Syria: Multiple Russian Airstrikes Pave Way to Idlib Battles

Syrians escape battles in Deir el-Zor and head towards Raqqa suburbs, AFP
Syrians escape battles in Deir el-Zor and head towards Raqqa suburbs, AFP
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Syria: Multiple Russian Airstrikes Pave Way to Idlib Battles

Syrians escape battles in Deir el-Zor and head towards Raqqa suburbs, AFP
Syrians escape battles in Deir el-Zor and head towards Raqqa suburbs, AFP

Massive escalation in Russian air strikes against the Idlib province in northwest Syria was registered on Friday. Strikes were far-reaching and touched on border areas with Turkey, amid expectations that the raids pave the way for an imminent military operation to expel Al Qaeda-linked militants from the Syrian province.

The escalation followed the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, during which political sources cited that Syrian opposition ‘deliberately’ embarrassed Turkish authorities by formally requesting that Russia oversees a cease-fire in northern Syria.

But other sources said the Russian bombing could be part of an agreement with Turkey to expel the al-Sham Liberation Organization (an al-Qaeda affiliate) from its stronghold in Idlib.

It was noted that the Russian aircraft expanded its shelling of the countryside Idlib on Friday to include points adjacent to Turkish borders, as information came in about the violation of Turkish airspace during the exercises to bombardment, and dozens of strikes targeted over 42 towns and villages in the northern countryside of this province.

On the other hand, dozens of elements of the Syrian regime and its allies have been killed in large-scale attacks launched by ISIS protecting their outposts in central Syria, where the killing of 14 members of Hezbollah, the largest loss of the party suffered since its participation in the battles of the Syrian Badia against ISIS.

Hezbollah members fought alongside the Syrian pro-regime forces to recover ground lost during an ISIS counterattack in eastern Syria that targeted positions on the road between Deir al-Zor and Palmyra, a commander in the pro-Damascus alliance said.

Hours later, the military information unit of Hezbollah said that the Syrian army and its allies had managed to secure the road from Palmyra to Deir al-Zour after foiling the violent attack.

The assault marked the first major counterattack against the Syrian army and its allies since they broke through a swathe of ISIS-held territory to reach the city of Deir al-Zor earlier this month.



White House: Qatar and Egypt Plan Talks with Hamas on Gaza Ceasefire

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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White House: Qatar and Egypt Plan Talks with Hamas on Gaza Ceasefire

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Saturday that mediators for Qatar and Egypt plan to engage Hamas militants soon to see if there is a way to push ahead with a Gaza ceasefire proposal offered by US President Joe Biden.

Sullivan spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a Ukraine peace summit and was asked about diplomatic efforts to get an agreement for Hamas to release some hostages held since Oct. 7 in exchange for a ceasefire lasting at least six weeks.

Sullivan said he had spoken briefly to one of the main interlocutors, Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and that they would speak again about Gaza on Sunday while both are in Switzerland for the Ukraine conference, Reuters reported.

Hamas has welcomed the ceasefire proposal, but insists any agreement must secure an end to the war, a demand Israel still rejects. Israel described Hamas's response to the new US peace proposal as total rejection.

Sullivan said that US officials have taken a close look at Hamas's response.

"We think some of the edits are not unexpected and can be managed. Some of them are inconsistent both with what President Biden laid out and what the UN Security Council endorsed. And we are having to deal with that reality," he said.

He said US officials believe there remains an avenue to an agreement and that the next step will be for Qatari and Egyptian mediators to talk to Hamas and "go through what can be worked with and what really can’t be worked with."

"We anticipate a back-and-forth between the mediators and Hamas. We’ll see where we stand at that point. We will keep consulting with the Israelis and then hopefully at some point next week we’ll be able to report to you where we think things stand and what we see as being the next step to try to bring this to closure," he said.