09/18/2018, 12.20
SYRIA
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Syrian defence responds Latakia attack, leaving two dead, wounded, Russian aircraft shot down

The anti-aircraft system went into action yesterday evening to intercept a series of "hostile" missiles. The target was the local Agency of technical industries, a power plant and an aluminum factory. A Russian vehicle with 14 soldiers on board was involved in the gun battle. Moscow and Ankara sign a pact to avoid the offensive on Idlib and a massacre of civilians.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Syrian anti-aircraft defence system has intercepted a series of "hostile" missiles fired yesterday evening towards the coastal city of Latakia and other strategic areas of the country, controlled by the Syrian government.

According to reports from local sources of the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights two people died in the gun battle and at least a dozen injured.

The missiles were launched from the waters off the Syrian coast; the response of the defensive system - with S-200 and Pantsir S2 missiles - of Russian manufacture was immediate. Some sources also report the presence of four Israeli fighter jets, who would have participated in the attack.

In the Latakia area there is an important Russian air base, along with Iran the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The raids - which began at 10 pm local time - hit the headquarters of the Technical Industries Agency, owned by the Syrian army. They also targeted a power plant and an aluminium factory.

The state TV broadcast images of bright glares and explosions in the skies for several minutes. At the same time the official agency Sana issued bulletins of a "foreign aggression".

Last night's attack comes just two days after an Israeli offensive that hit Damascus airport. "Israeli Aggression" [according to the term used by Assad's loyalists] had previously been registered in the province of Hama (in the center of the country) and in Tartous in the west on 4 September.

Some sources say that the Syrian anti-aircraft system activated in response to yesterday's attack also hit a Russian transport aircraft in the area, with 14 soldiers on board. The aircraft, an Il-20, was about 35 km from the coast of Lattakia [a fiefdom of the Assad family] when it found itself in the middle of the battle.

The news of the demolition of the Russian vehicle came just a few hours after the agreement signed by Moscow and Ankara, to avoid [at least for the moment] the government offensive on Idlib and a probable massacre of civilians. Yesterday in Sochi, Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a pact aimed at avoiding a "catastrophe" and a "humanitarian crisis" in every way possible.

The two leaders agreed to establish a "demilitarized strip" along the borders of the province starting from 15 October. A buffer zone about 15-20 km deep that will be jointly patrolled by Turkish and Russian soldiers. In the area, the anti-Assad rebels and the Syrian army assured the withdrawal of all heavy weapons and, at least for the moment, the hypothesis of a final offensive seems to have been set aside.

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