Wednesday 25 April 2018

Airstrikes by US-led coalition 'have killed 10,000 Isil jihadis'

A man holds a baby who survived what activists said was an explosion of a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the old city of Aleppo yesterday. Photo: Reuters
A man holds a baby who survived what activists said was an explosion of a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the old city of Aleppo yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Carla DuPris in Washington

More than 10,000 Isil jihadis have been killed since the international coalition started its campaign against the group nine months ago in Iraq and Syria, US deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken has said.

Speaking after the coalition met in Paris yesterday, he said there had been a great deal of progress in the fight against Isil but that the group remained resilient and capable of taking the initiative.

"We have seen a lot of losses within Daesh (Isil) since the start of this campaign, more than 10,000," Mr Blinken said on France Inter radio, using a derogatory Arabic term for Isil. "It will end up having an impact."

The claim followed a pledge of support by the international coalition for Baghdad's plan to retake the city of Ramadi from Isil, whose advance Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described as a "failure" for the global community.

The US-led coalition, which has been carrying out air strikes against Isil, also called for the "speedy launch" of efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis, which it said was crucial to tackle the group rampaging through Syria and Iraq.

Despite a series of battlefield wins by Isil, the coalition maintained it had a "winning strategy" and gave its seal of approval to Iraqi plans to claw back territory at crunch talks in Paris.

Mr Blinken, standing in for the hospitalised John Kerry in Paris, hailed Baghdad's strategy as "the right plan both politically and militarily for Iraq at this time". He insisted the coalition had made "real gains" and said Isil now had 25pc less territory than when the air strikes began in August. Experts, however, say the militant group nevertheless controls an area the size of Italy across Syria and Iraq.

A senior US envoy said yesterday the growth of Isil had global implications and could "wreak havoc on the progress of humanity" if unchecked.

Retired General John Allen, appointed by US president Barack Obama to build a coalition against Isil, told a conference in Qatar the group was not merely an Iraqi problem or a Syrian problem but "a regional problem trending towards global implications".

The group has lost about a quarter of the populated areas it once held in Iraq, but countering its ideology might take a generation or more, he told the Brookings Institution's US-Islamic World Forum.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama yesterday warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his terms for diplomacy that might lead to a Palestinian state meant Israel had lost international credibility as a potential peacemaker.

The US president also suggested that continued American diplomatic defence for Israel at the UN over the Palestine dispute may be reviewed, while reaffirming US support for Israeli security in a conflict-riven Middle East.

In an interview with Israeli television, he offered a bleak outlook for decades of negotiations on Palestinian statehood bearing any fruit during the 18 months he has left in office.

"I don't see the likelihood of a framework agreement," Mr Obama said in an interview with Uvda, a current-affairs programme produced by Israel's top-rated Channel Two and Keshet television. "The question is how do we create some building blocks of trust and progress."

While Mr Obama has acknowledged the geographical and ideological divisions among Palestinians that have bedevilled peace efforts, in the interview - taped in the White House on Friday - he focused on Mr Netanyahu's policies.

On the eve of his March 17 election to a fourth term, Mr Netanyahu said there would be no Palestinian state if he remained premier. He argued that any withdrawals from occupied territory by Israel would embolden hardline Islamist guerrillas on its borders.

Mr Netanyahu has since sought to row back from those remarks but his peace overtures have met with scepticism from the Palestinians as well as Western diplomats.

Mr Obama said Mr Netanyahu's position "has so many caveats, so many conditions that it is not realistic to think that those conditions would be met at any time in the near future. So the danger is that Israel as a whole loses credibility. Already, the international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two-state solution."

Irish Independent

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