Tag Archive: Anatolia Section


June 19, 2018

Some 30,000 Syrians who have been granted Turkish citizenship will vote in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, broadcaster NTV quoted Prime Minister Binali Yildirim as saying today.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has granted citizenship to thousands of refugees who have fled the conflict in neighboring Syria. Turkey is hosting around 3.5 million Syrian refugees.

In April, Erdogan announced snap parliamentary and presidential elections would take place in the country on 24 June.

The move came a day after his main ally, far-right leader Devlet Bahceli, called for snap polls, with the decision primarily motivated by the need to strengthen the current administration to effectively tackle the ongoing crisis in Syria and the country’s economic challenges.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180619-turkey-30000-syrians-who-were-granted-citizenship-will-vote/.

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18.06.2018

Turkish army on Monday announced the start of patrols in the northern Syrian city of Manbij by Turkish and U.S. troops in line with a previously agreed roadmap for eliminating terrorists and stabilizing the area.

In a tweet, the Turkish Armed Forces said the patrols were being carried out between Manbij and Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield area.

Earlier on Monday, local sources speaking anonymously said armored vehicles of Turkish army were stationed around Sajur stream which divides Jarablus town, in the Operation Euphrates Shield area, and Manbij.

The joint forces carried out patrols in an area overlooking the U.S. base in Syria’s Dadat town, the sources said, adding that the patrols lasted around three hours.

The roadmap was first announced after a meeting in Washington last week between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The deal focuses on the withdrawal of PKK-affiliated YPG terror group from the northern Syrian city and stability in the region.

Should the model prove to be a success, Turkey will push for a similar arrangement in eastern Syria.

In its over-30-year terrorist campaign against Turkey, the PKK has taken some 40,000 lives. The YPG/PKK is its Syrian branch.

Turkey has said the presence of terrorist forces near its border constitute a threat, and has launched military operations and other efforts to rid the region of terrorists.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/turkish-army-announces-patrols-in-syrias-manbij/1178013.

Thursday 17 May 2018

Like any other day at work, Dr Mamdouh Matlab arrived at the Al-Salam Hospital in the northern Syrian city of Al-Bab to make his rounds of the wards.

Arriving a few minutes early, Matlab sat down on a bench close to an empty office and rifled through his bag for patient notes.

After three years of living under Islamic State group (IS) control  – a period of public beheadings and strict controls on daily life – Matlab and the other residents of the city were beginning to adjust to a life free from the militant group.

Danger still resides in Al-Bab, however.

The doctor was on his way to see his first patient when he heard raised voices and shouting down the hallway.

Running to see what was happening, he saw a nurse kneeling on the floor, crying, as a member of the Turkish-backed Al-Hamzat Brigade pointed a gun at her head.

The unit was one of five Free Syrian Army rebel groups to join Turkish troops in an offensive that drove IS out of Al-Bab in 2016.

“Someone from the Al-Hamzat faction was screaming and shouting at the nurses and doctors. One of their fighters needed urgent medical care, but no one was able to attend to him,” said Matlab.

“They ended up dragging one of the doctors out of the hospital like he did a crime. We were scared and didn’t know what to do.”

The Turkish-backed rebels also ransacked and harassed medical staff in the Al-Hikmah hospital elsewhere in the city on the same day, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

One week on, the whereabouts of the kidnapped doctor, whose identity is withheld for security reasons, remains unknown.

An invitation to return

The battle for Al-Bab, a three-month offensive on the IS-held city that was conducted as part of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield to better protect its border with Syria, left considerable damage.

Once IS was ousted, Turkey urged displaced Syrians – including the many who had fled north across the Turkish border – to return and help rebuild the city. Matlab heeded this call and came back.

Turkish-occupied areas in northern Syria have become a haven for displaced Syrians.

Following pro-Syrian government forces’ successes in rebel strongholds around Damascus and northern Homs province, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have sought refuge in the country’s north, including areas controlled by Turkey and its allies.

The displaced and returned residents have swollen the city’s population, with hundreds of Syrians recently evacuated from northern Homs stuck on the city’s outskirts. Turkey is refusing them entry, insisting Al-Bab is full.

While residents say life in Al-Bab today is more stable than during the reign of IS, months of sporadic infighting among Turkish-backed rebel groups – which has led to the deaths and wounding of many civilians – has led many caught in the crossfire to question their choice to come back.

With hospitals and medical workers now swept up in lawlessness and violence, patience with Turkey’s control of the city is beginning to wear thin.

Safety concerns

The doctor’s kidnapping angered hundreds of residents, who protested outside the police station in Al-Bab earlier this month. The crowd called for the doctor’s release and an end to the rebel clashes in their city.

Moments after the protest began, Turkish troops jumped out of their armored vehicles and started shooting into the air to disperse the protest.

