Syria vows to shoot down Turkish fighter jets

A Turkish F-16 aircraft can be seen in this file photo. Syria has vowed to shoot Turkish fighter jets in Afrin.(AFP)
Updated 18 January 2018
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Syria vows to shoot down Turkish fighter jets

BEIRUT: The Syrian government on Thursday warned Turkey against launching a military operation in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin and said that Syrian air defenses stood ready to defend against such an attack.
“We warn the Turkish leadership that if they initiate combat operations in the Afrin area, that will be considered an act of aggression by the Turkish army,” deputy foreign minister Faisal Meqdad said in a statement carried by the state media.
“The Syrian air defenses have restored their full force and they are ready to destroy Turkish aviation targets in Syrian Arab Republic skies,” he added.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN Turk in an interview on Thursday that Turkey would intervene in Afrin and Manbij to counter the Syrian Kurdish YPG militias.
Turkish forces are already deployed in areas of Syria on either side of the YPG-controlled Afrin. The Syrian army holds land to the south.
“The presence of any Turkish forces on Syrian lands is “totally rejected,” Meqdad added. He said that military action by Ankara would complicate its role as a party to diplomatic efforts and put it on “the same level as the terrorist groups.”
Meanwhile, Turkey dispatched its military chief to Moscow on Thursday, seeking approval for an air campaign in Afrin, although Damascus warned it could shoot down any Turkish planes in its skies.
Turkey’s foreign minister said the Moscow trip by Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar was part of talks with both Russia and Iran, the two main backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad, to allow Turkish planes to take part in an Afrin campaign.
The diplomacy was the strongest signal yet that Turkey plans direct military action against territory held by Kurdish militia, potentially opening a new front in Syria’s civil war.
It would mean confronting Kurds allied to the United States at a time when Turkey’s relations with Washington are reaching the breaking point.
“We will intervene in Afrin,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told broadcaster CNN Turk, adding he did not expect Russia to oppose any operation there. “We are meeting the Russians and Iran on the use of air space.”
Turkey has ratcheted up its threats to take military action in Afrin in the past week, in response to US plans to support setting up a 30,000-strong force to guard areas held by Kurdish-led fighters in a large part of Syria east of Afrin.
 


Israel army accuses Hamas of firing rocket, new troops headed for Gaza

Updated 35 min 30 sec ago
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Israel army accuses Hamas of firing rocket, new troops headed for Gaza

  • Netanyahu said the incident will evoke a strong Israeli reaction
  • Palestinian rockets rarely reach an area at that far from Gaza

MISHMERET/JERUSALEM: Israel’s military accused Hamas of carrying out a rocket strike from the Gaza Strip on Monday, and said they were sending two additional brigades to the area around the Hamas-run enclave and will carry out a limited call up of reservists..

The Israeli military said on Twitter the rocket had been fired from the Rafah area in the southern Gaza Strip. Major Mika Lifshitz, a military spokesperson, says two armor and infantry brigades were being mobilized and that there is a limited drafting of reserves underway following the attack.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also on Monday said that he is to cut short his trip to the United States after a rocket attack near Tel Aviv.

“In light of the security events I decided to cut short my visit to the US,” Netanyahu said, calling the attack a heinous crime that would draw a strong Israeli response.

He said he would meet with President Donald Trump in the coming hours and then fly back immediately.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in a community north of Tel Aviv and caused it to catch fire, wounding seven Israelis, authorities and medics said.

Israel’s army said the rocket was fired from the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas, raising the risk of another escalation between the two sides just ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.

The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, police said. Medics said they were treating one Israeli with moderate wounds and four others injured lightly.

Mishmeret is more than 80 kilometers from the Gaza Strip and rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave at that distance is rare.

Monday’s incident comes after two rockets were fired from Gaza toward Tel Aviv — also rare — on March 14.

No damage or injuries were caused, but Israel responded to that and further rocket fire by hitting what it said were around 100 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.

Four Palestinians were reported wounded in those strikes.

Both Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad denied they were behind the March 14 rocket fire toward Tel Aviv, raising the possibility they were launched by fringe groups.

Israel’s military said they were launched by Hamas, but later there were Israeli media reports that the army’s preliminary assessment was that they had been fired by mistake during maintenance work.

The reports were a sign that Israel was seeking to calm tensions. The military had refused to comment on the reports at the time.

Monday’s rocket comes just days ahead of the March 30 one-year anniversary of Palestinian protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.

An informal truce between Hamas and Israel had led to relative calm along the border of the blockaded strip, but recent weeks have seen another uptick in violence.