Syrian Arab tribes call for Turkish intervention against Kurdish YPG forces

Located 20 miles south of the Syrian-Turkish border, the population of Kurdish-run Manbij is predominantly Arab. (AFP)
Updated 28 November 2018
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Syrian Arab tribes call for Turkish intervention against Kurdish YPG forces

  • The YPG’s call for compulsory enlistment was the last straw for prominent Arab tribes
  • Other grievances include discrimination against local Arabs and their displacement from some Arab-majority villages

ANKARA: Some Arab tribes in Manbij have called for Turkish military intervention in the northern Syrian town against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Syrian sources told Arab News.
The YPG’s call for compulsory enlistment was the last straw for prominent Arab tribes such as the Baghara and Ghanaim, the sources said.
Other grievances include discrimination against local Arabs and their displacement from some Arab-majority villages, the sources added.
Located 20 miles south of the Syrian-Turkish border, the population of Kurdish-run Manbij is predominantly Arab. The town was captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from Daesh.
The Bushban tribe expressed in a statement its determination to liberate Manbij from Kurdish rule.
The Bani Said, Naim, Fennel, Popna, Aldamalkh, Majadameh and Al-Bustalan tribes followed suit with their own statements, as did a Turkmen tribe.
Mohammed Najouma, deputy head of the Stabilization Committee in Aleppo governorate, which runs areas captured from Daesh and the SDF, said the region will not be stable until the YPG withdraws from Manbij.
“They’re carrying out raids, illegally arresting tribe members, assassinating anyone who dares oppose their policies, and forcing people to join demonstrations in favor of the YPG,” he told Arab News.
In line with a road map agreed by Turkey and the US, troops from both countries began conducting joint patrols in Manbij from Nov. 1.
As part of the deal, the YPG, seen by Ankara as a terrorist group, is expected to withdraw from the town, and a new governing council is expected to be formed by local Arabs.
In June, the Popna tribe, the largest in Manbij, welcomed the road map and expressed support for Turkish patrols in the area.
But Washington’s insistence on maintaining its partnership with the YPG despite local opposition may shake regional balances and undermine the already fragile implementation of the roadmap, experts told Arab News.
“Given the demographic characteristics of the region and the refusal of local tribes to have the YPG in their areas, any partnership with it means ignoring local and regional interests, and will lead to the escalation of tensions and the return of extremism under different forms,” Najouma said.
Ammar Hamou, a Jordan-based Syrian journalist, said Arab tribes believe that the YPG is a temporary authority, so siding with it out of fear will not benefit them in the long run and may provoke tensions between them and other Arab tribes.
The US partnership with the YPG will end as soon as the threat from Daesh is completely eliminated, he added.
“We’ve witnessed civil disobedience and closure of shops in protest against the YPG in Manbij,” Hamou told Arab News.
“Local opposition voices are becoming stronger, and this could be an excuse for Ankara to enter Manbij as it did before in Afrin.”
Last week, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu urged the US to complete implementation of the road map for Manbij by the end of this year.


Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

The worshippers forced their way into the area ahead of Friday prayer. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

  • The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area

AMMAN: For the first time since 2003, Muslim worshippers broke an Israeli ban and offered Friday prayers in the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall, which is part of the Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers entered the Bab Al-Rahmeh area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday for the first time since the area was closed to Muslim worship by Israeli authorities.

The worshippers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein and other religious leaders, forced their way into the area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.

The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area, which has only been open during the past 16 years to Jewish fanatics during provocative visits to the Muslim holy place, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti and now a member of the newly constituted Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, delivered a short sermon in which he reiterated that “the Haram Al-Sharif is all 144 dunums of land, including the mosques, prayer halls, courtyard musuems and schools within it.” Sabri said that Muslims will not allow anyone to diminish Muslim rights in the entire mosque area.

The Friday prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh went off peacefully in part because of an Israeli decision late on Thursday not to make any further escalations, a reliable source in Jerusalem told Arab News.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the new council who participated in the prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh, told Arab News that the mood was peaceful and upbeat. “It was a beautiful thing to be able to reclaim part of our religious site that we were barred from using for so many years.”

The deputy head of the PLO’s Fatah movement, Mahmoud Alloul, praised the unprecedented action by the popular movement in Jerusalem. 

In a statement published on the Wafa website, Alloul called on Palestinians to stay steadfast in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahmeh and to “continue to stand up to the occupiers and their repeated incursions in Al-Aqsa courtyards.”

Mohammad Ishtieh, a senior Fatah leader who is expected to be the next Palestinian prime minister, issued a statement saying that what happened in Jerusalem today proves beyond a shadow of doubt that all actions and decisions aimed at Judaization of Jerusalem have failed as a result of the steadfastness of our people in our eternal capital. Ishtieh praised the defenders of Jerusalem who screamed for justice and who again forced the Israeli occupiers to back down.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and a new member of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Council, told Arab News that all parties participated and share this success. “Everyone participated and every party should get credit for this success. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa unite us.”

The popular protests that led to the breakup of the 16-year-old Israeli ban began on Feb. 13 when the newly constituted empowered and expanded 18-member Waqf Council decided to hold a symbolic prayer at the barred Bab Al-Rahmeh site. The Israelis responded by placing heavy chains at the gate and making arrests. 

After four days of arrests, Israel allowed the removal of the chains but would not go as far as allowing Muslim worshippers to enter. On Wednesday the Waqf Council called on worshippers to pray at the Bab Al-Rahmeh site. All five daily prayers were held outside the barred prayer hall. A confrontation was expected Friday, but the insistence of the worshippers on reclaiming their site led to the Israelis backing down, Jerusalem sources told Arab News.