BEIRUT/ANKARA (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters have seized villages close to the northern city of Aleppo from rival insurgents, a monitoring group said on Friday, despite an intensifying Russian air-and-sea campaign that Moscow says has targeted the militant group.
News of the advance came as the United States announced it was largely abandoning its failed program to train moderate rebels fighting Islamic State and would instead provide arms and equipment directly to rebel leaders and their units on the battlefield.
BEIRUT/ANKARA (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters have seized villages close to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo from rival insurgents, a monitoring group said on Friday, despite a Russian air-and-sea campaign that Moscow says has targeted the militant group.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps said separately one of its generals had been killed late on Thursday near Aleppo, once Syria’s most populous city. Iran, like Russia an ally of President Bashar al-Assad, says it has advisers in the country.
BEIRUT/ANKARA (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters have seized Syrian villages on the outskirts of Aleppo from rival insurgent fighters, a monitoring group said on Friday, despite Russian air strikes that Moscow says have targeted the militant group.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said separately one of its senior commanders had been killed this week near Aleppo, Syria’s main northern city. Iran, an ally of the Syrian government, says it has advisory missions in the country but no military forces.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Russia and Syria carried out what appeared to be the first major coordinated assaults on Syrian insurgents on Wednesday, targeting rebels in the west rather than Islamic State militants, a monitor said.
The combined assault hit towns close to the main north-south highway that runs through major cities in the mainly government-held west of Syria, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group which tracks the conflict via a network of sources within the country.
BEIRUT/AMMAN (Reuters) – President Bashar al-Assad said the success of a military campaign by Russia, Syria and its allies was vital to save the Middle East from destruction, a day after Moscow said it would step up air strikes against Islamic State targets across Syria.
A year-long air campaign by Western and Arab air forces in Syria and Iraq had been counterproductive, Assad said, helping terrorism spread and win new recruits, but a coalition of Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq could achieve real results.
BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – As Iraqi forces prepare to try to recapture the city of Falluja, tens of thousands of civilians find themselves trapped between Islamic State militants ready to use them as human shields and a government suspicious of their loyalties.
With the jihadists coercing them to stay, and a government blockade and shelling closing exit routes and cutting off supplies, there is “a vice, a noose around the neck of the population”, Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, told Reuters.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iran’s historic nuclear deal may ease hostility with the West that has fueled Middle East tensions for decades, but it is unlikely to change the course of conflicts where Tehran and Washington are both awkward allies and enemies.
In Syria, Iran has stood by President Bashar al-Assad, providing military and financial support during four years of civil war, throughout which the United States has said Assad must go.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi troops and Shi’ite Muslim militia forces attacked Islamic State fighters on several fronts in the country’s largest province on Monday, saying the battle to drive the hardline militants out of Anbar was under way.
A spokesman for the joint operations command said the offensive, which began at dawn, brought together the army, mainly Shi’ite Hashid Shaabi militias, special forces, police and local Sunni Muslim tribal fighters.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq and the World Bank signed a $350 million loan agreement on Sunday to fund emergency reconstruction in towns recaptured from Islamic State militants, a deal Baghdad said marked the first international help to rebuild areas devastated by war.
Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said around a third of the money would go toward repairing roads and bridges, with a similar amount allocated to restoring electricity networks, water and sewage.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq celebrated on Wednesday the return of hundreds of historical artefacts, from an ancient Assyrian statue to a 20th century presidential tea set, which were looted, lost or loaned abroad over recent decades.
The recovery of the 800 items from museums, universities and auction houses in the United States, Italy and Jordan marks a small victory for Iraqi authorities struggling to protect their heritage from theft and destruction by Islamic State fighters.