Syrian Army Amps up Strikes on Eastern Ghouta
The Syrian army continued to pound the eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus on Monday, despite the area being designated a de-escalation zone, a war monitor reported.
Monday’s offensive marks one of the heaviest bombardments of the Eastern Ghouta region since the government launched a campaign to expand its control of the area two months ago.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that jets carried out at least 18 air raids on the Ain Terma and Jobar districts in the Eastern Ghouta. Syrian troops also dropped more than a dozen mortar shells on an area separating the two neighborhoods, according to the monitoring group.
No immediate death toll was reported for the attack but Reuters said on Monday that at least 15 civilians have been killed and several others were wounded in three days of sustained government shelling. Additionally, at least 20 Syrian troops have been either killed, injured or taken prisoner since Sunday.
The government’s daily attacks on the eastern suburbs of the capital have effectively nullified a cease-fire agreement struck between President Assad and Eastern Ghouta’s rebel groups last month.
Turkey Warns of Imminent Offensive Against Syria’s Kurds
Turkish president Recep Erdogan has renewed warnings of an imminent military operation against Kurdish fighters in Syria, Reuters reported on Monday.
“We will not leave the separatist organization in peace in both Iraq and Syria,” he said in a speech on Saturday in the eastern Turkish town of Malatya, referring to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Iraq. “We know that if we do not drain the swamp, we cannot get rid of flies.”
Turkey has also reinforced a section of its shared frontier with Syria with artillery and tanks over the weekend and Erdogan said Ankara was ready to take action.
Turkish forces and YPG fighters who control a section of Syria’s northwestern border have regularly exchanged rocket and artillery fire in recent weeks. According to Reuters, clashes have mainly centered on the Kurdish-held towns of Minnigh and Tal Rifaat near Afrin.
Last week, Turkey appointed three new senior commanders for Turkey’s army, air force and navy in a move believed to be at least partly aimed at preparing for an operation against the YPG in Syria.
Tehran to Host Turkey and Russia Ahead of Astana Talks
A trilateral meeting between Turkey, Russia and Iran is slated to begin in the Iranian capital of Tehran on Tuesday, an Iranian news agency and a Hezbollah-run media outlet reported.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said Tuesday that the meeting would seek to strengthen a de-escalation zone agreement signed by the three states in the Kazakh capital of Astana in May.
According to the Iranian Tasnim News Agency, the trilateral meeting will also address the agenda for future Astana talks.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday that the trilateral meeting would seek to consolidate the de-escalation zones in Syria and added that talks would also address a potential de-escalation zone in Idlib – the only province in Syria under full rebel control – according to Al-Monitor.
Tuesday’s meeting would mark the first time the three states have convened in the Iranian capital to discuss the de-escalation agreement.
- Al-Monitor: Rebel Groups Weigh Options in Syria’s East
- CNN: Inside Syria’s Safe Zones, Russia and Assad Hold the Cards
- The Wall Street Journal: Iran Is Using Syria to Advance Toward the Mediterranean
- The Los Angeles Times: As Turkey’s Political Divisions Deepen, Syrian Refugees in Istanbul Worry About Being Caught in the Middle
- Al Jazeera: Syria’s Doll-Makers: ‘I Protect My Children’s Dreams’