Turkish army says 31 soldiers killed in Syria operation

The coffin of Koray Karaca, a soldier who was killed during Turkey’s military action in Syria’s Afrin region, is carried by a ceremonial guard of honor during his funeral ceremony in Istanbul. (Reuters)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Turkish army says 31 soldiers killed in Syria operation

ANKARA: The Turkish army on Monday said 31 soldiers had been killed since Ankara launched its offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria last month.
Another 143 Turkish soldiers were wounded in the operation dubbed “Olive Branch” which began on January 20 against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in the western region of Afrin, a statement said.
While the United States has given armed support to the YPG against the Daesh group in Syria, Turkey says the militia is a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK, proscribed as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies, has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.
Turkey has been supporting Syrian rebels with ground troops and air strikes during the operation which Ankara has threatened to extend eastwards toward other YPG-held towns.
Turkey suffered its bloodiest day on Saturday when 11 military personnel were killed, including two after a helicopter taking part in the offensive was downed.
Some 1,369 “terrorists” had been neutralized during the operation, the army said, referring to those killed but also those captured or wounded.
It was not immediately possible to verify this figure.
But according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 152 YPG fighters and 165 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have died in the operation.
The Observatory said at least 74 civilians have been killed in the operation so far.
Turkey has repeatedly insisted it is taking all the necessary precautions to avoid harming civilians and says there have been no civilian casualties to date.
At least seven civilians have been killed in Turkish border towns after rockets were sent from Syria in attacks Ankara blames on the YPG.


US accuses Iran of destabilizing Mideast with missile program

Updated 20 March 2019
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US accuses Iran of destabilizing Mideast with missile program

  • Cites Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon
  • Says Iran's ballistic missile test and satellite launches violated UN Security Council resolution

JEDDAH: Iran’s missile program is destabilizing the Middle East, and Tehran risks starting a regional arms race by supplying weapons to armed groups in Lebanon and Yemen, a senior US arms control official said on Tuesday.

“Iran must immediately cease activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and halt the proliferation of missiles and missile technology to terror groups and other non-state actors,” Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, said in a speech to the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Iran’s missile program is a key contributor to increased tensions and destabilization in the region, increasing the risk of a regional arms race,” she said, denouncing Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

She said Iran had provided ballistic missiles to the Houthis that were fired into Saudi Arabia and unmanned aerial systems to Houthi groups that enable strikes against land-based targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We are committed to aggressively countering Iran’s regional proliferation of ballistic missiles and its unlawful arms transfers,” she said.

US President Donald Trump said when he quit the 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities that the agreement failed to rein in Iran’s missile program or curb its regional meddling.

The US has accused Iran of defying a UN Security Council resolution by carrying out a ballistic missile test and two satellite launches since December.

Poblete urged “all responsible countries” to enforce UN Security Council resolutions restricting the transfer of missile-related technologies to Iran. She also accused Iran of “pursuing pharmaceutical-based agents for offensive purposes,” but did not provide details.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said Iran had the largest ballistic program in the Middle East. “Through its ballistic missile program, the Iranian regime appears determined to escalate tensions in the region and seek every opportunity to project its power in order to reassert its hegemony,” he said. “The international community ought to hold Tehran accountable for its military adventurism and violations of international standards.”