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MONDAY 28 MAY 2018,



26 Syria regime, 9 Russia fighters killed in Daesh attack

Beirut —

At least 26 Syrian regime

forces and nine Russian fighters were

killed in a Daesh group attack earlier

this week in Syria’s eastern desert, a

monitor said Sunday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human

Rights said the militants had targeted

a group of Syrian and allied Russian

fighters near the town of Mayadeen in

Deir Ezzor province on Wednesday.

“There were 35 pro-government

forces killed, including at least nine

Russians. Some of those Russian na-

tionals were government troops, but

not all of them,” said Observatory head

Rami Abdel Rahman.

The remaining 26 were all Syrian

forces, he told AFP.

The Russian military is back-

ing Syria’s army with air strikes and

troops, but there are also widespread

reports of private Russian mercenaries

on the ground.

The defense ministry in Moscow

said Sunday four Russian servicemen

had been killed in clashes with mili-

tants in Deir Ezzor.

It did not give a date or precise lo-

cation, but the Observatory said it was

the same incident as the IS attack near


Two of the servicemen were “mili-

tary advisers commanding the Syrian

artillery” and were killed on the spot,

the defence ministry said.

It said two more Russian soldiers

died later in a Russian military hospi-

tal following the fighting. Three other

troops were wounded.

The ministry said the fighting last-

ed around an hour and left 43 militants



A man carries

a wounded

child out of

a building

following a

car bomb

explosion in

the northern

Syrian city of



Palestinian president

may leave hospital today

Ramallah, Palestine —


estinian President Mahmoud Ab-

bas could leave hospital soon,

“most likely” on Monday, after a

week of treatment for pneumo-

nia, a source close to him said.

A Palestinian official and a

medical source earlier said Ab-

bas could be released from hos-

pital on Sunday afternoon.

But the source close to him

on Sunday said doctors were still

considering whether the 83-year-

old’s condition would allow for it.

“It could be tomorrow (Mon-

day). Most likely tomorrow,” the

source added, on condition of

anonymity due to the sensitivity

surrounding Abbas’s hospitaliza-


Abbas was admitted on May

20 to the Istishari Arab Hospital

near Ramallah in the occupied

West Bank, with complications

following an ear operation, in-

cluding high fever.

Officials have since con-

firmed he was being treated for


His extended hospitalization

has led to widespread speculation

over his condition, particularly

with no successor publicly in line

for the Palestinian presidency.

Pictures and video of Abbas

walking around the wards and

reading a newspaper were pub-

lished last Monday, in an appar-

ent bid to calm rumors that his

condition was more serious than


In February, he underwent

Mahmud Abbas. — File photo

Israeli army kills

two Palestinians

in Gaza shelling


Israeli tank shell-

ing killed two Palestinians and

wounded a third in the Gaza Strip

on Sunday, medical officials said,

after weeks of border protests

that have drawn lethal army fire.

Israel’s military confirmed

that it targeted an observation


The health ministry identi-

fied those killed as Hussein Al-

Amour, 25, and Abdul Haleem Al-

Naqa, 28. The incident happened

east of the city of Rafah in the

southern Gaza Strip, a ministry

spokesman said.

Separately on Saturday night,

Israeli aircraft struck two targets

belonging to Hamas.

Hostilities over the Gaza

frontier have soared since Pal-

estinians began mass-demon-

strations on March 30, which Is-

rael deems cover for attempts to

breach the border fence.

At least 113 Palestinians have

been killed and thousands hurt

by army gunfire in the protests,

drawing foreign censure.

There have been no Israeli

casualties along the Gaza fron-

tier, but Israel has reported ex-

tensive damage to farmland on

its side of the border from fire-

bomb-bearing kites flown over

from Gaza.

In Israel, the military an-

nounced the death on Saturday of

a soldier who was injured during

a raid in the occupied West Bank

on Thursday when Palestinians

dropped a stone slab on his head

from a building. Hundreds at-

tended his funeral in Jerusalem

on Sunday.

