Erdogan says Turkey will crush Kurdish militia in Afrin

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech in this file photo. He told a congress of his ruling AK Party that Turkey will crush Kurdish militia in Afrin if they don’t surrender. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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Erdogan says Turkey will crush Kurdish militia in Afrin

ISTANBUL: President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey’s military incursion in northern Syria’s Idlib province would crush Kurdish militia forces that control the neighboring region of Afrin.
The Kurdish YPG militia said Turkish forces inside Syria fired shells into Afrin on Saturday, but no one was wounded.
Turkish troops entered Idlib three months ago after an agreement with Russia and Iran for the three countries to try to reduce fighting between pro-Syrian government forces and rebel fighters in the largest remaining insurgent-held part of Syria.
But the few observation posts which the Turkish army says it has established are close to the dividing line between Arab rebel-held land and the Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin.
“If the terrorists in Afrin don’t surrender we will tear them down,” Erdogan told a congress of his ruling AK Party in the eastern Turkish city of Elazig.
The Kurdish YPG militia said Turkish forces stationed in Syria shelled several Kurdish villages in the Afrin region on Saturday, without causing casualties.
Rojhat Roj, the YPG spokesman in Afrin, told Reuters the shelling was carried out by Turkish forces in Dar Taizaah and Qalat Seman — areas where he said Turkish forces had deployed as part of the agreement with Russia and Iran.
“From our side, there is no shelling at present,” he added.
Erdogan has said the Kurdish YPG militia is trying to establish a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border, linking Afrin with a large Kurdish-controlled area to the east.
In 2016 Turkey launched its Euphrates Shield military offensive in northern Syria to push back Islamic State from the border and drive a wedge between the Kurdish controlled regions.
“With the Euphrates Shield operation we cut the terror corridor right in the middle. We hit them one night suddenly. With the İdlib operation, we are collapsing the western wing,” Erdogan said, referring to Afrin.
He also said Turkey could drive YPG forces out of Manbij. The mainly Arab town lies west of the Euphrates, and Turkey has long demanded that Kurdish fighters pull back east of the river.
“In Manbij, if they break the promises, we will take the matter in our own hands until there are no terrorists left. They will see what we’ll do in about a week,” Erdogan said.
Turkey was a major supporter of rebels fighting to overthrow Syria’s President Bashar Assad, but is alarmed by the strength of Kurdish forces — which Ankara says are linked to Kurdish militants fighting in southeast Turkey.
It has criticized the United States for arming YPG and Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces, which drove Islamic State out of Raqqa and other parts of Syria.
“The US sent 4,900 trucks of weapons in Syria. We know this. This is not what allies do,” Erdogan said. “We know they sent 2,000 planes full of weapons.”


Russia air strikes kill 10 civilians in northwest Syria: monitor

Updated 3 min 3 sec ago
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Russia air strikes kill 10 civilians in northwest Syria: monitor

  • Clashes between regime forces and militants raged Monday on the edge of the region held by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate
  • The Syrian regime and Russian bombardment has increased in Idlib region since late April

KAFRANBEL, Syria: Air strikes by Syrian regime ally Russia have killed 10 civilians including five children in a northwestern militant bastion, a monitor said Monday, hours after Moscow announced a cease-fire there.
Clashes between regime forces and militants raged Monday on the edge of the region held by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, following the deadly air raids overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Idlib region controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham is supposed to be protected from a government offensive by a September buffer zone deal, but regime and Russian bombardment has increased there since late April.
The Observatory said Russian air strikes overnight killed five children, four women, and one man in the town of Kafranbel in Idlib province.
The air strikes hit near a hospital in the town, knocking it out of service, the Britain-based monitor said.
An AFP correspondent saw five homes on the edges on the town that were destroyed or damaged after the strikes.
Survivors picked through the debris to save the belongings they could, the reporter said, while a young man covered in dust from head to toe leant against a wall, shell-shocked after his father was killed.
Umm Wasel narrowly missed the air strike on her home after relatives invited her over to break her daily fast of the Islamic month of Ramadan with them.
“I came back at night to find my home devastated,” said the 72-year-old, dressed in a long red robe and a black scarf covering her hair.
People “had thought I was under the rubble,” she said.
The Observatory said six other civilians also died in bombardment by regime forces in other parts of the Idlib region on Sunday.
The militant stronghold includes most of Idlib province as well as parts of neighboring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.
Fighting raged in the north of Hama province between loyalists and militants from early Monday, the Observatory said, after relative respite in bombardment over the past three days.
Russian airplanes pounded the south of Idlib province, while government aircraft targeted the north of Hama province with machine guns, missiles, and crude barrel bombs, the monitoring group added.
The deadly Russian air strikes come after Russia on Sunday said Syrian armed forces had “unilaterally ceased fire in the Idlib de-escalation zone” from May 18 at midnight, but that fire of loyalists had continued.
Russia and rebel ally Turkey inked a buffer zone deal to protect the Idlib region of some three million people in September, but regime fire has increased there since HTS took control in January.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions inside Syria and abroad since starting in March 2011 with a crackdown on anti-government protests.