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US forces come under fire while on patrol in Syria

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US forces come under fire while on patrol in Syria

…As 2 letter bombs shake Amsterdam, Kerkrade***

American Coalition forces on patrol in Syria exchanged small arms fire with pro-Syrian regime gunmen at a checkpoint while on patrol in north eastern Syria, with the situation now de-escalated, according to a U.S. military spokesperson and a U.S. military source.

The incident, which killed at least one Syrian and left an American with minor injuries, marks one of the most direct confrontations in the war-torn country between U.S. troops and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. But it comes after Russian forces, backing Assad in his push to retake the country by force after nine years of war, have become increasingly aggressive with U.S. troops, according to a top U.S. diplomat.

Syria’s northwest has seen a dangerous uptick in violence in recent months as Assad and Russian warplanes launched another assault into the last rebel stronghold, Idlib province, where jihadist groups and Syrian rebels are both backed by Turkey, which has deployed its own forces and clashed with the Syrian regime.

The U.S. troops were on patrol near Qamishli, by the Turkish-Syrian border, when they encountered the pro-regime checkpoint on Wednesday.

“After Coalition troops issued a series of warnings and de-escalation attempts, the patrol came under small arms fire from unknown individuals,” Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson Col. Myles B. Caggins III said in a statement. “In self-defense, Coalition troops returned fire. The situation was de-escalated and is under investigation.”

A military source told ABC News the patrol received fire from what they believed was a Syrian regime checkpoint, and that coalition forces returned fire as they attempted to leave.

The group then surrounded the convoy and took pictures of their vehicles, before another exchange of fire, the source said. The U.S. also deployed low-flying F-15 fighter jets — which did not engage in combat, but conducted a show of force — as well as on-the-ground flares and flashbang grenades, the source added.

The coalition patrol has since returned to their base.

The group who opened fire on the U.S. were regime-supporting locals. Syrian state media reported that a Syrian civilian was killed by U.S. troops in the exchange, according to the Associated Press.

The exchange of fire highlights the tense and complex situation for the remaining U.S. forces in northeastern Syria where Russian and Syrian government forces occupy various checkpoints. Ambassador James Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for Syria engagement, said Russian forces had become increasingly “aggressive” toward U.S. troops out on patrol, calling “upon the Russians to adhere fully to the de-confliction agreements we’ve made with them.”

President Donald Trump moved to pull U.S. troops out of the country in the fall, prompting a wave of bipartisan backlash in Washington that had led to him reversing course. Instead, some troops left the region, but about 500 service members were left behind to protect key oil fields, according to Trump. Coalition troops also continue to conduct missions against Islamic State in Syria, where the terror group has pockets of fighters looking to reconstitute.

Fighting in the war-torn country has intensified in recent weeks as regime forces, backed by Iranian proxies and Russian air power, have closed in on reclaiming Idlib. More than half a million Syrians are believed to have been displaced by the conflict in the last two months, and U.S. officials are concerned about a refugee crisis.

To complicate the situation further, the assault on Idlib has seen Russian-backed Syrian forces clash with Turkish forces and Turkish-backed militias, who have crossed into various points in northern Syria as part of military incursion against the Kurds and set up 12 observation posts as part of a ceasefire deal with Moscow that has steadily fallen apart. At least 12 Turkish soldiers have been killed by Syrian regime elements, while Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that its forces killed 55 pro-Syrian government forces in Idlib.

Jeffrey, who last week said the U.S. offered assistance to Turkey, met with Turkish officials Wednesday in Ankara, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top adviser Ibrahim Kalin.

Erdogan vowed on Tuesday that the Assad regime would pay a “very heavy price” for the offensive into Idlib and the death of Turkish soldiers — adding in a speech to his political party Wednesday that Turkey will push Syrian forces back out of Idlib and “do what is necessary via land and air without hesitation,” according to Turkish state media.

Also read:  Iranian satellite fails to reach orbit

But while the U.S. has vocalized support for Turkey and stepped up its condemnation of the Syrian and Russian assault on Idlib, national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Tuesday that U.S. won’t act as the “world’s policeman.”

“What are we supposed to do to stop that?” he said at the Atlantic Council Tuesday. “We’re supposed to parachute in as a global policeman and hold up a stop sign and say, ‘Stop this Turkey, stop this Russia, stop this Iran, stop this Syria’?”

That seemed to undermine Jeffrey’s message last Wednesday when he told reporters in Washington the administration was “looking at the various things we can do” to halt the offensive, including more sanctions on the regime and its supporters.

In another development, two letter bombs went off in two Dutch cities early on Wednesday, local police confirmed.

One parcel exploded in the capital Amsterdam after being received in the mail room of a company in the northwestern area of the city, at 8.00 a.m. local time (0700 GMT).

None were injured in the attack, Amsterdam police announced on Twitter.

A second blast hit Kerkrade, southern-most province of Limburg.

“A letter package exploded at a postal sorting company on Wiebachstraat in Kerkrade around 8:30 am [0730 GMT]. No one was hurt,” said the Limburg police on Twitter.

The building was evacuated and police investigations are ongoing, it added.

“It is still unknown whether there is a connection with the explosion of a letter package this morning in Amsterdam,” said the Limburg police.

 

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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