Syrai-Iraq Updates: 16th June

Syrian force drop warning leaflets on Daesh-held Raqqah/ Russia announces 48-hour ‘regime of silence’ in Aleppo, Syria/ Iraq army, Peshmerga forces start closing in on Mosul/ Apache Gunships Used for First Time against ISIS in Iraq/ Wounded ISIS fighters brought to Turkey hospitals in ‘pick-up trucks’ – doctors, eyewitnesses to RT

Syrian force drop warning leaflets on Daesh-held Raqqah

File photo of Syrian government troops (AFP)
File photo of Syrian government troops (AFP)

The Syrian Air Force has dropped leaflets over the Daesh-held city of Raqqah, calling on the terrorists to surrender before they are all killed in the final offensive against the besieged city.

“This will be the end of each terrorist who will go armed against the army and people,” reads the first part of the two-page leaflets, the Sputnik news agency reported on Wednesday.

Below the text written in Arabic, pictures of slain Takfiri terrorists are printed, directly under which is written:

“We are coming.”

The second page features another text urging the Daeshis to surrender or be killed.

“Militant! The moment of truth is here. The world is changing rapidly. The Army is advancing. Think about it, waiting can cost you your life. Do not hesitate; hurry to surrender your arms, to save your live and your future,” it reads.

Both pages feature the signature of the high command of the Syrian Armed Forces.

Meanwhile, Syrian troops, backed by Russian air support, are just five kilometers away from the village of al-Thawrah after clearing all Takfiris blocking their advance.

“The Syrian army eliminated 15 militants along with their field commander, and destroyed their military vehicles,” said a Syria armysource.

Earlier this week, the Syrian forces regained control of a strategic crossroads leading to Raqqah.

In early June, Syrian army forces entered Raqqah province for the first time since 2014, when Daesh unleashed its campaign of terror on the Arab country.

Raqqah, on the northern bank of the Euphrates River, about 160 kilometers east of Aleppo, was overrun by Takfiri terrorists in March 2013, and was proclaimed the center for most of the terrorists’ administrative and control tasks the next year.

Syrians gather at the site of a twin car bomb attack in the al-Zahraa neighborhood of the central Syrian city of Homs on February 21, 2016. (AFP)

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has also displaced over half of the Arab country’s pre-war population of about 23 million.

Russia announces 48-hour ‘regime of silence’ in Aleppo, Syria

A man walks on the rubble of a destroyed building following reported clashes in the northwestern Syrian city Aleppo on June 8, 2016. (AFP)
A man walks on the rubble of a destroyed building following reported clashes in the northwestern Syrian city Aleppo on June 8, 2016. (AFP)

Russia has announced a 48-hour ceasefire in Syria’s northwestern city of Aleppo in an attempt to calm violence in the in embattled city.

“On Russia’s initiative, a ‘regime of silence’ has been introduced in Aleppo for 48 hours from 00:01 on June 16 (2100 GMT Wednesday) with the goal of lowering the level of armed violence and stabilizing the situation,” read a statement released by Russia’s Defense Ministry late on Wednesday.

The statement went on to accuse al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front terrorists of launching rocket attacks in various parts of the city, including a tank attack in its southwestern parts.

Syrian security forces and residents gather near a building hit by militant shelling as they search for survivors in the Hamdaniyah neighborhood, Aleppo, on June 4, 2016. (AFP)

According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, heavy fighting flared up to the south of the city on Tuesday, killing a total of 70 people on all sides of the conflict.

The announcement came after US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia and Syria over the continued clashes with the terrorists in the city.

Aleppo has been divided between government forces in the west and militants in the east since 2012, a year after the conflict broke out in Syria.

Syrian men drive a motorbike past damaged buildings in a district in an eastern Aleppo district on May 4, 2016. (AFP)

Syria is currently observing a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the United States, which entered into force on February 27.

