BEIRUT, Nov 18, (AFP): A car bombing blamed on the Islamic State group killed at least 26 displaced people in eastern Syria on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. The Britain-based Observatory said 12 children were among the victims of the attack on a gathering at a checkpoint run by US-backed fighters in Deir Ezzor province.
The jihadists are losing ground there to two separate offensives that have come close to ousting IS from Syria. “Dozens of people were wounded, and the death toll could rise because of the number of serious injuries,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman. The displaced people had been on their way to neighbouring Hasakeh province, where camps have been set up to house them in Kurdish-controlled territory, Abdel Rahman said.
Syria’s state news agency SANA also reported an IS car bombing targeting “a gathering of displaced families from Deir Ezzor”, giving a toll of 20 dead and 30 wounded. IS controls roughly one quarter of oilrich Deir Ezzor province but is battling for survival on two fronts. One offensive is by Syrian regime forces backed by Russian air power, while the second is by a US-backed Kurdish and Arab coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The jihadist group appears to be seeking to prove it still has the capacity to carry out major attacks despite losing much of its cross-border “caliphate” to multiple assaults in Iraq and Syria. In early November, an IS car bombing killed at least 75 displaced civilians who had fled fighting in Deir Ezzor, the Observatory reported.
IS fighters are now cornered in part of Deir Ezzor province around the border town of Albu Kamal on the frontier with Iraq. Many civilians have tried to flee the affected areas. The jihadist group seized large areas of both Syria and Iraq in a lightning 2014 campaign, but this year has lost much of the territory it once held. Government forces fighting to flush the group from Syrian territory on Thursday entered Albu Kamal, the last town in the country held by the Islamic State group, the Observatory said. Losing the town completely would cap the group’s reversion to an underground guerrilla organisation with no urban base.
The Iraqi army on Friday retook the last IS-held town in the country, the small Euphrates valley town of Rawa, near the Syrian border. Russia cast a second veto in as many days at the United Nations Security Council on Friday to block the renewal of a probe to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
A draft resolution put forward by Japan would have extended the UN-led Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) for 30 days to allow time for negotiations on a wider compromise. But Russia used its veto power to prevent adoption after 12 council members voted in favor of the measure, effectively ending the mission.
China abstained, while Bolivia voted no. It was the 11th time that Russia has used its veto power to stop council action targeting its ally Syria. “Russia is wasting our time,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote. “Russia has no interest in finding ground with the rest of this council to save the JIM.” “Russia will not agree to any mechanism that might shine a spotlight on the use of chemical weapons by its ally, the Syrian regime,” she said. “It’s as simple and shameful as that.” A resolution requires nine votes to be adopted at the council, but five countries — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — can block adoption with their veto power. Japan put its proposal forward after Russia on Thursday vetoed a US-drafted resolution that would have allowed the expert investigators to continue their work for a year.
A spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting Islamic State extremists is “in the hands of” the Turkish intelligence after handing himself over to pro-Ankara forces, a Turkish daily reported Friday. Talal Sello “gave himself up” to Syrian opposition fighters — which Turkey calls the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — on Wednesday, according to Turkish reports.
Sello was then taken to the southern Turkish province of Gaziantep bordering Syria, the Hurriyet newspaper said, adding that he was “giving answers to questions” from the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) about the activities of the Syrian Kurdish militia. The fate of the burly Sello — who became a prominent face due to his media updates during the SDF’s fight with jihadists for Raqqa — has been shrouded in mystery since it emerged this week that he had left the force.