Gulf Arab air strikes on ISIL down due to Yemen conflict: US general

The UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have carried out air strikes as part of the US-led coalition in Syria but are also involved in an air and ground campaign against the Houthis.

UAE fighter jets take off from Abu Dhabi to conduct air strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen on September 6, 2015. Wam
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DUBAI // Air strikes by Gulf Arab members of the US-led coalition fighting ISIL in Syria have diminished since they launched an air war against Yemeni rebels in March, a US general said on Tuesday.

The UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia have carried out air strikes against ISIL in Syria but the three Gulf Cooperation Council members are also involved in an air and ground campaign in Yemen in support of exiled president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

“There is a mix of GCC that is participating in Yemen as well as in the operations in Iraq and Syria,” said US air forces central command chief Lieutenant General Charles Q Brown at the Dubai Airshow.

“Less so since March because they’ve been occupied with the Yemen operation.”

Washington has been leading mainly Western allies in carrying out air strikes against ISIL in Iraq since August last year.

A month later, it launched air strikes against ISIL in Syria with the support of mainly Arab allies.

In September of this year, Russia launched its own separate bombing campaign in Syria in support of its ally, president Bashar Al Assad.

Also on Tuesday, Syria’s army broke through ISIL’s siege of a military airbase in the northern province of Aleppo, scoring its first major breakthrough since the beginning of Russia’s air campaign.

Syrian troops – backed by pro-government militia – broke through the siege on the Kweyris military airport, which has lasted for more than a year.

A group of soldiers penetrated ISIL lines west of the airport and reached government troops inside the base, firing into the air in celebration.

State television also reported the breakthrough and broadcast live from outside the airport, declaring the advance a “victory”.

It said a “large number of IS terrorists” were killed but provided no other details.

ISIL surrounded Kweyris in spring 2014, tightening a siege that rebel groups had begun in April the year before.

Regime loyalists and ISIL fighters remained locked in fierce clashes to the airport’s north, east, and west on Tuesday evening, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

ISIL militants were still present in other areas around the airport and further east in Aleppo province.

The army’s offensive to break the siege began at the end of September, with support from Russian warplanes, Iranian troops, Hizbollah fighters, and pro-government militia, Mr Abdel Rahman said.

Elsewhere, at least 22 people were killed and 62 others wounded in mortar fire on eastern neighbourhoods of Latakia city, a bastion of regime support, Syrian state television reported.

According to a Syrian security source, the attack took place near Latakia’s Tishreen University, where many students were gathered.

* Agence France-Presse