What Happened Over the Weekend

German warnings of a US withdrawal, Islamic State sleeper cells, the Warsaw conference and humanitarian corridors. Catch up on everything that happened over the weekend.

1. On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that a hasty US pullout from Syria runs the risk of strengthening the roles of Russia and Iran in the Middle East. Asharq al-Awsat quoted Merkel as saying, “Is it a good idea for the Americans to suddenly and quickly withdraw from Syria? Or will it once again strengthen the capacity of Iran and Russia to exert their influence?” Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference. The Belgian Foreign Minister, Didier Reynders, said US had told partners in the global anti-ISIS coalition that its soldiers would leave in “weeks rather than months.” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian asked why the US would create a vacuum in Syria that could benefit its enemy Iran, calling the approach a “mystery”. A French government source criticized the Trump administration’s approach to the withdrawal as “we’re leaving, you’re staying”. “They’re trying to manage the consequences of a hasty decision and making us carry the responsibility,” the source said, adding that coalition members were united in rejecting the idea of staying on in Syria while the US leaves.

2. On Monday, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham raided Islamic State (ISIS) sleeper cells in Dana town in Idleb province, activists said. Two ISIS militants and a young girl were killed in the clashes between the former al-Qaeda branch and ISIS. Seven more jihadists were detained by Tahrir al-Sham, source told Zaman al-Wasl. ISIS has carried out a series of assassinations that have targeted commanders of the group formerly known the al-Nusra Front in Syria.

3. Bombardment by militias loyal to Bashar al-Assad killed at least nine civilians, including two children and women, in the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idleb province, activists said Friday. Zaman Al Wasl reported that the heavy artillery fire has targeted the town of Khan Sheikhoun for the second time in the southern countryside, pushing the death toll to 14.

4. Vice-President of the Syrian Coalition, Dima Moussa, said that the international consensus among participants of the Warsaw Conference, which considers Iran to be the biggest threat in the Middle East, should be followed by tough, practical measures that twist the arm of Iran, which this state sponsors cross-border terrorism. According to the Syrian National Coalition, underscored that the Iranian danger is not limited to aiding Assad in the killing of the Syrian people only but also represents a threat to the security of the whole region. She noted that Iran is sending sleeper cells and sectarian militias to many countries in the region. Moussa said that Iran’s sprawling tentacles are aimed at creating chaos and instability in the countries of the region. She noted that Iran is serving its goals through the Houthi militia in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and dozens of terrorist militias operating in Syria and Iraq. Moreover, Moussa voiced her support for the US calls for the withdrawal of European countries from the Iran nuclear deal as Iran poses a serious threat to international peace and security.

5. SANA reported that the Syrian government, in cooperation with Russia, decided to open two humanitarian corridors as of Tuesday in Jabal al-Ghurab and Jleib towns on the outskirts of the al-Tanf region. The move aims to evacuate displaced citizens besieged by the US occupation forces and their terrorist mercenaries from the al-Rukban camp in al-Tanf near the Syrian-Jordanian border. A statement by the Syrian-Russian joint coordination bodies for the return of displaced people said that centers would be set up to facilitate the voluntary and safe evacuation of displaced Syrians to residential areas according to their choices.

 

This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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