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Russia fires cruise missiles at ISIL targets in Syria

Four Kalibr cruise missiles, launched from warships in the Mediterranean, hit their targets near Palmyra, Kremlin says.



Russia fires cruise missiles
Russia said the US, Turkey and Israel had been given prior warning of the strikes [Reuters]

Two Russian warships fired several cruise missiles at Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) targets in Syria from the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, the first such strikes announced in months.

The frigate Admiral Essen and submarine Krasnodar carried out four strikes against ISIL targets near the city of Palmyra, the Russian military said in a statement.

The missiles were intended to eliminate a stockpile of artillery that had been moved from Raqqa, ISIL’s de facto capital in Syria, the statement said.

“All the targets were hit,” the statement continued, without specifying when the strikes occurred.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the successful strikes by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Kremlin said.

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Russia’s capital, Moscow, said the strikes, which came a day after the US conducted what it said was a successful shooting down of a mock intercontinental ballistic missile, could by seen as a show of force by the Russian army.

“Russia generally drops ‘dumb bombs’ in Syria, because it’s cheaper, but every time it wants to send out a demonstration of military capabilities it ups the sophistication of its strikes,” he said.

Information channels

Moscow said that the militaries of the US, Turkey and Israel “were informed in a timely manner of the missile launches through existing communication channels”.

Challands said that none of these countries has particularly close alliances with Russia – but they do have agreements on things like information sharing.

“What Russia has done here is that these information lines continue to operate, but at the same time that Russia is able and willing to act independently,” he said.

Russia has been conducting a bombing campaign since 2015 in support of President Bashar al-Assad and has a naval contingent deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to bolster its firepower.

Moscow has, however, not announced any strikes from the sea in recent months as it focuses on pushing a fragile truce between the government and rebels.

The ceasefire does not include UN-designated terrorist groups, including ISIL.


Middle East

Loud explosion heard outside busy hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu

Explosion hits busy road outside popular hotel in central Mogadishu.



Somalia Car Bombing

MOGADISHU: 16 people killed and 20 injured in a bomb attack at the entrance of  Wehliye hotel in Mogadishu. Most of the casualties are auto rickshaw drivers and passengers, according to witnesses.

The death toll is expected to rise.

The attacked was claimed by al-Shabab, Reuters news agency reported, citing the armed group’s military operation spokesman.

Al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally recognised government, is frequently carrying out attacks in and around the capital.

More to follow.

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Middle East

Arab Parliament calls for ceasefire in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

The international community to shoulder its responsibilities and to take “urgent, effective and serious steps” on the ground for the protection of Syrian civilians from the daily bombardment, explosives and poisonous gases.



Eastern Ghouta

Cairo, March 17 (IANS/WAM) Arab Parliament President Meshal Al-Selmi has called for an immediate halt to the continued bombing in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus and in the rest of Syria.

In an urgent cable sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday, Al-Selmi said that the bombing of the city led to the killing and wounding of hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children.

He said that the siege led to the worsening of conditions, leading to more victims due to the lack of food and medicine available to residents.

Al-Selmi said that the daily bombing of civilian populated areas was a “heinous” crime against humanity and ran counter to the rules of the international humanitarian laws and conventions.

He went on to say that the shelling was “unjustified” and amounted to war crimes, calling on the international community to immediately intervene to stop these crimes from continuing.

The Arab Parliament President urged the international community to shoulder its responsibilities and to take “urgent, effective and serious steps” on the ground for the protection of Syrian civilians from the daily bombardment, explosives and poisonous gases.

He renewed his call to the UN Security Council to implement an immediate ceasefire across Syrian territories and the withdrawal of armed forces of all countries interfering in Syrian domestic affairs.

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Middle East

De Mistura renews UN appeal for Syrian truce



Staffan de Mistura

Geneva, March 2 : The United Nations special envoy to Syria said on Thursday that the world body has and will not give up urging the implementation of its resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in the war-ravaged country.

“We will continue asking until we are red in the face, blue in the face, for both sides… to stop shelling each other’s areas and for convoys to be allowed to get to Eastern Ghouta in particular,” de Mistura told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.

“Otherwise this (Eastern Ghouta) becomes a copy of Aleppo,” de Mistura said, referring to the northern Syrian city that became a major flashpoint in the country’s eight-year civil war.

Civilians have been evacuated from the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area outside Damascus for the first time since daily “humanitarian pauses” began on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

More than 580 people have been killed in Eastern Ghouta since the Syrian government and its allies intensified their bombardments on February 18, according to doctors.

The 393,000 civilians trapped in the enclave, the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus, also face severe shortages of food and medical supplies.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Saturday calling for a 30-day countrywide cease-fire, but it has not come into effect.

The resolution set no firm date for the truce to take effect.

It also excluded attacks on opposition forces identified as terrorists, who make up some of the estimated 580 opposition fighters entrenched in eastern Ghouta.

On Monday, UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, demanded that the ceasefire be brought into effect immediately.

“Eastern Ghouta cannot wait. It’s high time to stop this hell on earth,” Guterres said at the opening of a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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