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.


32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur

32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur
Sudan’s war-scarred Darfur region is always prone to communal clashes. (AP)
Updated 17 January 2021

32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur

32 killed and 79 injured during deadly clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur
  • The footage also showed women and children carrying their belongings, allegedly fleeing clashes in the camp

CAIRO: Clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur have killed at least 32 people, according to a local medical official, as Sudanese authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew on the province.
Darfur remains scarred by war after a rebellion in the early 2000s was brutally suppressed. The most recent violence comes two weeks after the UN Security Council ended the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force’s mandate in the Darfur region.
Salah Saleh, a doctor and former medical director at the main hospital in the provincial capital of Genena, said the clashes wounded at least 79 others. “It’s horrible,” he said. “Until now, people cannot reach any hospitals.”
Salah warned that the casualty toll was likely much higher. The violence erupted on Friday in Genena, when an Arab man was stabbed to death at a market in the Krinding camp for internally displaced people, aid worker Al-Shafei Abdalla said. He said the suspect was arrested.
On Saturday, the dead man’s family — from the Arab Rizeigat tribe — attacked the Krinding camp, burning most of its houses, said Abdalla.
Gov. Mohammed Abdalla Al-Douma said the government would impose a curfew that would include the closure of all markets and a ban on gatherings across the province. Al-Douma granted security forces and soldiers a mandate to use force to control the situation.
The prime minister’s office in Khartoum said in a statement a high-ranking delegation led by the country’s top prosecutor would head to Genena “to take necessary measures” to re-establish stability in West Darfur. The statement did not give a casualty toll from the clashes.
Adam Regal, a spokesman for a local organization that helps run refugee camps in Darfur, shared footage showing the burned homes and property in the Krinding camp following Saturday’s attack.
The video included graphic images of wounded people with blood-stained clothes. The footage also showed women and children carrying their belongings, allegedly fleeing clashes in the camp.