionary unit will deal with supplies.

    Other Marines have been redeployed from Djibouti to Syria for support, another defense official told The Post.

    That official said the deployment into Syria did not originate with President Donald Trump's call for a new plan to deal with ISIS. Rather, it was some time coming.

    "The Marines answer a problem that the [operation] has faced,” the official told The Post, adding that they would provide "all-weather fires considering how the weather is this time of year in northern Syria."

    The estimated maximum range of the M777 howitzer is about 20 miles, meaning the artillery base must be about that distance from the operation it is supporting. Some artillery rounds Marines have used in the past, however, can cover closer to 30 miles.

    The deployment comes days after a convoy of US troops crossed into Syria from Iraqi Kurdistan.

    The troops, comprised of US Army Rangers, were sent to Manbij in northern Syria purportedly to keep peace among the array of militias and other groups that have come together to combat ISIS.

    “It’s a visible reminder, for anybody who’s looking to start a fight, that the only fight that should be going on right now is with ISIS,” Pentagon spokesman and Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told the Associated Press.

    SEE ALSO: US-backed fighters turn territory over to Syrian government to create buffer between Kurds, Turks

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here are 5 things different about Trump's new travel ban


    0 0

    putin netanyahu

    MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks expected to focus on the situation in Syria.

    Greeting Netanyahu at the start of their talks, Putin emphasized a high level of trust between them.

    Netanyahu hailed Russia's role in fighting the Islamic State group and other radical militants in Syria. At the same time, he warned of the danger posed by radical Shiite groups, an apparent reference to the Hezbollah movement.

    Russia has sided with Iran and Hezbollah in helping support Syrian President Bashar Assad, but at the same time it has maintained warm ties with Israel. The two nations have coordinated to prevent any possible incidents between their militaries in Syria.

    Netanyahu's visit to Moscow follows his talks with U.S. President Donald Trump last month.

    SEE ALSO: 'Disingenuous and absurd': White House slams resurfaced reports of Trump meeting with the Russian ambassador

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 'It's a lie': Jake Tapper calls out Trump during a fiery interview with Kellyanne Conway


    0 0

    US Marines 11th MEU

    US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

    Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more "boots on the ground" suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.

    Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

    Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its "regional partners"— Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.

    But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa. 

    "For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out," the Post wrote. 

    The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.

    USMC artillery ISIS

    Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though "some" were operating inside Syria.

    Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

    Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

    special forces

    Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as "adding 'precision' to ground operations," wrote The Institute for the Study of War, "it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation."

    A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment. 

    Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to "Syrian partnered forces" who will eventually assault Raqqa.

    The Marines and Rangers will provide the "commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS," Dorrian told Business Insider.

    He added: "The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners."

    The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a "reserve force" for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.

    The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

    A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

    SEE ALSO: 'We are not meant to sit at home' — Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Top foreign policy expert: Here's why China isn't more outspoken about North Korea's nuclear ambitions


    0 0

    syrian democratic forces sdf fighter

    BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.S.-backed Syrian forces said on Thursday they were closing in on Islamic State-held Raqqa and expected to reach the city outskirts in a few weeks, as a U.S. Marines artillery unit deployed to help the campaign.

    The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a militia alliance including the Kurdish YPG, is the main U.S. partner in the war against Islamic State in Syria. Since November it has been working with the U.S.-led coalition to encircle Raqqa.

    SDF spokesman Talal Silo said: "We expect that within a few weeks there will be a siege of the city."

    Coalition spokesman U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian said the additional U.S. forces would be working with local partners in Syria - the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Arab Coalition - and would not have a front line role.

    Some 500 U.S. personnel are already in Syria to help the fight against IS. A 400-strong additional deployment which arrived in recent days comprised both Marines and Army Rangers, Dorrian said, adding they were there temporarily.

    Coalition airstrikes killed 23 civilians, including eight children, in the countryside north of Raqqa on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor said. The coalition said it was investigating the incident.

    Islamic State is also being fought in Syria by the Russian-backed Syrian military, and by Syrian rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner with Turkish backing in northern Syria and Jordanian backing in southern Syria. 

    On the other major flank of the assault on IS, Iraqi forces aim to dislodge the militant group from west Mosul within a month.

    This week, the SDF cut the road between Raqqa and the jihadists' stronghold of Deir al-Zor province - the last main road out of the city which is bordered to the south by the Euphrates River.

    Dorrian said the effort to isolate Raqqa was "going very very well" and could be completed in a few weeks. "Then the decision to move in can be made," he told Reuters by telephone.

