February 5, 2018 / 10:12 PM / 19 days ago

Syria deploys new air defences in north - commander in pro-Assad alliance

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian army has deployed new air defences and anti-aircraft missiles to frontlines in the Aleppo and Idlib areas, a commander in the military alliance fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday.

“They cover the air space of the Syrian north,” the commander told Reuters, describing the deployment as a “message to everyone”. The air defences had been sent to frontlines with militants in rural areas of Aleppo and Idlib.

Turkish warplanes have been mounting air strikes against the northwestern Syrian Kurdish region of Afrin, which is part of Aleppo province, as part of a major offensive targeting Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters.

Ahead of the Turkish offensive against Afrin, the Syrian government had threatened to shoot down any Turkish warplanes in Syrian air space.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State also operates in northern Syria, though some distance from Aleppo city in territory stretching from the city of Manbij to the Iraqi border.

Syrian government forces, supported by Iran-backed Shi‘ite militias, are waging an offensive into rebel-held Idlib province, which borders the Afrin region to the west and is the largest chunk of Syria still in insurgent hands.

Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Leslie Adler and James Dalgleish

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