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Syria’s President says no intelligence sharing with France

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Damascus: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has ruled out collaborating with France and said his country is ready to share intelligence with it only if Paris changed its policy toward Syria.

“We are ready to exchange intelligence with France if Paris changed its policy toward Syria and we have repeatedly called for the necessity to form an international coalition against terrorism,” a news agency quoted Assad as saying during an interview with a French magazine.

“If the French government is not serious in its fight against terrorism, we will not waste our time collaborating with a country, government or an institution that supports terrorism,” he said.

Assad said the only way to determine what the Syrians want will be through the ballot boxes, not through foreign pressures.

“The question of my resignation from the post depends entirely on the will of the people of Syria and parliament. Those who want to destroy Syria, most of all want to destroy the last secular state in the region,” he said.

The interview came after November 13 attacks in Paris that claimed art least 129 lives and injured over 350 people.

In his first comments on the attacks, Assad on Saturday condemned the attacks, saying France is suffering the same terror as Syria has been.

“What France suffered from savage terror is what the Syrian people have been enduring for five years,” Assad said during his meeting with a visiting delegation of French lawmakers.

“The wrong policies of the West, including France, in the Arab region, have contributed to the spread of terrorism,” added Assad.

The Syrian government has for long accused the West of supporting the insurgency against Assad’s rule, deeming such actions as a “support of terror”.

Assad stressed the importance of adopting new policies that could be efficient in curbing the support of terror groups, by drying up their resources and halting their logistic and political support till finally eliminating them completely.

(IANS)

 

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US Backed Fighters Say, ‘They Have Taken Position in Islamic State Enclave in Syria’

The enclave resembles an encampment, filled with stationary vehicles and rough shelters with blankets or tarpaulins that could be seen flapping in the wind during a lull in fighting as people walked among them

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US, Islamic state
Fire is seen during fighting in the Islamic State's final enclave, in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria March 17, 2019. VOA

U.S.-backed fighters said they had taken positions in Islamic State’s last enclave in eastern Syria and air strikes pounded the tiny patch of land beside the Euphrates River early on Monday, a Reuters journalist said.

Smoke rose over the tiny enclave as warplanes and artillery bombarded it. Another witness said the jihadists had earlier mounted a counter attack.

“Several positions captured and an ammunition storage has been blown up,” said Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, on Twitter late on Sunday.

The enclave resembles an encampment, filled with stationary vehicles and rough shelters with blankets or tarpaulins that could be seen flapping in the wind during a lull in fighting as people walked among them.

Backed by air power and special forces from a U.S.-led coalition, the SDF has pushed Islamic State from almost the entire northeastern corner of Syria, defeating it in Raqqa in 2017 and driving it to its last enclave at Baghouz last year.

islamic state, US
The Islamic State group’s last pocket of territory in Baghouz, Syria, as seen from a distance on Sunday, March 17, 2019. VOA

But while its defeat at Baghouz will end its control of populated land in the third of Syria and Iraq that it captured in 2014, the group will remain a threat, regional and Western officials say.

The SDF has waged a staggered assault on the enclave, pausing for long periods over recent weeks to allow surrendering fighters, their families and other civilians to pour out.

Since Jan. 9, more than 60,000 people have left the enclave, about half of them surrendering Islamic State supporters including some 5,000 fighters, the SDF said on Sunday.

People leaving the area have spoken of harsh conditions inside, under coalition bombardment and with supplies of food so scarce some resorted to eating grass.

Last month, the SDF said it had found a mass grave in an area it captured.

Still, many of those who left Baghouz have vowed their allegiance to the jihadist group, which last week put out a propaganda film from inside the enclave calling on its supporters to keep faith.

Suicide attacks on Friday targeted families of Islamic State fighters attempting to leave the enclave and surrender, killing six people, the SDF said.

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Late on Sunday, the Kurdish Ronahi TV station aired footage showing a renewed assault on the enclave, with fires seen to be raging inside and tracer fire and rockets zooming into the tiny area.

The SDF and the coalition say the Islamic State fighters inside Baghouz are among the group’s most hardened foreign fighters, though Western countries believe its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has left the area. (VOA)