Troops on Saturday entered the Raqqa province for the first time since 2014, when Daesh (ISIS / ISIL) unleashed its ferocious campaign of terror in the Arab country.
A potential recapture of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in northern Iraq is seen as the ultimate blow to Daesh. In Iraq, armed fighters have edged as close as 30 kilometers (18 miles) of the capital of Nineveh province.
According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, government troops were advancing on the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River, some 40 km (25 miles) from Raqqa, on Saturday.
"Regime troops backed by Russian airstrikes and Russian-trained militia entered Raqqa province on Saturday morning for the first time since August 2014," said the observatory's director Rami Abdel Rahman.
The advancements followed heavy aerial attacks carried out on Friday in the eastern areas of Hama province which borders Raqqa.
Tal Abyad was cleared of Daesh last year. The town served as a launchpad for ISIS attacks given its proximity to Raqqa.
Earlier in 2016, Syrian forces liberated the ancient city of Palmyra in the sprawling central Homs province.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy it blames on some regional and western governments. According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people in total since March 2011.- See more at: http://en.alalam.ir/news/1824993#sthash.6PXQ3VTX.dpuf
Baghdad-Riyadh marathon on Fallujah
Iraqi and Saudi governments have over the past few days launched propaganda marathon on operations underway in Fallujah.
On the one hand, Riyadh,
that has been provided with all facilities
to prevent liberation of Fallujah, which is
a city occupied by Daesh and is located
about 55 km west of Baghdad.
The Middle East media embarked on political controversy over Fallujah operations since the first day of the operations two weeks ago.
Iraqi government initiated the campaign to liberate Fallujah with a focus to stem civilian casualties in the course of the military operation.
Saudi ambassador in Baghdad was in charge of psychological and media operations and the operations reached their climax late last week as such regional media as Al Arabiya, al-Jazeera and such dailies as al Sharq al-Awsat and al-Hayat and hundreds of websites and social networks came on the scene.
The political media wing launched widescale attacks against forming the popular al-Hashd al-Shaabi network in Iraq, in a way they enter Fallujah to target civilians. Then there were claims on presence of Saudi women in Fallujah and of course, Saudis did not say that they were ordinary citizens or they were going to Fallujah as Nikah Jihad.
Then they gave media coverage to presence of Iranian military consultants stood by Iraqi forces since the earliest days of flash attack of Daesh on Iraq. Then it faced harsh reaction of the political wings, personalities and parties of Iraq. Reacting to recent hue and cry, they called for dismissal of Samer al-Sahban, Saudi Ambassador to Iraq.
Iraqi Foreign Minister reacted to measures and statements of Saudi Ambassador to Baghdad and al-Abadi government protested to media of the Middle East for propaganda and airing false claims on liberation operation in Fallujah. They said they will refer the case to the international justice system.
Mrs. Hannan al-Fatlawi, member of Iraq parliament and head of the Irada party, asked Saudi government to arrange a course on diplomatic principles for her ambassador and Ghassem al-Araji, the head of Badr Fraction in parliament commented on Saudi ambassador's visit, whose mission was to escalate sectarian plot in Iraq.
However, despite answers and reaction of Baghdad and statements by Heidar al-Abadi about support for civilians for Fallujah, Saudi-Baathi wing in the region and certain Iraqi media launched media attacks, leading delegations to Arabian capitals.
Cairo, Kuwait, Amman, and Muscat were destinations to the delegations, led by Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi. The topic mainly discussed by the delegates in the visits was Fallujah operations. Iraqi Prime Minister has in his messages to the countries' leaders provided guarantees on life of civilians in the city.
In a press conference in Cairo, Ibrahim Jaafari called for ending controversy over presence of Iranian military advisors, who were providing assistance to Iraqi forces like the US and other countries' military consultants.
He emphasized that Iraqi government was well informed of the presence of the consultants in Iraqi territory.
Meanwhile, Iraqis' tone gets tougher and tougher as days pass from Saudis' attack in reaction to Fallujah operations to the extent that on Monday, the Kurdish member of Iraqi parliament and member of the foreign relations committee, Abdulbari Zebari, in harsh media statements stressed that Iraqi needs international support to confront extremists in Saudi Arabia.
He said since start of the political process (after fall of Saddam and formation of a new political system in Iraq) Iraq has been suffering from the ideology of extremism, especially from Saudis.
Saudi government has not stopped doing anything, using any possible means to prevent such operations.
Saudis' insistence is so much funny that the US ambassador in Baghdad Stuart Jones on Monday was forced to stop thinking on the case though Riyadh was so much cooperative since the earliest days. The US envoy supported initiative of Heidar al-Abadi to guarantee security of civilians in Fallujah operations and described al-Hashd al-Shabi as a revered group. Eventually, he said there was no evidence at hand regarding violation of rights of civilians in Fallujah liberation.
Having asked about relations with Iran or al-Hashd al-Shabi, Stuart Jones said no secret ties were in place with Iran or al-Hashd al-Shaabi.
It was an issue concerning hue and cry by Saudi-Baathi media, that claimed Saudi ambassador had met with certain commanders of al-Hashd al-Shaabi.
Saudis are striving to prevent Fallujah operations, which has come to its final stage and is in an irreversible course.
Meanwhile, there was an image posted on websites relating to a child who lost his life in a Daesh-sponsored bombing in Fallujah. Iraqis come to question again about the events in Fallujah. They ask what has made Saudis so much concerned and they are in horror and they make some procrastinations in setting free the group of 40,000 citizens, taken hostage in the city by Daesh.