Syrian, Turkish forces reignite clashes near border town

A Turkish army vehicles is driven in Turkey after conducting a joint patrol with Russian forces in Syria, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. (AP)
Updated 09 November 2019

Syrian, Turkish forces reignite clashes near border town

  • SANA said the clashes Saturday involved heavy machine gun fire and occurred in the village of Um Shaifa near the town of Ras Al-Ayn
  • Turkey invaded northeast Syria last month to push out Syrian Kurdish fighters near the border

BEIRUT:  Intense clashes broke out Saturday between Syrian government troops and Turkish-led forces in northeast Syria, the country's state media and an opposition war monitor reported.
Several people were injured, including a cameraman for state-run Syrian TV, according to both SANA and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory and Kurdish news agency Hawar said a Syrian major general and a colonel were also wounded.
Turkey invaded northeast Syria last month to push out Syrian Kurdish fighters near the border. The Kurdish groups called in Syrian government forces to halt Turkey's advance. Syrian government forces have since clashed with Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition fighters, despite a shaky truce brokered by Russia.
SANA said the clashes Saturday involved heavy machine gun fire and occurred in the village of Um Shaifa near the town of Ras Al-Ayn, which was captured by Turkish-led forces troops last month.
The Observatory said government forces withdrew from several areas including Um Shaifa, leaving Kurdish fighters alone to face the attacks, which also involved Turkish drones.
Syrian state TV said one of its cameramen was wounded in the fighting, while the Observatory said several were wounded including a paramedic.
Turkey's Defense Ministry said Saturday it had recorded eight violations or attacks carried out by Syrian Kurdish fighters in the last 24 hours, despite separate ceasefire agreements that Turkey has reached with Russia and the United States. The ministry said on its Twitter account that the Syrian Kurdish fighters attacked with mortars, rockets and sniper fire, without saying where the attacks had occurred.
The ministry gave no mention of fighting with Syrian government troops.
Last week, Turkish forces captured 18 Syrian government soldiers in the area and set them free hours later following mediation by Russia.
On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized a US decision to send US troops to protect oil fields in eastern Syria, saying no one but Syria has rights over the country's reserves.
The US has said the move is aimed at preventing the oil fields from falling into the hands of Daesh militants. Turkey is concerned that US-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters will benefit from the oil revenues. Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters as terrorists because of their links to Kurdish militants fighting inside.
"To come from tens of thousands of miles away and to say we will put the country's wealth, oil reserves to use is against international law. And we oppose it. " Cavusoglu said at the end of a regional economic cooperation meeting. "These (reserves) belong to the Syrian people and should be used in a way that benefits the people of Syria."


Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

Updated 08 December 2019

Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

  • Abdallah Chatila spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler
  • He said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market

JERUSALEM: wealthy Lebanese-Swiss businessman said Sunday he had bought Adolf Hitler’s top hat and other Nazi artifacts to give them to Jewish groups and prevent them falling into the hands of a resurgent far-right.
Abdallah Chatila said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market because of the rising anti-Semitism, populism and racism he was witnessing in Europe.
He spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler, including the collapsible top hat, in a November 20 sale at a Munich auction house, originally planning to burn them all.
But he then decided to give them to the Keren Hayesod association, an Israeli fundraising group, which has resolved to hand them to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center.
Chatila told a Jerusalem press conference it had been a “very easy” decision to purchase the items when he saw the “potentially lethal injustice that those artifacts would go to the wrong hands.”
“I felt I had no choice but to actually try to help the cause,” he added.
“What happened in the last five years in Europe showed us that anti-Semitism, that populism, that racism is going stronger and stronger, and we are here to fight it and show people we’re not scared.
“Today — with the fake news, with the media, with the power that people could have with the Internet, with social media — somebody else could use that small window” of time to manipulate the public, he said.
He said he had worried the Nazi-era artifacts could be used by neo-Nazi groups or those seeking to stoke anti-Semitism and racism in Europe.
“That’s why I felt I had to do it,” he said of his purchase.
The items, still in Munich, are to be eventually delivered to Yad Vashem, where they will be part of a collection of Nazi artifacts crucial to countering Holocaust denial, but not be put on regular display, said Avner Shalev, the institute’s director.
Chatila also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and visited Yad Vashem.
Chatila was born in Beirut into a family of Christian jewellers and moved to Switzerland at the age of two.
Now among Switzerland’s richest 300 people, he supports charities and causes, including many relating to Lebanon and Syrian refugees.
The auction was brought to Chatila’s attention by the European Jewish Association, which has sought to sway public opinion against the trade in Nazi memorabilia.
Rabbi Mehachem Margolin, head of the association, said Chatila’s surprise act had raised attention to such auctions.
He said it was a powerful statement against racism and xenophobia, especially coming from a non-Jew of Lebanese origin.
Lebanon and Israel remain technically at war and Lebanese people are banned from communication with Israelis.
“There is no question that a message that comes from you is 10 times, or 100 times stronger than a message that comes from us,” Margolin told Chatila.
The message was not only about solidarity among people, but also “how one person can make such a huge change,” Margolin said.
“There’s a place for optimism.”