The truce was reached between the Syrian government and dozens of militant groups operating in the country. The ceasefire does not apply to the Daesh and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups.

However, renewed violence in some parts of Syria, particularly around Aleppo, has left the ceasefire in tatters in recent weeks and torpedoed peace talks on the conflict.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has also displaced over half of the Arab country’s pre-war population of about 23 million.

Iraq army, Peshmerga forces start closing in on Mosul

The Iraqi military and Kurdish Peshmerga forces have reportedly launched operations to tighten the noose around the Takfiri Daesh terrorists in their stronghold of Mosul, as part of larger-scale attempts to fully liberate the northern Iraqi city.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi government forces and their allies started a planned and multi-pronged offensive to first encircle, and ultimately drive out Daesh members from Mosul, which is located some 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of the capital, Baghdad.

There are reports that around 6,000 Peshmerga fighters are participating in the operation alongside regular Iraqi military forces.

Mosul fell to Daesh early in the summer of 2014.

An offensive launched in 2015 to retake Mosul came to a halt because Ramadi, another Iraqi city, fell to Daesh back then. Ramadi was liberated later, in December 2015, and operations to retake Mosul are now being relaunched.

The army has said the terrorists have planted hundreds of roadside bombs and booby traps along main roads leading in and out of the city.

The Popular Mobilization units have announced that they will join the operation by the Iraqi army to liberate Mosul. The force, formed after the rise of Daesh in Iraq in 2014, has already helped the army liberate several militant-held areas.

Elsewhere in Iraq, security forces have managed to retake the villages of al-Tale’ah, Bustan al-Tikriti and Rikan — which lie southeast of the beleaguered western city of Fallujah — from Daesh militants and raised Iraq’s national flag over a number of buildings in the liberated areas.

Fallujah itself is under Daesh control, and a major operation is underway to liberate the city.

Iraqi government forces aim their weapons during an operation in Fallujah’s southern Shuhada neighborhood to retake the area from Takfiri Daesh terrorists, June 15, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The 17th Infantry Division of the Iraqi army earlier regained control over the Fallujah Barrage on the Euphrates and pushed toward the heart of Fallujah.

Moreover, Iraqi forces established control over the villages of al-Ze’anethah, al-Dhaiban, and al-Atar besides the Abbas Jamil Bridge as they made progress toward al-Hitaween region near Fallujah.

The northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued by gruesome violence ever since Daesh terrorists mounted an offensive in the country in June 2014.

The militants have been committing vicious crimes against all ethnic and religious communities in Iraq, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and others.

The Iraqi army, along with fighters from the Popular Mobilization units, has been engaged in operations to liberate militant-held regions.

Apache Gunships Used for First Time against ISIS in Iraq

US military uses Apache helicopter gunships for first time against ISIS in Iraq

US military uses Apache helicopter gunships for first time against ISIS in Iraq
The U.S. military used Apache helicopter gunships for the first time in the war against ISIS Monday in northern Iraq when one of the U.S. Army helicopters fired a hellfire missile at an ISIS armored vehicle rigged with explosives, a senior defense official told Fox News.

A pair of Apaches were flying together, and one of them took the shot, the official said.

There was no immediate word how many ISIS fighters were killed in the U.S. strike.

The U.S. attack happened near the Iraqi city of Qayyarah, roughly 50 miles south of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and an ISIS stronghold where the majority of ISIS fighters reside inside Iraq, according to defense officials.

Mosul fell to ISIS two years ago in June 2014.

In April, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter authorized Apache helicopters to support the Iraqi Army in the fight against ISIS in a sign of increasing involvement of U.S. forces against the terror group.

Defense officials have said recently that the U.S. Apache gunships would be used in the Mosul operation against ISIS, but not elsewhere in the country, Fox News reported.