    The artillery will help "expedite the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa", he said, using another acronym for Islamic State. The Marines were armed with 155-millimetre artillery guns. Asked if they had been used yet, Dorrian said he did not believe so. 

    "We have had what I would describe as a pretty relentless air campaign to destroy enemy capabilities and to kill enemy fighters in that area already. That is something that we are going to continue and intensify with this new capability."

    A Kurdish military source told Reuters that further U.S. reinforcements were expected to arrive in the coming days. 

    sdf syrian democratic forces fighters raqqa

    SDF ruled out Turkey role

    The U.S. military alliance with the SDF and YPG has strained relations with U.S. ally Turkey, which views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

    Fearing deepening Kurdish influence in northern Syria, Turkey has been pressing Washington for a role in the final assault on Raqqa. SDF spokesman Silo said the SDF had ruled out that idea during a meeting with U.S. officials last month.

    "The Turkish side is an occupation force and it cannot be allowed to occupy more Syrian land," he told Reuters. The meeting in northern Syria was attended by U.S. Senator John McCain and U.S. military officials, he said.

    Dorrian said the Army Rangers were on a different mission to the Marines in a previously announced deployment near the city of Manbij to "create some reassurance" for Turkey and U.S. partners in Syria - a reference to the SDF.

    Turkey says the Kurdish militia maintains a presence in Manbij. The YPG denies this. 

    Dorrian said a possible role for Turkey "remains a point of discussion at military leadership and diplomatic levels".

    He added that a new shipment of armored personnel carriers had been supplied to the Syrian Arab Coalition, part of the SDF which has been vetted by the U.S.-led coalition, since an earlier delivery was announced in late January.

    (Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Toby Chopra)

    SEE ALSO: US troops seem poised to take a prominent role in attacking the ISIS capital

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A Navy SEAL explains what to do if you're attacked by a dog


    0 0

    isis islamic state militants

    A new Islamic State is being constituted in Syria, and no one is paying attention— yet.

    "There's a second Islamic State that has emerged," says Theo Padnos, adding: "Nobody knows what is happening in the northwestern corner of Syria. I know because I'm in touch with some of these people, and they're making videos all the time. We just haven't connected the dots."

    Padnos is a freelance journalist who, in 2012, was kidnapped in Syria and held captive by elements of Al Qaeda and the Nusra Front. He was released two years later, following negotiations led by the head of Qatar State Security.

    In a wide-ranging interview with RiskHedge's Jonathan Roth, Padnos explains this new entity that's growing in Syria.

    "There's a second Islamic State; it's right on the Turkish border," Padnos explains. "To get to this second Islamic State from any European country, it's a couple of days on the bus. Young kids are going every day — that's what the guys on the ground in Syria are telling me: 'Oh yes, we have new French people, new English people every day.'"

    The former captive says the Syrian government is winning the war in Syria, but the victory is coming with a cost. "[The Syrian Army] is dispersing the rebels," Padnos reports. "The rebels have been concentrating in certain urban neighborhoods, and now they're going off into the countryside. They're occupying villages. And when the US Army or the Kurds or some combination finally arrives in Raqqa [the capital of the Islamic State], all those ISIS fighters — they will have been gone for weeks. They're out of town now."

    Padnos isn't shy about describing what he believes is happening in Syria today and the implications for the United States and the West. "We must develop a strategy that is more powerful than their 'fade into the hills' strategy. Otherwise, it will be whack-a-mole forever … If it sounds like I'm advocating for peace with ISIS, well I am. There's too many of them to kill."

    Listen to the full podcast interview with Theo Padnos above.

    A new documentary film about Padnos is also in theaters. Watch the trailer below:

    SEE ALSO: A huge oil price spike is inevitable

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here’s why flights take longer than they did 50 years ago


    0 0

    The UN said satellite images of areas affected by the fighting in southeastern Turkey show an

    Geneva (AFP) - The UN on Friday accused Turkish security forces of serious human rights violations during operations against Kurdish militants in the southeast since July 2015 when a regional ceasefire collapsed.

    A report from the UN rights office details evidence of "massive destruction, killings and numerous other serious human rights violations committed between July 2015 and December 2016 in southeast Turkey".

    "Government security operations" have impacted more than 30 towns and displaced between 335,000 to half a million mostly Kurdish people, the report further said.

    The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984, although violence was contained during the truce agreed in 2013.

