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US troops are being withdrawn from Syria, after President Donald Trump said the ISIS group had been “defeated”, the Trump administration has announced.

However, the Pentagon said it was transitioning to the “next phase of the campaign” but did not give details.

Some 2,000 troops have helped rid much of north-eastern Syria of ISIS, but pockets of fighters remain.

It had been thought defense officials wanted to maintain a US presence to ensure ISIS did not rebuild.

There are also fears a US withdrawal will cede influence in Syria and the wider region to Russia and Iran.

Both the Pentagon and the WhiteHouse statement said the US had started “returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign”.

US Ground Troops Sent to Syria to Fight ISIS

Vladimir Putin Orders Russian Troops Withdrawal from Syria

The Pentagon said it would not provide further details of what that next phase is “for force protection and operational security reasons”.

The White House said the US and its allies stood “ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support and any means of infiltrating our borders”.

Israel said it had been told the US had “other ways to have influence in the area” but would “study the timeline [of the withdrawal], how it will be done and of course the implications for us”.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on state-controlled Channel One TV that the US decision could result in “genuine, real prospects for a political settlement” in Syria.

Pulling troops out of Syria had long been promised by President Trump.

The state department abruptly canceled its daily briefing on December 19 after the withdrawal was announced.

One of President Trump’s supporters, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who sits on the armed services committee, called it a “huge Obama-like mistake”.

In a series of tweets, Lindsey Graham said ISIS was “not defeated”, and warned withdrawing US troops puts “our allies, the Kurds, atrisk”.

This week Turkey said it was preparing to launch an operation against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria, which has been an ally of the US in its fight against ISIS.

According to the Israeli military, one of its F-16 fighter jet has crashed amid Syrian anti-aircraft fire after an offensive against Iranian targets in Syria.

The two pilots parachuted to safety before the crash in northern Israel. It is believed to be the first time Israel has lost a jet in the Syrian conflict.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted: “Moments ago, IAF aircraft, targeted the Syrian Aerial Defense System & Iranian targets in Syria. 12 targets, including 3 aerial defense batteries & 4 Iranian military targets, were attacked. Anti-aircraft missiles were fired towards Israel, triggering alarms in northern Israel.”

Red alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.

Israel was carrying out strikes after the launch of an Iranian drone into Israel. The drone was intercepted.

Syria accused Israel of “aggression”, as Israel then launched more strikes.

Image source Wikimedia

TPS: Trump Administration Extends Temporary Protection for Nearly 7,000 Syrians

US Urges Russia to Stop Supporting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad

In a statement, the Israeli military said “a combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It said the drone was identified quickly and was “under surveillance until the interception”.

The drone went down on Israeli territory and was “in our possession”, IDF spokesperson Brig Gen Ronen Manelis said.

The military said that in response the IDF “targeted Iranian targets in Syria”. It said the mission deep inside Syrian territory was successfully completed.

After coming under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, the F-16’s two crew ejected and were later taken to hospital. One of them was “severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation”, the IDF said.

It was not clear whether the F-16 jet was hit by anti-aircraft fire or went down near Harduf for other reasons.

Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defenses opened fire in response to an Israeli act of “aggression” against a military base on February 10, hitting “more than one plane”.

Meanwhile, Iran, Russia and the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – key allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – dismissed as “lies” Israeli claims that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace, news wires report.


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is holding talks in Russia with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as the US urges Moscow to stop supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Rex Tillerson’s visit comes amid tensions over last week’s suspected chemical attack in Syria and American strikes on a Syrian base.

Russia has condemned the US strikes and stands by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its long-time ally.

President Donald Trump has said the US has no further plans there and is “not going into” that country’s civil war.

On April 11, President Trump’s defense secretary made clear the priority remained the defeat of ISIS.

Jim Matiss said: “Our military policy in Syria has not changed.”

Iamge source Times of India

Last week’s air strike has led to confusion over US policy in Syria, with some officials suggesting a more aggressive stance against President Bashar al-Assad.

