Sunday, June 18, 2017

U.S. Warplane Shoots Down Syrian Fighter Jet, Iran Launches Missile Strike Into Syria, Iraqi Troops Move Onto Mosul's Old City - Last ISIS Stronghold

U.S-Led Coalition Shoots Down Syrian Warplane

Update: U.S. Central Command issued a statement saying the plane was downed "in collective self-defense of Coalition-partnered forces," identified as fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces near Tabqah. It is unclear if these particular "forces" were getting their funding from Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

A U.S. Navy fighter jet shot down a Syrian government Su-22 fighter jet on June 18 that had dropped bombs on Syrian rebel forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria, ABC News reported. The U.S.-led coalition said in a statement that its focus is on fighting the militant group, and not fighting the Syrian government or Russian forces, but it will defend coalition forces coming under attack. The incident occurred in a town south of Tabqa, Syria, which had been retaken from the Islamic State by the Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish and Arab rebel forces, in preparation for the offensive on the stronghold of Raqqa.

The downing is the latest escalation between the U.S.-led coalition and pro-government forces in Syria. The United States has also recently conducted airstrikes at pro-Syrian government forces that have moved into a deconfliction zone around the town of at al-Tanf in southwest Syria, which is the location of a coalition training base for local forces fighting the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the Syrians are not happy with the US strike:

You American bastards just shot down my cousin's aircraft (Ali) while taking out the scumbags of ISIS in the area.
Ali hope you are OK bro????
— Majd Fahd ???????? (@Syria_Protector) June 18, 2017
The US-led, so-called anti-terrorist, coalition has reportedly shot down a Syrian government forces aircraft.Reuters reports the Syrian Arab Army announced that the aircraft was brought down in the southern Raqqa countryside, while it was engaging a fleeing ISIS convoy. The pilot remains missing.

The International Alliance (IAAF) this afternoon called for the targeting of one of our fighter jets in the Rusafa area in the southern Rifqa district while carrying out a combat mission against an organization calling on the terrorist in the area, which led to the plane crash and the loss of the pilot.

This blatant attack confirms beyond doubt the reality of the US position supporting terrorism, which aims to try to influence the ability of the Syrian Arab army the only effective force with its allies that exercise their legitimate right to fight terrorism throughout the territory of the homeland, especially as this attack comes at a time that achieves In which the Syrian Arab Army and its allies made clear progress in fighting the organization calling on the terrorist who is being defeated in the Syrian desert on more than one direction.

It also affirms the existing coordination between the United States of America and the organization of the terrorist advocate, and exposes the malicious intentions of the United States of America in the management and investment of terrorism to achieve its objectives in passing the American Zionist project in the region.

The General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces, warning of the serious consequences of this blatant attack on counterterrorism efforts, affirms that such attacks will not discourage them from their determination and determination to continue the war against the terrorist organizations and groups associated with them and restore security and stability to all the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.

 Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Sunday it launched missiles into eastern Syria targeting Islamic State militants in response to a June 7 attack on Iran’s parliament and a shrine in Tehran. The hardline paramilitary force also warned that it would similarly retaliate against anyone else carrying out attacks in Iran.

The launch of surface-to-surface medium range missiles into Syria’s Deir el-Zour province comes as Islamic State militants fleeing a US-led coalition onslaught increasingly try to fortify their positions there.

Israel’s Channel 10, quoting an Israeli intelligence source, said the missiles were Iranian Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missiles, with a range of 1,200 kilometers (800 miles).

Sunday’s assault marked an extremely rare direct attack from the Islamic Republic amid its support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a hard-line paramilitary force, has seen advisers and fighters killed in the conflict.

Media reports said this marked the first time Iran had fired missiles as an act of war since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988.

Activists in Syria said they had no immediate information on damage or casualties from the strikes, launched from Iran’s Kurdistan and Kermanshah provinces. Social media was awash in shaky mobile phone footage from those areas, allegedly showing the missiles rise in an orange glow before heading toward their targets.
A Guard statement carried on its website said many “terrorists” were killed and their weapons had been destroyed in the strike.

Iraqi forces on Sunday started their assault on Mosul’s Old City, pressing on with their battle to retake the northern city from the Islamic State group, an army commander said.

“The army, counter-terrorism forces and federal police launched an attack on the Old City,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah said in a statement.

Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, a senior commander with the Counter-Terrorism Service, confirmed the “start of the assault on the Old City.”

Iraqi forces backed by the airstrikes of the US-led coalition have been pursuing a months-long offensive to retake the Old City on the west side of the city from the jihadists.
“The initial airstrikes started at around midnight. The security forces started storming parts of the Old City at dawn,” an officer with Nineveh operations command said.
Taking back the Old City, a densely populated warren of narrow alleyways, is crucial to recapturing the whole of the former IS bastion.
Up to 150,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in the Old City, where the militants are using them as human shields, UN humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande told The Associated Press on Friday. She said conditions are “desperate,” with little food and no clean water.
Iraqi forces launched the battle for Mosul in October, retaking the eastern part of the city in January and starting the operation for its western part in the next month.

Gaza’s sole power plant shut down on Sunday for lack of funds, leaving the nearly 2 million residents of the Strip with only four hours of electricity per day.

The manufactured crisis is just another example of how “Hamas remains the same cynical organization that exploits the distress of Gaza’s residents for political gain,” long-time Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote Wednesday in The Times of Israel.

The same rationale also serves as Hamas’ incentive behind stealing food shipments into the Strip and diverting fuel from hospital generators: the more misery the better.
The bitterness and poverty of Gaza’s residents is the bloodline of Hamas. It is the fertile ground on which its extremist ideology flourishes and from which it recruits its fighters.
Hamas could, if it wanted to, pay for enough electricity to ease the suffering of its people and prevent a deepening of the humanitarian crisis. According to estimates by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Issacharoff reported, Hamas raises $28 million every month in taxes, a significant amount of which they use to pay their members.

But a large portion is diverted to pay for the terrorist organization’s military purposes. Estimates suggest that Hamas is spending $130 million a year on its military infrastructure and preparations for war, including terror tunnels and rockets.

Gaza’s economy lies in ruins. A decade after Hamas’ violent seizure of the Strip, unemployment is at around 40 percent and poverty is widespread. Two-thirds of the population rely on international aid organizations. The water is dangerously polluted. And now the lights have gone out.

As Issacharoff observed, “Those who took control of Gaza in a military coup and since then invested more than $1 billion in their military infrastructure, could have easily directed their resources to resolve Gaza’s problems. But what is the value of another few hours of electricity for the people of Gaza, compared to another few tunnels or rockets?”

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