18 civil­ians killed in Syria air strikes

As­sad says en­e­mies boost sup­port for rebels

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEIRUT: At least 18 civil­ians were killed and 40 wounded in “prob­a­bly Rus­sian” air strikes on a rebel-held town in north­west­ern Syria yes­ter­day, a mon­i­tor­ing group said. The strikes hit the Idlib prov­ince town of Ariha, which is con­trolled by the Army of Con­quest, a rebel al­liance of mainly Is­lamist groups, in­clud­ing Al-Qaeda af­fil­i­ate Al-Nusra Front, the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said. Sev­eral ar­eas of the town were hit and res­cue oper­a­tions are un­der way with sev­eral crit­i­cally wounded, the Bri­tain-based group said. The Army of Con­quest al­liance seized Ariha in May af­ter heavy fight­ing with regime forces.

A long­time ally of Da­m­as­cus, Moscow es­ca­lated its sup­port to Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad on Septem­ber 30 with an air cam­paign aimed at bol­ster­ing regime po­si­tions and back­ing ground oper­a­tions by Syr­ian gov­ern­ment troops. Moscow says it tar­gets the Is­lamic State group and other “ter­ror­ists”, but crit­ics ac­cuse it of tar­get­ing mod­er­ate and Is­lamist rebel fight­ers more than IS. Syria’s neigh­bors have charged that Rus­sian planes have strayed into their airspace on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions dur­ing the cam­paign.

Rus­sia car­ried out heavy raids in north­ern Syria this week af­ter Tur­key downed one of its jets in the area. Tur­key claims the war­plane strayed into its airspace and ig­nored re­peated warn­ings to change course, but Rus­sia has in­sisted it did not cross the border. The in­ci­dent has led to a sharp de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of re­la­tions be­tween Ankara and its largest en­ergy sup­plier. The pi­lot of the Rus­sian plane was shot dead by rebels as he parachuted down af­ter eject­ing, but his nav­i­ga­tor was res­cued by Rus­sian and Syr­ian spe­cial forces.

The pi­lot’s body is to be handed over to a Rus­sian rep­re­sen­ta­tive af­ter be­ing re­trieved from Syria, Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu said on Sun­day. A Rus­sian war­plane re­cently en­tered Is­raeli-con­trolled airspace from Syria but the in­tru­sion was re­solved with­out in­ci­dent, Is­raeli De­fence Min­is­ter Moshe Yaalon said yes­ter­day. In early Novem­ber, ap­par­ent Rus­sian air strikes killed at least 11 civil­ians in two towns in Idlib prov­ince, the Ob­ser­va­tory said. More than 250,000 peo­ple have been killed since the Syr­ian con­flict erupted in 2011. Mean­while, As­sad told a se­nior Ira­nian of­fi­cial yes­ter­day that his ad­ver­saries had in­creased weapon sup­plies and fi­nan­cial sup­port to in­sur­gents since the start of a ma­jor of­fen­sive aided by his al­lies to re­gain lost ter­ri­tory. As­sad was quoted by state me­dia as telling Ali Akbar Ve­lay­ati, a top ad­viser to Iran’s supreme leader, that the mil­i­tary sup­port his coun­try was get­ting from Iran and Rus­sia had pushed the enemy states he did not name to “fur­ther es­ca­late and in­crease fi­nanc­ing and equip­ping of ter­ror­ists”.

The Syr­ian army said on Satur­day that Tur­key had in­creased sup­plies of weapons, am­mu­ni­tion and equip­ment to what it de­scribed as ter­ror­ists in Syria. The se­nior Ira­nian of­fi­cial was quoted as say­ing that his coun­try would con­tinue to sup­port Syria as the war “against terror was a de­ci­sive one for the re­gion and the world”. As­sad said the de­feat of rebel groups fight­ing to top­ple his rule was a pre­req­ui­site for the “suc­cess of any po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion de­cided by Syr­i­ans”.

A Syr­ian mil­i­tary source told Reuters last week rebels were making heavy use of US-made anti-tank mis­siles paid for by Saudi Ara­bia and sup­plied via Tur­key and the weapons were hav­ing an im­pact on the battlefield. The so-called TOW mis­sile is the most po­tent weapon in the arse­nal of rebel groups and has been seen in ac­tion more fre­quently since Rus­sia in­ter­vened with air strikes on Syria on Sept 30. — Agen­cies

ARIHA, Syria: A Syr­ian man weeps near the body of a vic­tim who was killed by airstrikes car­ried out by Rus­sian war­planes in the cen­ter of this town in the north­west­ern prov­ince of Idlib yes­ter­day. — AP

COLORADO SPRINGS: Mourn­ers at­tend a vigil held on the Univer­sity of Colorado - Colorado Springs’ cam­pus for those killed in Fri­day’s deadly shoot­ing at a Planned Par­ent­hood clinic on Satur­day. — AP

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