Turkey vows operation against Kurdish militia, when time is right

Turkey’s planned military operation against a Kurdish militia in Syria does not depend on an American withdrawal from the region, Ankara said. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019

Turkey vows operation against Kurdish militia, when time is right

  • While the pull-out has been clouded by mixed messages from both Trump and his administration, on Friday the US-led coalition against Daesh began the process of withdrawing, a spokesman said

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s defense minister on Friday pledged to wage a campaign against a US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, sharpening focus on a potential conflict the US has sought to prevent.

The comments from Hulusi Akar, on an unannounced visit to inspect troops stationed near the Syrian border directly opposite territory held by the US-backed Kurdish YPG, appeared to be aimed at both Washington and its Kurdish allies.

Turkey and the US, although NATO allies, are deeply divided over the implementation of President Donald Trump’s plan to bring home about 2,000 troops stationed in Syria. The plan hinges on Turkish cooperation to secure a swathe of northeast Syria as the US departs.

While the pull-out has been clouded by mixed messages from both Trump and his administration, on Friday the US-led coalition against Daesh began the process of withdrawing, a spokesman said.

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, this week tried to make the case for guarantees that Turkey would not harm the YPG after the withdrawal. That earned a stiff rebuke from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and sees Washington’s support for it against Daesh as a betrayal.

“When the time and place comes the terrorists here will be buried in the ditches they have dug, as was done in previous operations,” Akar said in a speech to military personnel at a brigade command center in the province of Sanliurfa, referring to two other cross-border campaigns that Turkey has carried out in Syria.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast. The Kurdish groups that control a vast swathe of northern Syria have now turned to Moscow and Damascus in the hope of striking a political deal that will stave off Turkey and shield their autonomy in the north.

Ankara has repeatedly expressed frustration over a deal with the US for the withdrawal of the YPG from the city of Manbij, just west of the Euphrates River.

“Before us we have Manbij on one side and the east of the Euphrates on the other,” Akar said, underscoring the scale of a potential operation. “Important preparations and planning have been made in connection with this. Our preparations are continuing intensively.”

Turkey’s planned military operation against a Kurdish militia in Syria does not depend on an American withdrawal from the region, Ankara said on Thursday.


Israel records highest single-day virus tally

Updated 45 min 47 sec ago

Israel records highest single-day virus tally

  • Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted that the decision to allow businesses, including bars and event spaces, to re-open may have been made “too soon”
  • Certain towns and city neighborhoods across the country considered virus hotspots have been placed under more robust lockdowns

JERUSALEM: Israel has recorded its highest number of coronavirus infections over a 24-hour period, with nearly 1,500 new cases confirmed in the most recent daily count, the health ministry said Friday.
Israel had won early praise for its virus containment efforts, but cases have surged since a broad re-opening began in May.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted in a late Thursday news conference that the decision to allow businesses, including bars and event spaces, to re-open may have been made “too soon.”
“I take responsibility for it,” he told reporters.
From midnight (2100 GMT) on Wednesday to midnight on Thursday, the health ministry registered 1,504 new coronavirus infections — the highest single-day tally since Israel confirmed its first case on February 21.
The country of roughly nine million has now registered more than 36,000 cases, including 351 deaths.
Various restrictions have been re-imposed, including the closure of venues, clubs, bars, gyms and public pools.
Limits on the number of people allowed in restaurants and places of worship have also been reinstated.
Certain towns and city neighborhoods across the country considered virus hotspots have been placed under more robust lockdowns.
Israel’s director of public health services, Siegal Sadetzki, resigned this week, blasting her superiors for ignoring her advice and steering Israel’s virus response off course.
“Despite repeated warnings in different forums, we are watching with frustration as our window of opportunity (to contain the virus) is running out,” Sadetzki said in a Facebook post announcing her resignation.