Wounded ISIS fighters brought to Turkey hospitals in ‘pick-up trucks’ – doctors, eyewitnesses to RT

Islamic State militants are frequently transported across the Syrian border to Turkish hospitals for treatment, according to eyewitness accounts collected by RT on the ground. Their crossing was allegedly ensured by Turkish officials.

Both Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL) and Free Syrian Army fighters were able to cross the border from Syria into Turkey en masse and receive medical help – only to then be allowed to go back to resume fighting in Syria, the head of a local doctors’ association told RT’s Lizzie Phelan.

Phelan visited Gaziantep, a city in south-central Turkey some 60 kilometers from the Syrian border. Eyewitnesses and doctors told the RT correspondent that most of the IS fighters were treated in the border city of Kilis south of Gaziantep.

“Many wounded ISIS militants or FSA [Free Syrian Army] fighters were brought to the border in pick-up trucks, not ambulances,” Medical Association Chair in Gaziantep and Kilis Hamza Agca said. “Many were unconscious and bleeding when they were brought to us.”

The injured men were apparently driven right from a “war zone” and doctors often had to deal with things like “grenades falling out of their pockets,” Agca added.

One doctor from Kilis also confirmed to RT that they were receiving fighters from across the Turkish-Syrian border, including IS militants. The doctor said on condition of anonymity that he was just one of the doctors who treated terrorists in Kilis.

The medic described discovering suicide vests on some of the IS patients and feeling terrified as he was forced to take them off.

The doctor added that the flow of IS militants being admitted to Turkish hospitals has decreased, but they still see militants admitted every couple of weeks.

When asked how the doctors felt about treating terrorists, Agca said that as medical professionals they were under an oath to help the injured, no matter who they were. “Any doctor throughout the world would do the same,” he said.

However, after the treatment was over, the fighters were allowed to rejoin the battlefield back in Syria. “We treated these fighters and they went back to fight once they recovered, some were brought for a second or third time to our hospital,” Agca said.

He also said that Turkish government officials ensured that IS fighters were able to cross into Turkey with no obstacles. “In terms of their medical treatment, the government didn’t give us any order but their policy was to provide the opportunity to fighters to use the border crossing.”

The first reports of IS militants receiving costly and complicated medical treatment was reported in May. The information was leaked via tapped phone calls and was handed to the media by opposition MP Erem Erdem.

READ MORE: ‘All critical news media under pressure in Turkey’: Pro-Kurdish politician on blockade of Sputnik

RT’s Phelan filmed the footage in Gaziantep’s Ersin Arslan hospital, one of the medical centers that has treated Islamic State extremists. The trip to the hospital was risky in light of a crackdown on opposition-minded journalists in Turkey.

“If we get stopped by police they might not be impressed by the story we’re working on and maybe will give us a bit of a hard time,” Phelan said.

The Turkish government has been fiercely trampling on any allegations of links to Islamic State, pushing for the prosecution of reporters and opposition MPs alike for reports that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refers to as “treason.”

“After broadcasting this report, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to enter the country safely again,” Phelan said.

READ MORE: Turkey denies press accreditation to Der Spiegel correspondent

Russian state news agency Sputnik was recently shut down by Turkey without prior notification under “administrative measures” imposed by the country’s authorities in April based on Turkey’s internet controls law.

In March, a correspondent for the influential German magazine Der Spiegel, Hasnain Kazim, was forced to leave Turkey after his press credentials were not renewed.

Turkey has been much tougher on local journalists. In May, it sentenced a Turkish reporter to 20 months in jail and took away her parental rights for allegedly breaching the confidentiality of a court case.

Arzu Yildiz published footage over a year ago from a court hearing that witnessed four prosecutors being sued for ordering a search of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization’s trucks that were traveling to Syria back in 2014. The government, which insists the contents were “humanitarian” cargo to Turkmen tribes, intervened to prevent the trucks from being searched and a number of people have been persecuted for the attempt, which fueled allegations that the vehicles were carrying weapons to terrorists in Syria.


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