Turkiye threat to Kurdish militants a ‘shot across the bow’ to US, analysts say

Special Turkiye threat to Kurdish militants a ‘shot across the bow’ to US, analysts say
A man drives a motorcycle past the Zarba oil facility, after a Turkish airstike, Al-Qahtaniyah, northeastern Syria, close to the Turkish border, Oct. 5, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 05 October 2023

Turkiye threat to Kurdish militants a ‘shot across the bow’ to US, analysts say

Turkiye threat to Kurdish militants a ‘shot across the bow’ to US, analysts say
  • Warning that all PKK and YPG sites are ‘legitimate military targets’ viewed as a precursor to a high-level cross-border Turkish operation
  • Bombing outside the Interior Ministry in Ankara was claimed by the HPG, a faction associated with the PKK

ANKARA: Turkiye’s threat to strike Kurdish militant sites across its border is a “shot across the bow” to the US and other actors in the Syrian conflict, analysts have told Arab News.

The warning on Wednesday — that all PKK and YPG sites are “legitimate military targets” — is viewed as a precursor to a high-level cross-border Turkish operation.

With normalization between Ankara and Damascus “already losing momentum,” a new offensive could involve “jets, drones and howitzers” striking specific targets, said Oytun Orhan, coordinator of Syria studies at the ORSAM think tank.

And Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s vague warning for “third parties” to “steer clear” of Turkish targets is also a show of force by Ankara to the US, Damascus, Iran and Russia, Orhan added.

Fidan said on Wednesday that all infrastructure and energy facilities belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, and its Syrian Kurdish affiliate, People’s Protection Units YPG in Syria and Iraq, are now legitimate military targets.

The bombing outside the Interior Ministry in Ankara on Sunday was claimed by the HPG, a faction associated with the PKK, according to Turkish authorities.

“I recommend that third parties steer clear of these targeted facilities,” Fidan — former head of the country’s National Intelligence Organization — warned on Wednesday, without specifying the identity of any “third parties.”

The ambiguity surrounding the statement has sparked vigorous debate over Fidan’s warning to the US and other actors in the Syrian conflict.

Turkish officials have confirmed that the two attackers responsible for the Sunday bombing were PKK members who entered Turkiye from Syria, potentially from Tal Rifaat or Manbij.

The PKK has led a decades-long insurgency in Turkiye and is considered a terror organization by the US, the EU, and Turkiye.

One of the assailants detonated an explosive device, while the other was killed in a subsequent gunfight with police.

Two police officers were injured.

The two attackers had stolen their vehicle from a veterinarian, who they killed in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri, a city located southeast of Ankara.

In response to the Sunday attack in northern Iraq, Turkish jets have carried out several cross-border airstrikes against PKK bases in caves, shelters and depots.

Unmanned armed drones belonging to Turkiye’s National Intelligence Agency also hit several targets in Hasakah city in northern Syria on Wednesday evening and Thursday, destroying critical YPG bases.

Earlier this week in Hasakah, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization also killed Nabo Kele Hayri, code-named Mazlum Afrin, the figure believed to be behind last year’s bloody bomb attack on Istanbul’s famous Istiklal Street.

Amid tension following the airstrikes, Iraqi Defense Minister Thabit Mohammed Al-Abbasi will visit Ankara on Thursday to meet his Turkish counterpart Yasar Guler.

Rich Outzen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and Jamestown Foundation, told Arab News: “The public statements by Foreign Minister Fidan, coupled with high-level security meetings being held in Ankara, indicate that a high-profile operation will likely be conducted in the next day or so.”

According to Outzen, on one level, any operation would be a direct response to the PKK attack, while on another level, it would also serve as a shot across the bow to the US and its anti-Daesh coalition partners that the continued — and in some cases increasing — proximity of Western forces to PKK-linked strategy contravenes Turkish security red lines.

For example, the presence of US advisers in Iraq with SDF/YPG leader Mazloom Abdi in Sulaymaniya earlier this year “indicates an apparent erosion in carefully delimiting support to Daesh in Iraq,” he said.

