Archive for April 8, 2017


24 December 2016 Saturday

Turkish authorities said Saturday that 220 seriously injured Aleppan civilians have been treated in Turkey following the evacuation of the war-battered Syrian city of Aleppo.

The injured civilians were taken from the opposition-held city of Idlib to waiting ambulances at the Turkish border crossing of Cilvegozu, the Turkish Prime Ministry Directorate General of Press and Information told Anadolu Agency.

The figure of 220 Aleppans includes 93 injured children.

Thirty-one have been discharged following treatment.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/182188/more-than-200-injured-aleppans-treated-in-turkey.

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24 December 2016 Saturday

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that Turkey will never allow the formation of a new state in northern Syria.

“We will never allow the founding of this kind of state,” despite efforts to do so, Erdogan told Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) in Istanbul.

Erdogan also reiterated Turkey’s wish to see a “terror-free safe zone” in northern Syria for the safety of its southeastern border provinces.

“We have been saying this from the beginning. If this [issue] isn’t dealt with, Gaziantep is always hanging by a thread, Kilis is always hanging by a thread, Sanliurfa is hanging by a thread,” he added, mentioning three border provinces.

Later, at the opening of a governmental complex, Erdogan spoke on the Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces in northern Syria backed by the Turkish army.

“The Free Syrian Army is the epitome of moderate opposition in Syria,” he said. “It has nothing to do with [being a] terrorist organization, but it is precisely a resistance movement. They are trying to save their territory.”

On the completion of the evacuation of civilians and opposition fighters from war-battered eastern Aleppo, Erdogan said: “We have saved our 45,000 brothers from Aleppo … We can bring them to our territories if necessary.”

Separately, meeting with women entrepreneurs in Istanbul, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stressed the goals of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria.

“Our aim in being there is ensuring the safety of life and property of our citizens who live along our southern borders,” said Yildirim, adding that Turkey has long wanted to block the danger coming from northern Syria.

Separately, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli spoke on Turkey’s current Al-Bab operation as part of Operation Euphrates Shield.

“Operation Euphrates Shield should definitely be crowned with victory,” Bahceli said at MHP headquarters in Ankara.

“If we emerged empty-handed from Al-Bab, we would endanger Diyarbakir and Ankara. Al-Bab should collapse around the hellhounds, and they should all perish.”

The Turkish army is supporting Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters’ efforts to liberate Al-Bab from ISIL, a strategic city for the terrorist group.

The Turkish army is currently active in northern Syria under Operation Euphrates Shield, which began in late August to improve security, support coalition forces, and eliminate the terror threat along Turkey’s border using FSA fighters backed by Turkish artillery and jets.

Since the launch of Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish explosive ordnance disposal teams have neutralized 2,208 handmade explosives and 42 mines in areas rid of ISIL.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/182157/turkey-will-never-allow-a-new-state-in-nsyria-erdogan.

December 20, 2016

Mohamed Zahed Gul

With the return of terrorist explosions to the streets of Turkey and the targeting of security officers and innocent civilians alike in Istanbul, there are suggestions that that someone is taking aim at the country’s security. The next target will be the Turkish economy via politic means. In short, the goal is clearly not just to kill security personnel and civilians, but the implementation of a plan targeting Turkey as a whole. The parties behind this plan make no distinction between the state and the government. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may be in charge but it is not really accepted by democratic states, and it is, after all, the people who elected the parliament, government and prime minister.

Why is Turkey being targeted in this way? It has been facing many challenges over the course of the past three years or so, beginning with the environmental protests in Taksim Square, which were transformed into political protests that attempted to bring down the ruling AKP, unsuccessfully. Soon after, the AKP was targeted in both presidential and parliamentary elections in 2013, 2014 and 2015, in which the people stood by the party despite the best efforts of those who are against democracy in Turkey. The voters backed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against many opposition parties in coalition with the Gülenist movement and in spite of all the US and European voices trying to discredit the AKP.