— Agencies

Palestinians inspect damage at an observation post which was hit by Israeli tank fire earlier in the day that left

two Palestinian youths killed, east of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza strip on Sunday.


Libyan rivals set for crunch Paris

talks to break political deadlock


Libyan rivals will

meet on Tuesday in Paris to

agree on a political road map

that aims to resolve disputed

issues to pave the way for UN-

backed elections this year.

UN Special Represen-

tative Ghassan Salame has

been leading the latest push

to unify and stabilize Libya,

seven years after the uprising

that toppled and then killed

Muammar Gaddafi.

Salame told the UN Secu-

rity Council on May 21 that he

had given up trying to amend

a stalled 2015 peace deal and

was instead focusing on hold-

ing elections this year.

“Once we have this road

map we will have outlined the

commitments from all sides

and the next steps,” a French

presidential adviser told re-

porters in a briefing.

“The terms of Mr Salame’s

mission will be clearer.”

Prime Minster Fayez Al-

Sarraj, eastern Libya com-

mander Khalifa Haftar, Aguila

Saleh, president of the eastern

House of Representatives and

Khaled Al-Mishri, president

of the High Council of State,

have all been invited.

Under President Emman-

uel Macron, France has tried

to play a bigger role in coax-

ing Libya’s factions to end the

turmoil, which has let Islamist

militants gain a foothold and

allowed migrant smugglers to


The meeting will encour-

age the parties to quickly

adopt the necessary arrange-

ments for the staging of elec-

tions this year.

A draft of the 13-point non-

binding political road map

seen by Reuters includes the

call for the immediate unifica-

tion of the central bank and a

commitment to support the

creation of a national army.

It also agrees to an inclusive

political national conference

within three months.

Analysts were cautious on

the initiative.

“Libya is a corrupt, frac-

tured environment that offers

many rewards to actors bent

on evading political compro-

mise and using brute force

instead,” said Jalel Harchaoui,

associate at North Africa Risk

Consulting, adding that some

could be emboldened after

being given international le-


“Others will feel excluded

and tempted to conduct at-

tacks and grab territory.”

The draft threatens inter-

national sanctions on those

that impede the accord or dis-

pute the outcome of elections.

Past attempts at peace

deals in Libya have often been

scuttled by internal divisions

among the country’s compet-

ing armed groups and by the

different countries backing

the local actors.

The conference will be at-

tended by some 19 countries

and four international orga-

nizations, including countries

that have influence on the

ground such as Egypt, Italy,

Qatar, Turkey, and the United

Arab Emirates.

“If everyone agrees then

it will be a step forward. The

idea is to put pressure on the

four participants knowing

that if their backers tell them

to accept this they won’t have

a choice,” said a European

diplomat. “That’s partly true,

but there is also an inter-Lib-

yan dynamic to take into con-

sideration,” said a European


The meeting comes al-

most a year after Serraj and

Haftar committed to a condi-

tional ceasefire and to work-

ing towards election in talks

already chaired by Macron.

He was criticized at the time

for consulting neither the UN

nor the partners.

“France is unlikely to in-

fluence how the parties be-

have on the ground,” Harcha-

oui said, adding that previous

sanctions and threats had

made no noticeable impact on

the behavior of protagonists

on the ground.

— Reuters

Fayez Al-Sarraj

Khalifa Haftar

Aguila Saleh

Prime Minster Fayez

Al-Sarraj, eastern

Libya commander

Khalifa Haftar, Aguila

Saleh, president of

the eastern House of

Representatives and

Khaled Al-Mishri,

president of the High

Council of State, have

all been invited.

what were described as rou-

tine medical tests in the United


Abbas won a four-year term

as president in 2005, but he has

since remained in office without

further elections.

Abbas argues the split be-

tween his Fatah party and Hamas,

which controls the Gaza Strip,

has made elections politically


A moderate, he has been in-

volved in decades of negotia-

tions with Israel but is unpopular

among Palestinians, with the ma-

jority wanting him to step down.