But Outzen added that Fidan’s latest warning does not appear to be a threat or demand for US withdrawal from northeast Syria.

He said that the statement concerns the when, where and why of US-YPG operations.
“There is low risk in the eyes of the Turks for the known US operating locations or in the field during Daesh operations. But there is a higher risk with YPG fighters in convoys, Iraq, or areas of Syria near the Turkish border,” he said.

“Especially given that the Turks believe the YPG facilitated the entry of the terrorists in this week’s attack from Syria into Turkiye, they view all PKK/YPG locations in northern Syria as potential terror launching points and, therefore, legitimate targets,” Outzen said.

He added that US forces “will almost certainly have to adjust their rules of engagement to account for this.”

Outzen believes that Washington’s response to Fidan’s statement will be to discretely, via diplomatic and defense channels, strongly reiterate its red line of safeguarding the US presence in the region.

“It would be well advised to also communicate at the same time clear rules of engagement about when and where US forces will travel with SDF/YPG personnel, and which locations likely have US presence,” he said.

Outzen added that this will be necessary from a force protection point of view.
“There may be some public push back from Congress or commentators about implied or veiled threat, but I don’t think that’s the real story here.”

Speaking at the opening session of the Legislative Year of the 28th Term of the Turkish parliament, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan highlighted the country’s strategy to protect its southern border with a security zone at least 30 km deep.

“The new steps we will take are just a matter of preparation, time and the right conditions. That is why the saying ‘we may turn up suddenly one night’ should never fall on deaf ears,” he said.

Orhan of the ORSAM think tank said that recent military maneuvers by Turkiye, along with statements made by prominent figures such as Fidan and Erdogan, may signal an impending offensive in the region.

“The normalization process between Ankara and Damascus has already lost momentum due to Syria’s uncompromising demands for a complete Turkish military withdrawal from the northern regions of the war-torn country,” said Orhan.

Ankara “had initially advocated for dialogue with the Syrian regime, expecting cooperation against the presence of PKK/YPG forces on Syrian soil. However, no substantial progress has been achieved in this regard,” he told Arab News.

Orhan said that Fidan’s warning to third parties conveyed a message to all factions engaged in the Syrian conflict.

This message extended not only to the US, but also to Damascus, Russia and Iran, he added.

“Previously, Turkish drones hit energy facilities belonging to the PKK/YPG several times. This time, a new offensive along the borders could involve jets, drones and howitzers to strike specific targets,” he said.

However, Orhan added that a full Turkish ground offensive appears unlikely.
Instead, he suggested that any potential operation would be tactical, primarily intended to communicate Turkiye’s security priorities to all actors in the region.

The military maneuvers coincide with the restart of work on a crude oil pipeline from Iraq this week after the February earthquakes suspended operations.

Jordan’s foreign minister, Antony Blinken discuss Gaza ceasefire, entry of aid into Gaza Strip

Jordan’s foreign minister, Antony Blinken discuss Gaza ceasefire, entry of aid into Gaza Strip
Updated 48 min 44 sec ago

Jordan’s foreign minister, Antony Blinken discuss Gaza ceasefire, entry of aid into Gaza Strip

Jordan’s foreign minister, Antony Blinken discuss Gaza ceasefire, entry of aid into Gaza Strip
  • Parties stress need to remove all obstacles to ensure adequate supplies are sent
  • Blinken also spoke to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry

LONDON: Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Friday received a phone call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza, and attempts to transport sufficient aid into the area, especially through Jordan.

The parties stressed the need to remove all obstacles to ensure the adequate and immediate entry of aid into the besieged Palestinian territory, the Jordan News Agency reported.

The Jordanian minister stressed the importance of opening all crossings for the entry of aid, and the need for supplies to address the humanitarian crisis caused by the war.

He said that Jordan would be able to send hundreds of trucks to Gaza daily as soon as the northern crossings were opened, allowing the UN and its agencies to receive and distribute the aid.

Safadi also stressed the need to end the Israeli assault on Gaza, and warned of “the disastrous consequences of an Israeli ground offensive against Rafah” in the southern Gaza Strip, Petra added.

