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A fierce battle between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and ISIS terrorists is taking place in the central region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on September 19.

According to the UK-based monitoring group, heavy clashes are taking place in the Aleppo-Hama-Raqqa triangle, north of the Homs desert. Hundreds of the terrorist group’s fighters and commander are taking shelter there.

Warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces are reportedly supporting Syrian troops in the central region with close air support.

“Sixteen personnel of regime forces were killed in the past hours and days, while 20 members of the organization [ISIS] were killed by Russian airstrikes and clashes,” the SOHR said in its report.

The SAA deployed large reinforcements in the central region recently. Some of the elite units on Greater Idlib frontlines were moved to the region to confront ISIS cells.

ISIS terrorists launched dozens of attacks on government forces in eastern Homs, eastern Hama, southern Raqqa and western Deir Ezzor over the last few months. A day earlier, the bodies of six service members who were slaughtered by the terrorists were found in Deir Ezzor.

The SAA and its allies appear to be determined to contain ISIS’ growing presence in the central region. This will require immense effort.



On September 18, another commander of the Russian-backed 8th Brigade, a unit of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) 5th Corps dedicated for former rebels, survived an assassination attempt in the eastern Daraa countryside.

Unidentified gunmen reportedly opened fire at the commander, “Yasser Hamed al-Zoubi,” as he was passing on a road linking the towns of al-Jeezah and Elemtaih. The commander survived the gunmen’s attack without sustaining serious wounds.

Al-Zoubi was a fighter in the al-Sunnah Youth Forces, a Free Syrian Army faction, before the 2018 Daraa reconciliation agreement.

According to local sources, al-Zoubi was among the first fighters to join the reconciliation process. Later, he enlisted in the 8th Brigade and became a field commander in the Russian-backed unit.

A day earlier, an attack with an explosive device targeted Ali Ahmed al-Sabah al-Miqdad, Deputy-Commander of the 8th Brigade and Qassem al-Sabah al-Miqdad, a financial director of the unit, in eastern Daraa. The attack failed.

No group has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks on the 8th Brigade commanders, yet. ISIS, however, remains the main suspect. The terrorist group’s cells are active in the eastern Daraa countryside.


Afghanistan: Dozens of Taliban men killed in air strikes on base

The Taliban issued a statement accusing Afghan forces of killing at least 40 civilians in the air strikes [File: Watan Yar/EPA]
The Taliban issued a statement accusing Afghan forces of killing at least 40 civilians in the air strikes [File: Watan Yar/EPA]

At least 11 civilians were killed and more than 10 others wounded on Saturday in twin air strikes on a Taliban base in the northeastern Afghan province of Kunduz, a provincial official said.

The Taliban issued a statement accusing Afghan forces of killing at least 40 civilians in the air raids. The armed group did not comment on casualties among its fighters.

Defence ministry officials in Kabul, who said more than 40 Taliban fighters had been killed in the strikes, did not confirm any civilian casualties. They said an investigation was under way into the incident, which comes as the warring sides hold peace talks.

“The first strike hit the Taliban base but the second one caused civilian casualties as they had gathered at the bombed site,” said Fatima Aziz, a member of parliament who represents Kunduz.

“This morning, Taliban fighters attacked [Afghan army] positions in … Khan Abad district in Kunduz province,” the defence ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

The military “intercepted the attack in accordance with ‘active defence’ procedures”, the statement added, noting the dead included two commanders. 

Aziz said 11 civilians were killed and five people were missing in the Khan Abad district of Kunduz province.

According to another witness, the air raids killed 12 civilians, including children, and wounded 18 others and Taliban fighters were also among the dead.

The attack came shortly before President Ashraf Ghani again called for a humanitarian ceasefire “to protect our people, prevent violence and terrorist incidents and to achieve a dignified and lasting peace”.

The Taliban has so far ignored such requests, though it has unilaterally called two short, separate truces this year in the run-up to peace talks.

Fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban has continued even as representatives of the government and the armed group gathered in Qatar last week for historic peace talks aimed at ending about 20 years of war.

The negotiations are a result of a deal between the Taliban and the US signed in February, which also paved the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 2021.

TALK TO AL JAZEERA | Afghanistan’s Abdullah: There’s no loser in a peaceful settlement (25:26)



Libya’s NOC lifts force majeure on oil in ports without fighters

The eastern forces' blockade of oil exports has cost $9bn in lost revenue for Libya so far this year [File: Ismail Zitouny/Reuters]
The eastern forces’ blockade of oil exports has cost $9bn in lost revenue for Libya so far this year [File: Ismail Zitouny/Reuters]

Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) has lifted a force majeure on what it deemed secure oil ports and facilities, but said the measure would remain in place for facilities where fighters remain.

On Friday, eastern-based Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar said his forces would lift their eight-month blockade of oil exports, but did not say if they would leave the facilities they control.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and allied forces, including mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, hold some of Libya’s largest oil fields and export ports, and the NOC had already rejected any return to operations until they left the facilities, citing the safety of its staff.

“Force majeure continues in oil fields and ports where the presence of fighters from Wagner and other armed groups that obstruct the activities and operations of NOC is confirmed,” the oil company said in a statement posted on its Facebook page on Saturday.

Force majeure refers to unexpected external circumstances that prevent a party to a contract, in this case the NOC, from meeting its obligations.

Libya and its institutions are divided between the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and Haftar’s LNA.https://e5223cca218222385fc729badb4f26ca.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The country’s oil revenues are managed by the NOC and the central bank, both based in Tripoli.

Lost revenue

The eastern forces’ blockade of oil exports has cost $9bn in lost revenue for Libya so far this year, the central bank said this week, and has exacerbated electricity and fuel shortages in the country.

On Friday, Haftar said the command of his forces had “put aside all military and political considerations” to respond to the “deterioration of living conditions” in Libya, which has Africa’s largest oil reserves.

The announcement comes after hundreds of Libyans protested last week in the eastern city of Benghazi, one of Haftar’s strongholds, and other cities over corruption, power cuts and shortages in petrol and cash.

Haftar’s statement lifting the blockade was made in coordination with the GNA’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maetig.

According to an official at his office, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj opposed the final deal. “The prime minister did not give his approval to the final version of the deal,” the official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.https://www.marshadow.io/assets/aserver?w=300&h=250&host=www.aljazeera.com&plugin_key=ygzGdhFCZlPg9f87a4LSxQ&ifradid=386870043845551&cmp=0

Haftar – who has the backing of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia – launched an offensive against Tripoli in April of last year.

After 14 months of fierce fighting, pro-GNA forces backed by Turkey expelled his troops from much of western Libya and pushed them to Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s rich oilfields and export terminals.

Will Libya’s latest ceasefire bring peace? | Inside Story