Turkiye warns it will target any ‘terrorland’ on its southern borders 

Turkiye warns it will target any ‘terrorland’ on its southern borders 
Smokes billows in Qamishli in northeastern Syria close to the Turkish border on December 25, 2023, amid Turkish military strikes in the area. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2024
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Turkiye warns it will target any ‘terrorland’ on its southern borders 

Turkiye warns it will target any ‘terrorland’ on its southern borders 
  • Airstrikes launched against outlawed Kurdish militant group in Iraq and Syria
  • PKK may be taking advantage of ‘changing dynamics in warfare technologies,’ analyst says

ANKARA: In the aftermath of the killing of nine Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq, Turkiye carried out a series of airstrikes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Syria and Iraq.

“Turkiye will never allow the establishment of a ‘terrorland’ on its southern borders under any pretext and for any reason,” the official statement said after the security meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later on Saturday.

Simultaneously, more than 113 people were arrested in Turkiye over suspected links with the PKK, which Ankara and its Western allies classify as a terrorist group.

Along with military incursions in Syria, several airstrikes hit Hakurk, Metina, Gara and Qandil regions in northern Iraq, destroying caves, shelters, bunkers and oil facilities.

On Sunday, the Turkish intelligence organization announced that it “neutralized” Hasan Seburi, a PKK member responsible for intelligence gathering and surveillance against Turkiye, in Iraq’s Sulaymaniyah region.

Turkiye has been conducting Operation Claw-Lock in northern Iraq since April 2022, establishing several military points in the Duhok governorate to fight the group.

Three weeks ago, a Turkish base in northern Iraq was targeted by PKK-affiliated groups, resulting in the death of six Turkish soldiers. Another three soldiers were killed during clashes that followed the attack.

The recent escalation of PKK attacks against Turkish positions in the region is now under scrutiny.

Rich Outzen, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, suggests that the PKK may be driven by a need to demonstrate its capability to inflict casualties on the Turkish military amid changing dynamics in warfare technologies.

“The advent of drone warfare, enhanced intelligence and precision strike in Iraq, Syria and southeastern Turkiye has badly eroded what once seemed like a serious military threat to Turkish forces,” he told Arab News.

“By selecting the most favorable circumstances — bad weather and very rugged terrain — PKK leadership focused efforts to achieve a very rare successful operation,” he said.

The second reason, Outzen believes, “is a desire to alter the trajectory of US policy in Iraq and Syria.”

Outzen said the US “has decreasing interest in Syria and decreasing rationale for continuing support to the YPG as Daesh recedes as a primary security concern in the region.”

In Iraq, “increasing tensions between pro-Iranian militias and US forces — as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Peshmerga forces —   has put obstacles in the path of the PKK-friendly ‘Kurdish unity’ push that elements of the President Joe Biden’s administration have supported,” he said.

Outzen added: “By provoking Turkish overreaction and creating new pressure in Washington to protect and unify ‘the Kurds,’ the PKK hopes to renew its ability to leverage US policy against Turkiye.”

Finally, Outzen draws attention to the Iran factor. 

“Qandil has a long history of tacit deals with Tehran; the ascendance of the PKK in northeast Syria is largely a product of cooperative strategy among Assad, the  Revolutionary Guard Corps and Qandil,” he said.

“Tehran has its own reasons for wanting new escalations around the region in the period following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks against Israel, and it is likely that the PKK is serving as an instrumentality in that strategic approach,” he added.

The extent of Turkiye’s operations against PKK positions remains uncertain.

Outzen believes the PKK is operating near the limit of its operational reach, and that only under limited circumstances it is capable of engaging Turkish forces at a relative advantage — conditions that exist in the mountains between Iraq and Turkiye, but not on the plains in Syria or in southeast Turkiye.

“The question of how large Turkish counterattacks will be remains open, but a large-scale offensive against the PKK where it is most vulnerable, in Syria, is a possibility,” he said. 

Dr. Bilgay Duman, coordinator of Iraq studies at Ankara-based think tank ORSAM, said the PKK has recently shifted its tactics and is pursuing a different strategy, which can partly explain the increase in attacks against Turkish soldiers in the region.

