Iran commander killed, jets downed in blow for Syrian regime

PTI Damascus | Updated on March 12, 2018

Gunmen killed an Iranian commander in Syria while rebels shot down two fighter jets and overran a town today, dealing further setbacks for forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The ambush that killed the Revolutionary Guards commander, the downing of the aircraft in the northwest and the seizure of the town of Shadadeh near the Iraq border amounted to four straight days of battlefield successes for the rebellion.

The insurgents overran a military air base in Aleppo province on Tuesday, after taking control of Syria’s largest dam in the neighbouring province of Raqa the day before.

The latest setbacks came after new US Secretary of State John Kerry said President Bashar al-Assad needed to abandon hopes of riding out the war and instead accept the “inevitability” of his departure.

On Thursday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said one of its commanders, Hassan Shateri, was “martyred... at the hands of Zionist regime mercenaries and backers” while travelling on the road between the Syrian and Lebanese capitals.

The Guards said the commander was also head of the Iranian Committee for the Reconstruction of Lebanon, and the Iranian embassy in Beirut gave a similar account, but named the slain man as Hessam Khoshnevis.

A strong ally of the Damascus regime, Tehran often refers to rebels fighting Assad’s troops as “terrorists” with ties to arch foe Israel.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi strongly condemned the killing as a “terrorist act” and paid tribute to “this commander of Islam and his tireless efforts in reconstruction”.

Syria’s rebellion flared after Assad’s forces launched a bloody crackdown on peaceful democracy protests that erupted in March 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings.

It has become increasingly dominated by Islamist groups, however, and one of the most prominent of these, the Al-Nusra Front, seized the town of Shadadeh in the oil-rich northeastern province of Hasakeh today.

“After three days of fierce battles against the army, Al-Nusra Front fighters have seized control of Shadadeh,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Published on February 15, 2013

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