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News, September 2016
Russia Says US Strikes on Syrian Army Threaten Implementation of Ceasefire Plan
September 19, 2016
The coalition which fights the Islamic State and other Sunni groups in Syria consists of US-led NATO forces, Russian forces, Syrian Alewite government forces, Iranian-backed Shi'i militias, and Kurdish peshmerga forces. The coalition's continuous attacks have resulted in the killing of thousands of Iraqi Sunni Muslim Arabs and the eviction of thousands as a result of the destruction of their cities and villages.
Millions of Sunni Muslim Arabs have already left their cities and villages as the fighting intensifies towards an all-attack by the US-led coalition on Raqqa and Mosul, as well as by the Russian-regime attacks on other cities. The end outcome is going to be evicting (ethnic cleansing of) Sunni Muslim Arabs from Syria, particularly the upper Euphrates region of northwestern Iraq and northeastern Syria.
For a background, read:
US strike on Syrian Army borders between negligence & assisting ISIS - Moscow
Russia TV,18 Sep, 2016 10:03E
The US-led coalition air strikes on the Syrian Army positions near the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor borders between “gross negligence” and “direct assistance” to ISIS militants, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“The coalition pilots’ actions - if they, as we hope, were not ordered by Washington – were on the edge between gross negligence and direct assistance to Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] terrorists,” the ministry’s statement said.
The air strike that killed 62 Syrian soldiers outside the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor on Saturday was “inevitable given the stubborn refusal by the US to cooperate with Russia in combatting IS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other affiliated terrorist groups,” it states.
The air strikes against the Syrian Army’s positions were conducted by two F-16 fighter jets and two A-10 ground attack aircraft, the Russian Defense Ministry said earlier on Saturday. Syrian SANA news agency reported than an Islamic State offensive started shortly after Syrian Army positions were attacked from the air.
Russia is gravely concerned by the fact that the air strikes took place amid multiple documented cases of the nationwide ceasefire being violated by the Syrian rebels, the Foreign Ministry added.
“Again, we call on Washington to put pressure on the US-controlled militants to ensure that they respect the ceasefire conditions. Otherwise, the entire set of Russia-US arrangements made in Geneva on September 9 might be endangered, which is contrary to the interests of the international community.”
Syrian Army warplane shot down, pilot killed - SANA
Russia TV, 18 Sep, 2016 14:07
A Syrian military jet was shot down during a combat mission against Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) near the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, Syrian state SANA news agency reports, citing a military source.
The pilot died in the incident, the source added. The Syrian Air Force carried out “concentrated airstrikes” on IS positions in the Deir ez-Zor neighborhoods of al-Tharda Mountain, al-Orfi and al-Kanamat.
IS has reportedly claimed responsibility for downing the Syrian aircraft on a social media account affiliated with the terrorists.
The incident comes just a day after 62 Syrian soldiers were killed and 100 more injured outside Deir ez-Zor in a US-led coalition airstrike. Syrian SANA news agency reported than an Islamic State offensive started shortly after Syrian Army positions were attacked from air.
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The US said that the strike was “unintentional,” while Russia said that the actions of the US forces were “on the edge between gross negligence and direct assistance to Islamic State.”
The Sunday incident was not the first time a Syrian Army warplane was brought down while carrying out a combat mission. On April 5, a Syrian Su-22 jet was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in Aleppo Province. The pilot was captured by an Al-Qaeda affiliate at that time.
In an incident on April 23, another Syrian military jet was shot down near Damascus and its pilot was captured by Islamic State terrorists, who also claimed that they downed his aircraft.
Moscow Says Strikes on Syrian Army Threaten Implementation of US-Russian Ceasefire Plan
MOSCOW, BEIRUT --
Moscow stepped up its war of words with Washington on Sunday, saying air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition on the Syrian army threatened the implementation of a U.S.-Russian ceasefire plan for Syria and bordered on connivance with Islamic State.
The diplomatic dispute heated up on the last day of a seven-day ceasefire marred by a surge of violence as warplanes hit the strategic northern city of Aleppo for the first time since the truce came into effect.
In another blow to hopes for the ceasefire, the governor of Homs said several hundred rebels would be evacuated from the last rebel-held district of the Syrian city on Monday, prompting rebels to warn any such step would amount to the government declaring the end of the truce.
