Syria regime suffers losses trying to recapture Alawite village

Syria regime suffers losses trying to recapture Alawite village
Video: Syrian forces battling to recapture key Homs village from rebels have suffered losses. Meanwhile, the US rejects a Russian proposal to join air campaign against militant groups in Syria.
3 min read
21 May, 2016
Syrian forces clashed with armed rebels, including al-Nusra Front militants, in northern Homs on Saturday, leaving dozens of causalities on the regime side as they struggled to retake an Alawite village.

Regime forces and their allies battled to capture the village of al-Zara, located by a central highway linking the western cities of Homs and Hama, but failed to make an advance.

"The Syrian army failed to break through the village barrier despite being backed by Russian airstrikes," director of Hama Media Centre Yazan Shahdawi told The New Arab.

"Dozens of regime fighters were killed or injured during the clashes," Shahdawi added.

Last week, the village witnessed a deadly attack after al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front militants and their allies seized the village, killing at least 19 Alawite civilians, to allegedly avenge the violence in Aleppo that killed more than 300 people.

Meanwhile, Russian proposals over a joint bombing campaign with the US were rejected by the Pentagon.

On Friday Moscow proposed launching a joint US-Russian airstrike campaign against militant groups in Syria, starting next week.

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"We are proposing to the US, as the head of the International Syria Support Group, to take part as of May 25 in joint operations between the Russian air force and the air force of the coalition," Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said.

The proposal included strikes against al-Nusra Front and other armed militant groups excluded from the Moscow-Washington brokered truce.

Russia also proposed that joint strikes target "convoys containing weapons and ammunition (and) armed units that illegally cross the Syrian-Turkish border."

"We believe that adopting these measures will ensure the transition to a peace settlement process over all of Syria's territory," Shoigu said.

"Of course, the leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic has agreed to these measures," he added.

But Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis rejected Moscow's proposal, saying the US military does "not collaborate or coordinate with the Russians on any operations in Syria."

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said nothing had been agreed.

"What we are discussing with our Russian counterparts... are proposals for a sustainable mechanism to better monitor and enforce the cessation of hostilities," Kirby said.

He added that the "vast majority" of the violations of the truce had been carried out by the regime, which is backed by Moscow.

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Russia 'enabling' Assad

"Russian operations are supporting and enabling the Assad regime and our focus is solely on degrading and defeating ISIL," Davis said, referring to the Islamic State militant group.

Davis added that the Pentagon had received "nothing formal" from its Russian counterpart regarding the proposal.

Russia and the US pledged earlier this month to redouble efforts to find a solution to the Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions since 2011, and extend a truce across the war-torn country.

Despite diplomatic efforts to resolve the five-year conflict, Moscow and Washington have been critical of each other's bombing campaigns in Syria.

The West has accused Moscow – a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – of propping up the regime by targeting rebels fighting Assad in strikes Moscow said were aimed against "terrorist" organisations.

Moscow has in turn repeatedly slammed the US coalition, saying its strikes in Syria have been ineffective.

Shoigu said Friday that Russia would reserve its right to unilaterally strike "international terrorist and illegal armed groups that have not adhered to the cessation of hostilities" starting from May 25.

Agencies contributed to this report