Erdogan vows Syria ground invasion, Kurds prepare response

A fire rages at a hydrocarbon facility reportedly following a Turkish air strike in the vicinity of Tal Awdah in northeastern Syria's Hasakah province. (AFP)
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Updated 23 November 2022

Erdogan vows Syria ground invasion, Kurds prepare response

  • Ankara’s allies, particularly Russia, have attempted to avert a ground incursion
  • Turkiye has carried out a series of incursions into Syria since 2016 and already controls parts of northern Syria

QAMISHLI, Syria: Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Wednesday to order a land invasion of northern Syria targeting Kurdish groups, amid yearslong border violence and repeated Turkish incursions.
Turkiye has launched a barrage of airstrikes on suspected militant targets in northern Syria and Iraq in recent days, in retaliation for a deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on the Kurdish groups. The groups have denied involvement in the bombing, and say Turkish strikes have killed civilians and threatened the fight against the Daesh group.
Ankara’s allies, particularly Russia, have attempted to avert a ground incursion, but Erdogan said Wednesday in a speech to his ruling party’s legislators in Ankara that the air operations are “just the beginning” and that Turkiye is determined to “close down all of our southern borders ... with a security strip that will prevent the possibility of attacks on our country.”
Turkiye has carried out a series of incursions into Syria since 2016 and already controls parts of northern Syria. Erdogan said the new military offensive, planned to take place “at the most convenient time for us” would target the regions of Tel Rifaat, Manbij and Kobani, which is also known by its Arabic name Ayn Al Arab.
“The day is near when those concrete tunnels which the terrorists use for safety will become their graves,” he said.
The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northeast Syria, meanwhile, said his group is prepared to repel a ground invasion by Turkiye.
SDF head Mazloum Abdi told the The Associated Press that his group has been preparing for another such attack since Turkiye launched a ground offensive in the area in 2019 and “we believe that we have reached a level where we can foil any new attack. At least the Turks will not be able to occupy more of our areas and there will be a great battle.”
He added, “If Turkiye attacks any region, the war will spread to all regions ... and everyone will be hurt by that.”
Following the weekend’s airstrikes, Turkish officials said that suspected Kurdish militants fired rockets Monday across the Syrian border into Turkiye, killing at least two people and wounding 10 others. Abdi denied that SDF had struck inside Turkish territory.
Russian presidential envoy in Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said that Turkiye should “show a certain restraint” in order to prevent an escalation in Syria and expressed hope that “it will be possible to convince our Turkish partners to refrain from excessive use of force on Syrian territory.”
Mazloum called on Moscow and Damascus, as well as on the US-led coalition fighting against the Daesh group in Syria, with which allied with Kurdish fighters in the area, to take a stronger stance to prevent a Turkish ground invasion, warning that such an action could harm attempts to combat a resurgence of Daesh.
“We can say that our work against Daesh with the international coalition has stopped, because we are preoccupied with the Turkish attacks,” he said. “Our coordination and work with the Russians on the ground has also been affected by the Turkish attacks.”
Late Wednesday, Turkish airstrikes also hit near the Al-Hol camp in Hassakeh province where tens of thousands of wives, widows, and children of Daesh group militants are held. SDF forces and a camp official said the strikes appeared to target security forces in charge of keeping the crime-ridden camp secure.
Sheikhmous Ahmad, a Kurdish official overseeing camps for displaced people in northeast Syria, said that some detainees tried to escape.
“The security forces currently have Al-Hol camp under control, but that could change if these attacks continued and the detainees could disperse in the area,” Ahmad told the AP. “This would also threaten international security, not just our own.”
A US Central Command spokesperson said that one of the Turkish strikes on Tuesday had hit within 300 meters of US personnel, adding, “These strikes continue to put US forces at risk.” He declined to say where the site that had been struck was.
The Turkish airstrikes, which have killed a number of Syrian army soldiers operating in the same area as the SDF forces, have also threatened to upset a nascent rapprochement between Damascus and Ankara. The two have been on opposing sides in Syria’s civil war but in recent months have launched low-level talks.
Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said that the events unfolding “will probably culminate in a Turkish incursion into Syria,” but perhaps not immediately.
“I think Ankara is aligning the two stars required for an incursion into Syria, the stars being the American star and the Russian star,” Cagaptay said, noting that Washington and its allies need Turkiye’s support to give NATO membership to Finland and Sweden, while Russia is angling for a deal between Ankara and Damascus that could “wrap up the war” in Syria.


Italian far-right activists held for assault on Morocco soccer fans

Updated 07 December 2022

Italian far-right activists held for assault on Morocco soccer fans

  • The supporters were revelling in the centre of the northern Italian city on Tuesday evening after Morocco's victory over Spain
  • Fans were attacked by a group of men dressed in black with their faces covered, police said

ROME: Italian police said on Wednesday they had detained 13 far-right activists in Verona for an assault on Moroccan soccer fans who were celebrating their historic qualification for the World Cup quarter-finals.
The supporters were revelling in the center of the northern Italian city on Tuesday evening after Morocco’s victory over Spain when they were attacked by a group of men dressed in black with their faces covered, the police said in a statement.
Those held “were identified by investigators as militants of far-right groups in the city,” it said.
Morocco’s World Cup progress has seen vibrant celebrations by its supporters in cities with large Moroccan immigrant populations around the world, which have sometimes turned violent.
Their victory over Belgium in the group stage sparked riots in Brussels, and on Tuesday evening video footage showed fans lighting flares and throwing furniture and other objects in the center of Milan.
Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant League party, tweeted the images of the Milan episodes, saying he hoped those responsible would be identified and made to pay for the damage to property.
He did not comment on the incidents in Verona.