As they were preparing to meet today, Sergei Lavrov told Rex Tillerson that Russia had “a lot of questions regarding very ambiguous and contradictory ideas (…) coming from Washington”.

Rex Tillerson said he looked forward to a “candid” exchange so that the two countries could better define and narrow their differences.

He has warned that Russia risks becoming irrelevant in the Middle East because of its support for Bashar al-Assad.

The White House also says Russia has been trying to deflect blame for the chemical attack that killed 89 people.

US intelligence reports say the Syrian government used chemical weapons during air strikes on the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun that left 89 people dead.

On April 11, the Turkish health ministry confirmed that the nerve agent Sarin had been used.

Syria denies this and Russia has instead blamed rebel forces, which it says were storing chemical weapons which were hit in the raids.

On April 12, the UN Security Council is to vote on a draft resolution by the US, UK and France requiring the Syrian government to co-operate with an investigation into the chemical attack.

President Vladimir Putin has also called for an independent UN investigation.


President Donald Trump has ordered a missile strike against a Syrian air base in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town on April 4.

Fifty-nine Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from two US Navy ships in the Mediterranean. According to the Syrian army, 6 people were killed.

It is the first direct US military action against forces commanded by Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

The Kremlin, which backs President Assad, has condemned the strike.

The strike comes just two days after dozens of civilians, including many children, died in the suspected nerve gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.

On the orders of President Trump, Navy destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross fired dozens of cruise missiles at Shayrat airfield in western Homs province at about 04:40 Syrian time.

According to the Pentagon, they targeted aircraft, aircraft shelters, storage areas, ammunition supply bunkers and air defense systems at the Syrian government-controlled facility.

Iamge source Times of India

Speaking from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, President Trump said he had acted in America’s “vital national security interest” to prevent the use of chemical weapons.

Donald Trump branded President Bashar al-Assad a “dictator” who had “launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians”.

The president said in a statement: “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end this slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”

It is not known whether the six people killed were civilian or military.

The US has led a coalition carrying out air strikes against jihadist groups in Syria since 2014 but this is the first time it has targeted government forces.

President Donald Trump has previously spoken out against US military involvement in Syria, instead calling for a greater focus on domestic interests.

Only last week US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Washington was not prioritizing the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

However, President Trump said “something should happen” against the Syrian leadership following the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, without giving details.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also signaled a sudden shift in policy on April 6, saying that Bashar al-Assad should have no role in a future Syria.

The Kremlin is one of President Assad’s most important allies and its military has been targeting all rebel groups in Syria, including jihadists such as ISIS, but also the more moderate opposition forces that the US and other Western nations have been supporting.

The Pentagon said the Russian military had been informed ahead of the US action.

However, Russia reacted angrily to the US strike, which the Syrian army said had caused significant damage.

Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma, has said she rejected a deal to offer her safe passage out of Syria in order to stay by her husband’s side.

Syria’s First Lady Asma al-Assad revealed she believed those offering her a new home were trying to undermine her husband’s presidency.

In an interview with Russian state-backed television, Asma al-Assad refused to say who made the offer.

EU foreign ministers are set to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on Syria First Lady Asma al-Assad

She also thanked Russia for its “noble efforts” supporting the regime.

Asma al-Assad, whose social media pages are filled with pictures of her meeting orphans and the injured, told Rossiya 24: “I’ve been here since the beginning and I never thought of being anywhere else at all.

“Yes I was offered the opportunity to leave Syria or rather to run from Syria. These offers included guarantees of safety and protection for my children and even financial security.

“It doesn’t take a genius to know what these people were really after. It was a deliberate attempt to shatter people’s confidence in their president.”

Asma al-Assad, a former investment banker who was born in London, has been Syria’s first lady since 2000, after Bashar al-Assad took over the presidency from his father Hafez, who had ruled since 1971.

The Syrian civil war began after pro-democracy campaigners demanding that Bashar al-Assad step aside took to the streets in March 2011, and were violently repressed by the authorities.

Turkey has reportedly shot down a Russian warplane on the border with Syria.

