Turkish forces set up positions in Syria’s Idlib

A picture taken on October 11, 2017, from the Syrian village of Atme in the northwestern province of Idlib shows Turkish military vehicles driving around a military base on the Turkish side of the border with Syria. (AFP)
Updated 13 October 2017
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Turkish forces set up positions in Syria’s Idlib

BEIRUT: Turkish forces that entered Syria’s Idlib province late on Thursday have started setting up observation positions that appear aimed at containing a Kurdish militia, a senior rebel involved in the operation said early on Friday.
“The allied Turkish armed forces have entered Syrian territory and begun setting up observation posts,” said Mustafa Sejari, an official in a Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group.
Turkey sent a convoy of about 30 military vehicles into rebel-held northwest Syria through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing in Idlib, rebels and a witness said.
President Tayyep Erdogan announced the deployment on Saturday, saying Turkey was conducting a “serious operation” with rebel groups it supports, as part of a “de-escalation” deal it agreed last month with Iran and Russia in Kazakhstan.
Turkey has been a big supporter of rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the war. But since last year Ankara has focused on securing its border, both from jihadists and from Kurdish forces that control much of the frontier area inside Syria.
The Astana agreement with Assad’s foreign allies Russia and Iran involves reducing warfare in several regions of Syria, including Idlib and adjacent swathes of the northwest, the most populous rebel-held area.
Tahrir Al-Sham, a powerful jihadist alliance that controls much of that territory, is not party to the de-escalation deal, and is at odds with some of the rebel groups that Turkey supports.
However, its forces gave an escort to the Turkish convoy late on Thursday, witnesses said, indicating that there might not be any fighting between them.
Residents of northwest Syria and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have reported intense air raids on Idlib and nearby areas for months.
The convoy was heading toward Sheikh Barakat, a high area overlooking rebel-held territory and the Kurdish YPG-controlled canton of Afrin, the witnesses said.
“(Turkey’s deployment is) in line with Astana 6 resolutions to ensure the area is protected from Russian and regime bombing and to foil any attempt by the separatist YPG militias to illegally seize any territory,” said Sejari.


Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

Updated 18 September 2018
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Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

  • Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport
  • Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the country

TRIPOLI: New clashes flared between rival militias south of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday, causing widespread power outages, the national electricity firm said.
The fighting underscored the fragility of a United Nations-backed cease-fire reached earlier this month after days of deadly violence between armed groups in the capital, beset by turmoil since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport, according to witnesses including an AFP journalist.
Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the North African nation’s south and west.
Fighting which broke out late last month killed at least 63 people and wounded 159 others — mostly civilians — before the cease-fire came into effect on September 4.
Last week, the capital’s only working airport came under rocket fire just days after reopening following the truce.
Mitiga International Airport, located in a former military base that includes a prison, is currently controlled by the Special Deterrence Forces, a Salafist militia which serves as Tripoli’s police force and has been involved in clashes around the capital.
Interior Minister Abdessalam Ashour said Monday that a “regular force” would be tasked with securing the airport.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame later reported 14 cease-fire violations around Tripoli, but sought to play them down, saying the deal had been “generally respected.”
Tripoli’s main airport has been out of action since it was severely damaged by similar clashes in 2014.
Since Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, oil-rich Libya has been rocked by violence between dozens of armed groups vying for control of its cities and vast oil resources.
A UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015 established the Government of National Accord (GNA) in a bid to ease the chaos.
But deep divisions remain between the GNA and rivals including military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Libya and backs a competing authority.
The GNA last week announced a series of measures to secure the capital and curb the influence of militias over state institutions and banks.