Syria’s Afrin urges Russia to oppose Turkish-led assault

Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters gesture prior to be driven to the Turkish-Syrian border in Kilis, on January 30, 2018, as part ot the operation "Olive Branch". (AFP)
Updated 04 February 2018
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Syria’s Afrin urges Russia to oppose Turkish-led assault

AFRIN: Local authorities in Syria’s Afrin called on Sunday for world powers to intervene to halt a Turkish-led assault on their region, accusing Russia of complicity in civilian deaths there.
Ankara and allied rebels launched operation “Olive Branch” on January 20 against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey has blacklisted as “terrorists.”
Afrin’s local administration — the semi-autonomous government in place since 2013 — shot back the accusation on Sunday and urged Moscow to take a firm stand.
“We ask the Russian federation in particular to rescind its support for the Turkish state’s terrorism against the people of Afrin,” it said in a statement.
“It bears responsibility for the massacres the fascist Turkish state is carrying out against innocent civilians.”
Russia, which intervened militarily in Syria’s war in 2015, had troops positioned in Afrin but withdrew them as Turkey launched the assault.
The YPG and Afrin officials say that withdrawal amounted to tacit approval of the Turkish offensive.
Officials on Sunday also called for the United States, European Union, United Nations Security Council and the US-led coalition fighting jihadists to “immediately intervene to stop Turkey’s aggression.”
Ankara says it launched the operation to protect its southern border and insists that it is doing everything it can to avoid civilian casualties.
But the campaign has sparked mass protests, including in Afrin on Sunday.
Thousands of people marched in downtown Afrin with YPG flags and posters of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey is vehemently opposed to the YPG because of its ties to the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkish forces.
“We’re holding the whole world responsible because we fought terrorism on behalf of everyone, but today the world agreed to kill Syrians,” said Ali Mahmoud, 45.
Other demonstrators clutched olive branches, a symbol of Afrin which is known for its abundant olive groves but also now associated with the name Turkey gave its offensive.
“They named their attack ‘Olive Branch’. It’s a thorn in their hand, but in our hands, it’s a gun,” said Fikrat Afdal, 33.
At least 68 civilians, including 21 children, have died in Turkish shelling as part of the assault, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
More than 100 pro-Ankara rebels and a similar number of YPG fighters have also died, the British-based monitor says.


US warns Syria of ‘firm’ action over southern offensive

Updated 26 May 2018
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US warns Syria of ‘firm’ action over southern offensive

  • The US has warned Damascus it will take “firm” action if the regime of Bashar Assad violates a cease-fire deal
  • Syrian regime and allied forces on Monday retook the Yarmuk area in southern Damascus, giving President Bashar Assad full control of the capital and its surroundings for the first time since 2012

WASHINGTON: The US has warned Damascus it will take “firm” action if the regime of Bashar Assad violates a cease-fire deal, after Syrian aircraft dropped leaflets on a southern province ahead of an expected offensive.
Residents of Daraa told AFP Friday that several different leaflets were scattered across the province, which has borders with Israel and Jordan and is expected to be among the next targets in the resurgent regime’s reconquest.
One of them, seen by a journalist contributing to AFP in the city of Daraa, includes a picture showing lined up bodies, presumably of anti-government fighters.
“This is the inevitable fate of anyone who insists on carrying arms,” reads the leaflet.
The US State Department issued a statement late Friday saying it was “concerned” by the reports and that the area in question was within the boundaries of a de-escalation zone it had negotiated with Russia and Jordan last year.
“We also caution the Syrian regime against any actions that risk broadening the conflict or jeopardize the cease-fire,” said spokeswoman Heather Nauert, adding that the cease-fire had been re-affirmed by President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Vietnam in November.
“As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations,” she added.
Syrian regime and allied forces on Monday retook the Yarmuk area in southern Damascus, giving President Bashar Assad full control of the capital and its surroundings for the first time since 2012.
Daraa’s location makes any broad operation there very sensitive, with Israel suspecting Damascus’ Iranian allies of seeking to establish a military footprint closer to its borders.
Government and allied forces control about 30 percent of Daraa, the rest of which is held by various factions, including a small contingent of fighters from Daesh.