“Previously, the PKK was launching attacks in spring. However, in the past couple of years, it began attacking Turkish military points during winter to establish control over the areas and to result in more casualties,” he told Arab News.

Dr. Duman said that there had been a PKK presence in almost eight mountainous areas in northern Iraq, resulting in the evacuation of about 800 villages in the zone. 

“Turkiye has been developing consecutive operations toward the region to break this dominance and to cut the logistic connections between different areas,” he said.

Duman said Turkiye “significantly narrowed down the territory of the PKK camps.”

He said Turkiye “also targets Qamisli and Al-Dirbasiyah in Syria, where the Syrian branch of the PKK is mainly located.”

But the presence of Turkish soldiers in the region “inevitably makes direct confrontation with the terror group a necessity,” he said. 

The PKK, which has launched a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, claimed responsibility last October for an attack on the headquarters of the Turkish interior ministry in Ankara in which two police officers were injured.

Anticipating a more aggressive stance from the PKK as military pressure continues,  Duman said that Turkish counterterrorism authorities have already taken measures to confront any domestic security threat that may arise in retaliation to cross-border operations in Iraq and Syria.

“As long as the central government of Iraq and the KRG cannot actively counteract to contain the PKK, Turkiye is expected to continue its operations during winter and spring,” he said.


Iran threatens to annihilate Israel should it launch a major attack

Iran threatens to annihilate Israel should it launch a major attack
Updated 7 min 54 sec ago
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Iran threatens to annihilate Israel should it launch a major attack

Iran threatens to annihilate Israel should it launch a major attack
  • Explosions were heard over Iran’s Isfahan city Friday in possible Israeli attack
  • But Tehran played down the incident and said it had no plans for a retaliation

DUBAI: An Israeli attack on Iranian territory could radically change dynamics and result in there being nothing left of the "Zionist regime", Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi was quoted as saying on Tuesday by the official IRNA news agency.
Raisi began a three day visit to Pakistan on Monday and has vowed to boost trade between the neighbouring nations to $10 billion a year.
The two Muslim neighbours are seeking to mend ties after unprecedented tit-for-tat military strikes this year.
On Friday, explosions were heard over the Iranian city of Isfahan in what sources said was an Israeli attack, but Tehran played down the incident and said it had no plans for retaliation.
Iran launched a barrage of missiles and drones at Israel on April 13 in what it said was retaliation for Israel's suspected deadly strike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1, but almost all were shot down.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will honourably continue to support the Palestinian resistance," Raisi added in the speech in Lahore.


Norway calls on donors to resume funding to Palestinian UNRWA agency

Norway calls on donors to resume funding to Palestinian UNRWA agency
Updated 46 min 4 sec ago
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Norway calls on donors to resume funding to Palestinian UNRWA agency

Norway calls on donors to resume funding to Palestinian UNRWA agency
  • Norway, also a major donor to the organization, argued that funding cuts put the population of Gaza at risk
  • “I would now like to call on countries that have still frozen their contributions to UNRWA to resume funding,” Norway’s foreign minister Espen Barth Eide said

OSLO: Norway called on international donors on Tuesday to resume payments to the UN agency for Palestinians refugees (UNRWA) after a report found Israel had yet to provide evidence that some UNRWA staff were linked to terrorist groups.
The United States, Britain and others earlier this year paused payments to UNRWA following Israel’s claims, while Norway, also a major donor to the organization, argued that funding cuts put the population of Gaza at risk.
A review of the agency’s neutrality led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna on Monday concluded Israel had yet to back up its accusations that hundreds of UNRWA staff were operatives in Gaza terrorist groups.
“I would now like to call on countries that have still frozen their contributions to UNRWA to resume funding,” Norway’s foreign minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement.
A separate investigation by internal UN investigators is looking into Israeli allegations that 12 UNRWA staff took part in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks which triggered the Gaza war.
“Norway has emphasized that it is unacceptable to punish an entire organization, with 30,000 employees, and all Palestine refugees for the alleged misdeeds of a small number of the organization’s employees,” Barth Eide said.
While 10 countries have since ended their suspensions, the United States, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Lithuania have not. A UN spokesperson on Monday said UNRWA currently had enough funding to pay for operations until June.


