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MOSCOW, August 10, 2018 (MENA) - Russian servicemen in Syria downed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was approaching Russia’s Hmeymim air base from the militant-controlled territory, Tass News Agency reported quoting a senior Russian military official as saying.

On August 9, airspace control equipment of Russia’s Hmeymim air base detected an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), launched from a territory, controlled by illegal armed groups, in the north of the Latakia governorate.

The aerial target was shot down by air defense systems at a distance from the air base," the head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the opposing sides in Syria, Maj. Gen. Alexei Tsygankov, said.

"There was no injuries or damage. Russia’s Hmeymim air base operates as normal," he added.

According to earlier reports, Russian servicemen disabled more than 25 drones last month, heading toward the Hmeymim air base and carrying various types of ammunition.



BEIRUT, August 9, 2018 (AFP) - Syrian forces shelled rebel and jihadist positions in the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday, a monitor said, as reinforcements arrived ahead of an expected assault.

The province is the largest piece of territory still in rebel hands, and President Bashar al-Assad has warned it would be his military's next priority.

On Thursday morning, artillery and rocket fire slammed into territory around Jisr al-Shughur, a key town in the southwestern part of the province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The shelling is in preparation for an assault but there has been no ground advance yet," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

"Regime reinforcements including equipment, soldiers, vehicles and ammunition have been arriving since Tuesday," he told AFP.

They were being distributed along three regime-held fronts, including in neighbouring Latakia province just west of Jisr al-Shughur, in the Sahl al-Ghab plain that lies south of Idlib, and in a sliver of the province's southeast that is already in government hands.

The Al-Watan daily, which is close to the government, also reported on Thursday that army troops had bombed rebel and jihadist positions in the area.

Idlib, which has escaped Assad's control since 2015, lies along the border with Turkey but is otherwise nearly completely surrounded by government-held territory.

Around 60 per cent of it is now held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is led by al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate, while the rest is controlled by rival opposition factions.

Syrian troops have recaptured key swathes of the country in recent months with help from ally Russia, which has brokered a string of surrender deals with rebels.

Apparently fearing a similar arrangement for Idlib, HTS has been arresting dozens of figures in the province that have been go-betweens with the regime.

Early Thursday, the group detained several such figures from villages in Idlib's southeast, calling them "chiefs of treason," according to an HTS-linked media agency.

The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, said it had documented more than 100 such arrests by HTS and rival forces this week alone.

Idlib province is home to around 2.5 million people, including rebels and civilians transferred en masse from other territory that fell to Syrian troops after intense assaults.


SKOPJE, Macedonia, August 7, 2018 (News Wires) - Macedonian police say they have arrested seven people on suspicion of terrorism for allegedly participating as fighters in the wars in Syria and Iraq.

The suspects, all Macedonian nationals aged between 23 and 41, were arrested in an overnight operation Monday to Tuesday on international warrants. They will be charged for “participation in a foreign army, police and paramilitary formations.”

Under a Macedonian antiterrorism law, it is illegal to participate in any paramilitary group or armed conflicts abroad. If convicted, they face jail sentences of up to 10 years.

According to earlier Macedonian official estimates, about 130 Macedonian nationals have joined the Islamic State group and participated in wars in Syria. At least a dozen have been killed in fighting.


BEIRUT, August 5, 2018 (Reuters) - The head of a Syrian research facility that Western countries say was part of a chemical weapons programme was killed when his car was blown up, the pro-Syrian government newspaper al-Watan said on Sunday.

Aziz Asber was the director of the Syrian Scientific Research Centre in Masyaf, near the city of Hama, which Western governments say was a covert Syrian government installation.

"(Asber) died after an explosion targeted his car in the Hama countryside," al-Watan said in an online report.

The attack on Asber was claimed by a Syrian rebel group affiliated to Tahrir al-Sham group. It includes the group formerly known as the Nusra Front, which served as al Qaeda's Syrian branch.

The Abu Amara Brigades released a statement on their Telegram online channel that said they "planted explosive devices" which detonated and killed Asber.

The explosion occurred on Saturday night, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitoring group said.

The Masyaf facility has previously been hit by what the Syrian government said were Israeli strikes in July and last year in September.

In April, missile strikes by the United States, Britain and France destroyed a Syrian Scientific Research Centre facility in Damascus, in response to a suspected poison gas attack.

The Syrian government, backed by Russia, has denied using - or possessing - chemical weapons.

An Israeli government official declined to comment on reports of Asber's death when asked by Reuters.

DAMASCUS, August 4, 2018 (MENA) – The Syrian forces renewed artillery and rocket attacks in Idlib countryside and northern Hama, local sources said on Saturday.

Sky News channel quoted the sources as saying that the shelling coincided with fierce clashes between the armed factions and the Syrian forces, which seek to advance in the region towards Idlib western countryside.

MOSCOW, August 3, 2018 (MENA) – The Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in Syria has delivered over 47 tons of humanitarian aid to local residents of the war-torn country during a week, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Friday.

The residents received over 47 tons of aid consisting of foodstuffs and medicine during six humanitarian operations in one week provided by the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides, it added.

The staff of the center were also reported to render medical assistance to over 500 civilians in Syria within the same period.

A total of 1.445 million Syrian refugees returned to their houses, which they abandoned in September 2015, it noted.

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