Washington confirms targeting Al Qaeda leaders in northwestern Syria, killing several of them in the first strike of the United States in this region for more than two years

Washington on Sunday targeted a meeting of leaders from an Al Qaeda-linked organization in northwestern Syria, killing several of them, in the first blow to the United States in the region in more than two years.

On Sunday, Damascus accused Israel of targeting several military sites in Damascus and Homs, killing 15 people, including six civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the Syrian airspace has been crowded with warplanes that support the combat operations of the various parties to the conflict in different regions, from the Washington-based international coalition aircraft to the American and Russian ones.

Turkish and other Iraqi planes are also carrying out raids near their borders and Israel is continuously launching strikes in Syria.

The US Central Command announced in a statement on Monday night a raid against “the leadership of Al Qaeda in Syria targeted training facility near the province of Aleppo”, to the north.

“Al Qaeda elements in Syria are responsible for planning external attacks that threaten American citizens, our partners and innocent civilians”, the statement said.

US forces, which also lead the international coalition against the Islamic state organization, have repeatedly targeted jihadist leaders in the northwestern Idlib region.

However, the pace of this has declined significantly since 2017, to focus its strikes on areas controlled by the Islamic state organization, before the Syrian forces can eliminate democracy this year.

The Syrian Observatory reported on Sunday evening that eight elements, including six leaders, in the organization of Hurras Al Din “Guardians of religion” associated with “Al Qaeda”, in a missile attack targeting them in the countryside of Western Aleppo.

The six leaders are two Tunisians, two Algerians, one Egyptian and one Syrian.

The Hurras Al Din organization “Guardians of religion” in a statement on account on Telegram announced that “Institute of Sharia” in the countryside of Western Aleppo, was targeted in an air strike, killing “a group of brothers Mujahideen”, denying that the bombing targeted a training camp.

The organization is active in the Idlib region and is fighting alongside the Sham Liberation Organization (formerly known as Al Nusra Front before it disengages from Al Qaeda), which controls most of Idlib and near areas in Hama, Aleppo and Lattakia.

The Hurras Al Din organization “Guardians of religion”, was established in February 2018 and is linked to Al Qaeda and has some 1,800 members, including non-Syrian nationalities, according to the observatory.

The northwestern region of Syria, according to the US forces statement, “a safe haven where senior Al Qaeda leaders in Syria to coordinate terrorist activities and planning attacks in the region and the West”.

Washington confirmed its intention to continue “targeting the Islamic State Organization and Al Qaeda to prevent the two groups from using Syria as a safe haven for them”.

“The United States has been concerned for a long time about a group of global jihadists in the Idlib region”, said Sam Hiller, a researcher at the International Crisis Group.

“They were included in the organization of dissident religious guards from the Sham Liberation Organization.

In March 2017, 46 people, mostly civilians, were killed in aerial bombardment of a mosque in northern Syria.

Washington said it had carried out a raid against an Al Qaeda grouping, a few meters from a mosque.

Washington has intensified for several months before its strikes against the Sham Liberation Organization, and was killed at the end of February 2017, the second man in the ranks of Al Qaeda Abu Hani Al Masri.

However, since March 2017, Washington hasn’t announced any strike against jihadists in Idlib, a Russian area of ​​operations, and over the past two years have undergone successive truce agreements, most recently the Russian-Turkish agreement to establish a demilitarized zone in September.

Despite the agreement with Turkey, in support of the Syrian opposition, Russia has stepped up its bombing months for the province and its surroundings in support of the forces of the Syrian regime.

According to Hiller, “Russia has prevented the United States from launching raids as accurate as those implemented by the beginning of 2017”.

“It is not clear whether the new raid comes within the framework of a new understanding reached, or whether the United States felt the need to bomb these fighters specifically”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan last week.

However, a spokesman for the Kremlin denied on Monday that there was a link between the meeting and coalition strikes.