Syria regime forces battle militants for key town, highway

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Smoke billows following reported regime air strikes on the village of Kafr Sajna in the southern outskirts of Syria's Idlib province on August 16, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 18 August 2019

Syria regime forces battle militants for key town, highway

  • The town of Khan Sheikhun lies on a key highway coveted by the regime
  • Pro-regime forces have been advancing over the past few days in a bid to encircle Khan Sheikhun

BEIRUT: Syrian pro-regime forces fought pitched battles Sunday with insurgents as they inched closer to a extremist-run town in the northwestern province of Idlib, a war monitor said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “fierce clashes” between loyalist forces, militants and allied rebels were taking place one kilometer (0.6 miles) west of Khan Sheikhun.
The latest fighting broke out overnight Saturday to Sunday and has already killed 26 extremists and allied rebels and 11 members of the pro-regime forces, the war monitor said.
The town of Khan Sheikhun lies on a key highway coveted by the regime.

The road runs through Idlib, connecting government-held Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, which was retaken by loyalists from rebels in December 2016.
Pro-regime forces are deployed around three kilometers (1.8 miles) from the road and have been advancing over the past few days in a bid to encircle Khan Sheikhun from the north and the west and seize the highway.
On Sunday they retook the village of Tel Al-Nar and nearby farmland northwest of Khan Sheikhun “and were moving close to the highway,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
But their advance from the east was being slowed down due to “a ferocious resistance” from militants and allied rebels.
Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) controls most of Idlib province as well as parts of the neighboring provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia.
A buffer zone deal brokered by Russia and Turkey last year was supposed to protect the Idlib region’s three million inhabitants from an all-out regime offensive, but it was never fully implemented.
Regime and Russian air strikes and shelling since late April have killed more than 860 civilians, according to the Observatory, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.
On Sunday air strikes by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia killed two people, including a child, in the south of Idlib, the Observatory said.
More than 1,370 insurgents and over 1,200 pro-regime forces have been killed since April, according to the monitor.
The violence has displaced more than 400,000 people, the United Nations says.
“Many of these people have been displaced up to five times,” the UN’s regional spokesman for the Syria crisis, David Swanson, told AFP on Saturday.
Syria’s conflict has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions at home and abroad since starting with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.


Israeli lawmakers submit bill to dissolve parliament

Updated 11 December 2019

Israeli lawmakers submit bill to dissolve parliament

  • Israel has been mired in political deadlock for months
  • Lawmakers from the rival sides together tabled the bill

JERUSALEM: Israeli legislators submitted a bill Tuesday that would dissolve parliament and trigger unprecedented third national elections in less than a year.
Israel has been mired in political deadlock for months.
With the two largest parties, Likud and Blue and White, unable to form a power-sharing agreement ahead of a Wednesday deadline, lawmakers from the rival sides together tabled the bill.
It is expected to go to a vote in parliament on Wednesday, setting the date for the next election on March 2.
“Under the exceptional circumstances that have emerged, and after two adjacent election campaigns in which no government was formed, the dissolution of the 22nd Knesset is being proposed,” the bill reads.
Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his main rival Benny Gantz have been able to form a coalition government after two inconclusive elections. Polls have predicted the third vote is unlikely to produce dramatically different results.
The legislation is something of a formality. The allotted period for forming a government following September’s election expires at midnight on Wednesday. Without a coalition deal, elections would have been automatically triggered later in March.
Each of this year’s elections, and their subsequent coalition jockeying, have largely been a referendum on Netanyahu, who was recently indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three corruption affairs.
Blue and White’s Gantz has refused to sit in a Netanyahu-led coalition, citing the long-serving leader’s legal troubles. Netanyahu has refused to step down, still overwhelmingly backed by his Likud party and his adoring base.