But rather than turning away, the protesters directed their anger towards the Turks, chanting “free, free, Al-Bab” and telling soldiers to “go back to where they came from”, according to videos posted on social media.

Matlab joined the demonstrators. “Turkey is playing a significant role in the city, treating Al-Bab like it is its own soil. But they are not doing enough to improve security,” he said.

“I have always been unsure about Turkey’s role in the city, and despite the improvement of services, people are continuing to die from clashes by rebels who they support. Something needs to be done about this.”

Badr Taleb, a videographer based in Al-Bab, was also at the demonstration, where he said a stray Turkish bullet grazed his forehead.

During IS’s occupation of Al-Bab, Taleb lived in Aleppo city and retreated to its countryside when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces tightened the noose around the opposition-held eastern neighborhoods, which fell in the last days of 2016.

He now regrets coming back to Al-Bab following a recent bout of fighting between the Al-Hamzat fighters and rebels from Deir Ezzor.

“Things are just getting out of control. We appreciate Turkey and the role it’s played, as other world powers turned a blind eye,” said Taleb.

“But it must bring the rebels it supports in line, and not allow them to ruin everything Turkey has been building for the Syrians.”

‘Better than nothing’

Despite the simmering tensions between residents and Turkish troops in Al-Bab, Syrians have told MEE that for now, they have no choice but to work with the Turks.

Turkey has a significant presence inside Al-Bab, and since taking the city has helped repair damaged buildings, reopened schools and begun construction on a new industrial zone.

But according to Matlab, stability and safety inside Al-Bab remain its residents’ key priorities.

“The situation is no different from how it used to be under the regime,” said a dismayed Matlab.

“When a robbery took place, we would go to the police station and sign a report about what was stolen and expect nothing to be done.

“Now we can still go to the same police station. Only this time, the officers we have are trained and backed by the Turks. It’s useless but better than nothing.”

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/Al-Bab-patience-with-Turkey-wears-thin-after-rebel-lawlessness-1790512911.

15.05.2018

AFRIN, Syria

A foundation linked to Turkey’s top religious body said Tuesday it will distribute aid to 40,000 Syrians during the holy month of Ramadan in Syria’s terror-liberated city of Afrin.

Turkiye Diyanet Foundation (TDV) head Mehmet Savas Polat told Anadolu Agency that they accelerated humanitarian aid projects in the eve of Ramadan.

“We will distribute iftar [fast-breaking meals] to up to 20,000 people and also food packages to 20,000 more people in Afrin within the scope of Ramadan aid,” Polat said.

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorist groups from Afrin, northwestern Syria amid growing threats from the region.

On March 18, Turkish-backed troops liberated the Afrin town center, which had been a major hideout for the YPG/PKK terrorists since 2012.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/turkish-charity-to-send-ramadan-aid-to-syrias-afrin/1146985.

2018-03-24

MANBIJ – In Syria’s Kurdish-controlled Manbij, salesmen shout as customers bustle through the city’s packed marketplace — an everyday scene that masks residents’ deep fears of a Turkish attack.

Despite the presence of US troops nearby, Manbij could become the next target of a Turkey-led battle against Kurdish militia in Syria’s north.

Ankara and allied Syrian rebels seized the northwestern city of Afrin on March 18, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to push eastwards and take Manbij.

“Everybody’s scared, me included,” said Hameed al-Damalkhi, 50, bent over a sewing machine as he stitched the sole back onto a used trainer at his shop in Manbij’s covered market.

He said he was still shocked by images of pro-Ankara fighters looting in Afrin, breaking into shops and homes and heading off with food, blankets and even motorbikes after Kurdish fighters retreated.

“What we hear about them is they’re all thieves. You saw, they looted the whole (Afrin) area,” he said, wearing a stained grey robe and graying beard.

Turkey has said it aims to dislodge the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which it labels a “terrorist” group, from the length of its border with Syria.

“Where does he think he’s going?” Damalkhi said, referring to Erdogan. “There are men here who can protect the area.”

The YPG has gained a reputation as a formidable force, especially as the backbone of a US-backed alliance that expelled the Islamic State group from much of Syria.

– ‘Guarantees’ from the US –

Since Syria’s war started in 2011, Manbij has exchanged hands several times.

Rebels overran the town in 2012. IS seized it two years later, turning it into a key transit point for fighters, weapons and cash between the Turkish border and its then de facto capital of Raqa, further southeast.

The US-backed and YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took control of Manbij last year, handing the city’s management over to a civil council.

Dozens of American troops have since been stationed on the city’s outskirts, with additional troops deployed there around a year ago.

Their presence offers some comfort to residents, especially after a delegation from the State Department and the US-led coalition visited the city council this week.

Ali al-Sattaf, 50, who works at a money exchange, said the presence of US troops nearby was reassuring.

