Biden orders Syrian Kurds to pull back; Assad govt slams Turkish incursion

Turkish army tanks move toward the Syrian border as pictured from Karkamis, Turkey, on Wednesday. The operation was launched hours before Vice President Joe Biden was due in Ankara for talks that include developments in Syria. (AP Photo)
Updated 24 August 2016

Biden orders Syrian Kurds to pull back; Assad govt slams Turkish incursion

ANKARA, Turkey: US Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Syrian Kurdish forces to move back across the Euphrates River, telling them they will lose US support if they don’t.
Speaking at a press conference in Ankara on Wednesday, Biden said Kurdish forces “must move back across the Euphrates River.”
He said “they cannot — will not — under any circumstance get American support if they do not keep that commitment.”
Biden indirectly expressed support for the Turkish operation launched Wednesday to clear Daesh militants from the town of Jarablus and deter Kurds from further expanding in northern Syria. Turkish tanks and armored personnel carriers crossed into Syria earlier in the morning, under the cover of US-led coalition airstrikes.
Turkish state media says Syrian opposition forces backed by Turkey have reached the “entrance” of Jarablus, which lies on the last main supply line between Daesh territory and the border.
The US-backed Kurdish forces seized the border town of Manbij from Daesh militants earlier this month. Turkey said they had to retreat after clearing it from Daesh.

'Blatant violation'

Syria’s government has denounced Turkish military incursion, describing it as Turkey’s “blatant violation” of Syrian sovereignty.
In a statement reported by state-run news agency SANA on Wednesday, the government says that “any move to combat terrorism on Syrian territories should have been coordinated with the Syrian government and army.”
The statement also calls for an immediate end to the Turkish “aggression,” which it says is being carried out under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
It says: “Fighting terrorism cannot be undertaken by ousting Daesh and replacing it with other terrorist organizations directly backed by Turkey.” Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for Islamic State.
Turkey’s state-run news agency says Syrian rebels have captured a village from the Daesh group near the Daesh-held border town of Jarablus in a joint push with Turkey’s military.
The Anadolu Agency, citing unnamed military officials, said the Syrian opposition fighters took the village of Kaklijeh with the support of Turkish armored units.
Anadolu said the village is some 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away from the Turkish border. It said Turkish warplanes and artillery were also pressing ahead with their attacks against Daesh targets.
The report also said the rebel forces are expected to advance toward Jarablus backed by the Turkish armored units.

Daesh militants rounded up

Turkey’s state-run news agency says that police teams have mounted simultaneous raids at multiple locations in Istanbul to detain several suspected members of the Daesh group.
The Anadolu Agency reported the operations took place early on Wednesday in two Istanbul districts and were coordinated by a helicopter flying overhead.
The operation comes days after a suspected Daesh bombing at a wedding in southeast Turkey killed at least 54 people. It also coincides with a Turkish military incursion into Syria to clear a border town of the Daesh group.
Several suspects were detained and their addresses searched. Authorities did not disclose the number of those detained.

Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

Displaced Syrian children attend class at a makeshift school in the village of Muhandiseen, in the south western countryside of the Aleppo province, on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2018

Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

  • Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side

ALEPPO, Syria: In rebel-held northern Syria, displaced children sit or lie on the ground of an unfinished villa, bending over their notebooks to apply themselves as they write the day’s lesson.
Four teachers instruct around 100 children — girls and boys aged six to 12 — at the makeshift school in an opposition-held area in the west of the northern province of Aleppo.
Between the bare walls of the villa abandoned mid-construction, children sit or lie on sheets or plain carpets, their small backpacks cast by their side.
Dubbed “Buds of Hope,” the teaching facility has no desks, library or even working toilets.
Instead, the air wafts in from beyond the pine trees outside through the gaping windows in the cement wall.
Dressed in a bright blue T-shirt and jeans, her hair neatly tied back in a pony tail, a barefoot girl kneels over her book, carefully writing.
“This isn’t a school,” says 11-year-old Ali Abdel Jawad.
“There aren’t any classrooms, no seats, nothing. We’re sitting on the ground,” he says.
In one classroom, a gaggle of veiled young girls sit on a bench, as the teacher explains the lesson to one of their male counterparts near a rare white board.
In another, the school’s only female teacher perches on a plastic chair, as her students gather around on the floor, their backs against the wall.

Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side.
The children — as well as their teachers — have been displaced from their homes in other parts of Syria due to the seven-year war, a teacher told an AFP photographer.
Some hail from Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, a former rebel stronghold that fell back under regime control in April after a blistering offensive and surrender deals.
Others come from the central provinces of Hama or Homs.
A dry fountain lies in the courtyard outside the villa’s elegant facade, where girls link arms and swing around in a circle.
Schools in opposition-held areas are generally funded by aid organizations, but have in the past been hit by bombardment.
“We’re always scared of bombardment and of the situation in general,” says one of the teachers, giving his name as Mohammed.
The building lies in rebel-held territory adjacent to regime-controlled parts of Aleppo city to the east, but also the major opposition stronghold of Idlib to the west.
Some three million people live in the Idlib province and adjacent areas of the neighboring Aleppo and Latakia provinces, around half of them displaced by war in other parts of Syria.
Earlier this month, many feared a regime assault on Idlib, but last week Damascus ally Moscow and rebel backer Ankara announced a deal to temporarily halt it.