The two parties discussed regional developments and efforts to reduce escalation in the conflict, as well as a number of bilateral issues.

Blinken also spoke to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Friday, and the parties agreed to maintain “constant Egypt-US consultations to contain the crisis in Gaza, end the war, and sustain aid delivery,” said Ahmed Abu Zeid, the spokesperson for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He added that Shoukry emphasized the “risks of regional conflict expansion and the unfolding consequences on (the) security and safety of the people.”

Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid: OCHA official

Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid: OCHA official
Updated 12 April 2024

Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid: OCHA official

Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid: OCHA official
  • Jamie McGoldrick says communication issues hampering aid delivery, putting aid workers at risk
  • Israel’s military campaign has severely damaged infrastructure, 70% of people at risk of famine

LONDON: Northern Gaza faces a catastrophe without more assistance, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator said on Friday, with communication between the Israeli military and foreign aid groups still poor and no meaningful improvements happening on the ground.

Jamie McGoldrick, who works for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, warned that Gaza was sliding into an ever more precarious situation as Israel’s war against Hamas continues into a sixth month.

He said that according to an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report 70 percent of people in the north of the Gaza Strip were “in real danger of slipping into famine.”

In a briefing on the situation, McGoldrick said the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers earlier this month were “not a one off” and that there had been “many incidents of that kind.”

“We work with, interact with, the Israeli Defense Forces and the way we notify and communicate is challenging. We don’t have communications equipment inside Gaza to operate properly, as you would have in … other situation(s),” he said.

“We are working in a very hostile area as humanitarians without the possibility of contacting each other. We don’t have radios, we don’t have mobile networks that work. And so, what we then do is we have to find ways of passing messages back to OCHA and other organizations in Rafah and then relaying out. And if we have a serious security incident, we don’t have a hotline, we don’t have any way of communicating (with) the IDF or facing problems at checkpoint or facing problems en route.

“I think that another thing, I would say, that there’s a real challenge of weapons discipline and the challenge of the behavior of (Israeli) soldiers at checkpoints. And we’ve tried, time and time again, to bring that (to their) attention.”

McGoldrick said that communication with the Israeli military was hampering the flow of aid into Gaza.

“Israel believes that their responsibility ends when they deliver trucks from Kerem Shalom and to the Palestinian side, and I would say that that’s certainly not the case,” he said.

“Their responsibility ends when the aid reaches the civilians in Gaza — we have to have them supportive of that. And that means allowing more facilitation, a lot more routes in and, obviously, to provide security for us as we move. At the moment, we don’t have security.”

He said the toll the war had taken on Gaza’s basic infrastructure was also playing a part in hampering aid deliveries.

“The roads themselves are in very poor condition. We are, as the UN, committed to using all possible routes to scale up humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza, but right now we see that there have been a number of commitments made by Israel and a number of concessions,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s been any notable improvement in terms of our ability to move around, certainly not our approval to get convoys going to the north.”

Opening more crossings to supply northern areas of Gaza was an essential step if famine was to be avoided in the area, McGoldrick said.

“All we can do is keep reminding (Israel) and using the pressure from key (UN) member states to remind Israel of the commitments they’ve made and the commitments that we’ve been asking for such a long time.

“That would be an essential lifeline into the north, because that’s where the population, according to the IPC — the recent famine report — that is where the bulk of people who are the most in danger of slipping into famine.

“If we don’t have the chance to expand the delivery of aid into all parts of Gaza, but in particular to the north, then we’re going to face a catastrophe. And the people up there are living such a fragile and precarious existence.”

McGoldrick also noted the difficulty in accessing fresh water and the devastation caused to Gaza’s health sector by Israel’s military campaign.

“People have very much less water than they need. And as a result of that, waterborne diseases due to the lack of safe and clean water and the destruction of the sanitation systems, you know, they’re all bringing about problems for the population living (there),” he said.

“The hospital system there, Al-Shifa, and Nasser, the two big hospitals have been badly damaged or destroyed. And what we have now is three-quarters of the hospitals and most of the primary healthcare clinics are shutting down, leaving only 10 of 36 hospitals functioning.

