Syria army enters Manbij in new alliance with Kurds

Syria army enters Manbij in new alliance with Kurds
The announcement came moments after Syria's Kurdish militia, left exposed by a US pledge to pull out its own troops, asked for the regime's help to face a threatened Turkish offensive. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 December 2018

Syria army enters Manbij in new alliance with Kurds

Syria army enters Manbij in new alliance with Kurds
  • The announcement came moments after the Kurds, left exposed by a US pledge to pull out its own troops, asked for the regime's help to face a threatened Turkish offensive
  • The Syrian army spokesman said the national flag was raised in Manbij, a key city which lies about 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of the Turkish border

BEIRUT: Syrian troops deployed in support of Kurdish forces in a strategic northern city on Friday, in a shift of alliances hastened by last week’s announcement of a US military withdrawal.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the move marked another key step in President Bashar al-Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control over the country.
Buoyed by its military victories, the regime is also making progress in efforts to break its diplomatic isolation, with Thursday’s reopening of the Emirati embassy in Damascus.
The Syrian army announced that it had raised the flag in Manbij, a strategic city close to the Turkish border where US-led coalition forces are stationed.
A military spokesman said in a televised announcement that the army would be bent on "crushing terrorism and defeating all invaders and occupiers".
More than 300 government forces deployed in the Manbij area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Britain-based war monitor stressed however that regime troops had mostly moved into areas around the city, inside which US and French forces are still believed to be stationed.
Their deployment creates a regime buffer arching across northern Syria that fully separates the Turkish army and its proxies from the Kurds.
US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last week that he was ordering all US forces back home left the Kurds in the cold.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been the backbone of an alliance that has spearheaded the US-backed fight against Daesh in Syria.
They are currently battling the last remnants of the extremists’ once sprawling "caliphate" in the country’s far east, near the border with Iraq.
A US withdrawal will leave them exposed to an assault by Turkey, which has thousands of proxy fighters in northern Syria and wants to crush Kurdish forces it considers terrorists.
The Kurds issued a statement welcoming the regime advance, a pragmatic shift in alliances that will dash their aspirations for autonomy but could help cut their losses after a US pullout they resent as a betrayal.
"We invite the Syrian government forces... to assert control over the areas our forces have withdrawn from, particularly in Manbij, and to protect these areas against a Turkish invasion," the YPG said in a statement.
After Manbij, the focus is likely to move to Raqqa, a mostly Arab city that the Kurds liberated from IS last year and that the regime has vowed to retake.
Turkey said Syrian Kurds "don’t have the right" to seek regime help but Russia, the main foreign player in Syria since it intervened to rescue Assad in 2015, hailed the latest development.
"Of course, this will help in stabilizing the situation. The enlargement of the zone under the control of government forces... is without doubt a positive trend," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Peskov said the situation would be discussed on Saturday during a visit to Moscow by the Turkish foreign and defense ministers, to "clarify" the situation and "synchronize actions" between the two countries.
The year 2018 saw the regime, which three years earlier was clinging for dear life and controlled less than a third of the country, reclaim large swathes of territory.
The government ousted rebels from their bastions in and around the capital Damascus and flushed out other pockets to reopen key transport and trade routes.
With internal opposition in tatters and UN-backed political negotiations stillborn, Assad is now trying to shed his pariah status and looking for funds to rebuild the country.
The US pullout from Syria risks opening a highway for other regional players such as Turkey and Iran, a prospect that some of Assad’s erstwhile foes are keen to counter.
On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates -- a Turkish rival in the region -- reopened its embassy in Damascus, six years after severing ties and recognizing a now defunct opposition umbrella.
The move was the latest in a series of developments building up to the return of Assad’s Syria into the Arab fold.
Bahrain also announced it would reopen its mission in the Syrian capital while observers expect regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia to confirm that trend in the coming weeks.
The Arab League has admitted that the reintegration of Syria, which was suspended from the regional body when it intensified its repression of anti-government protests seven years ago, is on the table.


Egypt registers three new coronavirus vaccines within days

Egypt registers three new coronavirus vaccines within days
Updated 13 min 10 sec ago

Egypt registers three new coronavirus vaccines within days

Egypt registers three new coronavirus vaccines within days
  • Joint contract to manufacture vaccine in the country to be signed soon

CAIRO: The Egyptian Minister of Health, Hala Zayed, said Egypt has registered for three coronavirus vaccines — from the UK, Russia and Chinese respectively — after approving the use of each.

She added that the cold chain in Egypt allows for storage of 140 million vaccine doses.

“We have begun steps to register three Chinese, English and Russian companies, and within a few days, new shipments will be received and new vaccines will be registered,” Zayed said at a press conference.

She added that Egypt will sign a joint contract to manufacture the vaccines in Egypt soon with their partners.

The Russian Embassy in Egypt announced earlier that Moscow was ready to supply Egypt with the Sputnik V vaccine, and provide the technology needed for its manufacture to Cairo.

“Moscow is ready to provide the technology for manufacturing this vaccine in Egypt, which has a suitable production base,” Zayed she added.

She indicated that Egypt has 101 million citizens and 7 million residents, explaining that residents will also be vaccinated.

The minister confirmed that Egypt is the first African country to start its vaccination campaign, and also the first country to receive a vaccine on the continent.

Zayed indicated that Egypt seeks to vaccinate 20 percent of citizens with vaccines from the GAVI coalition. She also confirmed that the government would receive other batches of the vaccine within days, with elderly people over 65 years of age able to start registering to receive doses.

The registration will take place either in the nearest hospital or electronically.

She confirmed that all public hospitals in the country would provide the vaccine, starting from Monday.

“There are no financial challenges to obtaining vaccines, the Long Live Egypt (Tahya Misr) Fund will finance the purchase of vaccines,” she added.

Medical staff in all hospitals nationwide, and those unable to pay for the vaccine, will receive it free of charge.

She explained that the names of those who are unable to pay will appear on the vaccination system prepared by the Ministry of Health automatically once each citizen’s identification is entered, since the new system is linked to the Takaful and Karama program.

The vaccine will be offered for a cheap price, at a maximum of EGP 200 ($12.71) for the two doses.

She indicated that registering for the vaccine can be done in two ways, either through the website and uploading data proving that the person is eligible, or going to the nearest hospital affiliated with the Ministry of Health and registering.

“Everyone can apply to register to receive the vaccine through the website, and whoever is unable to access it can go to any hospital belonging to the Ministry of Health, and the workers there will register his name.”

The minister explained that the first groups that will receive the vaccine are medical staff and the elderly; those under 18 years and pregnant women will not be allowed to receive the vaccine.