2 Aralık 2014 Salı

US again rules out Syria no-fly zone

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 01, 2014

Strikes hit IS garrison, 'electronic warfare' unit: US
Washington (AFP) Dec 01, 2014 - Warplanes from the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State group hit dozens of jihadist vehicles and bases, including an "electronic warfare garrison," in four days of strikes, the US military said Monday.

Between November 28 and December 1, coalition aircraft and drones bombed targets in Iraq and Syria, where they hit militants besieging the town of Kobane and IS headquarters in Raqa.

In Raqa, they struck a tank, 14 other vehicles, a jihadist base and what they described as an electronic warfare garrison and a separate "jamming system," US Central Command said.

Kobane, on Syria's northern border with Turkey, is in the grip of an intense battle between Kurdish militia fighters and IS jihadists.

This was the scene of 17 of the 27 strikes conducted in Syria over the four-day reporting period, and the US military said seven IS units, two buildings, three tanks and four vehicles were hit.
Separately, a strike targeted the so-called "Khorasan Group," a network of veteran Al-Qaeda operatives, near Aleppo. No damage report or casualty estimate was given for this strike.
In Iraq, a further 28 strikes hit IS vehicles, artillery, bases and fighting positions near the towns of Mosul, Hit, Tal Afar, Tikrit and Ramadi.
In Syria, the US-led campaign is supported by planes and pilots from Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
In Iraq, the coalition is joined by Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France and the Netherlands.
The strikes began in Iraq in August after the Islamic State group captured Mosul and launched a lightning offensive that seized swathes of the country's western desert, threating the approaches to Baghdad.
The campaign was later extended to Syria after President Barack Obama vowed to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the IS threat through strikes and increased support for Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Washington ruled out Monday any imminent plans to create a no-fly zone along the Turkey-Syria border, brushing aside reports that US officials are in talks with Ankara about a refugee safe haven.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the US was "open to discussing a range of options with the Turks" but that a no-fly zone over Syria was not on the table "at this point."

Turkey has been pushing for a buffer zone inside Syria to shelter refugees from the three-way fight between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, rebels and Islamic State jihadists.

But Ankara, which has seen fighting on its southern frontier, has so far failed to persuade its NATO ally Washington, despite US jets already hitting IS targets inside Syria, to put its might behind the plan.

Since the civil war erupted in Syria in early 2011 there have been repeated calls for a no-fly zone to protect the rebels and refugees.

Former top US diplomat Hillary Clinton was apparently in favor of creating such a zone, but President Barack Obama has consistently ruled it out, concerned that Washington would be drawn deeper into the conflict.

This weekend US media reports suggested Washington's stance is shifting after a visit to Turkey last month by Vice President Joe Biden, but Earnest insisted this was not the case.

"We've made pretty clear on a number of occasions that while we're open to discussing a range of options with the Turks... we do not believe that a specific no-fly zone proposal at this point would best serve the interests that we've all identified in terms of trying to resolve the situation in Syria," Earnest said.

The Wall Street Journal reported that as part of a proposed deal between the US and Turkey, a protected "safe zone" along the border would be set up that would be off-limits to Assad's aircraft.

Narrower than a formal no-fly zone, it would not need any air-strikes. Instead the US would quietly warn the Assad regime to stay away, the Journal said.

In exchange US and coalition aircraft would use Turkey's Incirlik base as well as others to patrol the zone to make sure that rebels operating on the Turkey-Syria border do not come under attack.

The reports came just as Secretary of State John Kerry was heading to Brussels for talks on Wednesday with ministers from the 60-strong global coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

He will be accompanied by General John Allen, the US pointman forging the coalition to counter the threat from the group, also known as ISIL, which has captured a swathe of territory in Iraq and Syria.

"It's an opportunity to take stock of where things stand, obviously discuss what needs to happen from here, provide updates on where countries stand," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

She said Washington continued to review a number of options including a no-fly zone, but insisted such discussions were "ongoing."

"We continue to have differences" with Turkey, Psaki told reporters, stressing "we haven't made a decision about a specific course of implementation, we're just continuing to have a discussion with Turkey."


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