Jordan thwarts attempt to smuggle 73,500 amphetamine pills at Syrian border

Jordan thwarts attempt to smuggle 73,500 amphetamine pills at Syrian border
Updated 59 min 12 sec ago
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Jordan thwarts attempt to smuggle 73,500 amphetamine pills at Syrian border

Jordan thwarts attempt to smuggle 73,500 amphetamine pills at Syrian border
  • Agents discovered 35,000 additional Captagon pills hidden aboard a passenger bus also arriving from Syria

AMMAN: The Jordan Customs Department said on Tuesday that it thwarted, in collaboration with security agencies and anti-narcotics forces, two recent smuggling attempts involving 73,500 Captagon pills at the Jaber border crossing.

In the first incident, JCD personnel at the border crossing intercepted an attempt to smuggle 38,500 Captagon pills, Jordan News Agency reported.

The drugs were found concealed on a passenger arriving from Syria. The suspect was subjected to an intensive search, during which the hidden narcotics were discovered.

In a second incident at the same border crossing, agents discovered 35,000 additional Captagon pills hidden aboard a passenger bus also arriving from Syria. The vehicle underwent a thorough search, leading to the seizure of the concealed drugs.

The JCD said that its agents continue to actively work across all Jordanian border customs centers, in cooperation with national security agencies, to prevent the smuggling of narcotics into the country.

The initiative is part of ongoing efforts to safeguard Jordanian citizens and the economy from the impacts of illegal drug trade, it said.

War-torn Syria has become the region’s main site for a multi-billion-dollar drug trade, with Jordan being a key transit route to Gulf states for the amphetamine known as Captagon.

Most of the world’s Captagon is made in Syria.
 


Palestinian film director aims for ‘different image’ of Gaza

Palestinian film director aims for ‘different image’ of Gaza
Updated 23 April 2024
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Palestinian film director aims for ‘different image’ of Gaza

Palestinian film director aims for ‘different image’ of Gaza
  • Against the backdrop of the war in the Gaza Strip, the festival in southern Egypt decided to screen six Palestinian short films in the competition
  • This was despite many voices in the Arab world calling for the suspension of all artistic and cultural activities in solidarity with Palestinians

ASWAN, Egypt: Palestinian director Rashid Masharawi wants to “export a different cinematic image of Gaza,” now ravaged by war, as he presides over the jury at the eighth Aswan International Women Film Festival themed on “resistance cinema.”
Against the backdrop of the war in the Gaza Strip, the festival in southern Egypt decided to screen six Palestinian short films in the competition, which brings together filmmakers from across the region.
This was despite many voices in the Arab world calling for the suspension of all artistic and cultural activities in solidarity with Palestinians.
Masharawi is known internationally for being the first Palestinian director to be in the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival when his film “Haifa” was included in 1996.
Born in the Gaza Strip to refugees from the port city of Jaffa, the director now lives in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
He said he “does not consider art and cinema as purely entertainment.”
“If film festivals do not play their role when major disasters occur, as with what is currently happening in Palestine, then why do they exist?” he asked.
Among the six Palestinian films included at Aswan is the 14-minute documentary film “Threads of Silk” by director Walaa Saadah, who was killed last month in the war. The film looks at the meanings of the embroidery on the Palestinian “thawb” robe.
Another is the five-minute film “I am from Palestine” by the director Iman Al-Dhawahari, about a Palestinian-American girl in the United States who is shocked at school to see a map of the world without her country.
The 16-minute documentary film “A Cut Off Future” from director Alia Ardoghli discusses the daily experiences of 27 girls between the ages of 11 and 17 in the shadow of the Israeli occupation.
In his newest film, for which work is ongoing, Masharawi said he wanted to expose what he called “the lie of self-defense.”
“The occupation (Israel) blew up the studio of an artist in Gaza with paintings and statues. Where is self-defense when one kills artists and intellectuals while calling them terrorists?” the 62-year-old told AFP.
The conflict in Gaza erupted with the unprecedented October 7 Hamas attack on Israel which resulted in the death of at least 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
In retaliation, Israel launched a bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas that has killed at least 34,183 people, the majority women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Two months after the beginning of the war, Masharawi began a new project: a support fund for cinema in the besieged coastal strip.
The initiative “Films from Distance Zero” supports Gazan filmmakers living “under the bombing or becoming refugees” to produce their films.
Female filmmakers are active in the project, about whom Masharawi said, “always in the most difficult moments, we find the Palestinian woman on the front line.”
Around 2.4 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a blockade since Hamas came to power in 2007.
Theatres in Gaza closed at the end of the 1980s during the Palestinian uprising against Israel known as the First Intifada, but reopened after the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s.
Hamas control changed all that, with the political Islamist movement considering film contrary to the values of Islam.
Nevertheless, last year an open-air film festival took place, “taking into account the customs and traditions of the territory,” a Hamas official said at the time.
For Masharawi, now more than ever, it is necessary to support cinema and have “a different cinematic image of Gaza” reach the world to “make the truth prevail in the face of the lies of the Israeli occupation.”
At the heart of Masharawi’s work is identity. “It is difficult (for Israel) to occupy our memories, our identities, our music, our history and our culture,” he said.
Israel “is wasting a lot of time on a project doomed to failure and which will kill many of us,” he said, referring to the war in Gaza.
Masharawi said he thought the solidarity of the Arab public with the Palestinian people, “and I mean the people and not their leaderships,” might come “from their powerlessness and the restrictions of their (government) systems.”
He added, “I used to dream that the Arab governments would be like their people, but I say it clearly: this has not happened, even after we have come close to 200 days of war.”