    FILE PHOTO: A portrait of Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan is seen as supporters wave flags before his speech at the Ethias Arena in Hasselt, Belgium, May 10, 2015.  REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

    But fighting resumed when the ceasefire collapsed in summer 2015.

    Satellite images of areas affected by the latest unrest "indicate an enormous scale of destruction of the housing stock by heavy weaponry", the report said.

    In Cizre, a mainly Kurdish town on the Syrian border, residents described the devastation of neighbourhoods as "apocalyptic", the UN said.

    In early 2016, nearly 200 of the town's residents, among them children, "were trapped for weeks in basements without water, food, medical attention and power before being killed by fire, induced by shelling," it said.

    The allegations come at a sensitive time for Ankara which is gearing up for a controversial April referendum on whether to create an executive presidency that would expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.

    A Turkish soldier on armoured military vehicle patrols the border between Turkey and Syria, near the southeastern village of Besarslan, in Hatay province, Turkey, November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

    UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticised Erdogan's government directly, saying he was "particularly concerned by reports that no credible investigation has been conducted into hundreds of alleged unlawful killings."

    "Not a single suspect was apprehended and not a single individual was prosecuted," Zeid said in a statement.

    So far, Erdogan's government has not agreed to any requests from the UN rights office to visit the areas affected by the anti-PKK operations.

    More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the military and the PKK, which seeks greater rights and autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish minority.

    The insurgent group is a proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

    SEE ALSO: Turkey warns US relations are at risk if Kurds help retake Raqqa

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A $2.5 trillion asset manager just put a statue of a defiant girl in front of the Wall Street bull


    0 0

    General Joseph Votel, the head of the U.S. military?s Central Command, speaks aboard the USS New Orleans, an amphibious dock ship, as it travels through the Strait of Hormuz July 11, 2016.  REUTERS/Phil Stewart

    The top US commander in the Middle East signaled Thursday that there will be a larger and longer American military presence in Syria to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State group and quell friction within the complicated mix of warring factions there.

    Gen. Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command, told senators Thursday that he will need more conventional US forces to insure stability once the fight to defeat Islamic State militants in their self-declared capital of Raqqa is over.

    The US military, he said, can't just leave once the fight is over because the Syrians will need help keeping IS out and ensuring the peaceful transition to local control.

    Votel's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee comes as up to 400 US forces have moved into Syria in recent days.

    Well more than half of those are Marines, bringing in large artillery guns for the Raqqa fight, and the rest are Army Rangers who went into northern Syria to tamp down skirmishes between Turkish and Syrian forces near the border. The numbers have been fluctuating, often on a daily basis, as troops move in and out.

    "I think as we move towards the latter part of these operations into more of the stability and other aspects of the operations, we will see more conventional forces requirements," Votel said. Until recently, the US military presence in Syria was made up of special operations forces advising and assisting the US-backed Syrian troops.

    It will be critical, Votel said, to get humanitarian aid, basic working services and good local leaders in place in Raqqa so that businesses can return and the city can move on.

    Syria map 2017

    He also told senators that the US is looking for options to ease the tensions with Turkey over the plan to use US-backed Syrian Kurds in the fight to oust Islamic State fighters from Raqqa. But he offered no details on what those options could be.

    The US is considering arming the Syrian Kurdish forces, which the Pentagon considers the most effective fighters against IS militants in northern and eastern Syria. But Turkey, a key NATO ally, considers the Syrian force, known as the YPG, a terrorist organization. Turkey wants to work with other Syrian opposition fighters known as the Free Syrian Army to liberate Raqqa.

    Pentagon leaders sent a new plan to defeat IS to the White House late last month that included a variety of options for the ongoing fight in Iraq and Syria. The White House hasn't yet approved the plans, but the recent deployments into Syria suggest that President Donald Trump may be leaning toward giving the Pentagon greater flexibility to make routine combat decisions in the IS fight.

    A Syrian Democratic Forces(SDF) fighter poses for a picture near Euphrates River, north of Raqqa city, Syria. REUTERS/Rodi Said

    Military commanders frustrated by what they considered micromanagement under the previous administration have argued for greater freedom to make daily decisions on how best to fight the enemy

    In separate comments, Votel also reaffirmed that more American forces are needed in Afghanistan, a point the top US commander in that country made to Congress several weeks ago. Votel agreed that the fight against the Taliban is in a stalemate, and said "it will involve additional forces" to ensure the US can better advise and assist the Afghan forces.

    US Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month that he needs a few thousand more troops to help end the stalemate there. And Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in recent weeks that he will make decisions soon on whether to recommend an increase in the US force.