“We hear of amputations being carried out with(out) anesthesia. You know, miscarriages have increased by a massive number. And I think of all those systems which are not in place, (and) at the soaring rates of infectious diseases — you know, hepatitis C, dehydration, infections and diarrhea. And obviously, given the fact that our supply chain is so weak, we haven’t been able to deliver enough assistance.”

Israeli settlers rampage through a West Bank village, killing 1 Palestinian and wounding 25

Israeli settlers rampage through a West Bank village, killing 1 Palestinian and wounding 25
Updated 12 sec ago

Israeli settlers rampage through a West Bank village, killing 1 Palestinian and wounding 25

Israeli settlers rampage through a West Bank village, killing 1 Palestinian and wounding 25
  • Hamas confirms Mohammad Omar Daraghmeh’s death and his membership of its armed Al-Qassem Brigades

JERUSALEM: Dozens of angry Israeli settlers stormed into a Palestinian village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Friday, shooting and setting houses and cars on fire. The rampage killed a Palestinian man and wounded 25 others, Palestinian health officials said.
The violence was the latest in an escalation in the West Bank that has accompanied the war in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli rights group said the settlers were searching for a missing 14-year-old boy from their settlement. After the rampage, Israeli troops said they were still searching for the teen.
The killing came after an Israeli raid overnight killed two Palestinians, including a Hamas militant, in confrontation with Israeli forces.

A Palestinian man checks a burnt vehicle after a reported attack by Israeli settlers in the village of Al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya, south of nablus in the occupied West Bank, on April 11, 2024. (AFP)

Palestinian health officials say over 460 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli forces since the war erupted in October.
The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said that settlers stormed into the village of Al-Mughayyir late Friday, searching for the Israeli boy. The group said that settlers were shooting and setting houses on fire in the village.
Videos posted to X by the rights group showed dark clouds of smoke billowing from burning cars as gunshots rang out. A photo posted by the group showed what appeared to be a crowd of masked settlers.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that one man was brought dead to a hospital and 25 were treated for wounds. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said eight of the injured were hit by live fire from settlers.
The deceased man was later identified by his family as 26-year-old Jehad Abu Alia. His father, Afif Abu Alia, said he was shot dead but was unsure whether the fatal bullet was fire by an armed settler or an Israeli soldier.
“My son went with others to defend our land and honor, and this is what happened,” Afif Abu Alia said from a hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where his son’s corpse had been transported.
The attack was condemned by Mohamed Mustafa, the new Palestinian prime minister.
The Israeli army said it was searching for the 14-year-old boy, and that forces had opened fire when stones were hurled at soldiers by Palestinians. It said soldiers also cleared out Israeli settlers from the village.
“As of this moment, the violent riots have been dispersed and there are no Israeli civilians present within the town,” it said.
US officials, including President Joe Biden, have repeatedly raised concerns about a surge in settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank since Israel’s war with the militant Hamas group in the Gaza Strip began. Rights groups have long accused the military of failing to halt settler violence or punish soldiers for wrongdoing.
Earlier on Friday, two Palestinians were killed in confrontations with Israeli forces in the northern West Bank, Palestinian medics and the military said. Hamas said one of those killed was a local commander.
The military said the target of the soldiers’ raid was Mohammed Daraghmeh, a local Hamas commander. It said Daraghmeh was killed in a shootout with Israeli soldiers who discovered weapons in his car. The army alleged that Daraghmeh had been planning attacks on Israeli targets but provided no evidence. It also said assailants hurled explosives at soldiers.
The Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7, when Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, in a surprise attack and incursion into southern Israel. Around 250 people were seized as hostages by the militants and taken to Gaza.
Israel said Friday it had opened a new crossing for aid trucks into hard-hit northern Gaza as ramps up aid deliveries to the besieged enclave. However, the United Nations says the surge of aid is not being felt in Gaza because of persistent distribution difficulties.
Six months of fighting in Gaza have pushed the tiny Palestinian territory into a humanitarian crisis, leaving more than 1 million people on the brink of starvation.
Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 33,600 Palestinians and wounded over 76,200, the Health Ministry says. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.
Israel says it has killed over 12,000 militants during the war, but it has not provided evidence to back up the claim.