None of the failures to hijack the elections prevented Turkey’s enemies from trying to change the political course of the country through a military coup in July. The failure of the takeover attempt has not deterred them from trying to impose regime change. Now, though, the efforts are focused on trying to damage the economy. The US and Europe have scared off foreign investors making it difficult for Turkey to recover, even as an attack on the Turkish Lira saw its value plummet. Nevertheless, the attempts to bring the country down through an economic coup have also failed. Erdogan encouraged the people to buy more liras and gold and not to invest in other currencies. He pointed out that the targets are the Turkish people themselves and they responded in an uncompromising and admirable way.

Such a popular and government response shows that the majority of the people are aware that the battle is with Western states which would like Turkey to remain at the mercy of their decisions both economically and politically, rather than be valued military partners within NATO. This sort of situation was accepted by previous Turkish governments throughout the 20th century, when the country was in need of the West for economic, military and political support. Although its predecessors in government may have agreed for Turkey to be a tool in the hands of the West, the AKP does not share this political philosophy, hence the Western response to induce a power shift in Turkey. The evidence for this includes the numerous attempts to bring Erdogan down.

The main struggle now is for Turkey to retain its right to make its own independent political decisions. The fight is not Erdogan’s, despite the role that America is playing in Turkey, or whether the interference comes from political parties, the Gülen movement, Daesh or terrorists affiliated with the PKK, all of whom have some connection to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The cooperation between these groups helps America and European countries which have targeted Turkey without exposing themselves as blatant enemies of the state. Documents from Wikileaks, however, showed that in 2014 Hillary Clinton met with four former US ambassadors to Ankara and allegedly stated her concerns over Turkey’s slow but sure adoption of Islamist principles and the need for several steps to be taken in order to protect US national interests.

In another set of US deliberations, Clinton also said that the problem with Turkey is the way in which Erdogan is seen within the Turkey-US relationship, as well as the manner in which he himself views the same relationship.

Clinton allegedly stated that, “America needs Turkey more than Turkey needs America.” American analysts apparently believe that work must be done to foster sentiments that oppose those promoted by Erdogan. Among the steps suggested are internal operations such as the military coup, carried out by allies of the US within Turkey, including domestic organisations, even if this threatens the stability of Turkey and leads to its division.

Suspicions about Western sincerity when condemning the Istanbul bombings on 10 December, which killed 38 innocent civilians and wounded dozens of others, arose because the West condemned the attacks but not the organisations which carried them out. White House spokesperson Ned Price said that the US stands in complete solidarity with Turkey, its NATO ally, and condemns terrorist action that threatens the stability of Ankara or Washington. However, he did not condemn the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is believed to have carried out the attacks. In the past, Turkey has condemned those who have attacked the US and placed them on the terrorist watch list. Why has the US not done the same for Turkey? It is perhaps more pertinent is to ask why the US is still arming and funding these terrorist groups. If they claim to represent the Kurdish people in Turkey, they are also guilty of exploiting wars in the region.

An analysis of such aggression against Turkey, including the latest military coup attempt, could prove that the US is implementing its plan for the dissolution and division of the Republic of Turkey. The US is using these terrorist political organisations and the pro-coup groups to achieve its objective. Washington has done the same thing in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and other places, and believes that its plan for Turkey will also succeed. It has found allies in Turkish groups that have the same aims, but do they not see that they are merely playing the role of traitors and US stooges? Do their members and supporters know that they are acting on behalf of the enemies of Turkey? The US-led invasion in 2003 did not lead to peace, stability and freedom for Iraq, so why would America’s efforts give the Turks anything other than death and destruction?

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161220-is-americas-goal-the-division-of-turkey/.

