Turkey resumes its strikes on Kurdish militia targets in Syria

Turkish forces continue attacks on Kurdish militants in Syria
Updated 09 February 2018
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Turkey resumes its strikes on Kurdish militia targets in Syria

ISTANBUL: Turkish warplanes hit Kurdish YPG militia targets in Syria’s Afrin region, the army said on Friday, and a monitoring group reported that seven fighters and two civilians were killed in strikes.
The overnight attacks came after a lull in Turkish air strikes following the shooting down of a Russian warplane elsewhere in Syria last weekend.
The air strikes destroyed 19 targets including ammunition depots, shelters and gun positions, the armed forces said in a statement without specifying when the raids were conducted. The raids began at midnight, state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Seven YPG fighter and two civilians were killed in the strikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the war in Syria.
Turkey had halted air strikes as Russia worked on its air defense system in the wake of the shooting down by Syrian rebels of a Russian warplane in Idlib province on February 3, Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reported.
Ankara launched an air and ground offensive in Afrin on January 20 against the YPG, which it views as a terrorist group and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged a three-decade insurgency on Turkish soil.
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone on Thursday and agreed to strengthen military and security service coordination in Syria, according to the Kremlin.
The YPG and its allies have set up three autonomous cantons in the north, including Afrin, since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.
Their territory has expanded since they joined forces with the US to fight Daesh militants — although Washington opposes their autonomy plans, as does Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
US support for the Kurdish-led forces has infuriated Turkey, which views growing Kurdish power as a security threat along its frontier.


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.