DAMASCUS, July 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Russian airstrikes and fierce clashes on Wednesday rocked a sliver of territory in southwestern Syria held by Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, a war monitor said.
Much of the southern province of Deraa had been quiet since Friday, when a ceasefire between rebels and Syria's regime ended a nearly three-week government assault.
But a local branch of IS, known as Jaish Khaled bin Walid and based in a small area in Deraa's western countryside, was not included in the deal.
Early Wednesday, Russian warplanes began pounding the IS-controlled town of Saham Al Golan, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"Russian airstrikes hit Saham Al Golan this morning, as dozens of shells and artillery fire hit the town," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
In retaliation, IS launched an attack southward on Heet, a rebel-held town that recently agreed to return to regime control.
The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources across Syria, gave no immediate death toll for Wednesday's fighting.
"Daesh [IS] stormed Heet, detonated a car bomb and advanced there and are also intensely bombing the nearby village of Zaizun," said Mr Abdel Rahman.
IS claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a suicide car bombing in Zaizun that left 14 fighters dead.
The claim, distributed through an online messaging service, included the first apparent reference to the south as an official IS "province", reflecting its plan to re-establish an Islamic "caliphate" despite its crushing military defeats in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.
Wednesday's clashes were raging less than 10 kilometres from the armistice line with the Israeli-occupied Golan, and just four kilometres from Jordan.
Anticipating an attack, thousands have fled the IS-held zone in recent days towards the Israeli-occupied Golan.
Around 200,000 displaced people have already sought refuge near the sealed armistice line, according to the United Nations.
CAIRO, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Libyan forces carried out airstrikes against a militia attacking key oil ports in the east, a spokesman said as Libya's national oil firm warned on Monday of further damage to oil infrastructure as well as environmental contamination in the north African country.
A militia, led by Ibrahim Jadhran who opposes Libya's self-styled national army commanded by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, attacked the oil ports of Ras Lanuf and al-Sidr on Thursday forcing the National Oil Corporation to suspend exports and evacuate its employees.
The airstrikes late Sunday targeted fighters loyal to Jadhran, who are trying to seize the oil terminals, said Ahmed al-Mesmari, a spokesman for the LNA.
He said warplanes carried out airstrikes against "terrorist positions and gatherings in the operational military zone stretching from Ras Lanuf to the edge of the city of Sirte."
Al-Mesmari called on residents in the oil crescent area to stay away from "areas where the enemy gathers, munition storages and sites with military vehicles."
Jadhran said in a video circulated on social media last Thursday that he had formed an alliance to retake oil terminals. "Our aim is to overturn the injustice for our people over the past two years," he said.
WASHINGTON, June 18, 2018 (MENA) - The US-led coalition Monday denied news that its warplanes had launched airstrikes near al-Bukamal area in eastern Syria.
Major Josh Jacques, a US Central Command spokesman, said: “No member of the US-led coalition carried out strikes near al-Bukamal.”
Earlier, a Syrian military source announced that coalition jets had hit a Syrian army position, leaving scores of people dead and injured.
SINGAPORE, April 11, 2018 (Reuters)-- Some major airlines were re-routing flights on Wednesday after Europe's air traffic control agency warned aircraft flying in the eastern Mediterranean to exercise caution due to possible air strikes on Syria.
Eurocontrol said in a notification published Tuesday afternoon that air-to-ground and cruise missiles could be used over the following 72 hours and there was a possibility of intermittent disruption to radio navigation equipment.
US President Donald Trump and Western allies are discussing possible military action to punish Syria's President Bashar Assad for a suspected poison gas attack on Saturday on a rebel-held town that had long held out against government forces.
A spokeswoman for Air France said the airline had changed some flights paths following the warning, including for Beirut and Tel Aviv flights, while budget airline easyJet said it would also re-route flights from Tel Aviv.
Aviation regulators have been stepping up monitoring of conflict zones since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
Recent warnings have tended to be after military action has started, and so Eurocontrol's pre-emptive notice suggests a heightening of regulatory scrutiny.
Trump on Tuesday cancelled a planned trip to Latin America later this week to focus on responding to the Syria incident, the White House said.
Trump on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility for the attack was established.
The Eurocontrol warning on its website did not specify the origin of any potential missile threat.
“Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean/Nicosia FIR area,” it said, referring to the designated airspace.
Aviation regulators in countries including the United States, Britain, France and Germany have previously issued warnings against airlines entering Syrian airspace, leading most carriers to avoid the area.
The only commercial flights above Syria as of 0115 GMT today were being flown by Syrian Air and Lebanon's Middle East Airlines, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24. At other periods later in the day, there were no flights using the airspace.
KABUL, April 8, 2018 (Reuters) - American and Afghan forces have expanded their air strikes against drug labs into western Afghanistan, aiming to choke Taliban revenue.
Air strikes in Afghanistan, the world’s main heroin source, also threaten civilians, however, and may not be an effective blow to the Taliban militant group, an expert on the country’s drug industry said.
The campaign targeting Afghan drug labs began as opium production jumped 87 percent last year to a record high in Afghanistan. The Taliban, which U.S. officials say controls the drug trade, has made large territorial gains since a U.S. troop reduction of recent years.
American and Afghan forces responded with a dramatic increase in air power since early 2017, with the number of weapons released tripling in the first two months of 2018 compared with a year earlier.
U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and Afghan forces conducted strikes on 11 Taliban drug production facilities in the western provinces of Farah and Nimroz this week, U.S. Forces said on Saturday. The strikes are the first in western Afghanistan and aim to reduce the Taliban’s main revenue flow, the U.S. statement said.
“By cutting off the Taliban’s economic lifelines, we also reduce their ability to continue these terrorist activities,” said Major-General James Hecker.
Drug processing and taxation generate $200 million annually for the Taliban, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan estimates.
The drug lab campaign began in November, and has now included 75 strikes, especially in Helmand, the main poppy-growing province. The poppy’s fluid, opium, is processed into heroin.
However, David Mansfield, an authority on Afghanistan’s opium industry, says bombing labs has a negligible effect on Taliban revenues, because heroin profits and taxes are not as large as U.S. Forces estimate and the simple labs can be quickly rebuilt.
Calling strikes on drug labs “the theater of counter-narcotics,” Mansfield said the risk of civilian deaths may be greater than potential benefits of curbing Taliban revenues.
“There has been little account of the number of casualties attributed to the bombing of drugs labs,” he said in an email to Reuters. “And in contrast to the narrative of USFOR-A, those that work in labs are not seen as Taliban but as civilians” by rural Afghans.