December 20, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish officials have inaugurated an undersea highway tunnel linking the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. The Eurasia Tunnel, crossing the Bosporus Strait, was launched Tuesday even as the country was stunned by the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey a day before.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s decision not to cancel the launch was its “response to terror.” He says “we cannot allow terrorism to take control of our agenda.” The 5.4-kilometer (3.4-mile) twin-deck tunnel is aimed at relieving congestion in the city. Officials say 120,000 vehicles a day are expected to use the tunnel.

Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead Monday in Ankara by a Turkish policeman who shouted slogans about the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo as he killed the envoy.

December 17, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Thirteen Turkish troops were killed and 48 others wounded in a car bomb attack in the central Anatolian province of Kayseri on Saturday morning, the Turkish military reported. In a statement, the Turkish armed forces said the car bomb went off at 8:45 a.m. and targeted on-leave military personnel from the Kayseri Commando Brigade.

The wounded were rushed to hospitals in the region. The army said civilians may have also been casualties of the “treacherous attack.” State-run Anadolu Agency said the car bomb went off at an entrance gate of Erciyes University, hitting a public transportation bus that included on-leave soldiers among its passengers.

Speaking about the Kayseri explosion, Vice Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said in remarks broadcast on NTV that “treacherous factions” had taken aim at commandos from the Kayseri Airforce Brigade, who had been “training exclusively for the safety of our people.”

Turkey’s prime ministry office imposed a temporary blackout on coverage of the explosion and urged media to refrain from publishing anything that may cause “fear in the public, panic and disorder and which may serve the aims of terrorist organizations.”

Turkey is facing renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels in the southeast and has suffered a string of suicide and car bombing attacks this year. The blast comes a week after a car bomb struck riot police posted outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul following a match. That attack killed 44 people, mostly police officers, and wounded scores others. Kurdish militants claimed the Istanbul attack.

Turkey is a member of NATO and partner in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group, which has been blamed for multiple attacks in Turkey.

Ayse Wieting, Bulut Emiroglu and Neyran Elden in Istanbul also contributed reporting.

February 07, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber struck an entrance to Afghanistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, killing at least 19 people in the latest in a series of attacks on the country’s judiciary. The attacker was on foot, and targeted a side door as court employees and other people were exiting the building in downtown Kabul, the Interior Ministry said. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said 41 people were wounded, including 10 in critical condition.

No one immediately claimed the attack, which bore the hallmarks of the Taliban. The insurgents have been at war with the U.S.-backed government for 15 years and have increasingly targeted the judiciary since the execution of six convicted insurgents last May.

Shortly after the executions, a suicide bomber targeted a minibus carrying court employees in Kabul during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people in an attack claimed by the Taliban, which called it an act of revenge.

In June, three Taliban fighters stormed a court building in the eastern Logar province, killing seven people, including a newly appointed chief prosecutor, before being shot dead by police. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the Supreme Court attack, which he blamed on the “enemies of our people.” The U.S. Embassy in Kabul called it “an attack on the very foundation of Afghan democracy and rule of law.”

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed a top district official in the western Farah province as he returned home from a mosque, local police spokesman Iqbal Baher said. The Taliban claimed the attack.

January 11, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban say they did not plant the bomb in southern Afghanistan that wounded the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador and other diplomats the day before. They issued a short statement on Wednesday, blaming an “internal local rivalry” for the attack at the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse that killed five people and wounded 12.

The Taliban claimed attacks earlier on Tuesday in Kabul that killed at least 38 people and wounded dozens. The Taliban have denied some attacks in the past — attacks that diplomats and security forces later attributed to the group.

Tuesday’s Kandahar assault wounded Gov. Homayun Azizia, as well as UAE Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi and what Emirati officials described as “a number of Emirati diplomats.” Emirati officials did not respond to a request for comment.

April 07, 2017

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria decried a U.S. missile attack early Friday morning on a government-controlled air base where U.S. officials say the Syrian military launched a deadly chemical attack earlier this week, calling it an “aggression” that led to “losses.” Rebels welcomed the U.S. attack.

