USA tells Syria rebels not to expect help against army assault

Geraldine Edwards
June 26, 2018

Unless an agreement is reached between Moscow and Washington over the fate of southern Syria, a big offensive risks an escalation that could draw the USA deeper into the war.

Washington had warned the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and his Russian allies that violations of a "de-escalation" zone agreed by the U.S. and Russia a year ago would have "serious repercussions" and pledged "firm and appropriate measures".

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says Damascus will take control of the country's north BY FORCE if forces backed by the U-S and Turkey refuse to surrender.

The raids on Al-Herak hit near a hospital, damaging it and forcing its medical staff to shut it down at least temporarily, he said.

"The Russian strikes started around 10:30pm local time (1930 GMT) and stopped after midnight", said Ibrahim Mohammad, a media activist in the battered rebel town of Busr al-Harir in Daraa.

Daraa and the adjacent province of Quneitra are mostly still held by opposition forces, but army troops appear to be preparing a ground assault to retake them, AFP reported.

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The southwestern city of Daraa is seen by the opposition as the cradle of the 2011 uprising that began as a peaceful protest movement against Assad's authoritarian rule but has spread across the country and degenerated into civil war.

Rebel forces are also firing rockets and mortars into regime territory, AFP reported.

Escalating bombardment has displaced some 12,000 people from rebel towns in Daraa's eastern countryside, according to the Observatory. It could secure the reopening of a major worldwide border crossing with Jordan.

The UN has warned that renewed hostilities could put 750,000 lives in rebel-held areas of Daraa province at risk.

In an effort to avoid a deadly offensive, global powers are holding talks aimed at reaching a negotiated settlement for Syria's south.

But violence has been ratcheting up this week as Syrian government forces look to retake the south militarily.

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Meanwhile, a two-day curfew was imposed by the Syrian Democratic Forces - a US-backed force largely made up of Kurdish fighters - in the northern city of Raqqa yesterday after they declared a state of emergency, saying ISIS fighters had entered the city and planned a bombing campaign.

The US warning was contained in an Arabic-language message distributed to rebel commanders and seen by AFP.

While the US has voiced opposition to the offensive, officials told allied rebels not to expect American military intervention to halt it.

The US message sent to heads of the Free Syrian Army said Washington wanted to make clear that "you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us".

The US did not immediately confirm the letter's contents. He described President Trump as a "very stark example" of American approach in politics - always saying "what you want to hear", but doing the opposite, get things "worse and worse".

The ministry noted that Free Syrian Army (FSA) field commanders, who had earlier sided with the country's legitimate government, had asked Damascus for help via the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation.

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