Shelling heard around Syrian town after Turkish-US cease-fire deal

The smoke rising from Ras Al-Ain could be seen from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2019

Shelling heard around Syrian town after Turkish-US cease-fire deal

  • The truce was announced by US VP after talks with Erdogan
  • It indicates large areas of land under SDF-control would become under Turkish control

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey: Shelling and gunfire resounded in the area of northeast Syria’s Ras al Ain town on Friday, a day after Turkey agreed with the United States to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw.
From the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar across the border from Ras al Ain, the sound of machine-gun fire and shelling was heard in the area of Ras al Ain. Smoke rose from one part of the Syrian town.
The truce was announced by US Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, and was praised by President Donald Trump, who said it would save “millions of lives.”
If implemented it would achieve all the min objectives Turkey announced when it launched its assault on Oct. 9: control of a strip of Syria more than 30 km deep, with the Kurdish militia, once US allies, obliged to pull out.
It was also unclear if the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would fully comply with the agreement, which would leave Turkish forces in charge of a swathe of territory that the Kurds once held with US military support.


Al-Sistani calls for new election law as two more protesters killed in Baghdad

Updated 41 min 8 sec ago

Al-Sistani calls for new election law as two more protesters killed in Baghdad

  • Al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon
  • His comments came as protesters called for large protests to take place on Friday

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s most influential Shiite religious leader called Friday for a new election law that would restore public confidence in the system and give voters the opportunity to bring “new faces” to power as two protesters were killed in ongoing confrontations with security forces in a central Baghdad square.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon, saying none of their demands have been met so far and that electoral reform should be a priority.
His comments came as two protesters were killed when police fired live ammunition and tear gas at hundreds of protesters who removed concrete barriers and streamed into Khilani Square, which has been at the center of clashes for the past days.
Friday’s deaths brought to three the number of protesters killed in the past 24 hours.
At least 320 people have been killed and thousands have been wounded since the unrest began on Oct. 1, when protesters took to the streets in the tens of thousands outraged by what they said was widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services despite the country’s oil wealth.
Demonstrations have mostly been taking place in Baghdad’s Tahrir and Khilani squares and the predominantly Shiite southern provinces, following tough measures by Iraqi security forces to calm down on protests.
The powerful cleric, who’s opinion holds major sway over Iraqis, said a fair electoral law should give voters the ability to replace current political leaders with “new faces.”
“Passing a law that does not give such an opportunity to voters would be unacceptable and useless,” he said in his weekly sermon Friday.
“If those in power think they can evade dealing with real reform by procrastination, they are mistaken,” Al-Sistani said. “What comes after the protests is not the same as before, so be careful,” he warned.
He said corruption among the ruling elite has reached “unbearable limits” while large segments of the population are finding it increasingly impossible to have their basic needs met while top leaders “share the country’s wealth among themselves and disregard each other’s corruption.”
“People did not go out to demonstrations calling for reform in this unprecedented way, and do not continue to do so despite the heavy price and grave sacrifices it requires, except because they found no other way to revolt against the corruption which is getting worse day after day, and the rampant deterioration on all fronts,” he said.
On Monday, Al-Sistani said he backed a roadmap by the UN mission in Iraq aimed at meeting the demands of the protesters, but expressed concern that political parties were not serious about carrying out the proposed reforms.