Syrian fighters to support anti-Kurdish forces in northeast

A military vehicle is transported as part of a convoy on the outskirts of the city of Kilis, southeastern Turkey, close to the border with Syria, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (AP)
Updated 15 December 2018
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Syrian fighters to support anti-Kurdish forces in northeast

  • Turkey has already swept YPG fighters from Afrin and other areas west of the Euphrates in military campaigns over the past two years

ISTANBUL: Up to 15,000 Syrian fighters are ready to join a Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, but no date has been set for the operation, a spokesman for the main Turkish-backed Syrian opposition group said on Thursday.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey would launch the offensive in a few days, targeting a border region east of the Euphrates River which is held by the YPG Kurdish militia.
The announcement prompted a sharp rebuke from the Pentagon, which said any unilateral military action into northeast Syria would be unacceptable.
The US has been supporting the YPG in the fight against Daesh insurgents since 2015. Following cross-border shelling from Turkey into Kurdish-controlled territory two months ago, US forces have set up three military observation posts near the border.
Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the state in southeastern Turkey for more than three decades.
On Thursday the Turkish military said one of its soldiers stationed in Syria’s Afrin region was killed by fire from YPG fighters, who were in the Tel Rifaat area. Both areas are west of the Euphrates in northern Syria.
Turkish forces returned fire, the military said. Turkey has already swept YPG fighters from Afrin and other areas west of the Euphrates in military campaigns over the past two years, but has not gone east of the river — partly to avoid direct confrontation with US forces.
But Erdogan’s patience with Washington over Syria — specifically a deal to clear the YPG from the town of Manbij, just west of the Euphrates — seems to have worn thin.
The spokesman for the National Army, a Turkish-backed opposition force aimed at unifying disparate factions in northwest Syria, said on Thursday that there was no set date for the operation, which would start from both Syrian and Turkish territory.
“The battle will be launched simultaneously from several fronts,” Maj. Youssef Hamoud told Reuters.
“It will be in Manbij and Tel Abyad and Ras Al-Ayn,” he said, referring to towns about 200 km apart near Syria’s northern border.
Hamoud said the operation from Turkey might begin a few days before the move from within Syria.
In a speech on Wednesday, Erdogan said that Turkey’s target “is never US soldiers.”
Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement that unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party would be of grave concern, “particularly as US personnel may be present or in the vicinity.”
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford spoke with the chief of Turkish General Staff Gen. Yasar Guler on Thursday.
“Dunford emphasized that the observation posts will continue to focus on and deter threats from Syria toward the Turkish southern border,” a US military statement said.
“In addition, he reiterated that the US remains committed to coordinating efforts with Turkey to bring stability to northeastern Syria,” it added.


Sudan police tear gas protesters ahead of parliament march

Updated 20 January 2019
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Sudan police tear gas protesters ahead of parliament march

  • Video clips circulating online show hundreds of security forces in Khartoum and more heading to nearby Omdurman
  • Longtime ruler Omar Al-Bashir insists there will be no change of leadership except through the ballot box

KHARTOUM: Sudanese police fired tear gas on Sunday at protesters ahead of a planned march on parliament in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum, witnesses said.

Demonstrators chanting “freedom, peace and justice” began gathering in some areas of Omdurman but were quickly confronted by riot police with tear gas, the witnesses said.

Deadly protests which erupted on December 19 after a government decision to raise the price of bread have turned into nationwide rallies against President Omar Al-Bashir’s three decade rule.

Officials say at least 26 people, including two security personnel, have died during a month of protests, while rights group Amnesty International last week put the death toll at more than 40.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of trade unions that is leading the ongoing protest movement, called for fresh demonstrations on Sunday and several days over the coming week.

“We are calling for a march to parliament in Omdurman on Sunday,” it said in a statement.

“The protesters will submit to parliament a memorandum calling on President Bashir to step down,” added the association, which represents the unions of doctors, teachers and engineers.

Over the past month, protesters have staged several demonstrations in Omdurman.

The SPA said there will also be rallies in Khartoum on Sunday, to be followed by night-time demonstrations on Tuesday in the capital and in Omdurman.

“And on Thursday there will be rallies across all towns and cities of Sudan,” the statement added.