Last batch of insurgents leaves Beit Sahm, Babila, and Yalda in South Damascus

Insurgents left an enclave in south Damascus on Thursday, state media said, the last in a string of rebel towns that have surrendered around the capital in recent weeks. State television said 15 buses shuttled fighters out of Beit Sahm, Babila, and Yalda south of the capital. “The towns have become empty of terrorist presence,” a state TV correspondent said from the outskirts of Beit Sahm.

Hundreds of people have left since last week. Under the deal, the buses take fighters and civilians who refuse the return of state rule to insurgent territory in Afrin.

Government forces pounded jihadists in a small adjacent zone also south of Damascus, state news agency SANA said. Daesh terrorists have been holed up there after weeks of intense bombardment on the Hajar al-Aswad district and Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp.

Sources: SANA/Syria & Iraq News

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Heavy bombardment of SAA bases in Hama and Aleppo

An unidentified force, probably Israel, has struck SAA army bases in rural Hama and Aleppo provinces on Sunday night causing dozens of casualties among SAA and allied forces.

Damascus confirmed rocket attacks on military bases in central Syria to state-run media early Monday, but did not say who was responsible.The Syrian news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying military positions in the provinces of Hama and Aleppo had been “subjected to a new aggression with hostile missiles at about 10:30 pm (19:30 GMT),” on Sunday. Syrian television aired images of what it said was the explosions. It had earlier reported loud blasts heard in rural areas of Hama. Some media loyal to the Syrian government suggested Israel was behind the attacks. Israel does not usually comment on such cases.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shelling targeted a Syrian army base, home to the 47th Brigade, near the city of Salhab, west of Hama, where Iranian forces are also stationed. Syrian opposition sources said the attack inflicted heavy casualties on the Syrian army and their allies the Iranians, without giving a specific number. The Observatory said rockets also hit Syrian government bases in the region surrounding Nairab military airport, which is close to Aleppo International Airport.

Sources close to the Syrian government told dpa loud explosions were also heard from Iran’s Nahar al-Bard base, 60 kilometres north-west of Hama. Earlier Sunday Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed to maintain freedom of operation in Syria. “We have no intention to attack Russia or to interfere in domestic Syrian issues,” Lieberman said at a conference, according to the newspaper Haaretz. “But if somebody thinks that it is possible to launch missiles or to attack Israel or even our aircraft, no doubt we will respond and we will respond very forcefully,” Lieberman said. Israel had three problems, he added: “Iran, Iran, Iran.” “Iran is trying to destabilize the whole region, not only in Israel. Look at what is happening in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria,” the defence minister said. “Iran supports and creates proxies around Israel. Hamas and Islamic Jihad would not survive one week without Iranian support.”

SANA reported that Sunday’s attack came as an agreement was reached to evacuate opposition rebels from areas south of the capital Damascus, specifically from Yelda, Beit Saham and al-Yarmouk camp, home to Palestinian refugees.

Sources: Syria & Iraq News/dpa

OPCW mission reached Douma, collected samples for analysis ~statement

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has issued a statement saying that the Fact-Finding Mission in Syria has reached one of the sites in Douma where a suspected chemical weapons attack occured on April 7 and has collected samples for analysis.

The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited one of the sites in Douma, Syrian Arab Republic today to collect samples for analysis in connection with allegations of chemical weapons use on 7 April 2018. The OPCW will evaluate the situation and consider future steps including another possible visit to Douma.

The samples collected will be transported to the OPCW Laboratory in Rijswijk and then dispatched for analysis to the OPCW’s designated labs. Based on the analysis of the sample results as well other information and materials collected by the team, the FFM will compile their report for submission to the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention for their consideration.

Sources: Syria & Iraq News/Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Rebels withdraw from Qalamoun

Rebels began withdrawing from Qalamoun on Saturday and will go to northern Syria, state TV and a rebel official said, in a surrender agreement that marks another victory for President Bashar al-Assad. The withdrawal will restore state control over the eastern Qalamoun enclave, some 40 km from Damascus.

Screenshot from SANA showing buses waiting to board rebels and their families from al-Ruhaiba [21/4/2018]

State TV said rebel fighters and their families would be transported from eastern Qalamoun to Idlib and Jarablus, with 3,200 militants and their families expected to leave on Saturday. The spokesman for one of the rebel groups in eastern Qalamoun said the insurgents had agreed to the deal after intensified Russian shelling killed six people in areas near the town of al-Ruhaiba earlier this week. “This made the Free (Syrian) Army factions sit at the negotiating table with the Russian side and an agreement was reached the most important articles of which are the surrender of heavy weapons and the departure of fighters to the north,” Said Seif of the Ahmad Abdo Martyr brigade said. A first convoy of 10 buses had left al-Ruhaiba and was being searched in a nearby area before continuing to the north.

Sources: Syria & Iraq News/SANA/Reuters

Syria downs Israeli F-16 after IDF down Iranian UAV; Moscow ‘concerned’

Syrian anti-aircraft fire shot down an Israeli F-16 jet on Saturday, the military said, after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria and struck an Iranian target there. The F-16 jet crashed in northern Israel, near the village of Harduf.

Israeli security forces walk next to the remains of an F-16 Israeli war plane near the Israeli village of Harduf, Israel, February 10, 2018. [Reuters/Herzie Shapira]

It was one of the most serious incidents involving Israel, Iran and Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war almost eight years ago. “A combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel,” the Israeli military said in a statement. “IDF (Israel Defence Forces) has targeted the Iranian control systems in Syria that sent the #UAV into Israeli airspace. Massive Syrian Anti-Air fire, one F16 crashed in Israel, pilots safe,” Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said on Twitter.

SAA says air defenses addressed Israeli enemy and hit more than one aircraft

Syria’s SANA state media cited a military source as saying Syrian air defences had opened fire in response to an Israeli act of “aggression” against a military base and hit “more than one plane”. “The Israeli enemy entity at dawn today conducted a new aggression against one of the military bases in the central region. Our air defences confronted it and hit more than one plane,” the unidentified military source said.

Russia says is concerned with escalation of tensions

The Russian government said on Saturday that it is “concerned” with escalation of tensions between Israel and Syria.

Sources: Syria & Iraq News/Reuters/Sputnik

Medical evacuations from Eastern Ghouta have begun: Red Crescent and ICRC

The Syrian branches of the Red Crescent and the International Red Cross have said on late Tuesday on their Twitter accounts. According to the medical organizations some “critical medical cases” were transported from Eastern Ghouta to Damascus hospitals following intense negotiations between Syrian Arab Red Crescent’s president Khaled Hboubati and IFRC president Francesco Rocca.