Egypt’s foreign minister holds talks with director general of migration organization

Egypt’s foreign minister holds talks with director general of migration organization
Updated 23 April 2024
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Egypt’s foreign minister holds talks with director general of migration organization

Egypt’s foreign minister holds talks with director general of migration organization
  • Parties look at ways to support the Loss and Damage Fund
  • Sameh Shoukry affirmed Egypt’s backing to adopt a comprehensive approach to migration governance

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry held talks with the Director General of the International Organization for Migration Amy Pope during the UN official’s visit.

Shoukry expressed his appreciation of the organization’s cooperation, and spoke of aims to further relations to ensure comprehensive management of migration in a manner that contributed to achieving sustainable development in accordance with the principles and goals enshrined in the Global Compact for Migration. This stressed the importance of crystallizing the organization’s action priorities in consultation with developing countries’ governments.

He affirmed Egypt’s backing to adopt a comprehensive approach to migration governance so that it was not limited to security aspects only, but also took into account the development aspects associated with them, while addressing the root causes that lead to illegal immigration.

The minister also praised existing cooperation with the IOM in promoting ways of legal labor mobility and bridging the existing gaps in labor markets, thus achieving the interests of origin and destination states and migrants alike.

Shoukry noted that Egypt was facing increasing flows of migrants forced to flee their countries in pursuit of stability as a result of conflicts, economic reasons, or the repercussions of climate change, which had been clearly reflected in the sharp increase in the numbers of immigrants to Egypt.

He said that the support that Egypt receives from the international community was not commensurate with the burdens it bears to provide a decent life for those arriving, especially since the phenomenon had coincided with a period in which the Egyptian economy had suffered from the consequences of global crises, which had necessitated the organization to play its role in providing necessary support.

Pope thanked Egypt for its fruitful cooperation on issues involving the impact of climate change on migration, especially during Egypt’s presidency of COP27.

The parties also looked at ways to support and operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund and its important role in enhancing the ability of states to review the devastating effects of climate change and the impact on migration flows. They also spoke of cooperation between Egypt and the IOM in Africa.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said the meeting also looked at developments taking place in the region, with Shoukry and Pope discussing the situation in Gaza, and providing humanitarian aid and safe havens to shelter the displaced.

In connection with developments in Sudan, Pope spoke of her appreciation of Egypt’s reception of a large number of displaced Sudanese nationals since the beginning of the crisis, as well as the Egyptian authorities’ role in providing support to those fleeing the conflict, and meeting their needs.

The UN official expressed the IOM’s readiness to provide support for Egypt in order to enhance its ability to care for Sudanese refugees, in cooperation with the relevant ministries, noting that the organization attached importance to Sudan for fear of it turning into a forgotten crisis.