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Iraq’s PMF Tests Coalition, Putin Fears Division | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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PMF ride on a tank during a battle with ISIS group militants at the Um Jaris village on the Iraqi border with Syria, Iraq May 29, 2017. Stringer/Reuters

Beirut, Moscow – Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMF) known as al-Hashed al-Shaabi, infiltrated for hours on Thursday night in regions east Syria, a move considered as testing the International Coalition, which provides a cover for Arab and Kurdish fighters in the area.

PMF’s Spokesperson Ahmed al-Asadi denied that his forces had crossed into Syria after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed on Thursday that the PMF forces had entered one village in the Hasaka province for a short time, then withdrew.

Syria’s Al-Khabour news channel reported that the PMF had controlled on Thursday morning the two villages of Qusayba and Bawaridi, southeast of Hasaka after a surprising withdrawal of ISIS militants from the area. The news channel estimated that the PMF have crossed the Syrian border at a depth of 10 km.

Several reports said on Thursday that leader of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had visited the Syrian-Iraqi borders, where he headed a meeting between the PMF, Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the Syrian army, representatives from “Hezbollah’s” militia and officials from the Revolutionary Guards that lead the Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq.

Separately, Doctors Without Borders MSF in France said on Thursday that about 800 people are arriving every day in Ain Issa, located within 3 km of Raqqa. MSF also said about 10,000 civilians have fled to a camp just north of the city.

For its part, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that three motorcades left Raqqa under the cover of darkness and took several routes southward on the night of May 29 to 30.

The ministry said the Russian Aerospace Forces hit the detected targets and was capable to kill more than 80 ISIS militants.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he feared a division in Syria.

“Does the possible division of Syria arouse concern? It certainly does,” he said at a meeting at the Constantine Palace on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.