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US-backed rebel group criticises Syria strikes
by Staff Writers
Beirut (AFP) Sept 23, 2014

Syrians check a damaged house, reportedly hit by US-led coalition air strikes, in the village of Kfar Derian in the western Aleppo province on September 23, 2014. US-led coalition air strikes killed 30 Al-Qaeda militants in western Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Image courtesy AFP.

Hezbollah chief criticises US-led strikes in Syria
Beirut (AFP) Sept 23, 2014 - Hassan Nasrallah, chief of Lebanon's powerful Shiite Hezbollah movement, criticised US-led strikes against jihadists in Syria on Tuesday, saying he would not back a coalition that served "American interests".

"We have a principle: whether the Americans attack the Islamic State, the Taliban or the former Iraqi regime, we oppose US military intervention, and we are against an international coalition in Syria," he said in a televised address.

"Our position does not change... we refuse all American military intervention, whether its under international cover or that of NATO," he added.

A coalition assembled by Washington to tackle the Islamic State jihadist group began carrying out strikes against the organisation and Al-Qaeda in Syria on Tuesday morning.

"This coalition, as (US President Barack) Obama said in all his speeches, is intended to defend American interests," Nasrallah said.

"It was only when this (jihadist) danger started to threaten their interests" that Washington responded, he added.

Nasrallah, whose speech was broadcast by Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV, said Lebanon should not be part of the anti-jihadist coalition, though Beirut signed up to the grouping at a meeting this month in Saudi Arabia.

Hezbollah is a key ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and has dispatched fighters to bolster his regime against an uprising that began in 2011.

Nasrallah has defended the group's intervention in Syria by saying it is fighting there to prevent jihadists from entering Lebanon, though the conflict has regularly spilled over into Syria's smaller neighbour.

Syria had warned that any military action taken on its territory without coordination would be an "aggression" but it said Tuesday that Washington had notified it before the air strikes began.

A Syrian rebel group that has reportedly received weapons from the United States criticised air strikes Tuesday by a US-led coalition against jihadists in the war-torn country.

The Hazm Movement, in a statement posted on their Twitter account, said the strikes would undermine the armed opposition and benefit President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

They described the strikes as "an attack on national sovereignty that undermines the Syrian revolution".

"The sole beneficiary of this foreign interference in Syria is the Assad regime, especially in the absence of any real strategy to topple him," the group said.

The statement came after a US-led coalition assembled to fight jihadists carried out air strikes and attacks against positions in Syria of the Islamic State group (IS) and Al-Qaeda.

They were the first attacks by the coalition on Syrian territory, and hit positions in northern and eastern Syria, killing at least 120 militants, and eight civilians, according to a monitor.

The Hazm Movement is among a small number of rebel groups reported to have received US weapons earlier this year, and was among those cited by US Secretary of State John Kerry last week as likely to receive US arms and training in coming months.

In April, rebel officials told AFP the group had received 20 TOW anti-tank missiles from a "Western source".

And last week, Kerry described it as one of several groups that could receive US weapons and training under a new plan to arm rebels to fight against the IS jihadists.

Syria's opposition National Coalition, a key political grouping, welcomed the US-led strikes on Tuesday, but also urged the international community to keep up pressure on Assad.

More than 180,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in March 2001.

US may have gone after Khorasan group even without IS attacks
Washington (AFP) Sept 23, 2014 - The United States had been considering an attack on the Khorasan group in Syria for some time, and may have launched a strike even if it had not also decided to unleash its military on the Islamic State group.

Senior officials said Tuesday that the group, which Washington says is made up of seasoned Al-Qaeda operatives, had long been in the US crosshairs.

"We will take action against terrorists that pose a threat to the United States and the Khorasan group fits into that category," said a senior US official.

Another senior official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the military action in Syria against IS had provided an opportunity for Washington also to target Khorasan.

"This is something that has very much been on our radar for several months and it was an action that we were very much contemplating, separate and apart from the growing threat from ISIL," the official said.

Earlier a senior US military officer said that US military strikes targeted Khorasan because it was on the verge of executing "major attacks" against the West.

"Intelligence reports indicated that the group was in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against western targets and potentially the US homeland," Lieutenant General William Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

The strikes against the Khorasan group early Tuesday were separate from a wave of bombing raids led by the United States and backed by several Arab countries that targeted the Islamic State group.


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Damascus says was informed by US of air strikes on IS
Damascus (AFP) Sept 23, 2014
The Damascus government said it had been informed by Washington of the air strikes it began early Tuesday on Islamic State group (IS) targets on Syrian soil. "Yesterday (Monday), the Americans informed the Syrian representative at the United Nations that strikes would be carried out against the terrorist IS organisation in Raqa," the group's Syrian stronghold, a foreign ministry statement qu ... read more

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