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SYRIA

France moves closer to air strikes in Syria

The French president appeared to take another step towards ordering air strikes in Syria when he said on Monday that the intervention would be "necessary" to target Isis fighters, who are preparing attacks on France.

France moves closer to air strikes in Syria
Will French Rafale planes soon be launching air strikes over Syria? Photo: AFP

French President Francois Hollande, whose country is carrying out surveillance flights over Syria, said on Monday it would be “necessary” to carry out air strikes against Islamic State militants there.

“We announced surveillance flights that would allow us to prepare air strikes if they were necessary, and they will be necessary in Syria,” he told journalists after talks with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

France has been part of a US-led coalition bombing IS positions in Iraq for the past year, but Hollande changed strategy last week to expand action to Syria as political pressure mounts over the jihadist threat faced by France.

Hollande said last week he had ordered surveillance flights because he wanted to find out “what is being prepared against us and what is being done against the Syrian population”.

Hollande's move to carry out air strikes in Syria also comes as Europe is buckling under the pressure of a flood of refugees from the war-torn country.

France has so far confirmed it has carried out two surveillance flights over Syrian territory.

The United States, Canada, Turkey and Gulf states have already been involved in strikes on IS militants in Syria.

Australia also announced last week it would join the Syrian operation.

Britain killed two jihadists in a drone attack in Syria last week.

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SYRIA

French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
   
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
   
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
 
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
   
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
   
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
   
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
   
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
   
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.
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