Turkish troops, Kurdish militia clash in Idlib

A member of the Syrian pro-regime forces flashes the victory gesture from the hatch of a tank before advancing towards rebel-held positions west of Aleppo, near Abu al-Zuhur military airport in the Idlib province countryside, in this November 11, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 21 November 2017
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Turkish troops, Kurdish militia clash in Idlib

ISTANBUL: The Turkish army and Kurdish militia exchanged fire Monday in the northern Syrian province of Idlib where Ankara’s troops are stationed as observers, the first report of such an incident in the area, state media said.
Kurdish militia fighters fired five mortars at an observation post in Idlib staffed by Turkish troops, the Anadolu news agency said. No casualties were reported and the mortars did not hit their target, it added.
In response, the Turkish army fired toward Kurdish militia-held positions around the town of Afrin, it added.
Turkish troops are deployed in Idlib as part of of an agreement with Iran and Russia to implement four so-called de-escalation zones in flashpoint areas around Syria.
Up until the deployment of Turkish troops in mid-October, Idlib had largely been controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a group led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate.
The incident comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to host Turkish and Iranian counterparts Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani for summit talks on Syria in Sochi on Wednesday.
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to launch a military operation on Afrin, which is controlled by the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) militia considered by Turkey to be a terror group.
Ankara views the YPG as the Turkish branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.
Turkish troops have repeatedly clashed with the YPG in Aleppo province, especially during Ankara’s incursion last year, but this is the first time such an incident has been reported in Idlib.
Russia, along with Iran, is the key supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad while Turkey has backed the opposition seeking Assad’s ouster.
But Russia and Turkey have been working together since a 2016 reconciliation deal ended a crisis caused by the shooting down of a Russian war plane over Syria.
Analysts say that Erdogan will be keen to discourage Putin from backing the YPG in Syria at the Sochi talks, as Ankara seeks a say in post-war Syria after over six years of conflict.


Iraq carries out more air strikes against Daesh in Syria

Updated 25 May 2018
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Iraq carries out more air strikes against Daesh in Syria

  • At least 65 senior Daesh leaders live in Hajjin.
  • Hajjin is in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria, about 50 kilometers (just over 30 miles) from Iraq’s border.

BAGHDAD: Iraq announced Friday it had carried out air strikes against Daesh in Syria, the third cross border aerial operation inside a month in its war-torn neighbor.
“Iraqi F-16 planes carried out (Thursday) morning raids against the headquarters of Daesh terrorist gang leaders and an explosives depot occupied by terrorists in Syria’s Hajjin region,” a statement by Iraq’s operations command said.
A video released with the text shows a strike on a huge building surrounded by palm trees and a wall.
The images show the wall and the building collapsing simultaneously.
Several strikes have been carried out by Iraq or the international coalition since Thursday against the center of Hajjin, the last major area held by Daesh in Syria, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.
At least 65 senior Daesh leaders live in Hajjin, the Observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Hajjin is in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria, about 50 kilometers (just over 30 miles) from Iraq’s border.
It has been surrounded since the end of 2017 by the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters backed by the United States and France, Abdel Rahman said.
Several hundred prisoners are still held by the militants in Hajjin, he added.
Since April, Iraq’s air force has carried out several air strikes on Daesh held Syrian territory close to the border between the two countries.
Daesh seized a third of Iraq in 2014, before the government declared victory in December, but the military has continued regular operations along the porous Syrian border.