About 60 U.S. Tomahawk missiles hit the Shayrat air base, southeast of Homs, a small installation with two runways, where aircraft often take off to bomb targets in northern and central Syria. The U.S. missiles hit at 3:45 a.m. Friday morning and targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, U.S. officials said.

They were fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, in retaliation for Tuesday’s deadly chemical attack that officials said used chlorine mixed with a nerve agent, possibly sarin. A military official quoted on Syrian TV said an air base in central Syria was hit early Friday, causing material damage. Another statement, also attributed to an unnamed official, referred to “losses.” The officials did not elaborate.

Talal Barazi, the governor of Homs province, where the targeted air base is located, told The Associated Press by phone that most of the strikes appeared to target the province in central Syria. He also said the strikes were meant to “support the terrorists on the ground.” He told Al Arabiya TV that a fire raged for two hours in the base, until it was put out.

A Syrian opposition group, the Syrian Coalition, welcomed the U.S. attack, saying it puts an end to an age of “impunity” and should be just the beginning. Major Jamil al-Saleh, a U.S-backed rebel commander whose Hama district in the country’s center was struck by the suspected chemical weapons attack, said he hoped the U.S. attack on a government air base would be a “turning point” in the six-year war that has left more than 400,000 dead.

Israel’s prime minister welcomed the U.S. attack. Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday in a statement that “In both word and action” President Donald Trump “sent a strong and clear message” that “the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.”

The bombing represents Trump’s most dramatic military order since taking office. The Obama administration threatened attacking Assad’s forces for previous chemical weapons attacks, but never followed through. Trump called on “all civilized nations” to join the U.S. in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria.

President Bashar Assad’s government had been under mounting international pressure after the chemical attack in northern Syria, with even key ally Russia saying its support is not unconditional and the U.S. launching a barrage of cruise missiles at a government-controlled air base in Syria.

Turkey, meanwhile, said samples from victims of Tuesday’s attack, which killed more than 80 people in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, indicate they were exposed to sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent. Syria rejected the accusations, and Moscow had warned against apportioning blame until an investigation has been carried out.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that “unconditional support is not possible in this current world.” But he added that “it is not correct to say that Moscow can convince Mr. Assad to do whatever is wanted in Moscow. This is totally wrong.”

Russia has provided military support for the Syrian government since September 2015, turning the balance of power in Assad’s favor. Moscow has used its veto power at the Security Council on several occasions since the civil war began six years ago to prevent sanctions against Damascus.

Syria maintains it didn’t use chemical weapons, blaming opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory on the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun.

Trump had said the attack crossed “many, many lines,” and put the blame squarely on Assad’s forces. Speaking Thursday on Air Force One, Trump said the attack “shouldn’t have happened, and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said he hopes Trump will take military action, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency quoted him as saying. Erdogan said Turkey would be prepared to do “whatever falls on us” to support possible military action, the news agency reported.

U.S. officials had said they hoped for a vote late Thursday night on a U.N. Security Council resolution that would condemn the chemical attack, but with council members still negotiating the text into the evening, the British Mission’s political coordinator Stephen Hickey tweeted the vote wouldn’t take place until later.

At the United Nations, the U.S. had hoped for a vote Thursday evening on a Security Council resolution it drafted with Britain and France that would have condemned Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons — but it was canceled because of differences among the 15 members.

Russia strongly objected to provisions in that draft and circulated its own text which diplomats said wasn’t acceptable to the three Western nations. The 10 elected council members then presented what they hoped would be a compromise text on Thursday that addressed a key Russian objection — spelling out Syrian government obligations to investigators.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said the canceled vote “opens a window of opportunity” to keep working to find a compromise. He said he was grateful for the draft submitted by the elected members “because it’s a clear attempt to find a common denominator” but he said it has to carefully studied in Moscow.

