Deadliest Israeli raids on Syria in years kill 57

Syrian air defences respond to Israeli missiles. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Deadliest Israeli raids on Syria in years kill 57

  • At least 57 people died in the heaviest Israeli airstrikes for at least three years

JEDDAH: Israeli fighter jets bombarded Iranian-backed militia positions in northeast Syria on Wednesday in a new effort to disrupt supply lines to Tehran’s proxy fighters propping up the Assad regime.
At least 57 people died in the heaviest Israeli airstrikes for at least three years. They included 14 regime troops, 16 Iraqi militia fighters and 11 Afghan members of the pro-Iran Fatimid Brigade. “This is the largest death toll from Israeli raids in Syria,” said Rami Abdul Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Days before the strikes, the Fatimid Brigade transported a consignment of Iranian-manufactured weapons to eastern Syria from Iraq, said the observatory, which is based in the UK.
Wednesday’s strikes targeted areas in Deir Ezzor province where Iranian-backed militias and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fighters have a heavy presence.
A senior intelligence official in Washington said the airstrikes were carried out with intelligence provided by the US, and hit warehouses in Syria that were being used to store Iranian weapons.
The warehouses were also a staging post in a pipeline for components that support Iran’s nuclear program, the official said.
A regional intelligence source said the targets included Syrian security compounds inside Al-Bukamal and Deir Ezzor cities, while in the past raids had struck only the outskirts. The latest raids hit “advanced weaponry and weapons depots ... in a large combat arena,” the source said.
Iran’s proxy militias led by Lebanon’s Hezbollah control large parts of eastern, southern and northwestern Syria, several suburbs of Damascus and the Lebanese-Syrian border.
The latest raids came hours after separate strikes on Tuesday near the Iraqi border killed at least 12 Iran-backed militia fighters on Tuesday.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said: “We remain vigilant on all our frontiers. We have taken action and will continue to take action against anyone who tries to challenge us, from near or far. We’re not sitting and waiting.”
Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria since civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as regime troops.
The Observatory said it recorded 39 Israeli strikes inside Syria in 2020 that hit 135 targets, including military posts, warehouses or vehicles. At least 217 people were killed, mostly Iranian-allied fighters.
In June 2018, strikes in Deir Ezzor killed at least 55 pro-regime fighters, including Iraqis as well as Syrians, according to the monitoring group.
Tzachi Hanegbi, an Israeli government minister, said Israel hit Iranian targets in Syria “whenever our intelligence dictates it and according to our operational capability.”
 


Turkey receives 6.5 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine

Updated 25 January 2021

Turkey receives 6.5 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine

  • New shipment adds to an initial consignment of three million doses which Turkey received nearly a month ago
  • Turkey has recorded more than 2.4 million infections and 25,073 deaths due to COVID-19

ISTANBUL: Turkey received 6.5 million further doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech on Monday, several local media reports said, allowing a nationwide rollout to continue.
The new shipment adds to an initial consignment of three million doses which Turkey received nearly a month ago. It has so far vaccinated 1.257 million people, mostly health workers and elderly people, according to health ministry data.
Television footage from state-owned Anadolu news agency showed containers being unloaded at Istanbul Airport after their arrival from Beijing. The latest shipment is part of a second consignment which will total 10 million doses.
About 600,000 people were vaccinated in just two days when the vaccine rollout began in mid-January, but the pace slowed as it moved beyond health care workers.
The health ministry will test the new shipment, a process which medics say takes around two weeks, before the vaccines are administered. That means Turkey would be constrained to around 100,000 inoculations per day for the next two weeks.
Turkey has recorded more than 2.4 million infections and 25,073 deaths due to COVID-19. A rise in cases over recent months led the government to introduce weekend lockdowns since December but daily cases have dropped to below 6,000 in recent days, from a high of more than 33,000 in early December.
Measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus in spring last year led to a sharp slowdown in Turkey’s economy in the second quarter, and the government has taken a series of measures to ease the burden and revive activity.
In the latest move, published in the country’s Official Gazette, the state revenues authority said income tax, withholding tax and sales tax payments for businesses which were closed due to the pandemic will be deferred after it declared force majeure effective as of Dec. 1 last year.
Finance Minister Lutfi Elvan wrote on Twitter that cafes, cinemas and various sports facilities that have been closed due to lockdowns would benefit from the move.