AMMAN/DOHA (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said on Wednesday.
The proposed deal between two of the leading power brokers in Syria’s devastating civil war was set out by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, they said.
AMMAN/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian Islamist rebels have killed around 200 people in a three-day offensive in the mountain stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect and driven hundreds of villagers to seek refuge on the Mediterranean coast, activists said on Tuesday.
Since launching the surprise assault at dawn on Sunday, the mainly Islamist rebel brigades led by two al Qaeda-linked groups have captured half a dozen villages on the northern edges of the Alawite mountain range, the activists say.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian rebel fighters armed with anti-tank missiles pushed toward President Bashar al-Assad’s hometown of Qardaha on Monday, the second day of a surprise offensive in the heartland of his minority Alawite sect, opposition activists said.
Forces comprising 10 mainly Islamist brigades, including two al Qaeda-linked groups, advanced south to the outskirts of the Alawite village of Aramo, 20 km (12 miles) from Qardaha, taking advantage of rugged terrain, the activists said.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Al Qaeda-linked fighters in a rebel-held eastern Syrian city on Monday abducted a prominent Italian Jesuit priest who championed the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, activists said.
Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant kidnapped father Paolo Dall’Oglio while he was walking in Raqqa, which fell to militant Islamist brigades in March, the sources in Raqqa province told Reuters.
Al Qaeda-linked fighters in the rebel-held eastern Syrian city of Raqqa on Monday abducted a prominent Italian Jesuit priest who championed the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, activists said.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Military support from Iran and its Shi’ite ally Hezbollah has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad new impetus in his fight against the insurgents intent on ousting him, but at a price.
Assad now risks losing much of his autonomy to Tehran and becoming a pawn in a wider sectarian war between Sunni Muslims and Shi’ites that may not end even if he is forced to step down, military experts and diplomats in the region say.
AMMAN, July 21 (Reuters) – Military support from Iran and
its Shi’ite ally Hezbollah has given Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad new impetus in his fight against the insurgents intent
on ousting him, but at a price.
Assad now risks losing much of his autonomy to Tehran and
becoming a pawn in a wider sectarian war between Sunni Muslims
and Shi’ites that may not end even if he is forced to step down,
military experts and diplomats in the region say.
AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian troops backed by tanks and artillery moved into a rebel-held district of Damascus on Monday, stepping up efforts to drive opposition fighters from the capital and build on battlefield gains elsewhere in the country, a rebel commander said.
Opposition sources said troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad advanced into the neighborhood of Qaboun after subjecting the Sunni Muslim district to heavy shelling. Two adjacent rebel-held neighborhoods have been under sustained fire in recent weeks to cut off the movement of rebel fighters.
AMMAN (Reuters) – An influential Islamist cleric turned rebel commander urged Syrian insurgents on Wednesday to focus their war on President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite heartland to create a “balance of terror” and help turn the tide of the conflict.
After seizing large tracts of Syria’s north and east and parts of the center, the rebels – short of heavy weaponry – have struggled to weaken Assad’s grip over most major cities and his western Alawite communal stronghold along the Mediterranean coast that so far has been largely unscathed by the civil war.
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The new head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition said he expected advanced weapons supplied by Saudi Arabia to reach rebel fighters soon, strengthening their currently weak military position.
Ahmad Jarba, who has close links to Saudi Arabia, told Reuters in his first interview since being elected president of the coalition on Saturday that the opposition would not go to a proposed peace conference in Geneva sponsored by the United States and Russia unless its military fortunes improve.