Turkey releases 18 Syrian soldiers captured in Syria

A Turkish Leopard 2 tank fires its gun during clashes between Syrian regime forces, and Turkish forces, 15kms east of the northeastern town of Ras Al-Ein, on October 30, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2019

Turkey releases 18 Syrian soldiers captured in Syria

  • The Syrian soldiers were released late on Thursday
  • A Syrian Kurdish official said the soldiers were captured Tuesday during an intense battle between Syrian government forces and Turkey-backed fighters

ISTANBUL: The Turkish military released 18 Syrian government soldiers captured in northeastern Syria by its forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday. 
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said earlier that the soldiers were captured during Turkish reconnaissance operations southeast of Ras Al-Ayn but didn’t say when. 
Turkey agreed to a cease-fire brokered by Russia in which Kurdish fighters would withdraw 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the Turkish border. As part of the deal, Syrian government forces would take positions along the frontier.
Akar spoke during a visit to Turkish troops at the border with Syria. His comments were carried on the official ministry website.
A Syrian Kurdish official said the soldiers were captured Tuesday during an intense battle between Syrian government forces and Turkey-backed fighters. Kurdish fighters were fighting alongside the Syrian troops. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.
In another sign of the changing battleground, US forces said the first batch of mechanized armored vehicles arrived in southeast Syria on Thursday, where they are to take part in securing oil fields and fighting remnants of Daesh. US-led Coalition spokesman Col. Myles Caggins said the first batch of Bradley armored infantry carriers arrived in Deir Ezzor Province and will provide infantry with maneuverability and firepower. He said the deployment is “de-conflicted” with other forces operating in the region.
The province is home to some of Syria’s largest oil fields. It is also where Daesh militants continue to wage an insurgency and where they lost their last territory in March.
US President Donald Trump ordered the troop withdrawal from the north ahead of a Turkish military offensive there earlier this month. He said he wanted out of America’s “endless wars” but would leave US troops in the region to secure oil facilities.
Turkey is pushing to have Kurdish fighters moved away from its borders. Ankara views the Syrian Kurdish fighters as an extension of the decades-long Kurdish insurgency in southeastern Turkey. But Washington has partnered with those Kurdish-led forces to fight Daesh over the last five years, putting in a difficult spot between its NATO ally and battleground partners.
The Kurdish forces leaned on Russia and the Syrian government to protect them against the advancing Turkish forces. But Turkey seized a stretch of land across the border before the US negotiated an initial cease-fire.
Turkey has offered financial and logistical backing for the Syrian opposition that worked to bring the government of President Bashar Assad down. Ankara has also carried out three military operations into Syria and now controls territory in northwest and northeast Syria to push Daesh militants and Kurdish fighters away from its borders.
Turkey then agreed to a cease-fire brokered by Russia on Oct. 22, under which Kurdish fighters would withdraw to 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the Turkish border. Under the deal, Syrian government forces would take positions along the frontier and joint Turkish-Russian patrols are due to begin Friday.
But the truce has been marred by accusation of violations from both sides.
For days now, Turkey-allied fighters have been fighting Kurdish forces near Abu Rasein, a village between Ras Al-Ayn and Tal Tamr, despite the deployment of Syrian government forces. Syrian state media also reported some government soldiers clashed with the Turkey-backed forces.
The Kurdish official said the Syrian government soldiers were captured in the area. He said the forces then withdrew after their soldiers were captured.
A war monitor group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also reported that Syrian troops pulled out from the Tal Tamr area on Wednesday, amid a Turkish-backed advance with air cover. The area is home to Syria’s dwindling Christian Assyrian community. The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazloum Abdi, warned that Turkey-backed fighters began entering Christian villages and are attempting to break into the main town.
The Syrian withdrawal left empty the border post in Darbasiyeh, west of Ras Al-Ayn, which Kurdish forces had handed over just days before, according to the Rojava Information Center, an activist group. Later on Thursday, the Observatory said government and Kurdish forces were deploying into the town of Tal Tamr.
Separately, a car bomb went off in a town administered by Turkey-backed forces in northwestern Syria, killing at least eight people.
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said another 14 people were wounded in the attack in a vegetable market in Afrin. It said the explosives were packed into a refrigerator truck.
Turkish-led forces captured Afrin from Syrian Kurdish fighters early last year. The area is controlled by Syrian fighters allied with Turkey, who have been accused by rights groups of seizing land and property . The area sees sporadic attacks and other violence.
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency also reported the attack, saying nine people were killed and 20 wounded. It said the blast ignited a nearby patrol station and caused damage to surrounding homes and shops.
No one has claimed the attack.


Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

A Palestinian man facing Israeli soldiers waves a national flag during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, near the town of Tulkarm on June 5, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2020

Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

  • Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause

AMMAN: Leading Palestinian and Arab figures have used the 53rd anniversary of Naksa — the displacement and occupation of Arab territories that followed Israel’s victory in the 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan — to highlight political mistakes made during and after the conflict.

Adnan Abu-Odeh, political adviser to Jordan's King Hussein and King Abdullah II, told Arab News that Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership had failed to understand the goals of Zionism.

“Governments that participated in the war were naive, expecting a repeat of the 1956 Sinai invasion when the US ordered an Israeli withdrawal. This was followed by the mistaken belief that we could liberate the land using guerrilla warfare," he said.

Anees Sweidan, director-general of foreign relations in the PLO, told Arab News that the Palestinian cause is undergoing a complicated phase where political opportunities are limited.

“The US bias towards Israel and absence of unity has put the Palestinian movement in a difficult situation. It is harder to generate external support and the financial crunch is causing much suffering despite the fact that we have made important accomplishments in the UN and Europe.”

Abdalqader Husseini, chairperson of the Faisal Husseini Foundation, said that the opportunities the anniversary offers should not be ignored.

“We need to realize that this is an illegal occupation that continues to dig deeper and escalate every day to the degree that the international community has lost interest and world conscience has become numb to Israeli practices. We in Jerusalem have not normalized with the occupiers and we have not accepted the new situation as an inescapable reality that we must accept.”

Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause.

“We went to Madrid with hope, the Palestinian leadership went to Oslo with optimism that they could reach a phased solution that would lead to statehood. As we remember this Naksa, we must revisit the path that has allowed the occupying entity to steal our land and cause havoc to our people without any deterrence from the international community," he said.

They (Palestinian youth) personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of PASSIA thinktank

Nibal Thawabteh, director of the Bir Zeit University’s Media Development Center, said the biggest mistake since 1967 was focusing on politics and avoiding community development.

"We don’t have a strong sense of citizenship, some have become accustomed to religious Islam. We need to work more on the citizenship.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Amman-based Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, said there is a lack of acknowledgment of the reasons behind the Arab loss.

“Political, economic and cultural factors caused our loss, and we feel that most Arab countries have not learned this lesson. Instead of learning, we are going backwards, failing to defend their existential rights, shifting to isolationism as well as cultural and economic regression in our region."

Instead of looking backward, some Palestinians wanted to look forward.

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of the PASSIA thinktank in Jerusalem, said that Palestinian youth who never felt the shock of the 1967 defeat but have seen the exposure of Arab regimes in the face of the "deal of the century" will prevail.

“They personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Lily Habash, a Exeter University political science graduate, told Arab News that things look different on the ground.

“The world is changing and Israel uses geopolitical and regional changes to its advantage,” she said.

Dangers today encourage despair but Palestinians will be steadfast in the long term, she added.

“Some say we need a savior to get us out of this dilemma but I believe we need to trust in ourselves and work on all fronts.”