Will Russia back US and hold back any Assad offensive?
The US Government has warned the Assad regime against an offensive to retake opposition territory in southern Syria, near the Jordanian and Israeli borders.
Responding to reports from pro-Assad outlets of deployments for an assault on areas such as Dara’a Province, where the 2011 uprising began, the State Department said the US will take “firm and appropriate measures” over any violation of a de-escalation zone, declared by Washington and Russia last July.
Following the regime’s conquest of East Ghouta near Damascus and the capture of a pocket in northern Homs Province last month, much of Dara’a and Quneitra Provinces is one of two large areas still controlled by the opposition. The other is in the northwest — almost all of Idlib Province, and parts of neighboring northern Hama and western Aleppo Provinces.
Turkey is protecting the northwestern area, and Russia — for now — is joining Ankara in observation posts to deter any ground offensive. That has left the south as the likely target of a pro-Assad advance, but the involvement of Iranian-supported militia and Hezbollah could bring Israeli intervention.
Pro-Assad blogs have been cheering the move of some of the regime’s top units towards Dara’a. State media have reported that planes have dropped leaflets demanding that rebels disarm.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a Friday statement, “As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations.”
She focused on Moscow with the call, “Russia is duly responsible as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to use its diplomatic and military advantage over the Assad regime to stop attacks and compel the Assad regime to cease further military offensives.”
Definitely an important statement from the US about the regime’s offensive in southwestern Syria. 1) uncharacteristically strong remarks about a region widely thought to be outside the US purview 2) it reaffirms that the US is party to the de-escalation agreement in the SW. pic.twitter.com/3aASPhh1k7
— Hassan Hassan حَسَنْ (@hxhassan) May 26, 2018
Gunmen Kill 5 White Helmets in Aleppo Province
Gunmen have killed five White Helmets rescuers and injured two others in southern Aleppo Province.
Armed men have periodically targeted White Helmets centers. Seven volunteers were killed in Sarmin in Idlib Province last August.
A horrible massacre at dawn today Saturday, 26-5-2018, an unknown armed group raided the Civil Defense Center in the town of #TalHadya (#Alhader center) in #Aleppo’s southern countryside and fired directly at our #WhiteHelmets volunteers killing 5 injuring 2. #RIP pic.twitter.com/0TdI8Ml0CJ
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) May 26, 2018