Turkish troops push deeper into northern Syria

Eastern Ghouta’s 400,000 residents have lived under regime siege since 2013, facing severe food and medicine shortages even before the latest offensive. (AFP)
Updated 04 March 2018

Turkish troops push deeper into northern Syria

BEIRUT: Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday Turkish troops have captured a strategic village in the Kurdish-held enclave in northwestern Syria, tightening its grip on Kurdish militia in the sixth week of its offensive on the area.
Yildirim said Turkish soldiers cleared Rajo in Afrin district of “terrorists” and have pushed them back from the border with Turkey.
The premier, speaking at a rally in the central province of Konya, said the Kurdish Afrin district has been “surrounded” by the military, special police and paramilitary forces, as well as allied Syrian opposition fighters.
“Afrin has been surrounded. We have cleared all areas near our borders of terror nests,” he said. He said Turkey would not cease its campaign against “terror.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syria conflict, said fierce clashes were still ongoing in Rajo, in Afrin’s northwest.
If confirmed, Rajo would be the largest center in Afrin to be captured since the Turkish offensive began on Jan.20. Turkish borders run along Afrin’s western and northern borders. To the east lies a Syrian territory controlled by Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters. In the south, Syrian government forces control territory.
Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters have been attacking Afrin from the north, west and east, and have formed a crescent around the district.
Turkey said it wants to oust the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, from Afrin. It considers the group a terrorist organization, an extension of a Kurdish insurgency within its own borders. Turkey said 41 of its soldiers have been killed since the operation began.
The offensive has heightened tensions between Turkey and its NATO ally, the United States, which backs the YPG fighting against Daesh militants in eastern Syria. The US has no troop presence in Afrin, but has said it fears the Turkish offensive could distract from the fight against Daesh in the east.
Complicating matters further, fighters loyal to Syria’s government entered Afrin late last month to support the Syrian Kurdish militia, raising the spectre of a possible confrontation between Turkish and pro-government Syrian troops.
Meanwhile, near Damascus, the Syrian government continued to lay siege to the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta yesterday. The military news service run by the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah, named three other areas it said the Syrian Army had captured at the eastern and southeastern rim of the rebel enclave.
With no sign of decisive Western pressure to halt the assault, Eastern Ghouta appears on course to eventually fall to the much more heavily armed government side, which has recaptured many other areas using the same military tactics.


US lawmakers set measure opposing Trump on Syria troop withdrawal

In this file photo taken on September 8, 2019 US troops walk past a Turkish military vehicle during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha on the outskirts of Tal Abyad town along the border with Turkish troops. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2019

US lawmakers set measure opposing Trump on Syria troop withdrawal

  • Senate and House aides said lawmakers were working on legislation to impose stiffer sanctions on Turkey, hoping to force Turkish President Erdogan to halt his military campaign in northeastern Syria

WASHINGTON: US Democratic lawmakers, joined by some of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, introduced a resolution on Tuesday opposing Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, the latest sign of deep disapproval in Congress of his action.
“We have always maintained that, while certainly needed, a sanctions package alone is insufficient for reversing this humanitarian disaster,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement introducing the resolution.
In addition to Pelosi and Schumer, the resolution was led by Representatives Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike McCaul, the committee’s top Republican.
It also is backed by Senators Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Todd Young, a Republican member of that panel.
Senate and House aides said lawmakers were working on legislation to impose stiffer sanctions on Turkey, hoping to force Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to halt his military campaign in northeastern Syria.
Several sanctions bills were introduced in the Senate and House, supported by Democrats and some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, before Trump said he would impose sanctions.
Trump announced a set of sanctions on Monday to punish Ankara, and a senior Trump administration official said on Tuesday that Washington would threaten more sanctions to persuade Turkey to reach a cease-fire and halt its offensive. The measures — mainly a hike in steel tariffs and a pause in trade talks — were less robust than financial markets had anticipated. Trump’s critics derided them as too feeble to have an impact, and the Turkish currency recovered.