PM’s office says jets bombed Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, hours after planes pounded ISIL positions in Syria.
Al Jazeera, July 25
Turkish fighter jets have bombed military positions of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in neighbouring Iraq.
The air raids came just hours after Turkish planes pounded Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in Syria on Friday morning, marking a significant shift in Ankara’s position on how to deal with armed groups in Syria and Iraq.
“Strikes were carried out on targets of the Daesh [ISIL] terror group in Syria and the PKK terror group in northern Iraq,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, adding that shelters and warehouses containing PKK weapons were hit in the northern Iraq operation.
Turkey also approved the full use of its airbases by the US-led coalition against ISIL, according to the foreign ministry, marking a major change in its policy following a suicide bomb attack in Suruc, bordering Syria.
“The cabinet of ministers has given approval for the stationing in our country’s bases of manned and unmanned aircraft of the US and other coalition countries … taking part in air operations against Islamic State,” the foreign ministry said, adding that Turkey’s own aircraft would also be deployed.
RT: Turkey attacks Kurdish militia & ISIS positions – PM’s office
Prime Minister Davutoglu told reporters that some 590 suspected members of IS and PKK and other militant groups had been arrested in raids across Turkey that began on Friday, according to AFP.
McClatchyDC, By Roy Gutman, July 19
Istanbul – They arrived in Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, the favored vehicle of Islamist fighters in the Middle East and South Asia. But these men, the first graduates in the faltering U.S. train-and-equip program, were traveling into Syria to fight against an extremist insurgency, the Islamic State.
The U.S. military calls them the “New Syrian force” and disclosed that they are to coordinate with rebel forces already on the ground who have a different objective – to fight the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The goal, a spokesman said, is to expand the effectiveness of all moderate forces.
Turkish news media said 54 fighters crossed in Sunday in a convoy of 30 vehicles, commanded by an ethnic Turkman colonel who’d defected from the Syrian army. McClatchy obtained photos from an anti-regime activist in Syria that showed the trucks were Toyota Hiluxes.
The “New Syrian Force” is the first contingent of a $500 million program Congress approved last year to train and equip 15,000 fighters.
US president says ISIL will be defeated as US-led coalition bombs 19 positions in Syria and Iraq in last 24 hours.
Al Jazeera, July 7
US President Barack Obama has said that the US-led coalition battling fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was “intensifying” its campaign against the armed group’s base in Syria.
Speaking at the Pentagon on Monday, Obama said that recent territory losses by the ISIL group show that the armed group will be defeated, but added that the fight will be long.
The US-led coalition has stepped up its efforts in Iraq and Syria, with some of the heaviest bombing since it began its strikes in September last year. At least 19 US-led coalition air strikes have been carried out in the last 24 hours.
Air raids have been carried out in 11 locations in Iraq: they are the oil town of Beiji, the cities of Fallujah, Haditha, Kirkuk, Makh-mur, Ramadi and Sinjar. Coalition strikes have also targeted eight ISIL positions in Syria: near Hasakah, Raqqa, Kobane and Aleppo.
The Conversation: Why defeating ISIL/ Daesh with military might is starry eyed idealism
AFP, June 9
Beirut – Syria’s brutal conflict has left more than 230,000 people dead including almost 11,500 children since it broke out in 2011, a monitoring group said Tuesday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had documented the deaths of 230,618 people.
The toll includes 69,494 civilians, among them 11,493 children and 7,371 women.
Combatants account for a majority of those killed, with 49,106 regime forces and 36,464 government loyalists among the dead.
As Isis surges ahead and the Syrian regime teeters on the brink of collapse, our Middle East correspondent, winner of the 2015 Orwell prize for journalism, reports on the deadly struggle for dominance in the region.
The Guardian, By Martin Chulov, May 23
One evening at the end of March, a Syrian rebel leader returned from a meeting across the border in Turkey and called an urgent gathering of his commanders. The five men turned up at their boss’s house in Idlib province expecting to receive the same pleas for patience that they had always heard and more grim news about cash and weapons being hard to find. This time, though, they were in for a shock.