“It makes us feel that nothing will rain down from the sky,” he said.

The YPG retreated from Afrin in the face of formidable Turkish and rebel fire power, including air strikes that pounded the Kurdish enclave.

The US-led coalition stayed out of the battle for Afrin, but its presence outside Manbij has raised the specter of a potential conflict between two NATO allies should Turkey attack the city.

On Thursday, State Department official William Roebuck and US Army Major-General James B. Jarrard, who heads a US-led force fighting IS, visited Manbij Civil Council.

The aim of the visit was “to reassure the population”, council co-chair Ibrahim al-Kaftan said after the meeting.

“There will be no attack on Manbij, and we received guarantees from the delegation on this matter,” he said.

– ‘We’re tired’ –

In Manbij’s Martyrs Square hang portraits of SDF fighters — women and men — killed in the fight against IS.

Some of the city’s wall still bear the marks of the jihadists’ brutal rule, its slogans and infamous black flag.

In the market, a man wearing a red-and-white scarf walked by carts piled high with apples. Another man darted past on a motorbike, while women in long black robes inspected shoes in a shop window.

Rim, a veiled 30-year-old mother who had come shopping, said she didn’t want to see fighting in Manbij.

“We live in safety now, but we fear for our kids,” she said, as she clutched the hands of her two children.

“We’re tired and our kids are tired from all the fear, the planes and the war,” she said.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=87805.

March 18, 2018

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s president said Sunday that allied Syrian forces have taken “total” control of the town center of Afrin, the target of a nearly two-month offensive against a Syrian Kurdish militia, which said the fighting was still underway.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish flag and the flag of the Syrian opposition fighters has been raised in the town, previously controlled by the Kurdish militia known as the People’s Defense Units, or YPG.

“Many of the terrorists had turned tail and run away already,” Erdogan said. Turkey’s military tweeted that its forces are now conducting combing operations to search for land mines and explosives. The army tweeted a video showing a soldier holding a Turkish flag and a man waving the Syrian opposition flag on the balcony of the district parliament building with a tank stationed on the street.

A Kurdish official, Hadia Yousef, told The Associated Press the YPG fighters have not fled the town, but have evacuated the remaining civilians because of “massacres.” She said clashes in the town were still underway.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Turkey-backed forces have taken control of half the town, with intense fighting still underway. Turkey views the Kurdish forces in the Afrin enclave along the border as terrorists because of their links to the Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey.

It launched an offensive against the town and surrounding areas on Jan. 20, slowly squeezing the militia and hundreds of thousands of civilians into the town center. The Observatory says nearly 200,000 people have fled the Afrin region in recent days amid heavy airstrikes, entering Syrian government-held territory nearby.

The YPG was a key U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State group, and seized large areas across northern and eastern Syria with the help of coalition airstrikes. But Erdogan has repeatedly said that NATO ally Turkey will not allow a “terror corridor” along its border. At least 46 Turkish soldiers have been killed since the offensive began.

The Kurdish militia and the Observatory said Turkish jets struck Afrin’s main hospital on Friday, killing over a dozen people. The Turkish military denied the allegations.

March 08 2018

The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army captured Jinderes town in Syria’s northwestern Afrin district from People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants on March 8.

Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 along with elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to clear Afrin of the YPG.

Turkey sees the YPG as a terror group for its ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

More than 3,000 YPG militants ‘neutralized’ in Turkey’s Afrin op: Army

Some 3,055 YPG militants have been “neutralized” in Turkey’s ongoing cross-border operation in Syria’s northwestern Afrin district, the Turkish Armed Forces said in a statement on March 8.

“In ‘Operation Olive Branch,’ so far 112 villages, 30 critical positions, and a total of 142 spots have been taken under control,” Bekir Bozdag, Deputy Prime Minister said on March 5.

Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said on March 2 that 41 Turkish soldiers and 116 FSA militants have been killed since the start of “Operation Olive Branch.” Another 119 have been wounded, state-run Anadolu Agency reported the following day.

The army announced on March 6 that another soldier succumbed to his wounds.

Source: Hurriyet.

Link: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-army-fsa-capture-jinderes-town-in-syrias-afrin-128422.

16.05.2018

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania

Hamas on Tuesday expressed its appreciation for Turkey’s rapid response to Monday’s massacre committed by Israeli troops against peaceful Palestinian protesters on the Gaza Strip’s eastern border.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency during a visit to Mauritania, where he will take part in a pro-Palestine conference, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised the support of the Turkish government and people for the Palestinian cause.

“The Turkish people hit the streets immediately after Monday’s massacre; this was very encouraging,” he said.

According to Abu Zuhri, Turkey’s role is of especial importance as the country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Israel’s ambassador to Ankara left Turkey on Wednesday — at the latter’s request — shortly after the deadly violence on the Gaza-Israel border.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag announced Monday that the Turkish government had declared three days of mourning in solidarity with Gaza’s martyrs.

