Washington will not allow Turkish army into Manbij, says Kurdish leader

A convoy of US forces armoured vehicles drives near the village of Yalanli, on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Washington will not allow Turkish army into Manbij, says Kurdish leader

LONDON: The commander of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has said Washington told YPG forces that it will not allow the Turkish army and Ankara-backed militants to enter Manbij, northeast of Aleppo.
Sipan Hemo said that his fighters had destroyed “11 Turkish tanks and other tanks that were operating under the Ankara-backed militants” and that “the only aid we are provided is from Damascus, and it’s medical, rescue and humanitarian aid.”
Since Jan. 20, Turkey, along with Syrian rebel factions, has launched an offensive “targeting members of YPG” — seen by Ankara as a “terror group” — in Afrin, along the northern Syrian borders. Ankara fears that the Kurds will establish self-rule on its borders along the lines of Iraqi Kurdistan.
More than 20,000 fighters from Syrian factions are participating in Operation Olive Branch, along with the Turkish Army and affiliated “special units” under the cover of the Turkish air force, after Ankara had the green light from Russia, which is covering its air force in the regions in the West of Syria’s Euphrates River.
In a phone call with Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday, Hemo said from Afrin: “Seventeen days after launching the offensive, Turkey has not achieved any of it goals. Turkey is now reviewing and calculating, as it considers the current situation a matter of irreversible survival. As Turks launched the operation, they thought they would achieve their goals within days but that has not yet happened.”
He added: “Turkey is looking to destroy the will of the Kurds. However, tactically, what it really wishes to do is to take control over Afrin and the eastern and western country sides of Aleppo up to the city of Aleppo, as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has always wanted to annex Aleppo, considering it part of the Ottoman Empire. However, Turkey has not achieved a significant military advance.”
Hemo, leading the “units” from his residence in Afrin, indicated that his fighters “destroyed 11 Turkish tanks and other tanks. Many Turkish and pro-regime soldiers were killed.”
Hemo and Syrian Kurdish commanders sent Asharq Al-Awsat videos of fighters launching tank attacks with anti-tank missiles between Afrin and Turkish borders, as well as pictures of raids launched on Kurdish cites in the region. Some reports indicated that the units have used long-range Grad rocket-launchers, but this has yet to be confirmed.
It was said that it was Washington that handed the American-made TOW missiles to the YPG — the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces — to fight Daesh initially and that Moscow and Damascus provided the Russian-made Konkurs missiles.
Hemo said: “The missiles are not American nor Russian, but thermobaric missiles we found on the black market and developed ourselves. The US said many times that it has nothing to do with Afrin and Al-Shahba’ regions near Aleppo. Our joint work with the US is limited to the fight against Daesh in eastern Euphrates river.”
When asked about Damascus’ support of the Kurdish units to fight the Turkish army, Hemo said: “Our position is very clear. Syria should be protecting the Syrian border from any Turkish assault. However, we were only provided with medical, rescue and humanitarian aid.”


Egypt finalizing details of long-term Hamas-Israel truce

Updated 16 August 2018
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Egypt finalizing details of long-term Hamas-Israel truce

  • Cairo has brokered an interim truce that has allowed commercial goods into Gaza ahead of the Muslim Eid Al-Adha
  • “We are putting the final touches to the terms of the truce that will be signed by all sides..." the source said

CAIRO: Egypt is finalizing details of a long-term truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian security source said on Thursday, amid easing tensions on the border of the enclave where some two million Palestinians live.
Cairo has brokered an interim truce that has allowed commercial goods into Gaza ahead of the Muslim Eid Al-Adha feast which starts next week.
“We are putting the final touches to the terms of the truce that will be signed by all sides, and we expect to announce the terms next week if Fatah helps us to do so,” the source said, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s mainstream party which dominates the occupied West Bank.
Officials from Fatah have not joined those of Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, and other Palestinian factions for the talks in Cairo on the long-term truce.
But Fatah’s backing is crucial for any deal as the party retains a large presence in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and has overall control in areas under Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.
“The period of calm will be for one year, during which contacts will be held to extend it for another four years,” the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A long-term truce could pave the way for talks on other issues, including the easing of a blockade that has crippled Gaza’s economy and allowing a possible swap of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
The source said Egyptian intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, was expected to meet Abbas in Ramallah after similar talks in Israel, and a deal could be announced by next week. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Kamel had met with Netanyahu in Israel this week, but gave no details.
A Palestinian source in Ramallah said Kamel has left without seeing Abbas, who had been preoccupied with a Palestinian leadership conference. But the source said Abbas had informed Egypt that Fatah representatives would join the Cairo talks later this week or next week.
Apart from the opening of its Kerem Shalom commercial crossing into Gaza, Israel also expanded the enclave’s fishing zone, in waters under Israeli naval blockade, from three to nine nautical miles off the southern coast and to six nautical miles in the north, according to the head of Gaza’s fishermen’s union.
The Egyptian security source said the extended truce would also include opening a sea lane from Gaza to Cyprus under Israeli supervision.
A Palestinian official in Gaza familiar with the talks said Palestinian factions were demanding a “total lifting of the blockade on Gaza, opening all crossings with Israel and Egypt and a water corridor.”
Israel says its blockade is a self-defense measure against Hamas, a group that has called for its destruction.
Israel’s security cabinet, a forum of senior ministers headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussed the Gaza situation on Wednesday and an Israeli “diplomatic official” said Hamas would have to prove its commitment to the truce.
As well as wanting calm along the border, Israel has said Hamas must return the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war and release two civilians whose fate is unknown. It says they are being held by Hamas in Gaza.
“That’s the only way,” Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said on Thursday when asked if a broad arrangement depended on the return of the soldiers’ bodies.
“Nothing will be done to enable (Gaza’s) significant rehabilitation and the improvement of infrastructure and ports and other such fantasies, unless they release the bodies and the two Israeli captives,” he told Israel radio.
The Egyptian security source said the long-term truce would also envisage Israel freeing hundreds of detained Palestinians in a prisoner swap.
However, the Palestinian official denied any talks were taking place on a swap, saying Hamas opposed mixing the issues.
Egypt has brokered a Palestinian reconciliation agreement that provides for Hamas to cede control of Gaza to Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. A dispute over power-sharing has hindered implementation of the deal, but the Egyptian source said Cairo was still seeking progress on the issue.