x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Rebels launch new offensive near Syria's border with Iraq

Syrian army jets conducted several air raids against rebel positions in Deir El Zour, where rebels killed seven soldiers and captured several others in a city that has been contested since last year.

A Syrian man mourns the deaths of six of his siblings who were killed in a bomb attack during fighting between rebels and Syrian government forces in the northern city of Raqqa.
A Syrian man mourns the deaths of six of his siblings who were killed in a bomb attack during fighting between rebels and Syrian government forces in the northern city of Raqqa.

BEIRUT // Syrian rebels yesterday launched an offensive in an eastern city near the border with Iraq, activists said.

Syrian army jets conducted several air raids against rebel positions in Deir El Zour, where rebels killed seven soldiers and captured several others in a city that has been contested since last year, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said.

Rebels have been on the offensive in north Syria and the president Bashar Al Assad's stronghold in the coastal province of Latakia.

Unrest in Syria began in March 2011 and later exploded into a civil war. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict that has spilt across borders.

Gunmen shot the mayor of a town in Lebanon and killed two of his companions only hours after he oversaw a hostage swap with a rival clan in an area increasingly riven by sectarian divisions caused by Syria's war.

The attack near the border with Syria highlights worsening enmity between Lebanese Shiites and Sunni militias that support opposing sides in the two-year-old conflict.

Mayor Ali Hujeiri, a Sunni from the town of Arsal, was shot in the majority Shiite town of Labweh as he returned from the hostage exchange with a rival Shiite clan. He was transferred to hospital and doctors said his wounds were not life-threatening.

Security sources said the attack was carried out by residents of the area, but did not elaborate.

The Bekaa Valley region, where the attack happened, is religiously mixed. Some areas are controlled by Hizbollah, which is helping Mr Al Assad try to crush the revolt. Other parts, such as Arsal, are Sunni, and residents provide a safe haven for majority-Sunni Syrian rebels.

The hostages were being held in relation to an incident in June in which four of Labweh's residents were killed by rebel fighters.

The recapture of the Syrian border town of Qusayr in June by Mr Al Assad's forces, spearheaded by Hizbollah fighters, led to an influx of Syrian rebel fighters and civilians into Lebanon and more violence spilling over into the Bekaa region.

Rockets fired from areas believed to be controlled by Syrian rebels have targeted the Shiite town of Hermel, while Syrian helicopters have crossed into Lebanon and fired at buildings in Arsal.

Meanwhile in Syria's Sfeira region of Aleppo province, rebel fighters kidnapped 13 Kurds, turning them over to Islamic militants already holding 250 abducted Kurds, The Syrian Observatory said. The 13 were snatched at a roadblock in the Sfeira region of Aleppo and passed them on to Jabhat Al Nusra, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, another Al Qaeda-linked group operating in Syria, have abducted more than 250 Syrian Kurds since the end of July.

 

* With additonal reporting by Reuters and Agence France-Presse