    SEE ALSO: US troops seem poised to take a prominent role in attacking the ISIS capital

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: An ACLU lawyer tells us why you should be careful talking to the police after being pulled over


    0 0

    Bashar al Assad

    BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he yet to see "anything concrete" from U.S. President Donald Trump over his vow to defeat Islamic State and called U.S. forces deployed in Syria "invaders" because they were there without government permission.

    Assad, in an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix, said "in theory" he still saw scope for cooperation with Trump though practically nothing had happened in this regard.

    Assad said Trump's campaign pledge to prioritize the defeat of Islamic State had been "a promising approach" but added: "We haven't seen anything concrete yet regarding this rhetoric."

    Assad dismissed the U.S.-backed military campaign against Islamic State in Syria as "only a few raids" he said had been conducted locally. "We have hopes that this administration ... is going to implement what we have heard," he added.

    Asked about a deployment of U.S. forces near the northern city of Manbij, Assad said: "Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation ... are invaders."

    "We don't think this is going to help".

    (Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Toby Chopra)

    SEE ALSO: Britain: We're 'open-minded' on the timeline for Assad relinquishing power

    Join the conversation about this story »


    0 0

    damascus bombing

    A double bomb attack targeting Shi'ite pilgrims in Damascus killed at least 40 Iraqis and wounded 120 more who were going to pray at a nearby shrine, the Iraqi foreign ministry said.

    There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday's attack, which the Hezbollah-run al-Manar TV station said had been carried out by two suicide bombers.

    Footage broadcast by Syrian state TV showed two badly damaged buses with their windows blown out. The area was splattered with blood and shoes were scattered on the ground.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been supported in the country's war by Shi'ite militias from countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

    The attack took place at a bus station where the pilgrims had been brought to visit the nearby Bab al-Saghir cemetery, named after one of the seven gates of the Old City of Damascus.

    The second blast went off some 10 minutes after the first at around 10 a.m. (0800 GMT), inflicting casualties on civil defense workers who had gathered to tend to the casualties, the Damascus correspondent for al-Manar told the station by phone.

    The pilgrims were due to pray at the cemetery after visiting the Sayeda Zeinab shrine just outside Damascus, he said.

    Sayeda Zeinab - the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad - is venerated by Shi'ites and her shrine is a site of mass pilgrimage for Shi'ites from across the world. It has also been a magnet for Shi'ite militiamen in Syria.

    Iran has backed Assad in the conflict that erupted in 2011. The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah is also fighting in support of Assad.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organization that reports on the war, said the number of dead was at least 44. The death toll was expected to rise due to the many serious injuries, it added.

    Last June, Islamic State claimed responsibility for bomb attacks near the Sayeda Zeinab shrine. The last bomb attack in Damascus was in January, when a suicide bomber hit the heavily police Kafr Sousa neighborhood, killing at least seven people.

    (Additional reporting by Maher Chmaytelli in Baghdad; Editing by Alexander Smith and Dominic Evans)

    SEE ALSO: ISIS has begun freeing prisoners as its grip on its last major city slips

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here are 5 things different about Trump's new travel ban


    0 0

    travel ban

    Washington (AFP) - Over 130 US foreign policy experts have denounced President Donald Trump's revised travel ban, saying it undermines America's national security and interests as much as the original order barring travelers from some Muslim-majority countries and refugees.

    "To Muslims — including those victimized by or fighting against ISIS (Islamic State) — it will send a message that reinforces the propaganda ... that falsely claim the United States is at war with Islam," read the letter by former government officials and experts.

    "Welcoming Muslim refugees and travelers, by contrast, exposes the lies of terrorists and counters their warped vision," added the document dated Friday.

    Among the 134 signatories were some who served in either or both Republican and Democratic administrations were former senior diplomat Nicholas Burns, ex-National Security Council counter-terrorism director Richard Clarke and ex-undersecretary of defense Michele Flournoy.

    Most served under Democratic presidents, including former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, former Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, ex-national security advisor Susan Rice and ex-National Counterterrorism director Matthew Olsen.

    Their comments echo those being made in court by US states claiming the modified measures discriminate against Muslims and are detrimental to US interests.

    "Bans like those included in this order are harmful to US national security and beneath the dignity of our great nation," the letter read.

    trump protest

    The executive order "weakens this country's ability to provide global leadership and jeopardizes our national security interests by failing to support the stability of our allies that are struggling to host large numbers of refugees," it added.

    The letter was also sent to Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security chief John Kelly and Acting Director of National Intelligence Michael Dempsey.

