BEIRUT, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Syria said on Tuesday it rejected the presence of Turkish and US forces around the northern town of Manbij, a day after soldiers of the two countries began patrolling the area.
Turkish and US troops Monday began independent patrols along the line separating Turkish-controlled areas of northern Syria from the town of Manbij, which is controlled by a local militia affiliated to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia.
"Syria expresses its strong condemnation and absolute rejection of the incursion of Turkish and American forces in the vicinity of Manbij, which comes in the context of continued Turkish and American aggression," state news agency SANA said, quoting a foreign ministry statement.
The statement also said the Syrian army is determined to "liberate all of Syria's territory".
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.
ISTANBUL, June 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Turkish and U.S. military officials reached agreement on a plan for the Syrian city of Manbij at a meeting in Stuttgart this week and decided to present it to the countries’ leaders ahead of further talks, the Turkish armed forces said on Thursday.
The two countries said on June 4 they had endorsed a roadmap which envisages the withdrawal from Manbij of the Kurdish YPG militia, seen as a terrorist organisation by Ankara.
GENEVA, June 12, 2018 (News Wires) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) hopes the Lebanese foreign ministry will quickly reverse a decision to freeze residency applications the agency has submitted for its staff, its spokesman said on Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil ordered the freeze last week after accusing UNHCR of hindering the return of refugees to Syria by “spreading fear”.
Syrian refugees now account for around a quarter of the population of Lebanon - around one million are registered with the United Nations. The Lebanese government wants the refugees to start going home; the UN says it’s not yet safe for them to return.
Beirut is working with Damascus to arrange the return of thousands of refugees it says want to go back to Syria, a top Lebanese official said last month.
“We are very concerned about freezing the issuing of residence permits to international staff in Lebanon,” UNHCR spokesman Andre Mahecic said during a briefing in Geneva. “We hope that the decision of the foreign ministry will be reversed without delay.”
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has been calling for Syrian refugees to return to areas of the country he has described as secure. Aoun says this should happen before a final political solution to the seven-year-long war.
A conference on Syria hosted by the European Union and co-chaired by the United Nations in April said conditions remained unsafe.
“We do not oppose or discourage people returning, when they return based on their own decision and based on informed choice,” Mahecic said.
“It is the reality that some people are returning. They are making their decision to go back,” Mahecic said. “We have also in that regard ramped up our assistance inside Syria where we can be able to support those,” he said.
But fighting in Syria had escalated in a number of areas in the past months, he said, and “given the overall situation, we do not believe conditions are conducive to returns”.
GENEVA, June 11, 2018 (MENA) - The UN humanitarian agency's top official for Syria is expressing concern about recent airstrikes in rebel-held Idlib province, warning that "we may have not seen the worst of the crisis" in Syria even after 7 years of war.
Panos Moumtzis of UN OCHA says military escalation could make Idlib's situation "much more complicated and brutal" than other conflict zones in Syria, according to the Daily Mail on Monday.
He said that 920,000 people were displaced within Syria between January and April, the highest number of any four-month span since the war began.
OCHA is on "high alert" for possible further displacement among the estimated 2-1/2 million people in Idlib, adding "There is no place left to go" within Syria.
BEIRUT, June 8, 2018 (News Wires) - Air strikes on a village in Syria's rebel-held Idlib Province killed at least 44 people overnight, the highest death toll in a single attack on the region this year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.
The monitoring group claimed that Russian war planes probably carried out the attacks.
The Russian Defence Ministry later denied its war planes were involved, according to Russian news agencies.
Russia is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main ally in his war against an armed opposition, now in its seventh year.
The Observatory reported that the jets targeted the village of Zardana in northern rural Idlib overnight, killing 27 men, 11 women and six children.
The death toll is expected to increase, since some of the 60 injured in the strikes were in a critical condition, the Britain-based Observatory said. Rescue workers were still searching the rubble for survivors.
The Russian ministry was quoted as saying it had information about fighting between Nusra Front members and opposition fighters involving heavy artillery fire in the past 24 hours.
The Observatory had reported on Wednesday night violent clashes in the village between local factions, but later said the destruction and resulting casualties were due to air strikes.
Idlib, a region in northwestern Syria, remains the largest populated area of the country in the hands of insurgents fighting the Damascus government.
In recent years, tens of thousands of fighters and civilians have fled there from parts of the country the army has recaptured with the help of Russia and Iran.
In another development, the monitor group said thatid Daesh (ISIS) used at least 10 suicide bombers on Friday in a massive attack on Albu Kamal, in which they retook parts of the eastern Syrian town.
At least 25 government and allied fighters were killed in the offensive, the militants' largest in months.