Assad snubs Erdogan’s demand to halt attack

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AP)
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Syrian Army soldiers advance in Tall Sultan town toward Saraqeb city, in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. (AFP)
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Updated 06 February 2020

Assad snubs Erdogan’s demand to halt attack

  • Erdogan said the Turkish military would carry out air and ground operations in Idlib, when necessary.

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued an ultimatum on Wednesday for Syrian leader Bashar Assad to halt his offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib by the end of this month.

“If the regime does not pull back, Turkey will be obliged to take matters into its own hands,” Erdogan said. 

He said two of Turkey’s 12 observation posts, set up around a proposed de-escalation zone as part of a 2017 agreement with Russia and Iran, were now behind Syrian regime front lines.

“We hope that the process of the regime pulling back behind our observation posts is completed in the month of February,” he said. “If the regime does not pull back during this time, Turkey will have to do this job itself.”

He said the Turkish military would carry out air and ground operations in Idlib, when necessary.

The Assad regime’s response was to continue its offensive, which has killed 300 civilians since December and displaced 520,000 people in one of the biggest upheavals of the nine-year war.

Regime forces have seized more than 20 towns and villages from opposition forces and militants in the past 24 hours. 

Russian airstrikes killed three members of the same civilian family near Idlib city on Wednesday, and regime rocket fire killed another civilian in the town of Anjara in the west of Aleppo province.

Earlier in the week, eight Turkish troops and civilians and at least 13 Assad regime troops were killed in the most violent clashes since Erdogan sent fighters to Syria in 2016.

Erdogan said the confrontations between his forces and those of the regime was a “new era” in Syria, and that any further attacks would be “responded to in kind.”

“The air and ground elements of the Turkish armed forces will freely move in the Idlib region and if needed will launch an operation,” he said.

Erdogan said the latest fighting had sent nearly 1 million civilians moving toward the Turkish border and Syrian territory under Turkish control. “No one has the right to place such a weight on our shoulders,” he said. 

The mass displacement has also coincided with a biting winter, and humanitarian aid organizations called on Wednesday for an immediate cease-fire to avoid a humanitarian disaster.

Eight aid groups and charities including Save the Children, Care and the International Rescue Committee called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in addition to immediate access to safety for the millions of civilians currently under fire.”

They said: “After nine long years of suffering for Syrian civilians, a peaceful solution to this conflict is now more urgent than it ever has been.”


So-called honor killing of teen girl brings outcry in Iran

Updated 45 min 41 sec ago

So-called honor killing of teen girl brings outcry in Iran

  • Iranian president Rouhani has urged his cabinet to speed up the introduction of harsher laws against such killings

TEHRAN: The so-called honor killing of a 14-year-old Iranian girl by her father, who reportedly used a farming sickle to behead her as she slept, has prompted a nationwide outcry.
Reza Ashrafi, now in custody, was apparently enraged when he killed his daughter Romina on Thursday after she ran away with 34-year-old Bahamn Khavari in Talesh, some 320 kilometers (198 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran.
In traditional societies in the Middle East, including Iran, blame would typically fall on a runaway girl for purportedly having sullied her family’s honor, rather than on an adult male luring away a child.
Romina was found five days after leaving home and taken to a police station, from where her father brought her back home. The girl reportedly told the police she feared a violent reaction from her father.
On Wednesday, a number of national newspapers featured the story prominently and the social media hashtag #RominaAshrafi reportedly has been used thousands times on social media, with most users condemning the killing.
Proposed legislation against honor killings has apparently shuttled for years among various decision-making bodies in Iran.
On Wednesday, Romina Ashrafi’s case led Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to urge his Cabinet to speed up harsher laws against such killings and he pushed for speedy adoption of relevant legislation.
There is little data on honor killings in Iran, where local media occasionally report on such cases. Under the law, girls can marry after the age of 13, though the average age of marriage for Iranian women is 23. It is not known how many women and young girls are killed by family members or close relatives because of their actions, perceived as violating conservative Islamic norms on love and marriage.
Iran’s judiciary said Romina’s case will be tried in a special court. Under the current law, her father faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Iran’s vice president in charge of family affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, expressed hope that a bill with harsher punishments will soon be in the final stages of approval.
Shahnaz Sajjadi, special assistant to citizens’ rights in the presidential directorate on women and family affairs, on Wednesday told the news website “We should revise the idea that home is a safe place for children and women. Crimes that happen against women in the society are less than those that happen in the homes.”