Turkey’s Erdogan threatens to expand offensive to other northern Syrian cities

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, gestures during a briefing led by Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces Hulusi at the Operating Base in Hatay in this handout photo, with blurred classified information, taken on Thursday, January 25. (Turkish Presidential Press Service via AFP)
Updated 26 January 2018
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Turkey’s Erdogan threatens to expand offensive to other northern Syrian cities

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday threatened to expand Turkey’s offensive against the Afrin region in Syria to other cities in the country’s north to remove the presence of the Syrian Kurdish militia that Ankara views as terrorists.
“We will continue our fight until there is no terrorist on our border leading to Iraq,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara, vowing to “clean up” the city of Manbij, east of Afrin, also held by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.
Turkey launched its military operation dubbed “Olive Branch” against the YPG on Saturday, supporting Syrian rebels with ground troops, air strikes and artillery fire.
While the YPG is still working closely with Washington against the Daesh extremist group in Syria, Ankara views the YPG as a terror group allied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) inside Turkey.
The PKK is blacklisted by Ankara and its Western allies as a terror outfit.
The seven-day offensive has seen Washington’s NATO ally Ankara attacking a US-allied force, even raising fears of military confrontation between two alliance powers since the US has a military presence in Manbij.
Erdogan promised the operation would continue until “we reach our goals,” adding: “After we will, as promised, clean up Manbij of terrorists.”
Tensions between Ankara and Washington are already high but the operation added further strain to the allies’ relationship. The two sides disagreed about the content of telephone talks between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump late on Wednesday.
The US said Trump had urged Turkey to “limit its military actions” but a Turkish official said the US statement did “not accurately reflect the content” of the call.
Erdogan criticized Turkey’s allies, including the US, who have called, he said, for the operation to be “short” and “limited” in scope, referring to previous interventions.
“How long has Afghanistan lasted? Nearly 20 years. How long has it lasted in Iraq? Nearly 18 years!” he thundered.
Erdogan added that “343 terrorists were neutralized” during the operation thus far. It was not possible to independently verify the toll.
Three Turkish soldiers have been killed since the start of the offensive, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said 58 Ankara-backed Syrian rebels and 53 US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and YPG fighters had been killed.


Israel to build 2,500 new settler homes

Many Palestinians regard the announcement of the new settlements as being directly linked to the recent opening of the new US Embassy and the killings in Gaza. (Reuters)
Updated 25 May 2018
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Israel to build 2,500 new settler homes

  • The stark warning comes after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed on Thursday that he would seek final approval for 2,500 homes to be built across 30 settlements.
  • They are working to superimpose greater Israel on all of historic Palestine, says Hanan Ashrawi

AMMAN, Jordan: Israel’s decision to build thousands of new homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank has “ended the two-state solution,” according to Palestinian officials.

The stark warning comes after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed on Thursday that he would seek final approval for 2,500 homes to be built across 30 settlements. The work is likely to be approved at a planning committee meting next week.

The timing of Lieberman’s announcement is regarded as particularly provocative by Palestinian officials, still angered by the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the killing of 60 protesters in Gaza on May 15.

In a statement published by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the Palestinian president, said: “The continuation of the settlement policy, statements by American officials supporting settlements, and incitement by Israeli ministers have ended the two-state solution and ended the American role in the region.”

The 2,500 houses, which are illegal under international law, will be spread across the occupied West Bank, with construction work due to begin immediately after approval is granted. The new houses will include 400 dwellings in Ariel, north of Jerusalem, and 460 in Ma’ale Adumim, a city already inhabited by about 40,000 people. Lieberman also said that “in coming months” he would push for the approval of another 1,400 settler houses now in the preliminary stages of planning.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee, said the plans reveal “the real nature of Israeli colonialism, expansionism and lawlessness.”

She said: “Undoubtedly, Israel is deliberately working to enhance its extremist Jewish settler population and to superimpose greater Israel on all of historic Palestine.”

In an appeal to the International Criminal Court earlier this week, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry branded Israeli settlements “the single most dangerous threat to Palestinian lives and livelihoods.” 

Ashrawi called for the legal body to “open an immediate criminal investigation into Israel’s flagrant violations of international law.”

According to a June 2017 article in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, more than 380,000 settlers live in the West Bank, with more than 40 percent based outside official settlements. Many Palestinians regard the announcement of the new settlements as being directly linked to the recent opening of the new US embassy and the killings in Gaza.

Khalil Tufakji, director of the maps and survey department at the Arab Studies Society, a Jerusalem-based NGO, told Arab News that the houses were designed to placate demands from the Israeli rightwing to create “a single state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.”