On Saturday, the Russian Defence Ministry said U.S. jets had killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor in four air strikes by two F-16 and two A-10 fighter jets coming from the direction of Iraq.
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari charged that U.S.-led strikes were aimed at torpedoing the ceasefire but France's foreign minister, speaking in New York, placed the main blame for truce violations on President Bashar al Assad's government.
The Britain-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a military source at Deir al-Zor airport reported at least 90 Syrian soldiers were killed in the strikes.
A U.S. official said the U.S. military believed reports that about 60 Syrian troops were killed but declined to speculate on the number of wounded. Two U.S. officials also confirmed that a tank was among the vehicles hit in the strike, raising more questions about what kind of intelligence led the coalition aircraft to conclude Islamic State militants were operating the military equipment.
"The actions of coalition pilots - if they, as we hope, were not taken on an order from Washington - are on the boundary between criminal negligence and connivance with Islamic State terrorists," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"We strongly urge Washington to exert the needed pressure on the illegal armed groups under its patronage to implement the ceasefire plan unconditionally. Otherwise the implementation of the entire package of the U.S.-Russian accords reached in Geneva on Sept. 9 may be jeopardized."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in turn told CNN that Russia should do more to support the ceasefire and "stop the grandstanding, stop the showboating and get the humanitarian assistance going."
Kerry called Saturday's incident a "terrible thing ... that we all acknowledge and regret."
ACCUSATIONS AGAINST WASHINGTON
Russia, which support's Assad along with Iran, has called on Washington to press the moderate Syrian opposition to separate itself from Islamic State and other "terrorist groups."
Iran also condemned the U.S. military action. "Such moves indicate America supports terrorist groups in Syria," a foreign ministry spokesman said, according to Iranian news agencies.
In Venezuela, Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said the U.S.-led coalition strikes were intended to sink the ceasefire.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that despite the strikes on the Syrians, Syrian government forces were principally behind the truce violations.
The U.S. military said the coalition stopped the attacks against what it believed to be Islamic State positions in northeast Syria after Russia informed it that Syrian forces may have been hit.
"The White House is defending Islamic State. Now there can be no doubts about that," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in comments aired by state TV.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said Zakharova should be embarrassed by that claim. Russia's U.N. representative, Vitaly Churkin, said Russia had no "specific evidence" of U.S. collusion with Islamic State.
The dispute should further complicate humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria, including its largest pre-war city Aleppo, where the fragile truce is under threat.
Aleppo was hit by air strikes for the first time since the truce began. Moscow said militants there were preparing for large-scale military actions against Syria's army.
Heavy clashes continued on Sunday east of Damascus in the rebel-held Jobar suburb, the Observatory and a witness said.
The al-Rahman Legion, part of a Free Syrian Army rebel alliance, said its fighters had destroyed a government tank and killed soldiers after government forces tried to storm Jobar for the second time this week.
The Observatory said at least eight people died and many were seriously injured when helicopters dropped barrel bombs in a rebel-held part of the southern Syrian province of Daraa on Sunday.
Insurgents say they only reluctantly accepted the initial deal to relieve the humanitarian situation in besieged areas they control, and blamed Russia for undermining the ceasefire.
"The truce ... will not hold out," a senior rebel official in Aleppo said.
Rebels have also accused Russia of using the ceasefire to give the Syrian army and allied militias a chance to regroup and deploy forces.
Islamic State is excluded from the truce. Separate U.S.-led, Damascus-led and Turkey-backed operations against the militants have continued.
One Turkish soldier and six Syrian rebels were wounded on Sunday in clashes with Islamic State near the Syrian border town of al-Rai as Turkey-backed Syrian rebels pushed south toward the IS-held town of al-Bab, Turkey's Dogan News agency reported.
Turkey hit Islamic State targets within Syria with warplanes, according to Dogan, the Observatory and a rebel commander.
On Sunday, Islamic State said it had shot down a warplane in Deir al-Zor with "anti-aircraft" guns, the same area as the coalition strikes hit the Syrian military on Saturday.
The Syrian military confirmed the loss of a warplane it said was carrying out an operation against rebels.
(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow and Lisa Barrington in Beirut; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul, Tom Perry in Beirut, Polina Devitt in Moscow, John Irish in New York, Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Phil Stewart in Berlin, Deisy Buitrago in Venezuela and the Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Richard Balmforth)
The following are news stories from the US Department of Defense website (http://www.defense.gov/News) :
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