Car bomb claims lives of 17 people in northern Syrian village of Tal Halaf

Destroyed vehicles following a car bomb attack at a local market in the Turkish-held Syrian Kurdish town of Tal Halaf along the border with Turkey in the northeastern Hassakeh province, on November 26, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 27 November 2019

Car bomb claims lives of 17 people in northern Syrian village of Tal Halaf

  • It blamed the attack on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units

ISTANBUL: A car bomb killed at least 17 people and wounded 20 others in the Turkish-controlled region of northern Syria on Tuesday, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said.

The attack took place in the Tal Halaf village west of the city of Ras Al-Ayn, which is now controlled by the Turkish military after its offensive in October, the ministry said on its official Twitter account.

It blamed the attack on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara accuses of being the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984.

“The PKK/YPG terror group continues its car bombings aimed at civilians. The child murderers this time detonated a car bomb in Tal Halaf village west of Ras Al-Ayn, killing 17 people and wounding more than 20,” the Defense Ministry said on Twitter.

Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the attack but gave a lower toll, saying 11 people — including at least three civilians — had been killed.

But it said the death toll is likely to climb due to the severity of some of the injuries suffered.

Turkish forces and their proxies — former Syrian rebels hired as a ground force by Ankara — launched an offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria on Oct. 9.

The military action came after US President Donald Trump ordered his troops to withdraw in a move that observers condemned as a betrayal of their Kurdish partners in the war against Daesh in Syria.

In its operation, Turkey secured a strip of land in northern Syria after signing separate deals with the US and Russia.

Ankara says it wants to establish a “safe zone” in which to resettle some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it hosts on its soil.


Former Lebanese FM Gebran Bassil comes under fire at Davos panel

Updated 4 min 1 sec ago

Former Lebanese FM Gebran Bassil comes under fire at Davos panel

  • Bassil, who has been the target of protesters' anger, was speaking on a panel named “The return of Arab Unrest”
  • CNBC's Hadley Gamble, who moderated the discussion, put pressure on Bassil over his comments on governance

DAVOS: Lebanon’s new government needs to win the confidence of the parliament, the confidence of the people, and the confidence of the international community, former Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil said at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday.

In a much-anticipated panel discussion plagued by controversy and uncertainty since its announcement, Bassil appeared despite a social media campaign and petition calling for his invitation to be rescinded. 

He said the country was in its current position because of 30 years of “wrong policies.”

“The responsibility of the Lebanese government is to take the challenge of changing and reforming the system,” he said. “What is happening now in the streets is very positive because it is creating a dynamic for change.”

Joining Bassil for the discussion — “The return of Arab Unrest” — were Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag and Damac Properties chairman Hussein Sajwani. 

Kaag spoke of the importance of Lebanon as a “regional public good in a volatile region” saying the country has “so much to offer.” However, she added, “It is so painful to see a model of consensual democracy turn away to provide a disservice.

“One should not need wasta,” she continued, referring to the Arabic word for influence and/or bribery. “Wasta is a total sign of poverty, whereby only if you have means, access, and influence, you are someone.”

Gebran Bassil, a hate figure for Lebanese protesters, was grilled by Hadley Gamble during a Davos panel. (WEF)

Panel moderator, CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble, did not hold back when questioning the former foreign minister, repeatedly reminding him of his infamous quote at Davos last year, when he said, “Washington and London should maybe learn from Lebanon how to run a country without a budget.”

Bassil’s spokesperson May Khreish had earlier accused Gamble of being part of “a Zionist campaign against Bassil's participation in the conference.”

“We have a malfunctioning system because of confessionalism. What the young people are calling for in the streets is a secular system whereby citizens are equal,” Bassil said.

He also expressed his hope that Lebanon’s current crisis could be resolved in-house. “Let the people of the region decide what they want,” he said. “Don’t dictate to them foreign recipes. Let the international community help not dictate.

“Lebanon is still a democracy — we have a high level of freedom and they are encouraged to keep this force of change, and when they decide we don’t represent them anymore, we step aside,” he continued, referring to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government resigning a few weeks after the start of the protests in October 2019.

Damac boss Sajwani suggested that the general public in the region did not treat democracy with appropriate gravitas. “The challenge we have in the Middle East is that people are not being professional when it comes to elections,” he said. “They are going by emotions and religion, which is totally unacceptable.”

Kaag praised the determination and persistence of Lebanon's youth. “The specter of possible civil war will not work anymore (as a deterrent for protests),” she said.

Lebanon’s new coalition government was formed on Tuesday after almost 100 days of widespread public protests about the state of the economy, corruption, high unemployment and a lack of basic services. The majority of its 20 ministers are aligned with Hezbollah and its allies.