“We appreciate the Turkish role and hope to strengthen this interaction with the provision of needed humanitarian relief to Gaza, which continues to remain under siege,” Abu Zuhri said.

He also called for opening hospitals to help treat Gaza’s injured, urging Turkish organizations to provide support to struggling Gazan families.

On Monday, at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred — and hundreds more injured — by Israeli troops deployed along the other side of the border.

Monday’s demonstration had coincided with Israel’s 70th anniversary — an event Palestinians refer to as “The Catastrophe” — and the relocation of Washington’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem, which also took place Monday.

Since the Gaza rallies began on Mar. 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by cross-border Israeli army gunfire.

Last week, the Israeli government said the ongoing border protests constituted a “state of war” in which international humanitarian law did not apply.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/hamas-extols-turkey-s-swift-response-to-gaza-massacre/1147798.

March 19, 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, buoyed by his army’s capture of a Kurdish stronghold in northwest Syria, threatened to extend the offensive against separatist Kurdish militants to eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

Turkey’s military will shift their campaign to several towns under the control of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, including Manbij, Kobani, Tal Abyad, Rasulayn and Qamishli, “until this terror corridor is fully eliminated,” Erdogan said Monday. Turkey’s threat to attack Manbij, where U.S. troops are based, has put Ankara at loggerheads with Washington, and talks between the NATO allies have so far yielded no agreement. The U.S. also has a diplomatic presence in Kobani.

Erdogan on Sunday claimed victory in the cross-border operation he launched in January to expel the YPG from Afrin, a town along the Turkish border. While the loss of Afrin delivered a major blow to the YPG’s hopes to establish a contiguous autonomous region, Turkey has resolved to clear the separatist fighters from other areas near its frontier.

Turkish authorities see the YPG as an extension of PKK militants who have used bases in northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets in a decades-long war for autonomy.

Erdogan Threat

Turkey has served notice to the Iraqi government in Baghdad that its forces would attack the major PKK camp on Mount Sinjar near the Syrian border unless Iraq takes action.

“If you are going to handle this, you do it,” Erdogan said in remarks directed at Iraq. “If you can’t handle it, then we may suddenly enter Sinjar one night and clear out the PKKs there.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier that Turkish and Iraqi armies would carry out a joint offensive against the PKK bases in northern Iraq, probably after Iraqi elections set for May 12.

Turkey has had hundreds of troops deployed at the Bashiqa training based near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul since the end of 2014. It has also had a tank battalion stationed near the Iraqi frontier town of Bamerni for about two decades, and has frequently sent planes and troops across the border to target the PKK.

The U.S., meanwhile, expressed deep concern over reports that many residents had fled Kurdish-majority Afrin under threat of attack from the Turkish army and allied rebel forces.

“This adds to the already concerning humanitarian situation in the area, with United Nations agencies reporting a displaced population in or from Afrin district in the hundreds of thousands, who now require immediate shelter and other assistance to meet basic needs,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in an emailed statement on Monday.

“We have repeatedly expressed our serious concern to Turkish officials regarding the situation in Afrin.”

Source: Bloomberg.

Link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-19/erdogan-vows-to-extend-offensive-to-east-syria-northern-iraq.

March 14, 2018

Qatar has signed an agreement with Turkey to establish a naval base, Khaleej Online reported today.

The agreement came during the Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) 2018, which ends today, which was attended by international investors from the US, Europe and China for potential ventures.

Turkey has won a tender to establish the base in northern Qatar, general Hamad Bin Abdullah Al-Futtais Al Marri, commander of Qatar’s joint special forces said. The naval base will include a training center that will primarily take on maritime patrols and monitoring. No other details of the base were revealed.

Turkey will also export six armed, unmanned aerial vehicles or drones to Qatar’s armed forces, and give training services to Qatar’s forces by next year. Qatar wishes to purchase the drones for its own surveillance and tactical reconnaissance needs. Turkey will be assisting a long-term strategy to harness defense knowledge with an agreement to establish an academy for Qatar in association with Turkey’s Piri Reis University.

Qatar has taken a strategic decision to increase its defense and regional security amid an ongoing air, land and sea blockade led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The blockade was levied over extremism and terrorism allegations, which Qatar categorically denied as baseless.

Turkey stepped in, providing Qatar with food and medicine essentials.

In early 2018, the Turkish National Security Council finalized a plan to deploy 60,000 armed soldiers to Qatar in accordance to a 2022 defense plan. Some one hundred soldiers are currently based in Qatar’s Al-Udeid military base since the Saudi-led blockade.

Some 30 Turkish companies are participating in Qatar’s DIMDEX exhibition, showcasing modern military technology.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180314-qatar-signs-turkey-naval-military-base-agreement/.