    The revised directive temporarily closes US borders to all refugees and citizens from six mainly-Muslim countries. 

    It denies US entry to all refugees for 120 days and halts for 90 days the granting of visas to nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

    The new order, unveiled Monday, is due to go into effect March 16 and replaces the previous Trump directive that was blocked in federal court. 

    The blocked order included an indefinite Syrian refugee travel ban and its blacklist of barred countries included Iraq.

     

    SEE ALSO: 'I am heartbroken': Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai condemns Trump's refugee ban

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Terry Crews explains how intermittent fasting keeps him in shape


    0 0

    bashar al-assad

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said U.S. forces in Syria were "invaders" and he had yet to see "anything concrete" emerge from U.S. President Donald Trump's vow to prioritize the fight against Islamic State.

    Assad has said he saw promise in Trump's statements emphasizing the battle against Islamic State in Syria, where U.S. policy under President Barack Obama had backed some of the rebels fighting Assad and shunned him as an illegitimate leader.

    "We haven't seen anything concrete yet regarding this rhetoric," Assad said in an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix. "We have hopes that this administration in the United States is going to implement what we have heard," he said.

    The United States is leading a coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

    In Syria, it is working with an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias. Their current focus is to encircle and ultimately capture Raqqa - Islamic State's base of operations in Syria.

    This week, the U.S.-led coalition announced that around 400 additional U.S. forces had deployed to Syria to help with the Raqqa campaign and to prevent any clash between Turkey and Washington-allied Syrian militias that Ankara sees as a threat.

    Asked about a deployment of U.S. forces near the northern city of Manbij, Assad said: "Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation ... are invaders."

    "We don't think this is going to help."

    us soldiers syria

    Around 500 U.S. forces are already in Syria in support of the campaign against Islamic State.

    Assad said that "in theory" he still saw scope for cooperation with Trump, though practically nothing had happened in this regard. He dismissed the U.S.-backed military campaign against Islamic State in Syria as "only a few raids", and said a more comprehensive approach was needed.

    The U.S.-led coalition is currently backing a campaign by its Syrian militia allies to encircle and ultimately capture Raqqa, Islamic State's base of operations in Syria.

    Assad noted that the Russian-backed Syrian army was now "very close" to Raqqa city after advancing to the western banks of the Euphrates River this week - a rapid gain that has brought it to the frontier of areas held by the U.S.-backed forces.

    He said Raqqa was "a priority for us", but indicated that there could also be a parallel army attack towards Deir al-Zor in the east, near the Iraqi border. Deir al-Zor province is almost completely controlled by Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

    The Deir al-Zor region had been "used by ISIS as a route for logistics support between ISIS in Iraq and ISIS in Syria, so whether you attack the stronghold or you attack the route that ISIS uses, it (has) the same result," Assad said.

    Intelligence cooperation with China

    assadWith Russian and Iranian military support, Assad firmly has the upper hand in the war with rebels who have been trying to topple him with backing from states including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

    U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva ended earlier this month with no breakthrough. Assad said he hadn't expected anything from Geneva. He added that deals brokered locally with rebels were "the real political solutions" since the war began.

    The so-called local "reconciliation" agreements are the government's preferred method for pacifying rebellious areas, and have often been concluded after years of government siege and bombardment.

    In some cases, the rebels have been given safe passage to the insurgent-dominated province of Idlib. The opposition says the agreements amount to forced displacement.

    "We didn't expect Geneva to produce anything, but it's a step and it's going to be a long way," Assad said. He added that it would be up to Syrians to decide their future political system, and there would be a referendum on it.

    Assad also praised "crucial cooperation" between Syria and Chinese intelligence against Uighur militants who have joined the insurgency against him. He said ties with Beijing were "on the rise".

    China and Russia last month blocked U.N. sanctions on Syria over accusations of chemical weapons attacks during the war.

    (Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Toby Chopra and Dominic Evans)

    SEE ALSO: Trump's secretary of state pick has a plan for fighting ISIS that has the same fatal flaw as Obama's strategy

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This animation shows how terrifyingly powerful nuclear weapons have become


    0 0

    A UNICEF report shows that 2016 has been the "worst year" for children in Syria, where young people have "come under attack on a daily basis."

    In its report, UNICEF writes that cases of children being killed, maimed, and recruited increased sharply last year in a "drastic escalation of violence across the country."

