Syrian rebels say Moscow deploys ground forces in Idlib campaign
Russia has sent special forces in recent days to fight alongside Syrian army troops struggling to make gains in a more than two-month assault in northwestern Syria to seize the last opposition bastion, senior rebel commanders said, MEMO reports.
They said although Russian officers and troops had been behind front lines directing the operations, using snipers and firing anti-tank missiles, this was the first time Moscow had sent ground troops on the battlefield in the campaign that began at the end of April.
“These special Russian forces are now present in the battlefield. The Russians are intervening directly now,” said Captain Naji Mustafa, spokesman for the Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) coalition of rebel factions.
Russian ground forces entered the battle with government forces to seize the strategic Humaymat hilltops in northern Hama that fell into rebel hands last week, regaining it after previous successive attempts by the army failed.
Russian defence ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.
U.S. House rejects Saudi weapons sales; Trump to veto
The U.S. House of Representatives backed resolutions on Wednesday to block the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, sending them to the White House, where President Donald Trump has promised a veto, Reuters reports.
Nearly a month after the Senate supported 22 resolutions disapproving of Trump’s plan for billions of dollars in weapons sales despite Congress’ objections, the House passed three of the 22, two on a vote of 238-190 and the third by a 237-190 margin, largely along party lines.
The three resolutions would block the sale of Raytheon Co precision-guided munitions and related equipment to the two countries. The House’s Democratic leaders opted to take up those three before the others because the PGMs could be delivered quickly, aides said. Some lawmakers also suspect that the PGMs have been used against civilians in Yemen’s civil war
Many members of Congress, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, have been frustrated by what they see as Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia.
U.S. removing Turkey from F-35 programme after its Russian missile defence purchase
The United States said on Wednesday that it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme, a move long threatened and expected after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defence system last week, Reuters reports.
The first parts of the S-400 air defence system were flown to the Murted military air base northwest of Ankara on Friday, sealing NATO ally Turkey’s deal with Russia, which Washington had struggled for months to prevent.
“The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the programme and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the programme,” Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment, told a briefing.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said the move was unfair and could affect relations between the two countries.
Lord said moving the supply chain for the advanced fighter jet would cost the United States between $500 million and $600 million in non-recurring engineering costs.
Turkey makes more than 900 parts of the F-35, she said, adding the supply chain would transition from Turkish to mainly U.S. factories as Turkish suppliers are removed.
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Source: MEMO, Reuters