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Russia seeks US coordination in Syria ceasefire efforts

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Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday to push a plan to create security zones and deploy peacekeepers in Syria as part of ceasefire efforts.The “de-escalation zones” would be situated in rebel-held territory in the northwestern province of Idlib, in parts of Homs province in the centre, in the south, and in the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Putin said that the creation of the so-called security zones would be hard to implement without US participation. Delegations will discuss the Russian plan at peace talks in Kazakhstan today.The phone call, the third between both leaders since Trump’s inauguration, is the first time the leaders have spoken since the US struck a Syrian airbase in retaliation for Syria’s chemical attack. The two parts agree to cooperate to end the syrian conflict.

Iraq: ISIS attack on SDF and fleeing civilians kills over 30

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ISIS attack in an area held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria killed at least 32 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The attack on Rajm al-Salibi, the location of a checkpoint and refugee camp near the border with Iraq, led to fierce clashes, injuring dozens, the Britain-based war monitor said. The SDF has been battling ISIS since dawn in nearby areas of Hasaka province, which Kurdish forces largely control. An adviser to the SDF, Nasser Haj Mansour, confirmed that several civilians had died, including people fleeing ISIS in Syria’s Deir al-Zor and in Iraq. The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, has seized large swathes of northern Syria from Islamic State in a campaign to drive the jihadist group out of Raqqa city, its base of operations in Syria. This week, the SDF said it captured most of the strategic town of Tabqa, 40 km (25 miles) west of Raqqa along the Euphrates. The SDF said fighting continued on Tuesday to capture the last few districts of Tabqa as well as an adjacent dam, Syria’s largest.

ISF arrests 91 Syrians for illegally entering Lebanon

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Within the framework of combating smuggling of persons from Syria to Lebanon, and as a result of close follow-up and monitoring, Internal Security Forces (ISF) Information Branch managed to arrest 91 Syrian people (29 men, 29 women and 33 children) in the Beqai town of Al-Suwairi, for attempting to illegally enter into the Lebanese territories, ISF Directorate General said in a communiqué. In details, some of the detained Syrians tried to illegally enter the Lebanese territories aboard two “Renault Kango” and “Kia Picanto” cars, while others attempted to cross walking.

Iraqi Shiite forces retake Hatra antiquities site near Mosul

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Iraqi Shiite paramilitary units captured the northern province of Hatra, cutting off several desert tracks used by Islamic State to move between Iraq and Syria, the military. The operations in Hatra are carried out by Popular Mobilisation, a coalition of mostly Iranian-trained militias of Shi’ite volunteers formed in 2014 after Islamic State, a hardline Sunni group, overran a third of Iraq. The militias on Wednesday dislodged Islamic State from the ancient ruins of Hatra, which suffered great destruction under the militants’ three-year rule, a military spokesman said. Hatra, a city that flourished in the first century AD, lies 125 km (80 miles) south of Mosul, where the militants have been fighting off a U.S.-backed offensive since October. Hatra is also located west of Hawija, a region north of Baghdad still under Islamic State control. Popular Mobilisation, which operates with the approval of Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, said the Hatra campaign aims at cutting off Islamic State’s routes between Hawija, Mosul and eastern Syria.

Swedish Ambassador visits Hermel, says his country keen on supporting Syrian refugees in Lebanon

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Wedish Ambassador to Lebanon, Peter Semneby, expressed on Thursday his country’s deep concern for Middle Eastern affairs, especially those involving Syrian refugees. “Despite the evacuation of the Swedish Embassy in Syria, we remain in contact with the Syrian state. We are also assisting Syrian refugees on Lebanese territories”, the Swedish diplomat said, confirming his country’s relentless efforts to provide support to Syria and other neighboring countries. He made clear that during the second half of 2017, funding will take place through UNICEF. “This will take place following a thorough study on the needs of Syrian refugees and their hosting societies”, he added.