    UNICEF recorded a 20% increase in the number of the violent deaths of children in 2016, with at least 652 children dying. This graphic shows some of the worse violations committed against Syrian children:

    GRAVE VIOLATIONS AGAINST CHILDREN IN 2016

    "The depth of suffering is unprecedented. Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down," Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa said in a statement. "Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being, and future."

    There are still an estimated 280,000 children living under siege in Syria, meaning they are almost completely cut off from humanitarian aid, and nearly six million children now depend on humanitarian assistance.

    Since the war in Syria began in 2011, over 310,000 people have been killed and millions have been forced to flee their homes. There are now over 2.3 million Syrian child refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.

    The whole report is available here.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This animation shows how terrifyingly powerful nuclear weapons have become


    0 0

    syria airstrike

    ASTANA (Reuters) - Russia, Turkey and Iran are pressing ahead with a fresh round of Syria talks in Kazakhstan, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said on Monday, despite a request from Syrian rebels to delay the meeting.

    A Syrian government delegation arrived in Astana later on Monday to attend the talks, Syrian state media reported.

    "We are awaiting confirmations from the other parties to the meeting," Abdrakhmanov told parliament, adding that delegations had already started arriving in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

    Syrian rebel groups called last week for the postponement of the talks and said further meetings would depend on whether the government and its allies adhered to a newly declared March 7-20 ceasefire.

    The third round of Astana talks is due to take place on March 14-15. The previous meetings aimed to shore up a widely violated ceasefire between the sides that was brokered in December by Russia and Turkey, which backs the rebels.

    (Reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Dominic Evans and Toby Chopra)

    SEE ALSO: This infographic shows the grave violations against Syrian children last year

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Hackers and governments can see you through your phone’s camera — here’s how to protect yourself


    0 0

    aleppo

    BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said on Monday there are so far about 465,000 people killed and missing in Syria's civil war.

    The war began six years ago on Wednesday with protests against President Bashar al-Assad's government. It has since dragged in global and regional powers, allowed Islamic State to grab huge tracts of territory and caused the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war.

    The Observatory said it had documented the deaths of more than 321,000 people since the start of the war and more than 145,000 others had been reported as missing.

    Among those killed are more than 96,000 civilians, said the Observatory, which has used a network of contacts across the country to maintain a count of casualties since near the start of the conflict.

    It said government forces and their allies had killed more than 83,500 civilians, including more than 27,500 in air strikes and 14,600 under torture in prison.

    Rebel shelling had killed more than 7,000 civilians, the Observatory said.

    The Islamic State jihadist group has killed more than 3,700 civilians, air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition have killed 920 civilians and Turkey, which is backing rebels in northern Syria, has killed more than 500 civilians, it added.

    Syria's government and Russia both deny targeting civilians or using torture or extrajudicial killings. Most rebel groups and Turkey also deny targeting civilians. The U.S.-led coalition says it tries hard to avoid civilian casualties and always investigates reports that it has done so.

    (Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Julia Glover)

    SEE ALSO: Here's how the war in Syria unfolded

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A body-language expert analyzes Trump's unique handshakes


    0 0

    Children walk together as they flee deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail  A new report from the children’s charity UNICEF says Syrian children have “paid the heaviest price in this six-year war,” laying out in stark detail the horrors perpetrated against minors during the civil war in 2016 alone, with 652 children killed in attacks and at least 850 others recruited to take part in the fighting — including, in extreme cases, as executioners, suicide bombers, and prison guards.

    The report says that a drastic escalation of violence meant that suffering “hit rock-bottom” for Syrian children in 2016.

    “The depth of suffering is unprecedented,” Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement. “Millions of children in Syria come under attack on a daily basis, their lives turned upside down. Each and every child is scarred for life with horrific consequences on their health, well-being and future.”

    As well as the rising death toll, the conflict has also forced families to take drastic measures just to survive. This has seen a rise in child labor, early marriage and child recruitment. The number of children coerced to take part in fighting almost tripled compared to 2015, and children are being recruited at an ever younger age.

    Juliette Touma, Unicef’s regional spokesperson, told the Guardian that children are “being used to man checkpoints, being trained to use weapons, serving as prison guards. We also have reports of sexual abuse of girls by underage children, so it’s very grim.”

