News Briefs – July 3, 2019

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U.S. targets al Qaeda militants in northern Syria

The U.S. military says it has struck an al Qaeda leadership and training facility in northern Syria where attacks threatening Americans and others were being planned.
The U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the strike occurred on Sunday near the northern province of Aleppo.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-linked war monitor, said July 1 that the strike killed eight members of the al Qaeda-linked Horas al-Din, which is Arabic for “Guardians of Religion.”
The Observatory says the dead included six commanders: two Algerians, two Tunisians, an Egyptian and a Syrian.
Al Qaeda-linked militants control wide parts of northern Syria, mostly in Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the war-torn country. AP
 

Report: NATO jets escort Russian aircraft 6 times last week

The Baltic region’s main news agency says NATO fighter jets were scrambled six times last week after Russian military aircraft violated Lithuania’s airspace.
The Baltic News Service says NATO jets identified and escorted the Russian planes to international airspace over the Baltic Sea.
The report says the Russian aircraft flying in and out of Russia’s mainland to the exclave of Kaliningrad included a reconnaissance plane and several fighter jets, among others.
BNS on July 1 cited the Lithuanian Defense Ministry for saying that while some of the planes had their transponders switched off and hadn’t announced flight plans in advance, some maintained communication with the regional air traffic control center while others didn’t.
Lithuania, which borders Kaliningrad, has deep concerns about Moscow’s military might in the area. AP
 

Ukraine, NATO allies conduct Black Sea drills

About 3,000 troops from 19 countries are taking part in military drills in the Black Sea, an exercise that has raised concerns in Russia.
The 12-day Sea Breeze 2019 exercise, involving Ukraine, the U.S., a dozen other NATO allies and a few other nations, began Monday in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. It will involve 32 warships and 24 aircraft.
The Russian military says it is monitoring the exercise.
Relations between Russia and the West have plummeted to post-Cold War lows in the wake of Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and support for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow has voiced concern about previous NATO’s drills near its borders, saying they threaten its security, while NATO allies have expressed worries about Russian military maneuvers. AP