“He arrived looking eager,” said one of the commanders. “That caught our attention straight away. But when he started to speak, we were all stunned.”
The leader, who asked that his unit not be identified, said he told his men that the grinding war of attrition they had fought against the Syrian government since early 2012 was about to turn in their favour.
“And the reason for that was that I could now get nearly all the weapons I wanted,” he told the Observer. “For the first time they were not holding anything from us – except anti-aircraft missiles. The Turks and their friends wanted this over with.”
You’ll no doubt recall the hue and cry when Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his stand on nuclear non-proliferation and his attempts to engage the Muslim world. Both the right and left in this country had great sport at this — and here I’ll agree — premature awarding of a prize to a man with few signal accomplishments in foreign policy, apart from being “not Bush”.
Six years later and I think it’s time to give him the Prize for real this time. Think about this past year: for a man who started his administration hoping to hit singles and doubles in foreign policy (consumed as he had to be by the domestic economic crisis), he’s kind of knocked a couple out of the park, provoking admiration from aboard and from mainstream Americans, and consternation from the idiot fringe that will sit on perches and poop all day, parroting “Obama bad, BRAWK!” Read More
Reuters, By Oliver Holmes, April 4
Beirut – Islamic State has taken control of 90 percent of a Palestinian refugee camp on the Damascus outskirts where 18,000 civilians have suffered years of bombing, army siege and militia control, a monitoring group said on Saturday.
The hardline group’s offensive in Yarmouk gives it a major presence in the capital. Islamic State, the most powerful insurgent group in Syria, is now only a few kilometers from President Bashar al-Assad’s seat of power.
The United Nations has said it is extremely concerned about the safety and protection of Syrians and Palestinians in the camp. Civilians trapped there have long suffered a government siege that has led to starvation and disease.
“The situation in Yarmouk is an affront to the humanity of all of us, a source of universal shame,” U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness said.
“Yarmouk is a test, a challenge for the international community. We must not fail. The credibility of the international system itself is at stake,” he said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict from Britain, said Syrian air force jet bombed the camp on Saturday.
Electronic Intifada: “Catastrophe” in Yarmouk as ISIS seizes camp
Comments from top US diplomat come as fighting continues in conflict that has displaced millions, killed around 220,000
Al Jazeera, March 15
The bloody civil conflict in Syria entered its fifth year Sunday, amid continued bombing of the country’s civilians and an admission by Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. will have to negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad if an end of fighting is to be achieved.
Washington has long insisted that Assad must be replaced as part of a political transition in the country. But in the face of no end to the violence and the rise of a common enemy in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Kerry’s comments appear to indicate a softened stance towards the Syrian leader.
In the interview broadcast on Sunday, Kerry did not repeat the standard U.S. line that Assad had lost all legitimacy and had to go.
“We have to negotiate in the end,” Kerry said. “We’ve always been willing to negotiate in the context of the Geneva process,” he added, referring to a 2012 conference that called for a negotiated transition to end the conflict.
AFP: Britain: Assad has no role in Syria’s future
Al Jazeera: Turkey slams Kerry’s call for dialogue with Assad
Al Arabiya, March 13
Marking the fourth anniversary of the civil war, the United States on Thursday made a fresh call for embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on urged the Security Council to take “determined measures” to end the war.
“For four years the Assad regime has answered Syrians’ calls for freedom and reform with unrelenting brutality, authoritarianism and destruction,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
“As we have long said, Assad must go and be replaced through a negotiated, political transition that is representative of the Syrian people.”
Without the departure of Assad, it would not be possible “to fully stabilize” the country, Psaki said.
BBC, February 24
Islamic State (IS) has abducted dozens of Assyrian Christians from villages in north-eastern Syria, activists say.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 90 men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.
Some Assyrians managed to escape and made their way east to the largely Kurdish-controlled city of Hassakeh.
It comes as Syrian Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes continue to advance into IS-held territory.