US, allies conduct 13 strikes in Syria, Iraq: US military
REUTERS photoA coalition led by the United States conducted 12 strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq on Nov. 30, and hit the militant group with a single strike in Syria, according to a statement released on Dec. 1.
The sole Syria strike was near al-Hawl, hitting a tactical unit, the statement from the Combined Joint Task Force said, according to Reuters.
Most of the Iraq strikes, five, were concentrated near Ramadi, where they hit a tactical unit and destroyed fighting positions, command areas, a staging area, a weapons cache and two buildings, according to the statement.
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Dec. 1 that he was “prepared to expand” the role of special operations troops fighting ISIL jihadists in Syria. “American special operators bring a unique suite of capabilities that make them force multipliers,” he said.
“Where we find further opportunity to leverage such capability, we are prepared to expand it,” he added.
The United States has already announced it is sending about 50 special operations troops into Syria, while AFP reported last week citing Kurdish sources that the U.S. troops had entered Syria from Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq.
Carter named Turkey as one of the countries that needed to do more in the fight against ISIL, including tightening control of its border with Syria.
“We all must do more. Turkey must do more to control its often porous border,” Carter said, noting that Saudi Arabia and Gulf states had been “preoccupied by the conflict in Yemen.”
Earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama said Turkey had made some progress in sealing its border with Syria but that ISIL was still exploiting gaps to bring in foreign fighters and sell oil.
Saudi Arabia invites 65 Syrian opposition figures
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has issued invitations to 65 Syrian opposition figures to attend a conference in Riyadh to try to unify their positions ahead of proposed Syrian peace talks, Saudi newspapers reported on Dec. 1.
Asharq al-Awsat and al-Hayat dailies said no date had yet been set for the Riyadh meeting, but quoted unnamed sources as saying it could take place next week.
Asharq al-Awsat quoted Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) opposition group, as saying the Saudi Foreign Ministry had “invited 65 figures to attend the conference in Riyadh.”
He said 20 members of the coalition, which is based outside Syria, had been invited, along with seven from the National Coordination Body, an internal opposition group.
Another 10 to 15 places were allocated to rebel leaders and 20 to 25 to independents, business leaders and religious figures, the paper quoted Ramadan as saying.
Saudi Arabia, a main supporter of opposition groups seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad, has said it was in contact with them about the conference, which comes after an international agreement to launch talks between the government and the opposition by Jan. 1, 2016.
On Dec. 1, an air strike on a water treatment plant in Syria on Nov. 26 cut water supplies for 3.5 million people, and although pumping has been partly restored, 1.4 million still have reduced supply, the head of U.N. agency UNICEF in Syria said on Dec. 1.
“In Syria, the rules of war, including those meant to protect vital civilian infrastructure, continue to be broken on a daily basis,” UNICEF’s representative in Syria, Hanaa Singer, said in a statement, according to Reuters. “The air-strike which reportedly hit al-Khafseh water treatment plant in the northern city of Aleppo last Thursday is a particularly alarming example.”