    The charity says the number of children who have died in fighting is likely to be much higher than the verified figure given.

    aleppo syria

    Here are some of the grim statistics:

    • 5.8 million children in Syria are in need of aid
    • 652 children were killed from attacks in 2016 — a 20% increase on the year before
    • 255 of the children killed in Syria last year died in or near a school
    • 96 children were killed in Aleppo with 223 children injured in a single week last September
    • 84 attacks on schools were documented by the United Nations in 2016
    • 850 children were recruited last year to fight in the conflict, up from 362 in 2015
    • 6 million children now depend on humanitarian aid to survive – a 12-fold increase from 2012
    • 2.3 million children are now living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, with many taking the “death boats” crossing the Mediterranean to Europe
    • 280,000 children live under siege in hard-to-reach areas, with food and medical supplies almost severely restricted

    There are some small signs of hope however. Last year, some 12,600 school children crossed active conflict lines in Syria to sit for their final school exams.

    SEE ALSO: Syria's Assad calls US troops 'invaders' but still hopes to cooperate with Trump

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A body-language expert analyzes Trump's unique handshakes


    0 0

    Syria damascus blasts

    BEIRUT (Reuters) - Two suicide bomb attacks killed at least 31 people and wounded dozens more in Damascus on Wednesday, state media reported, in the second such spate of bombings in the Syrian capital in five days.

    The first suicide bomber targeted the Palace of Justice, the main courthouse in central Damascus near the Old City. Justice Minister Najem al-Ahmad told reporters the initial death toll was 31, mostly civilians.

    The second suicide blast struck a restaurant in the al-Rabweh area of Damascus to the west of the first attack causing several casualties, state media reported.

    The courthouse bomber set off his explosive device at 1:20 p.m. (1120 GMT) as the police tried to search him and stop him from entering the building, state television cited the Damascus police chief as saying.

    Syrian state television broadcast footage from inside the courthouse showing blood splattered on a floor littered with papers, a shoe and broken tiles and stones. Images from a hospital showed a man in a suit on a stretcher with blood on his clothes.

    The explosion hit the courthouse "at a time when the area is crowded" with lawyers, judges and civilians, harming a large number of people, Ahmed al-Sayyid, a senior state legal official told state-run al-Ikhbariya TV.

    He later added that 45 people had been wounded. No further details were immediately available.

    'Retaliation'

    "The attack came as a retaliation against the latest victories of the Syrian army and the political victories in Geneva and Astana," Ahmad said, referring to recent peace talks in Switzerland and Kazakhstan.

    State media reported that the second bomber had entered the restaurant and detonated the device after having been chased by security forces.

    On Saturday scores of people, most of them Iraqi Shi'ite pilgrims, were killed in a double suicide attack in Damascus claimed by an alliance of jihadist groups known as Tahrir al-Sham.

    In late February an attack in central Homs killed dozens of people with coordinated shootings and suicide bombs that targeted two security headquarters and led to the death of a senior official.

    That attack was also claimed by Tahrir al-Sham, which includes the Fateh al-Sham group that was formerly known as the Nusra Front until it formally broke ties with al Qaeda last year.

     

    (Reporting by Ellen Francis in Beirut and Kinda Makieh in Damascus; Writing by Tom Perry and Angus McDowall; Editing by Ken Ferris and Gareth Jones)

    SEE ALSO: A city plagued by heroin and painkillers is suing a pharma company many blame for the opioid epidemic

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's what those white marks on your nails say about your health


    0 0

    Special Forces

    The Pentagon is considering sending an additional 1,000 conventional troops over the next few weeks into Syria, ahead of an upcoming offensive against the ISIS capital of Raqqa.

    The troops would likely come from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit — currently on its way to the region — and the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, which recently made its way to Kuwait, according to a report in The Washington Post by TM Gibbons-Neff.

    The proposed increase in conventional forces would follow similar deployments in recent weeks that have supplemented special operations forces, of which roughly 500 have been on the ground for some time. 

    A convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria last week to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

    The Ranger deployment was followed soon after by a contingent of US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment, which left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa. 

    "For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out," the Post wrote. 

    Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, told Business Insider previously that the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to "Syrian partnered forces" who will eventually assault Raqqa.

    The Marines and Rangers will provide the "commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS," Dorrian told Business Insider.

    He added: "The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners."

    Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

    Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

    The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

    A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

    There is also additional risk from the US' partnership with Syrian Kurdish fighters known as the YPG, or People's Protection Units. Though the Pentagon seems to believe the YPG would be the most effective force in the Raqqa fight, the unit is considered a terrorist group by Turkey.

    Turkey has so far refused to compromise, insisting the US use a different Syrian rebel group, Reuters reported.

    "Our soldiers will not be fighting together with people who shot us and killed our soldiers and are trying to kill us," one senior Turkish security official, briefed on recent meetings between Turkish and U.S. strategists, told Reuters.

