Turkish troops targeted in Afrin suicide attack

Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army members have seized control of Mt. Barsaya near the town of Afrin, a strategically important high point. (Reuters)
Updated 30 January 2018

Turkish troops targeted in Afrin suicide attack

ANKARA: A female Kurdish suicide bomber targeted Turkish troops on Sunday in Syria’s northwest region of Afrin, but caused no casualties, said the Turkish military.
The attacker, Avesta Khabur, was part of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the female component of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“The attack was from a long distance, so the tank that was carrying soldiers wasn’t damaged,” Abdullah Agar, a security expert and retired special warfare and commando officer, told Arab News. “Ankara is showing great determination in continuing its operation.”
The New York Times said the attack “puts the US in the awkward position of allying with suicide bombers.”
Since the start of Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on Jan. 20, 597 Kurdish fighters have been “neutralized” — surrendered, killed or captured — said the Turkish military.
On Sunday, following heavy clashes, Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured the strategic Mount Bursaya in northern Syria.
Mount Bursaya was used by the YPG to strike the Turkish border town of Kilis and the Syrian city of Azaz with artillery, mortars and missiles.
On the fourth day of Operation Olive Branch, a YPG rocket hit a mosque in Kilis, killing two civilians. So far, seven Turkish soldiers and 13 FSA fighters have been killed in the campaign.
“It was known for a long time that the YPG was making preparations to conduct a suicide bombing,” Sertac Canalp Korkmaz, a researcher on security studies at ORSAM, a think tank in Ankara, told Arab News.
“Last week, weather conditions in Afrin were severe. On the battlefield, foggy weather allows terrorists to carry out suicide attacks,” he said. “But countermeasures by the Turkish military will help prevent such attacks.”
Korkmaz underlined Turkey’s significant combat experience against suicide bombing attempts.
“During last year’s Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, the Turkish Army faced several suicide attacks by Daesh against military outposts,” he said.
Daesh and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have also carried out suicide attacks in Turkey, targeting civilians, including foreigners, and police officers.
On Monday, Turkish law-enforcement officials caught a Daesh suspect, Demet Tasar, who was wanted by Interpol. She and 19 other suspects were allegedly plotting suicide attacks in Turkey.
Last week, 1,166 people were detained throughout the country for suspected ties to the PKK, while 34 people were arrested for suspected links to Daesh.

Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

Destroyed buildings following an explosion on Aug. 12 at an arms depot in a residential area in Syria’s Idlib province city of Sarmada. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018

Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

  • Russia has offered to repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 but Jordan does not want to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland
  • Jordan would benefit from reopening its border with Syria, but also carried risks of terrorists enter the country with fake IDs

AMMAN: Russia will help Jordan repatriate more than 150,000 Syrian refugees who fled fighting with the Assad regime in the country’s south, a Jordanian official said.

The official said Russia will repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 following the establishment of a center near the border with Syria to process their paperwork.

Jordan’s Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghneimat said the Russian proposal has been under discussion.

The Jordanian government refused to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland, she said.

“It is up to the refugee to decide whether he wants to return, although the presence of large numbers of Syrians has become a burden for Jordan.”

The refugees are mainly from the war-ravaged provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, the scene of fierce clashes between rebels and Assad government forces. 

Ghneimat said the establishment of a processing center nine kilometers from the border with Syria was part of Russia’s larger proposal for the return of the refugees.

Asked about the reopening of the Nassib border crossing, the minister said it was up to Syria to decide if the crossing would be operational.

The Assad regime had not asked Jordan to reopen the border, she said.

The Jordanian border crossing of Jaber is ready to operate and roads leading to the site are secure, Ghneimat said.

A technical team, including several ministry representatives, visited the crossing last week on a tour of inspection.

Jordan would benefit from reopening the border, which is an important avenue for trade with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and several European countries, a transport ministry official said.

But reopening the border carried risks, including a fear that terrorists would enter the country with fake IDs, the official said.

The closure of the Jordan-Syrian border had severely affected Jordan’s transport sector, the head of the Syndicate of Jordanian Truck Owners said.

But he said that Jordanian trucks are ready to carry goods to Syria as soon as the border crossing is reopened. Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, about 7,000 trucks drove through the crossing each day.