Safronkov stressed that a resolution “should not, cannot and will not pre-judge the outcome from (an) investigation.” The attack happened in Syria’s Idlib province about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Turkish border, and the Turkish government — a close ally of Syria’s rebels — set up a decontamination center at a border crossing in Hatay province, where the victims were treated initially.

Turkish officials said nearly 60 victims of the attack were brought to Turkey for treatment and three of them died. Victims showed signs of nerve gas exposure, including suffocation, foaming at the mouth, convulsions, constricted pupils and involuntary defecation, the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders said. Paramedics used fire hoses to wash the chemicals from the bodies of victims.

Visuals from the scene were reminiscent of a 2013 nerve gas attack on the suburbs of Damascus that left hundreds dead. In Turkey, Anadolu and the private DHA news agencies on Thursday quoted Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag as saying “it was determined after the autopsy that a chemical weapon was used.”

The Turkish Health Ministry said later that “according to the results of the first analysis, there were findings suggesting that the patients were exposed to chemical substance (sarin).”

Ian Phillips contributed from Moscow. Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.

April 06, 2017

BEIRUT (AP) — The father cradled his 9-month-old twins, Aya and Ahmed, each in an arm. He stroked their hair and choked back tears, mumbling, “Say goodbye, baby, say goodbye” to their lifeless bodies.

Abdel Hameed Alyousef lost his two children, his wife and other relatives in the suspected chemical attack Tuesday in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed at least 72 people. In footage shared with The Associated Press, Alyousef sits in the front seat of a van with the twin, his eyes red as he asks his cousin Alaa to video his farewell to them.

When the airstrike took place, “I was right beside them and I carried them outside the house with their mother,”Alyousef, a 29-year-old shopowner, told the AP. “They were conscious at first, but 10 minutes later we could smell the odor.” The twins and his wife, Dalal Ahmed, fell sick.

He brought them to paramedics and, thinking they would be OK, went to look for the rest of his family. He found the bodies of two of his brothers, two nephews and a niece, as well as neighbors and friends. “I couldn’t save anyone, they’re all dead now,” he said.

Only later was he told his children and wife had died. “Abdel Hameed is in very bad shape,” his cousin Alaa said. He’s being treated for exposure to the toxin. “But he’s especially broken down over his massive loss.”

2017-03-31

LONDON – Syria’s army and allied fighters have regained most of the territory they lost during an assault launched by rebels and jihadists earlier this month in the country’s center, a monitor said Friday.

“The regime has recaptured 75 percent of the territory it lost in the north of Hama province,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

An array of factions, including an alliance headed by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate, launched an assault on government positions in Hama province on March 21, seizing several strategic areas.

But after a string of losses, the regime sent significant reinforcements to the region, the Observatory said, and has been able to reverse most of its losses, backed by heavy air strikes from ally Russia.

The factions involved in the assault still hold a handful of newly gained areas, including the town of Suran, which has changed hands several times since the Syrian war began in 2011.

Hama province is of strategic importance to President Bashar al-Assad, as it separates opposition forces in the northwestern province of Idlib from Damascus to the south and from the regime’s coastal heartlands to the west.

The Observatory said the fighting had killed dozens on both sides, but was unable to give a precise toll.

Syria’s opposition has accused the government of using “toxic substances” in its battle to repel the assault.

On Thursday, air strikes on several areas in the north of Hama province left around 50 people suffering respiratory problems, according to the Observatory, which could not confirm the cause of the symptoms.

The Syrian opposition National Coalition cited doctors in the area reporting “symptoms that included frothing at the mouth, pinpoint pupils, shortness of breath, burning eyes, and general weakness”.

Syria’s government agreed to turn over its chemical weapons in 2013 and joined the Chemical Weapons Convention.

But there have been repeated allegations of ongoing chemical weapons use, and a UN-led investigation has pointed the finger at the government for at least three attacks involving chlorine bombs in 2014 and 2015.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=82346.