Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Hayat Tahrir Al Sham blamed for rocket attack on civilians in Syria's Idlib

Turkey blames Syrian government forces for 'deliberately' attacking a Turkish Turkish observation post

A picture taken on June 14, 2019 shows a man walking amidst the debris of destroyed buildings in the town of Ihsim, in Syria’s Idlib region. AFP
A picture taken on June 14, 2019 shows a man walking amidst the debris of destroyed buildings in the town of Ihsim, in Syria’s Idlib region. AFP

Militants killed 12 civilians by rockets fired on a Syrian government held village in the north-west of the country, state news agency Sana reported.

Fifteen people were also wounded in the attack on Al Wadihi village, south of Aleppo late on Sunday, Sana said.

Hayat Tahrir Al Sham was responsible for the attack, the outlet said. The former Al Qaeda affiliate controls parts of Aleppo's countryside as well as most of neighbouring Idlib.

Turkey, meanwhile, blamed Syrian government forces for “deliberately” attacking a Turkish military observation post in Idlib.

On Sunday, the country’s defense ministry said Turkish troops responded with "heavy weapons" after the artillery attack in north-west Syria.

Turkey set up the posts in Idlib as part of a de-escalation zone agreement struck with Russia and Iran in September 2017.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the country would not tolerate Syrian military attacks on its troops. "We'll put you in your place. Everyone should know their place," he was quoted as saying by official Anadolu news agency.

Syrian forces launched an offensive to take the last rebel-held territory in Idlib in April. At least five Turkish soldiers have been wounded in attacks on observation posts since May.

With much of the country experiencing higher than usual summer temperatures, fires have engulfed vital wheat fields across much of north-eastern Syria.

At least 10 people have been killed in the blazes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based in the UK.

Kurdish authorities say the fires were deliberately lit.

Kurds, who control north-east Syria, and the government in Damascus are competing to buy up this year’s harvest, while the fires, which many believe to be set by ISIS, continue to devastate the country’s breadbasket.

Victims of the conflagrations include civilians and members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who died while trying to extinguish the blazes since Saturday, the Observatory said.

Fires in the Kurdish-majority province of Hasakeh also wounded five people, according to a spokesman for the Kurdish Red Crescent.

"The victims were trying to douse the blaze but they were trapped by the fire," Kamal Derbas said.

Kurdish officials have called on the US-led coalition to help extinguish blazes in the cereal and oil-rich region under their control.

"The largest fires have ravaged up to 350,000 hectares of land," head of the Kurdish agriculture authority Salman Baroudo told Agence France-Presse news agency.

He claimed the fires were "deliberate", saying they serve to "stir up strife between area residents and undermine the Kurdish administration" in the country's north east.

He did not specify who he believed was behind the fires.

Sana on Saturday blamed the field fires in Hasakeh on Kurdish-led forces.

It said they deliberately sparked a blaze to prevent local farmers from selling their crops to the government.

Analysts say wheat will be key to ensuring affordable bread prices and keeping the peace in various parts of the country.

Farmers have separately blamed the fires on revenge attacks, sparks from low-quality fuel, and even carelessness.

Sana reported that other field fires in the north-western countryside of Hama province were sparked by militant artillery attacks.

Clashes in the area on Saturday between government forces and militants left dozens of combatants dead, including 26 pro-regime fighters, the Observatory said.

Updated: June 17, 2019 11:28 AM

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