According to Russia’s defense ministry, a Su-24 had crashed on Syrian territory after being hit by fire from the ground, and that its pilots had managed to eject.

However, Turkish military officials said Turkish F-16s had shot down the plane after repeatedly warning its pilots they were violating Turkish airspace.

Video showed the warplane crashing in a rebel-held area of Latakia province.

It is the first time a Russian military aircraft has crashed in Syria since Moscow launched airstrikes against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad in late September.

Photo Ap

Photo Ap

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the incident as “very serious”, but cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusions.

The NATO military alliance, to which Turkey belongs, said it was following the situation “closely” and was in contact with the Turkish authorities.

The Russian defense ministry confirmed on November 24 that a Russian Su-24 had “crashed on Syrian territory, having been hit from the ground” while it was flying at an altitude of 6,000m [19,685ft].

“Efforts are being made to ascertain what happened to the pilots. According to preliminary reports, the pilots have managed to self-eject,” the ministry was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The ministry stressed that “throughout its flight, the aircraft remained exclusively above Syrian territory”, adding: “Objective monitoring data shows it.”

However, the Turkish military said two F-16s on patrol had fired on an unidentified aircraft at 09:24 local time after warning it 10 times over five minutes about violating Turkish airspace over the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province.

It noted that the F-16s had intervened “in accordance with the rules of engagement”, which were changed after Syria shot down a Turkish plane in 2012.

According to th Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jet had crashed in the mountainous Jabal Turkmen area of Latakia, where air strikes and fighting between rebels and Syrian government forces had been reported earlier on Tuesday.

Russian military helicopters were searching for the pilots near the crash site in the predominantly Turkmen Bayir Bucak area, Turkey’s Dogan news agency reported.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV quoted an ethnic Turkmen rebel group as saying it had captured one of the Su-24’s two pilots and were “looking for the other”.

A video posted online by rebels meanwhile appeared to show a Russian pilot immobile on the ground, either badly wounded or dead.

Russian aircraft have flown hundreds of sorties over northern Syria since September. Moscow says they have targeted only “terrorists”, but activists say its strikes have mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups.

Turkey, a vehement opponent of Syria’s president, has warned against violations of its airspace by Russian and Syrian aircraft.

Last month, Ankara said Turkish F-16s had intercepted a Russian jet that crossed its border and two Turkish jets had been harassed by an unidentified Mig-29.

The Turkish foreign ministry also summoned the Russian ambassador last week to warn him that there would be “serious consequences” if the Russian air force did not immediately stop bombing “civilian Turkmen villages” in Bayir Bucak.

President Barack Obama has sent US troops to Syria to assist anti-government rebels in fighting the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), officials have said.

There will be “fewer than 50” forces deployed in the region to “train, advise and assist” vetted opposition forces, officials added.

This will be the first time US troops are working openly on the ground in Syria.

However, there have been US special forces raids on ISIS militants there.

For more than a year, the US and coalition forces have been carrying out air strikes on ISIS, which controls a large part of northern Syria and parts of neighboring Iraq.US ground troops sent to Syria

The US recently abandoned its Syria rebel training effort, opting to provide equipment and arms directly to rebel leaders instead.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama wanted to provide additional support for Syrian rebel fighters who’ve been having success on the battlefield.

“There are now moderate opposition forces that are 45 miles outside Raqqa,” he said.

“The president is prepared to intensify the elements that have shown promise.”

Josh Earnest said: “This is an intensification of a strategy he discussed a year ago.”

US special operations forces have previously taken part in at least two raids in Syria.

In May, troops killed senior ISIS member Abu Sayyaf and captured his wife in eastern Syria.

Last summer, forces failed in an operation to rescue American hostages including journalist James Foley, who was later beheaded by ISIS fighters.

Last week, American forces assisted Kurdish troops in the rescue of dozens of hostages held by ISIS in Iraq. One American was killed in the raid.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended his country’s military operations in Syria, saying the aim is to “stabilize the legitimate authority” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Vladimir Putin told Russian state TV Rossiya-1 Moscow also wanted to “create conditions for a political compromise” in Syria.

