Russian jets strike Syrian rebel-held bastion in heaviest strikes since cease-fire

Smoke billows following a reported Russian airstrike on the western outskirts of the mostly rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib, on September 20, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 20 September 2020

Russian jets strike Syrian rebel-held bastion in heaviest strikes since cease-fire

  • 30 areas struck the western outskirts of Idlib city
  • There were no immediate reports of casualties

AMMAN: Syrian opposition sources said Russian jets bombed rebel-held northwestern Syria on Sunday in the most extensive strikes since a Turkish-Russian deal halted major fighting with a cease-fire nearly six months ago.
Witnesses said the warplanes struck the western outskirts of Idlib city and that there was heavy artillery shelling in the mountainous Jabal al Zawya region in southern Idlib from nearby Syrian army outposts. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
“These 30 raids are by far the heaviest strikes so far since the cease-fire deal,” said Mohammed Rasheed, a former rebel official and a volunteer plane spotter whose network covers the Russian air base in the western coastal province of Latakia.
Other tracking centers said Russian Sukhoi jets hit the Horsh area and Arab Said town, west of the city of Idlib. Unidentified drones also hit two rebel-held towns in the Sahel Al-Ghab plain, west of Hama province.
There has been no wide-scale aerial bombing since a March agreement ended a Russian-backed bombing campaign that displaced over a million people in the region which borders Turkey after months of fighting.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow or the Syrian army who have long accused militant groups who hold sway in the last opposition redoubt of wrecking the cease-fire deal and attacking army-held areas.
The deal between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin also defused a military confrontation between them after Ankara poured thousands of troops into Idlib province to hold back Russian-backed forces from new advances.
Western diplomats tracking Syria say Moscow piled pressure on Ankara in the latest round of talks on Wednesday to scale down its extensive military presence in Idlib. Turkey has more than ten thousand troops stationed in dozens of bases there, according to opposition sources in touch with Turkish military.
Witnesses say there has been a spike in sporadic shelling from Syrian army outposts against Turkish bases in the last two weeks. Rebels say the Syrian army and its allied militias were amassing troops on front lines.
Two witnesses said a Turkish military column comprising at least 15 armored vehicles was seen overnight entering Syria through the Kafr Lusin border crossing in the direction of a main base in rural Idlib.


UK govt: British women strip-searched in Qatar

Updated 29 October 2020

UK govt: British women strip-searched in Qatar

  • London describes incident as ‘unacceptable’
  • Strip-search took place in Doha airport

LONDON: British authorities have formally registered concerns with Qatar following reports that two women who are UK nationals were strip-searched in Doha.

The forced medical examinations were carried out in Doha airport after authorities discovered a newborn baby in a bin.

This, it is claimed, prompted them to conduct “urgently decided” intrusive examinations, described as “absolutely terrifying” by one of 13 Australian women on a flight to Sydney who were subjected to them.

The British women were part of a group that was forced to disembark flights before having their underwear removed for a female medical professional to carry out an examination assessing if they had recently given birth.

The complaint was registered by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which said in a statement: “We are providing ongoing support to two British women following an incident in Doha. We have formally expressed our concern with the Qatari authorities and Qatar Airways and are seeking assurances an unacceptable incident like this cannot happen again.”

Australian officials said passengers from 10 flights leaving Doha on Oct. 2 were subjected to the ordeal.

“The advice that has been provided indicates that the treatment of the women concerned was offensive, grossly inappropriate, and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent,” said a spokeswoman for the office of Australia’s foreign minister.

Sources familiar with the incident have said the newborn is alive and in care, and the mother has not been identified.

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