Biden expecting Iranian attack on Israel ‘sooner than later,’ tells Tehran ‘don’t’

Biden expecting Iranian attack on Israel ‘sooner than later,’ tells Tehran ‘don’t’
Updated 12 April 2024

Biden expecting Iranian attack on Israel ‘sooner than later,’ tells Tehran ‘don’t’

Biden expecting Iranian attack on Israel ‘sooner than later,’ tells Tehran ‘don’t’
  • White House said it warned Iran to not use attack as pretext to escalate further in region
  • US President underscored Washington’s commitment to defend Israel

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Friday said he expected Iran to attack Israel “sooner, rather than later,” and warned Tehran not to proceed.
Asked by reporters about his message to Iran, Biden said simply, “Don’t,” and he underscored Washington’s commitment to defend Israel.

“We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed,” he said.
Biden said he would not divulge secure information, but said his expectation was that an attack could come “sooner, rather than later.”
Earlier, White House spokesperson John Kirby said the reportedly imminent attack by Iran on Israel was a real and viable threat, but gave no details about any possible timing.
Kirby said the United States was looking at its own force posture in the region in light or Tehran’s threat and was watching the situation very closely.

Battleground: Jerusalem
The biblical battle for the Holy City

‘Worrying proportion’ of patients in Gaza are children aged 6 and younger: British surgeon

‘Worrying proportion’ of patients in Gaza are children aged 6 and younger: British surgeon
Updated 12 April 2024

‘Worrying proportion’ of patients in Gaza are children aged 6 and younger: British surgeon

‘Worrying proportion’ of patients in Gaza are children aged 6 and younger: British surgeon
  • ‘Huge amount’ of Dr. Victoria Rose’s operations were on children younger than 16
  • Patients struggling to heal after ‘not getting any vitamins or minerals’ due to famine

LONDON: A British surgeon who volunteered in Gaza has said a “huge amount” of her operations were on children younger than 16, the BBC reported on Friday.
Dr. Victoria Rose added that common injuries included bullet wounds, shrapnel injuries and burns, and that she had performed surgery on many children younger than 6. Many patients are unable to heal from surgery due to malnutrition, she said.
The consultant plastic surgeon spent two weeks working in late March at the European Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.
In that time, she only operated on one person older than her — a 53-year-old. That fact was the “most shocking bit” of her time in Gaza, she told the “Today” program.
Rose added: “Everybody else was younger than me. A huge amount of my work was under-16s. Quite a worrying proportion of my work was 6 and under.”
Injuries to Palestinians required “removing foreign bodies from tissue, reconstructing defects in faces, removing bullets from jaws, that kind of thing,” she said.
“When we were looking at some of our patients who were not doing so well, there was a lot more infection than I’ve ever seen anywhere else.
“A lot of people’s protein levels were in their boots, their haemoglobin levels were down. They are just not getting any nutrients, any vitamins or minerals.”
At the time of Rose’s visit, she and a fellow doctor, Graeme Groom, regularly heard nearby fighting and operated on freshly wounded patients as the Israeli military assaulted Khan Younis.
Groom said: “As (the bombing) became closer it was a very short time before we saw the effects of the bombing.
“Just walking past the emergency department, for example, a pickup truck filled with distraught people backed up to the door with a pile of entwined corpses, followed by a line of cars with more bodies in the boots.”
Many Palestinians have taken refuge in the European Hospital, but those who have set up makeshift tents on nearby ground are being forced to move due to the need for new graves, Groom added.
“Now there is a huge and spreading cemetery so that the graves of the newly dead are now displacing the shelters of the barely living.”
The World Health Organization’s representative for Palestine, Rik Peeperkorn, said on Friday after visiting Khan Younis that the city’s destruction is “disproportionate to anything one can imagine.”
He added: “No building or road is intact, there is only rubble and dirt.” Three other hospitals in the city have been rendered non-functional by fighting, he said.