The Kremlin leader denied that Russian air strikes were hitting moderate opposition groups rather than Islamic State militants.

Syrian forces are said to have made significant advances against rebels.

Government gains in Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces were on October 11 reported both by Damascus and opposition activists.

Photo Kremlin.ru

Photo Kremlin.ru

The main battlefront is currently close to the key highway that links the capital with other major cities, including Aleppo, and Bashar al-Assad’s forces are believed to be seeking to cut off rebels in Idlib.

In the interview with Rossiya-1 broadcast on October 11, Vladimir Putin said Russia’s aim was to “stabilize” the government in Damascus.

He stressed that without Moscow’s support for Bashar al-Assad there was a danger that “terrorist groups” could overrun Syria.

Bashar al-Assad’s government was currently “under siege”, Vladimir Putin said, adding that militants were “at the edge of Damascus”.

The Russian president also urged other nations to “unite efforts against this evil [terrorism]”.

The US-led coalition – which has been carrying out its own air strikes in Syria – earlier said it would not be co-operating with Russia.

Russia, which began its strikes in Syria on September 30, said on October 11 its aircraft carried out more than 60 missions in the past 24 hours, and that ISIS was its main target.

Turkish army jets have intercepted a Russian warplane while violating Turkey’s airspace on October 3, Turkey’s foreign ministry says.

The Russian fighter plane “exited Turkish airspace into Syria” after being intercepted, the ministry said.

The Turkish minister has spoken to his Russian counterpart, as well as ministers from other NATO countries.

Russia has been carrying out air strikes in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Russian embassy in Ankara said a Russian plane did violate Turkish airspace, and Russia has “explained it” to Turkey, Interfax reports.

However, a Kremlin spokesman in Moscow did not confirm the incident: “Our ambassador was called to the foreign ministry and given a note, which mentions certain facts, which will be checked.”Russian warplane intercepted in Turkey

The Russian air campaign began on September 30 with Moscow insisting it was targeting ISIS positions.

However, Syrian activists say Russian planes have also targeted other Syrian groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

On October 5, Russia said it had “continued performing pinpoint strikes” on ISIS targets in Syria, carrying out 25 sorties and hitting nine ISIS targets.

Among those targets was a communications centre in Homs, and a command centre in Latakia, it said.

NATO said its Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg would meet the Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu at the organization’s headquarters in Brussels on October 5.

Last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the Russian intervention in Syria as a grave mistake that would further isolate Moscow.

Saturday’s interception took place south of the Yayladagi/Hatay region, Turkey says.

The foreign ministry in Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to issue a “strong protest” against the incident, it said.

ISIS militants have blown up the Arch of Triumph in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syrian officials and local sources say.

The Arch of Triumph was “pulverized” by the ISIS fighters who control the city, a Palmyra activist told AFP.

The monument is thought to have been built about 2,000 years ago.

ISIS has already destroyed two ancient temples at the site, described by UNESCO as one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.Palmyra Arch of Triumph destroyed by ISIS

“The Arch of Triumph was pulverized. ISIS has destroyed it,” Mohammad Hassan al-Homsi, an activist from Palmyra told AFP on October 5.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group monitoring the conflict, said sources on the ground had confirmed the destruction.

Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim also confirmed the news, and told Reuters news agency that if ISIS remains in control of Palmyra, “the city is doomed”.

UNESCO’s director general Irina Bokova has said the destruction constitutes a “war crime” and called on the international community to stand united against IS efforts to “deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history”.

ISIS believes shrines or statues represent idolatry, and should be destroyed.

In August, ISIS destroyed the ancient Temple of Baalshamin – one of the city’s best-known buildings built nearly 2,000 years ago.

The group has also published photos of militants destroying what it said were artifacts looted at Palmyra.

ISIS militants captured the historic site from Syrian government troops in May, amid a series of setbacks for forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria’s conflict, which began in 2011, has left more than 250,000 dead and about half the country’s population displaced.