    SEE ALSO: US troops seem poised to take a prominent role in attacking the ISIS capital

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A Navy SEAL explains how to make your home more secure


    0 0

    During President Trump's first seven weeks in office, 7,594 refugees entered the US. There is also a sizable number of refugees entering the US from the six banned countries of Trump's new travel order. Now that he has signed this new order (the original was signed on January 27, 2017), it remains to be seen how many refugees from the banned countries will enter.

     

    Join the conversation about this story »


    0 0

    israeli air force f-15 plane

    JERUSALEM — Syria fired missiles at Israeli warplanes early Friday after a series of Israeli airstrikes inside Syria — a rare military exchange between the two hostile neighbors that was confirmed by both sides.

    The Israeli military said its aircraft struck several targets in Syria and were back in Israeli-controlled airspace when several antiaircraft missiles were launched from Syria toward the Israeli jets.

    Israeli aerial-defense systems intercepted one of the missiles, the army said, without elaborating. It would not say whether any other missiles struck Israeli-held territory but said the safety of Israeli civilians and Israeli aircraft was "not compromised."

    The army said the incident set off sirens in Jewish settlement communities in the Jordan Valley, part of the West Bank.

    The firing of missiles from Syria toward Israeli aircraft is extremely rare, though Israeli military officials reported a shoulder-fired missile a few months ago.

    A Syrian military statement said four Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace — flying into Syria through Lebanese territory — and targeted a military position in central Syria.

    Damascus said Syrian antiaircraft systems confronted the planes and claimed that one of the jets was shot down in Israeli-controlled territory and that another was hit. The Israeli military denied the allegation, and there was no sign any of the jets had been hit or downed.

    The Syrian statement, in line with typical anti-Western rhetoric from Damascus, said the "blatant aggression" was an attempt by Israel to support "terrorist gangs" of the Islamic State group inside Syria and "deflect from the victories" of the Syrian army in the country's civil war, which this week entered its seventh year.

    israel arrow anti-missile defense system

    Israeli Channel 10 TV reported that Israel deployed its Arrow defense system for the first time against a real threat and hit an incoming missile, intercepting it before it exploded in Israel.

    The station said the Israeli military had been on a mission to destroy a weapons convoy destined for the Lebanese Hezbollah group, which is backed by Iran and fights alongside Syrian government forces.

    There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah.

    Jordan, which borders both Israel and Syria, said parts of the missiles fell in its rural northern areas, including the Irbid district. The military said the debris was the result of the Israeli interception of missiles fired from Syria toward Israeli positions and bases.

    Radwan Otoum, the Irbid governor, told the state news agency Petra that the missile parts caused only minor damage.

    A chunk of missile crashed into the courtyard of a home in the community of Inbeh in northern Jordan, about 25 miles from the Syrian border.

    Umm Bilal al-Khatib, a local resident, said she heard an explosion and initially thought a gas cylinder had exploded. When she went outside she found a small crater and a 10-foot-long cylinder. She said her husband contacted Jordanian authorities, who removed the debris.

    The Haaretz daily said the interception took place north of Jerusalem. The Arrow, however, is designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles high in the stratosphere, so it remained unclear why the system would have been used in this particular incident.

    The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the reports.

    The Arrow is part of what Israel calls its "multilayer missile defense" made up of different systems meant to protect against short- and long-range threats, including the thousands of missiles possessed by Hezbollah in Lebanon and rockets used by Hamas and other Islamic militant groups in Gaza.

    Israel has been largely unaffected by the Syrian civil war raging next door, suffering mostly sporadic incidents of spillover fire that Israel has generally dismissed as tactical errors by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces. Israel has responded with limited reprisals on Syrian positions in response to the errant fire.

    The Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011 as a popular uprising against Assad, eventually descended into a full-blown civil war with Syrian government forces fighting an array of rebel groups. The chaos has allowed Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria and the Islamic State group to expand their reach.

    The skies over Syria are now crowded, with Russian and Syrian aircraft backing Assad's forces and a US-led coalition striking Islamic State and Qaeda targets.

    Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made antiaircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations.

    Hezbollah is pledged to Israel's destruction and fought a monthlong war with the Jewish state in 2006.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Zeina Karam in Beirut and Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

    SEE ALSO: An Army general says an ally used a $3 million Patriot missile to shoot down a $200 drone

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's what those white marks on your nails say about your health


older | 1 | .... | 181 | 182 | (Page 183) | 184 | 185 | .... | 232 | newer