U.S.-backed forces launch new attacks on Islamic State in Syria

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U.S.-backed forces fighting Islamic State in Syria launched a new phase of their offensive on Thursday, a statement said, but they have not yet begun to attack the militant group’s stronghold of Raqqa city in an apparent delay in the operation. But the fourth phase of the campaign aims to clear Islamic State pockets from the countryside north of the city, the SDF statement said. It did not say when the assault on Raqqa itself would begin. “We aim to liberate dozens of villages in the Wadi Jallab area and the northern countryside and clear the last obstacles in front of us to pave the way for the operation to liberate Raqqa city”, it added.

Assad denies use of chemical weapons

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Syria’s president, Bashar-al Assad, has said that reports of a chemical weapons attack by his forces were “100% fabricated”. He told the AFP news agency that the Syrian government gave up its arsenal of chemical weapons in 2013, adding “even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them” and accused the West of making up events in Khan Sheikhoun so it had an excuse to carry out missile strikes on the government’s Shayrat airbase, which took place a few days after the alleged attack.

G-7 Ministers appeal to Russia on Syria but reject sanctions

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The Group of Seven industrialized nations on Tuesday urged Russia to pressure the Syrian government to end the six-year civil war, but rejected a British call to impose new sanctions on Moscow over its support of President Bashar Assad. “Russia can be a part of that future and play an important role”, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.Or, he added, it could maintain its alliance with Syria, Iran and militant group Hezbollah, “which we believe is not going to serve Russia’s interests’ longer term”. He flew straight from the summit in Italy to Moscow, carrying the G-7’s strong desire for a new start in Syria, but few concrete proposals to make it happen. Finally, the G-7 members broadly agree that Assad should go – but not necessarily when, or how. European leaders are especially conscious of the disaster in Libya, where an internationally backed ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi was followed by a descent into chaos and factional fighting and about the last week’s chemical attack, the group decided not to approve new sanctions but to ask an investigation to the Organization for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons

The press conference in Tehran, President Rouhani: Some reforms necessary in Syria

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The press conference is underway in Tehran with over 200 local and international press covering the event. The press conference comes ahead of the presidential elections, scheduled to be held on May 19th. Rouhani is the incumbent candidate. The President commenced the press conference by hailing his administration’s various achievments including higher payments, better conditions for farmers, increase of trade balance from – 8.1 at the start of his government to – 2.6 this year, increase of agriculture products and foodstuff from 97 million tons in 2013 to in 95 118,000m tons in 2016, better healthcare and environmental conditions, and more progress in technology, especially in the field of nuclear technology after the implementation of the JCPOA. To The Wall Street Journal’s question on Iran’s next move after the US missile attack in Syria, and what measures Iran and Russia have agreed upon in regard to the Syrian conflict following the US attack, President Rouhani stressed that Iran still believes the only viable solution to end the crisis in Syria is a political approach and the progress of peace talks. He expressed regret that the US attack had hurt the process of Syrian peace talks and aided terrorists into thinking they had now an upper hand during the negotiations. President Rouhani noted that Iran-Russia-Turkey cooperation is focused on the success of Astana peace talks, while Iran-Russia-Syria cooperation is concerned with fighting terrorism on the ground; “During my recent visit to Moscow as well the telephone conversation with President Putin, we agreed on more coordination about the operations in Syria”, he added.

Netanyahu urges world to rid Syria of chemical weapons

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The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem and he said that Israel fully supports the American airstrike in Syria. He also underline the fact that Trump did it for moral reasons, in the face of horrible sights from Idlib Province, but also to send out a clear message that there is a price to be paid for using chemical weapons. “There is an existing commitment from 2013 to remove all chemical weapons from Syria, and this commitment has not yet been fully met”, Netanyahu added. “We call on the international community to complete this task. This is an opportunity for American-Russian collaboration on this particular point”. This job needs to be completed. On Friday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called Netanyahu to thank him for his support of U.S. President Donald Trump’s retaliatory strike in Syria. The Prime Minister also committed to help and accomodate Syrian refugees

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