US to ban Sudan officials who hold up post-coup transition

Updated 07 December 2022

US to ban Sudan officials who hold up post-coup transition

  • The ban would also apply to immediate family members of any current or former officials targeted
  • The State Department did not list who would be affected

WASHINGTON: The United States said Wednesday it would bar visas to any current or former Sudanese officials who hold up a transition to democracy, hoping to boost a tentative deal between the military and civilians.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced US support for the initial agreement announced Monday, which some pro-democracy protesters see as falling short on specifics and timelines.
“Recognizing the fragility of democratic transitions, the United States will hold to account spoilers — whether military or political actors — who attempt to undermine or delay democratic progress,” Blinken said in a statement.
The ban would also apply to immediate family members of any current or former officials targeted. The State Department did not list who would be affected.
“We once again call on Sudan’s military leaders to cede power to civilians, respect human rights and end violence against protesters,” Blinken said.
“At the same time, we urge representatives of Sudan’s civilian leaders to negotiate in good faith and place the national interest first.”
Longtime dictator Omar Al-Bashir was ousted in April 2019 following massive youth-led protests but the army chief, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, in October last year derailed the transition by carrying out a military coup.
The United States following the coup suspended $700 million in aid that was meant to help Sudan cope economically as it moves toward democracy.
The latest US step is an expansion of visa restrictions imposed during the first stage of Sudan’s democratic transition.

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Turkish missiles used in Syria include Europe-produced parts

Updated 06 December 2022

Turkish missiles used in Syria include Europe-produced parts

  • An analysis of the components of the wreckage found that the missiles were manufactured by Roketsan, a Turkish defense manufacturer
  • The missiles included components made by US, Chinese and European companies

BEIRUT: Commercial brakes produced by a Dutch company to be used in ambulances in Turkiye instead ended up in missiles used by Turkiye in attacks in northeastern Syria, a report released Tuesday said.
Between September 2021 and June 2022, field investigators with London-based Conflict Armament Research analyzed the remnants of 17 air-to-surface missiles used in strikes in northeast Syria, the report said. An analysis of the components of the wreckage found that the missiles were manufactured by Roketsan, a Turkish defense manufacturer.
The missiles included components made by US, Chinese and European companies, among them electromagnetic brakes with “markings and characteristics consistent with production by (Netherlands-based company) Kendrion NV,” the report said.
Representatives of Kendrion told researchers that the company had agreed in 2018 to supply 20-25,000 brakes to a Turkish company called FEMSAN, with the stated purpose of using them on blood analysis machines fitted to ambulances, the report said. After being notified that the brakes were being used in military applications, Kendrion said it had cut off its business relationship with the Turkish company, the report noted.
FEMSAN did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while representatives of Roketsan could not be reached for comment.
The research was carried out before the most recent round of Turkish airstrikes in northeast Syria, launched last month in response to a deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on Kurdish groups based in Syria — an allegation that the groups deny. Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also threatened a ground incursion.
The report did not allege that the sellers of the components used in the missiles had violated any laws, noting that “while the EU has had an arms embargo related to Syria itself since 2011, (Turkiye) has never been subject to sanctions at the multilateral level.”
It added that the case “highlights both the critical importance and the relative complexity of commercial due diligence for material of these types” which “may serve multiple purposes, some of which the manufacturer may not even be aware, and which may be extremely sensitive.”


Al Jazeera files lawsuit against Israeli forces at ICC over killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

Updated 06 December 2022

Al Jazeera files lawsuit against Israeli forces at ICC over killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

  • Case follows an investigation into journalist’s killing by news network’s legal team
  • Israeli Prime Minister says that no one would be allowed to question Israeli soldiers

DUBAI: Al Jazeera on Tuesday said it has filed a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court against Israeli forces over the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot during an Israeli raid in the West Bank in May.

The lawsuit follows an investigation by the television news network’s legal team, Al Jazeera said on Twitter.

The ICC must identify the individuals who were directly involved in Abu Akleh’s killing, Al Jazeera lawyer Rodney Dixon KC told a news conference in The Hague on Tuesday.

“The rulings of the International Criminal Court stipulate that those responsible be investigated and held accountable. Otherwise, they bear the same responsibility as if they were the ones who opened fire,” Dixon said.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Tuesday that no one would question Israeli soldiers.

“No one will interrogate IDF soldiers and no one will preach to us about morals of combat, certainly not the Al Jazeera network,” Lapid said.


Iran sentences five to death over killing of Basij paramilitary

Updated 06 December 2022

Iran sentences five to death over killing of Basij paramilitary

  • Another 11 people, including 3 children, were handed lengthy jail terms

TEHRAN: Iran has sentenced to death five people over the killing of a member of the Basij paramilitary force during nationwide protests, the judiciary said Tuesday.
Another 11 people, including three children, were handed lengthy jail terms over the death of Ruhollah Ajamian, judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi told a news conference, adding the sentences could be appealed.
A group of 15 people had been charged with “corruption on earth” over the death of Ajamian on November 3 in Karaj, a city west of Tehran, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported last week.
Prosecutors said Ajamian, 27, was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester, Hadis Najafi, during ceremonies marking 40 days since her death.
Najafi was killed during unrest that has gripped Iran since the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, after her arrest for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women.
Initially, on November 12, Mizan Online announced charges for 11 people over Ajamian’s killing, including a woman but as the trial opened, it said 15 defendants in the case had been charged.
An Iranian general said on Monday that more than 300 people have been killed in the unrest, including dozens of members of the security forces.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have been arrested, including 40 foreigners and prominent actors, journalists and lawyers.
The latest court rulings bring to 11 the number of people sentenced to death in Iran over the violence sparked by Amini’s death.

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