Turkey: US decision to open embassy in Jerusalem damaging peace

1 / 2
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. (AP)
2 / 2
A United States flag flies over a complex belonging to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, January 22, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 24 February 2018

Turkey: US decision to open embassy in Jerusalem damaging peace

ANKARA: Turkey on Saturday described as “extremely worrying” the US move to open its embassy in Jerusalem in May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel.
Friday’s announcement by Washington to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city follows US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.
“This decision shows the US administration’s insistence on damaging the grounds for peace by trampling over international law, resolutions of UN Security Council on Jerusalem,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Turkey will continue its effort to protect the legitimate rights of the Palestinian public ... against this extremely worrying decision by the US,” the ministry added.
Ankara said the decision showed the US does not hear, “and worse still, does not care about the voice of the international community’s conscience.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led condemnation of the ruling in December and called an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit of the leaders of Muslim nations in Istanbul shortly after Trump’s announcement last year.
The leaders urged the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after it seized control of the area in the 1967 war, but the move has never been recognized by the international community.
Jerusalem is a city considered holy by Christians, Jews and Muslims and is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinian leadership on Friday said the US move, a year earlier than originally expected, was “a provocation to Arabs.”
The founding of Israel on May 14, 1948 is mourned by Palestinians as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” when an estimated 750,000 Palestinians either fled or were expelled from their homes in the war surrounding Israel’s creation.
Relations between Turkey and the US have already been strained over multiple issues including Ankara’s latest offensive in Syria against a US-backed Kurdish militia.
Although Erdogan has frequently criticized Israel’s policies, the two sides increased cooperation following the end of a rift in 2016 caused by Israel’s storming in 2010 of a Gaza-bound ship that left 10 Turkish activists dead.


18 killed in clashes in northwestern Syria

A heavily damaged building following Russian airstrikes and shelling on the town of Binnish in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province on Monday. Three members of the same family were killed in the strike. (AFP)
Updated 7 min 54 sec ago

18 killed in clashes in northwestern Syria

  • Russian airstrikes on the town of Binnish in Idlib province killed three people from the same family on Monday, according to the Observatory. An AFP photographer saw plumes of smoke rising from the site of the attack

BEIRUT, JERUSALEM: Clashes between opposition groups and pro-Assad fighters in northwestern Syria on Monday thwarted regime’s advance and left 12 pro-regime men dead, a Britain-based war monitoring group said.
Another 17 pro-regime fighters were wounded while on the opposition-led side six fighters died, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The forces loyal to Bashar Assad had launched an attack with artillery and heavy gunfire in Syria’s last major opposition bastion, said the war monitor.
But the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) alliance, headed by ex-leaders of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, and their allies reportedly thwarted the advance.
Four HTS and two other opposition fighters were killed in the clashes in a rural area of Latakia province, the monitor said.
The HTS-led alliance also controls large areas of Idlib province and slivers of territory in neighboring Aleppo and Hama.
The region they hold is home to some 3 million people, nearly half of whom have been displaced from other parts of the country.
Syria’s 9-year-old war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population.
The opposition-held area is a regular target of attacks by regime forces and their Russian and Iranian allies.
A Russian-backed regime offensive between December and March displaced nearly a million people in the region.
A Moscow-backed cease-fire agreement in March has reduced violence in the area, but shelling and airstrikes by the regime and its backers continue.
Russian airstrikes on the town of Binnish in Idlib province killed three people from the same family on Monday, according to the Observatory. An AFP photographer saw plumes of smoke rising from the site of the attack.

Golan Heights Activity
The Israeli military said it thwarted an infiltration attempt from Syria early on Monday staged by four suspected militants it accused of trying to plant explosives.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Israeli troops earlier spotted “irregular” activity in the Golan Heights. Israeli troops opened fire on the suspected militants, some of whom were armed, after observing them placing the explosives on the ground, Conricus said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Forces loyal to Bashar Assad had launched an attack with artillery and heavy gunfire in Syria’s last major opposition bastion.

• The opposition-held area is a regular target of attacks by regime forces and their Russian and Iranian allies.

There was no official confirmation that the four suspected attackers were killed but a grainy video released by the army shows four figures walking away from barbed wire marking the frontier. The four then disappear in a large explosion that engulfs the area.
The Israeli military has not said if the four are suspected of ties to Iran or Hezbollah, two Syrian allies. However, Conricus said Israel held the Syrian regime responsible for the incident.
Addressing Likud party lawmakers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel “thwarted an attempted sabotage on the Syrian front” and would continue to “harm all those who try to harm us and all those who harm us.”
The incident comes amid heightened tension on Israel’s northern frontier following a recent Israeli airstrike that killed a Hezbollah fighter in Syria. Following the airstrike, the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights was hit by explosives fired from Syria and Israel responded by attacking Syrian military positions and beefing up its forces in the area.
Israel has been bracing for further retaliation and last week it said it thwarted an infiltration attempt from Lebanon by Hezbollah militants, setting off one of the heaviest exchanges of fire along the volatile Israel-Lebanon frontier since a 2006 war between the bitter enemies.