Coalition Airstrikes Target IS Militants in Raqqa
by VOA News July 05, 2015
U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in eastern Syria Saturday and Sunday have killed at least 23 Islamic State militants and wounded others.
In a statement issued early Sunday, the coalition said the airstrikes targeted structures and transit routes used by the IS group in and around Raqqa.
Coalition spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Gilleran says the airstrikes, which he called significant, were intended to deny the militants the ability to move military capabilities throughout Syria and into Iraq.
The casualty figures were released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. An IS-affiliated website confirmed the strikes and said 10 people were killed and dozens wounded.
Meanwhile, the Hurriyet newspaper reports the Turkish army is discussing a military intervention with its commanders from the Syrian border.
Ankara reinforced its forces along the border in the past week, adding personnel, tanks, and anti-aircraft missiles, which raised questions about the future of Turkey's reluctant role in the U.S. led offensive against IS militants.
Turkish leaders, including Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, have repeatedly dismissed claims of immediate intervention in Syria.
Saturday, Islamic State militants released a video showing 25 men being executed in an ancient amphitheater in the Syrian city of Palmyra by members who appear to be young teenagers.
The video, uploaded to social media, purports to show IS militants leading a group of what is said to be Syrian government soldiers from the notorious Palmyra prison to the amphitheater.
IS has reportedly carried out more than 200 executions in and around Palmyra since it captured the city in May.
Also Saturday, Syrian troops backed by Lebanese Hezbollah militia fighters began a major offensive to retake a rebel-held mountain resort while opposition fighters retaliated by shelling the capital, Damascus.
Footage released by Hezbollah's al-Manar television station showed large plumes of fire rising from Zabadani, located northwest of the Syrian capital near the border with Lebanon.
Al-Manar reported Hezbollah fighters and Syrian troops,under the cover of airstrikes, are attacking from several directions and that rebels are isolated inside Zabadani.
The city is close to the Beirut-Damascus highway that links Syria and Lebanon. Capturing it would be a strategic gain for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Zabadani has been held by rebels since shortly after Syria's crisis began in March 2011. The conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and wounded at least a million, according to the United Nations.
The once-popular resort city is one of the rebels' last strongholds along the border. It was part of a major supply route for weapons sent by Syria to Hezbollah before the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011.
Violence from the four-year civil war has regularly spilled over into Lebanon.
Shells fired by rebels into Damascus struck several neighborhoods including the central Baghdad Street district. Another shell hit Damascus' famous Dama Rose hotel, previously Le Meridien, near the posh neighborhood of Abu Rummaneh.
The shelling caused damage to the hotel, shattering some of its windows. The Syrian state news agency reported that one person was killed and two others were wounded.
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