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Syrian and Turkish armies engage in new deadly clashes in Idlib

The Japan Times

ANKARA – Turkey said that two more of its soldiers were killed Wednesday in a Syrian government attack in northwestern Syria, as steady clashes between the two national armies continued to rack up casualties. Turkey has sent thousands of troops into the area to support Syrian insurgents holed up there, but hasn't been able to stop the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive to retake the Idlib province. A Syrian opposition war monitor said nine Syrian soldiers were also killed in Turkish drone attacks in the northwestern area. The Turkish Defense Ministry's statement said that the latest Syrian attack on its troops also wounded six soldiers. It did not provide further details.


Putin visits Syria to meet Assad, a key Iran ally

The Japan Times

The visit to Syria, a key ally of Iran, came amid soaring tensions in the Middle East between Iran and the United States. On Friday, a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian general who led forces supporting Assad in Syria's civil war. Iran has vowed revenge for the slaying, and with some 600 American troops deployed in Syria, the country is a potential site of conflict with Iran. While the official statements made no mention of the U.S. killing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Friday, the timing was conspicuous. Soleimani had led Iran's armed support for Assad as armed rebels neared the capital, Damascus, and he helped seize key cities, preventing the collapse of Assad's state.


Syria says possible drone attacks hit 3 oil, gas facilities

FOX News

Fox News Flash top headlines for Dec. 21 are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com Near-simultaneous attacks believed to have been carried out by drones hit three government-run oil and gas installations in central Syria, state TV and the Oil Ministry said Saturday. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, which targeted the Homs oil refinery -- one of only two in the country -- as well as two natural gas facilities in different parts of Homs province. Syria has suffered fuel shortages since earlier this year amid Western sanctions blocking imports, and because most of the country's oil fields are controlled by Kurdish-led fighters in the country's east.


European News Agencies discuss artificial intelligence

#artificialintelligence

Anadolu Agency called on other European news media organizations to be more sensitive towards the ongoing tragedy in Syria. A three-day general assembly of the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) came to an end on Friday in the Czech capital Prague. Anadolu Agency editor-in-chief Metin Mutanoglu said in a speech that Syria's northwestern Idlib area was under heavy fire by Bashar al-Assad regime forces and that the region was facing a fresh wave of migrants. Mutanoglu underlined that though tens of thousands were forced to leave their homes due to regime attacks, the European news media were not interested enough in the issue. A new migration wave would affect not only Turkey but the rest of Europe as well, he stressed, adding that EANA should thus make a greater effort to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in war-torn country .


Airstrikes on Iran-backed groups in Syria apparently kill 18; Hezbollah claims downing of Israeli drone

The Japan Times

BEIRUT – Unknown warplanes targeted overnight an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, killing at least 18 fighters, Syrian opposition activists said Monday. The strikes come amid rising tensions in the Middle East and the crisis between Iran and the U.S. in the wake of the collapsing nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. An official with an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq blamed Israel for the airstrikes that hit in the eastern Syrian town of Boukamal. There was no immediate comment from Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that Iran has no immunity anywhere and that the Israeli military "will act -- and currently are acting -- against them."


Lebanon Accuses Israel of 2nd Attack in 2 Days

NYT > Middle East

Early Tuesday, Hezbollah changed its description of the first drone, saying that it had been carrying 12 pounds of explosives. The group's officials had previously said the first drone was for surveillance while the second was laden with explosives. Hezbollah is a political party represented in the Lebanese government as well as the country's most formidable military force. It fought a devastating war against Israel in 2006 and has more recently sent fighters to help President Bashar al-Assad of Syria fight rebels seeking to overthrow him. Israel and Iran have long been staunch enemies, but the conflict has heated up recently as Israel has increasingly attacked armed groups that Iran backs to extend its influence in the Arab world.


Iran likely at 'inflection point,' launching attacks to change 'status quo,' Defense Intelligence Agency director tells Fox News

FOX News

Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., director of Defense Intelligence Agency, gives insight on recent Iranian attacks on tankers and a surveillance drone. EXCLUSIVE – Iran is likely at "an inflection point," and the recent attacks on tankers and the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone appear to be part of an effort to change "the status quo," the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) told Fox News exclusively. "I'd say that they're probably at an inflection point right now," the director, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., explained in his first national TV interview as the leader of the nearly 17-thousand strong agency. Director Ashley said, based on their activity over the last several years, the Iranians would probably say they were in a "favorable" position with their influence over the Iraqi government and the likelihood their longtime regional ally -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- will remain in power. But, Director Ashley -- whose agency's mission is to understand foreign militaries and the operational environment -- said the United States' withdrawal from the Iran deal and subsequent sanctions made a major impact on the regime.


Armenia sends mine-clearing experts, doctors to Syria

FOX News

YEREVAN, Armenia – Armenia has sent a team of experts to Syria on a Russia-backed mission to help clear mines and provide medical assistance. Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan said Saturday the team of 83 includes de-mining experts, medical personnel and security officers. He said it will defuse mines and provide medical help to residents of Aleppo, in northern Syria. Before the war, Aleppo was home to 110,000 ethnic Armenians, one of the world's largest Armenian diasporas. About 22,000 have since moved to Armenia.


Syria air defenses target suspected 'hostile' drones over Russia base

The Japan Times

DAMASCUS - Syria state media said Sunday the country's air defense systems intercepted and destroyed three "hostile" targets over a Russian air base in the country's coastal region. There were no more details about the suspected attack or who was behind it, but it comes amid rising violations of a cease-fire in Syria's west negotiated by Turkey and Russia and in place since September. On Sunday, Russia Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said on state television that the agreement with Turkey is not fully implemented, leaving the situation there as a matter of concern "first of all, by the Syrian authorities and also Moscow." He didn't address the suspected drone attack. The Britain-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said explosions heard in the region were from air defense systems intercepting suspected attacking drones.


Probabilistic Blocking with An Application to the Syrian Conflict

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Entity resolution seeks to merge databases as to remove duplicate entries where unique identifiers are typically unknown. We review modern blocking approaches for entity resolution, focusing on those based upon locality sensitive hashing (LSH). First, we introduce k-means locality sensitive hashing (KLSH), which is based upon the information retrieval literature and clusters similar records into blocks using a vector-space representation and projections. Second, we introduce a subquadratic variant of LSH to the literature, known as Densified One Permutation Hashing (DOPH). Third, we propose a weighted variant of DOPH. We illustrate each method on an application to a subset of the ongoing Syrian conflict, giving a discussion of each method.