Kurdish brigade to fight for Turkey in Syria’s Afrin

Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters react as they hold their weapons near the city of Afrin, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 26 February 2018

Kurdish brigade to fight for Turkey in Syria’s Afrin

ANKARA: The Kurdish Hawks Brigade, dubbed the “red berets”, will reportedly join Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Kurdish-held northwestern province of Afrin, where it will take part in fighting in Afrin city center.
The brigade was formed by the Hamza Division, which is affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The brigade includes 400 Kurdish fighters from Syria’s Azaz region, and 200 Arabs.
“God willing, we will liberate our people in Afrin from PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) oppression,” said Kurdish Commander Hassan Abdullah Kulli, Turkish state-run agency Anadolu reported.
In a similar move, about 180 state-funded Kurdish village guards recently joined Turkey’s operation.
Kurdish village guards are used by the Turkish state in operations against Kurdish militants in the country’s southeast.
Turkey has been conducting Operation Olive Branch for more than five weeks against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as a terrorist group affiliated with the PKK, which is waging an insurgency against the state.
Turkey says the Afrin operation is not covered by Sunday’s UN Security Council resolution that demands a 30-day truce across Syria to allow aid access and medical evacuations.
“Although the Kurdish Hawks Brigade is a special unit that would have a better understanding of the local culture, language and geography, it’s hard to estimate how many of them are really from this region and know its topography,” Salih Bicakci, a Middle East expert from Kadir Has University in Istanbul, told Arab News.
“But their military training will probably help the FSA gain the upper hand in the looming urban warfare.”
However, Bicakci said the YPG also gained considerable urban warfare experience during the four-month siege of the northern Syrian town of Kobani, which was captured from Daesh.
Aaron Stein, senior resident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, told Arab News that after taking Afrin, “Ankara will then have to administer and rebuild damaged areas, as is the case in Euphrates Shield territory. Afrin is small, but the population will be hostile.”
Last March, Turkey ended its seven-month Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria against Daesh and the YPG.
Dr. Magdalena Kirchner, Mercator-IPC fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center, told Arab News: “Keeping a seat at the Astana table with the other guarantor countries Russia and Iran, and having a role as a guarantor power in Syria, requires Turkey to resist pressure from the Syrian regime, which aims to create a new narrative that Kurds are only safe under its rule.”
Using local village guards in Afrin is less costly and risky than deploying Turkish troops, she added.
“They’re familiar with the area and could accelerate, through better communication, the PKK’s withdrawal from the city,” she said.
But the political gains for Ankara will be less than it expects due to the small number of Kurds fighting on its side, Kirchner added.


Troops halt Lebanese ‘revolution bus’ over security concerns

Lebanese anti-government protesters flash victory signs as they head to the south of Lebanon on a 'revolution' bus from central Beirut on November 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 17 November 2019

Troops halt Lebanese ‘revolution bus’ over security concerns

  • The protest convoy is aiming to reach Nabatieh and Tyre, two cities that have challenged Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in southern Lebanon during weeks of unrest

BEIRUT: A Lebanese “revolution bus” traveling from north to south to unite protesters was halted by troops outside the city of Sidon on Saturday.
The army set up a road block to prevent the bus and a large protest convoy entering Sidon, the third-largest city in the country.
Local media said that the decision had been made to defuse tensions in the area following widespread protests.
Lebanese troops blocked the Beirut-South highway at the Jiyeh-Rumailah checkpoint over “security concerns,” a military source told Arab News.
“Some people in Sidon objected to the crossing of the bus and we feared that problems may take place,” the source added.
A protester in Ilya Square in Sidon said: “Those who do not want the bus to enter Sidon should simply leave the square because there are many who want to welcome the bus.”
The army allowed the bus to enter the town of Rumailah, 2 km from Sidon. “The bus will stop here after nightfall because of security fears and the risk of an accident,” the military source said.
The protest convoy is aiming to reach Nabatieh and Tyre, two cities that have challenged Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in southern Lebanon during weeks of unrest.
Activists said the protest bus “is spreading the idea of a peaceful revolution by unifying the people.”
“The pain is the same from the far north of Lebanon to the south and the only flag raised is the Lebanese flag,” one activist said.
Organizers of the protest convoy rejected claims that the cities of Sidon, Nabatieh and Tyre were reluctant to welcome the bus, and voiced their respect for the Lebanese army decision.

After leaving Akkar the bus passed through squares that witnessed protests in Tripoli, Batroun, Jbeil, Zouk Mosbeh, Jal El Dib and Beirut. Protesters chanted “Revolution” and lined the route of the convoy, turning it into a “procession of the revolution.”
The bus paused in Khalde, where the first victim of the protests, Alaa Abu Fakhr, was shot and killed a few days ago by a Lebanese soldier. The victim’s widow and family welcomed the convoy and protesters laid wreaths at the site of the shooting.
Activists’ tweets on Saturday claimed that life in Beirut’s southern suburbs is as difficult as in other areas of Lebanon.
“As a Shiite girl living in the heart of the southern suburbs, I deny that we are living well and not suffering. We are in a worse position than the rest of the regions,” said an activist who called herself Ruanovsky.
“No one is doing well,” said Wissam Abdallah. “The suburbs have external security and safety, but unfortunately there is a lot of corruption. There are forged car van plates, motorcycle mafia, Internet and satellite mafia, royalties mafia, and hashish and drugs mafia. Municipalities have to deal with these things as soon as possible.”