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.


UN chief urges Lebanon’s Hezbollah to halt military wing and operations

Updated 22 May 2018
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UN chief urges Lebanon’s Hezbollah to halt military wing and operations

  • UN criticize Lebanese militia Hezbollah for operating a political party supported by a heavily armed militia.
  • Guterres called on Lebanon’s government to take measures to prohibit Hezbollah militia from building paramilitary capacity inside Lebanon and the region.

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly criticized Hezbollah for operating as the most heavily armed militia and a political party in Lebanon and urged the militant group to halt military activities inside and outside the country, including in Syria.
In a report to the Security Council obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Guterres also called on Lebanon’s government and armed forces “to take all measures necessary to prohibit Hezbollah and other armed groups from acquiring weapons and building paramilitary capacity” outside the authority of the state.
He said Hezbollah’s military activity violates a 2004 Security Council resolution ordering all Lebanese militias to disarm and the Taif Accords that ended the country’s 1975-90 civil war. In the semi-annual report on implementation of the 2004 resolution, the secretary-general said Hezbollah’s engagement in the Syrian conflict also violates Lebanon’s official policy of “disassociation,” or neutrality in regional affairs.
Guterres said the report demonstrates Hezbollah’s failure to disarm and “its refusal to be accountable” to state institutions that the UN resolution sought to strengthen.
“In a democratic state, it remains a fundamental anomaly that a political party maintains a militia that has no accountability to the democratic, governmental institutions of the state but has the power to take that state to war,” he said.
Israel and Lebanon have been in a state of war for decades and do not have diplomatic relations. In the summer of 2006, Israel and Hezbollah militants fought a monthlong war.
The border with Israel has remained mostly quiet since then, but Guterres said an alleged increase in Hezbollah’s arsenal poses “a serious challenge” to the Lebanese government’s ability to exercise authority and sovereignty over the entire country.
“I call upon countries in the region that maintain close ties with Hezbollah to encourage the transformation of the armed group into a solely civilian political party, and its disarmament,” Guterres said.
He did not name Iran, a strong supporter of Hezbollah in Syria and elsewhere. Both are strong supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
Guterres said Hezbollah’s military arsenal and involvement in Syria continue “to be denounced by a number of voices in Lebanon, who consider those issues to be destabilizing factors in the country and ones that undermine democracy.”
In addition, he said, “many Lebanese see the continued presence of such arms as an implicit threat that those could be used within Lebanon for political reasons.”
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the United States, but its political wing has long held seats in Lebanon’s parliament and was part of Lebanon’s outgoing coalition government.
Parliamentary elections earlier this month were the first in Lebanon since war broke out in Syria in 2011 and Hezbollah made major gains. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah declared “mission accomplished.”
Nonetheless, Lebanese analysts say the next Cabinet, like the outgoing one, will likely be a unity government that includes Hezbollah.