Turkey army confirms start of new ‘Olive Branch’ operation inside Syria

Turkish jet fighters hit the People’s Protection Units (YPG) positions at the Syrian side of the border at Hassa in Hatay on Jan. 20, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Turkey army confirms start of new ‘Olive Branch’ operation inside Syria

ANKARA/ISTANBUL: The Turkish army on Saturday confirmed it had started a major new ground and air cross-border operation against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria, which Turkey deems to be a terror organization.
Dubbing the new campaign operation “Olive Branch,” the Turkish army said it had begun at 1400 GMT and was aimed against the YPG and also Daesh extremists.
The army also said the operation would be carried out “with respect for Syria’s territorial integrity” and stemmed from Turkey’s rights under international law.
“Our armed forces have started an air campaign in order to destroy elements” of the YPG, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a televised speech. An AFP correspondent on the Turkish side of the border saw two warplanes launch air strikes inside Syrian territory.
Meanwhile, units of pro-Ankara rebels known by Turkey as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) began moving into the Afrin area of Syria which is controlled by the YPG, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.


Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

Russian soldiers distribute aid in the central Syrian province of Homs. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

  • A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west
  • The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone

MOSCOW: The Russian Defense Ministry said it was coordinating efforts to help Syrian refugees return home and rebuild the country’s infrastructure destroyed by the civil war.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said in a conference call that included Russian and Syrian officials that work is underway to rebuild dozens of Syria’s power stations, schools and other vital institutions.
In Damascus, Syrian Public Administration Minister Hussein Makhlouf pledged the regime would protect refugee property rights and grant returning refugees a year’s deferral from military conscription.
“The Syrian government is working to simplify procedures for refugees who return, repair housing and try to create new jobs,” Makhlouf said, adding that the authorities were also working to streamline legislation to facilitate refugee returns.
He dismissed as hostile “propaganda” claims that some refugees were facing arrests on their return.
Makhlouf called on Western nations to drop their sanctions against Damascus, introduced early in the seven-year conflict, in order to help post-war restoration and encourage the return of the refugees.
Mizintsev said that over 1.2 million of internally displaced Syrians and about 300,000 refugees have returned in the past two and a half years.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin might take part in a summit with the leaders of Turkey and Iran at the beginning of September.
The three leaders met in April at a summit in Ankara where they discussed developments in Syria.
With help from its Russian ally, President Bashar Assad’s regime has expelled fighters from large parts of Syria’s south since June.
Israel has repeatedly pledged to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence along its border. A series of airstrikes that killed Iranians inside Syria have been attributed to Israel.
A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west.
The Russian army’s Lt.-Gen. Sergei Kuralenko told reporters on an organized press tour this week how “stability” had returned to the buffer zone.
Apart from “a few problems with Daesh” in its southern tip, the demilitarized zone was “entirely under control of Syrian military police,” Kuralenko said.
“Everything is ready” for the return of UN troops, he said, after the peacekeepers were forced to withdraw in 2014.
After retaking most of the two southern provinces adjacent to the buffer zone, regime forces last month raised their flag inside, above the key border crossing of Quneitra.
The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone, Kuralenko said, and plan to set up four more in the near future.
They are “willing to hand them over to the UN if it says it is ready to ensure the monitoring of the Golan alone,” he said.