Syrian alliance welcomed US support as fighting continues

An alliance of Syrian armed groups fighting ISIS welcomed US plans to send American personnel to Syria as fighting continues in the war devastated country

Published: Updated:

An alliance of Syrian armed groups fighting ISIS said on Monday it welcomed US plans to send as many as 250 additional American personnel to Syria but urged greater support including the provision of guided anti-armor missiles.

The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, which includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, is the main Syrian partner of the United States and its allies in the battle with ISIS.

“Any support they offer is positive but we hope there will be greater support,” SDF spokesman Talal Silo said.

US President Barack Obama confirmed on Monday that he had approved the deployment of up to 250 additional US personnel to Syria, including special forces, to train and assist local forces fighting ISIS militants.

Silo said the SDF had yet to be informed of the US decision to send more personnel to supplement 50 people already deployed. He described the partnership between the US and SDF as “strategic”, adding that any extra support was welcome.

“So far we have been supplied only with ammunition, and we were hoping to be supplied with military hardware, and this is something we were promised,” he said.

The SDF alliance was formed last October.

Fighting in Aleppo

As the violence continues to escalate, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 60 people have been killed in three days of fighting in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo.

At least 19 civilians were killed and 120 wounded in rebel bombardment of Syrian government-held districts of Aleppo on Monday, the monitoring group said.

“Shells fired... by rebel groups at districts under regime control left 19 dead, including three children, and 120 wounded,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head, Rami Abdel Rahman.

Fighting has intensified in Syria in recent weeks, all but destroying a partial ceasefire that took effect at the end of February. Last week, the main opposition walked out of formal talks in Geneva.

Beginning early on Friday, government warplanes bombed a number of rebel-held parts of Aleppo, control of which is split between the warring sides. The government air raids killed 45 people, the monitoring group said.

Insurgent bombardments, including the use of home-made rockets and gas canisters fired as shells, meanwhile killed 15 people on the government-held western side.

The city was calmer on Monday but shells were still being fired onto government-held areas, said the British-based Observatory, which tracks the war using sources on the ground.

Syria’s foreign ministry said it sent a letter to the UN Security Council to protest what it called terrorist attacks on populated areas in Aleppo and Damascus on Saturday, the state news agency SANA reported.

It said the shelling violated the cessation of hostilities agreement brokered by the United States and Russia, which took effect in western parts of the country in February.

The United Nations is anxious to salvage the Geneva negotiations, which are the most serious attempt to end the five-year-old civil war.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has vowed to continue the fragile peace talks despite the walkout by the opposition and signs that both sides are gearing up to escalate the war, which has killed more than 250,000 people.

Bombing in Damascus

In other clashes in Syria, a car bomb on the outskirts of the Sayeda Zeinab district south of Damascus killed at least six people on Monday, a monitoring group said, the third bombing attack in the area this year.

Lebanese group Hezbollah’s Al Manar television reported the blast had occurred at a Syrian army checkpoint. It put the death toll at eight.

The Syrian government’s chief negotiator at Geneva talks said the blast struck a hospital.

The death toll was expected to rise because of the number of people with serious injuries, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Multiple explosions in February killed scores of people in the Sayeda Zeinab area, home to Syria’s holiest Shiite Muslim shrine, in one of the bloodiest attacks there in Syria’s five-year conflict.

A suicide attack there less than a month earlier claimed by ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim group ISIS killed 70 people.

Syrian government negotiator Bashar Jaafari said Monday’s blast “that four terrorists carried out” hit a hospital, killing some patients evacuated last week from two rebel-besieged towns in the northwestern province of Idlib. He said 10 people were killed.