Syria ‘captures’ drone near Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

One of two drones that came down over a media center of the Lebanese Hezbollah in the south of the capital Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2019

Syria ‘captures’ drone near Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

  • Israel says it targets bases of Iranian forces and its militant group Hezbollah in Syria

DAMASCUS, ISTANBUL: Syrian authorities captured and dismantled on Saturday a drone rigged with cluster bombs near the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, state news agency SANA said.

SANA gave no further details about the drone but posted several photos of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

Israel frequently conducts airstrikes and missile attacks inside war-torn Syria but rarely confirms them. Israel says it targets mostly bases of Iranian forces and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said it was not clear if Syrian troops or members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah controlled the drone. Hezbollah has fighters in different parts of Syria where they are fighting on the side of Bashar Assad’s forces.

The incident came two days after another drone was destroyed over the Damascus suburb of Aqraba, where an Israeli airstrike killed two Hezbollah operatives last month.

No one claimed responsibility for the drones on Saturday.

In neighboring Lebanon, a government investigation concluded on Thursday that two Israeli drones were on an attack mission when they crashed in the capital last month, one of them armed with 4.5 kilo of explosives.

Erdogan frustrated

Meanwhile in neighboring Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday expressed frustration with what he said was the US’ continued support for Syrian Kurdish militants.

Speaking to reporters before his departure for the UN meetings in New York, Erdogan reiterated that Turkey had completed all preparations for a possible unilateral military operation in northeast Syria, along the Turkish border east of the Euphrates River.

Last month, Turkey and the US agreed to take steps toward establishing a so-called “safe zone” in the area that would keep US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces away from Turkey’s border. 

Turkey has, however, warned that it will not allow the US to delay the establishment of the safe zone and has threatened to launch an operation on its own within two weeks.

Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters to be “terrorists” due to their links to Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

“We have no wish of confronting the United States,” Erdogan said. “However, we don’t have the luxury of ignoring the support that the United States is giving terrorist organizations in an area where it was not invited to be.”

Erdogan said he would discuss the issue during a possible meeting with US President Donald Trump in New York.

The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces has said they will pull back up to 14 km in some areas. Turkey says the US had agreed that the “safe zone” should extend 32 km into Syria.

Erdogan reiterated complaints over US support for the Kurdish fighters, saying Washington was providing them with arms.

His comments about border preparations came a day after two security sources said doctors have been stationed in southern Turkish provinces to prepare for a possible incursion into Syria.


Erdogan hit by more arms bans as pressure grows over Syria invasion

Updated 16 October 2019

Erdogan hit by more arms bans as pressure grows over Syria invasion

  • United States threatens more sanctions
  • Britain, Spain and Sweden joined Germany and France in suspending military exports

ANKARA: Three more countries halted arms sales to Turkey on Tuesday as pressure mounted on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the Turkish invasion of northeast Syria.

Britain, Spain and Sweden joined Germany and France in suspending military exports, and the US threatened Ankara with more sanctions unless Erdogan halts the offensive.

“We will keep our defense exports to Turkey under very careful and continual review,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. “No further export licenses to Turkey for items which might be used in military operations in Syria will be granted while we conduct that review.”

Spain, a major arms exporter to Turkey, urged Erdogan to “put an end to this military operation” because it endangered regional stability, increased the number of refugees and threatened Syria’s territorial integrity.

“In coordination with its EU partners, Spain will deny new export licenses for military equipment that can be used in the operation in Syria,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Sweden also halted exports of military combat equipment. “Two permits that have been active have now been recalled,” it said.

BACKGROUND

Vice President Mike Pence will hold talks with Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday, and the UN Security Council will discuss the invasion.

Erdogan’s assault against Kurdish forces, launched last week, has prompted a chorus of international condemnation. “Many NATO allies are very critical and are condemning the military operation in northern Syria,” said Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO, the Western military alliance of which Turkey is a member.

Russia’s presidential envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, said Turkey had no right to deploy its forces in Syria permanently, and Moscow had not approved the operation.

US President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on Turkey on Monday, and on Tuesday the US said more sanctions would follow unless the invasion was halted.

“The plan is to continue the pressure on Turkey as we evaluate our chances to return the relationship to normal, a major element of that return to normal would be a cease-fire,” a senior administration official said. “And by cease-fire what I mean is forces on the ground stop moving on the ground.”

Vice President Mike Pence will hold talks with Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday, and the UN Security Council will discuss the invasion.