Syrian President Arrives in China on First Visit since the Beginning of War in Syria

FILE - In this photo released on Nov. 9, 2019 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria. (SANA via AP, File)
FILE - In this photo released on Nov. 9, 2019 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria. (SANA via AP, File)
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Syrian President Arrives in China on First Visit since the Beginning of War in Syria

FILE - In this photo released on Nov. 9, 2019 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria. (SANA via AP, File)
FILE - In this photo released on Nov. 9, 2019 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria. (SANA via AP, File)

Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived in China on Thursday on his first visit to the country since the start of Syria's 12-year conflict during which Beijing has been one of his main backers.
China’s foreign ministry said Assad would attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games, an international sports event beginning Saturday in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.
China has been expanding its reach in the Middle East after mediating a deal in March between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it continues to support Assad in the Syrian conflict, which has killed half a million people and left large parts of the nation in ruins, The Associated Press said.
China could play a major role in the future in Syria’s reconstruction, which is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars. Syria last year joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in which Beijing expands its influence in developing regions through infrastructure projects.
Assad’s office said earlier that the Syrian leader was invited by Chinese President Xi Jinping and would bring with him a high-ranking Syrian delegation.
Syria’s worsening economic crisis has led to protests in government-held parts of the country. Syria blames the crisis on Western sanctions and US-backed Kurdish-led fighters who control the country’s largest oil fields in the east near the border with Iraq.
Diplomatic contacts between Syria and other Arab countries have intensified following the Feb. 6 earthquake that hit Türkiye and Syria killing more than 50,000 people, including over 6,000 in Syria. Assad flew to Saudi Arabia in May where he attended the Arab League summit days after Syria’s membership was reinstated in the 22-member league.
Since Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with pro-democracy protests and later turned into a civil war, Iran and Russia have helped Assad regain control of much of the country.
China has used its veto power at the UN eight times to stop resolutions against Assad’s government, the latest in July 2020.
Assad’s last and only visit to China was in 2004, a year after the US-led invasion of neighboring Iraq and at a time when Washington was putting pressure on Syria.



Netanyahu Says Israel Winding Down Gaza Operations. A Lebanon War Could be Next

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
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Netanyahu Says Israel Winding Down Gaza Operations. A Lebanon War Could be Next

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the current phase of fighting against Hamas in Gaza is winding down, setting the stage for Israel to send more troops to its northern border to confront Hezbollah.
The Israeli leader said in a lengthy TV interview that while the army is close to completing its current ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, that would not mean the war against Hamas is over. But he said fewer troops would be needed in Gaza, freeing up forces to battle Hezbollah.

“We will have the possibility of transferring some of our forces north, and we will do that,” he told Israel’s Channel 14, a pro-Netanyahu TV channel, in an interview that was frequently interrupted by applause from the studio audience. “First and foremost, for defense,” he added, but also to allow tens of thousands of displaced Israelis to return home.

Netanyahu said he hoped a diplomatic solution to the crisis could be found but vowed to solve the problem “in a different way” if needed. ″We can fight on several fronts and we are prepared to do that,” he said.
He said any deal would not just be “an agreement on paper.” He said it would require Hezbollah to be far from the border, an enforcement mechanism and the return of Israelis back to their homes. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated shortly after the fighting erupted and have not been able to go home.

Hezbollah has said it will continue battling Israel until a cease-fire is reached in Gaza. The group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, warned Israel last week against launching a war, saying Hezbollah has new weapons and intelligence capabilities that could help it target more critical positions deeper inside Israel.