Tag Archive: Levant


February 1, 2018

Senior Hamas leader in the West Bank Abdul-Rahman Shadid said yesterday that the Palestinian Authority (PA) ordered the arrest of Palestinians who had been freed from Israeli jails, Felesteen.ps reported.

The PA security services and the Israeli occupation forces carried out a dual detention campaign against Palestinians in different areas in the occupied West Bank early this week.

The campaign came after a number of roadside explosives were discovered along a settler road in the occupied West Bank. The PA claimed that the explosives were aimed at it.

Shadid said: “The PA’s arrest of Palestinians is collusion with the Israeli occupation policies. It is even carrying out the occupation’s orders to hunt and get rid of the [Palestinian] resistance.”

He stressed that the PA claim that the explosions were aimed to harm it was “feeble” and this was only to “cover up its crimes against the Palestinian resistance”.

The Hamas leader stressed that “arresting the freed prisoners serves only the Israeli occupation and puts these Palestinians under suspicion so they can later be arrested by the Israeli occupation.”

Shadid called for the PA to immediately release them and all other Palestinian political prisoners, as well as to stop the security cooperation with the Israeli occupation.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180201-hamas-pa-ordered-arrest-of-freed-palestinian-prisoners/.

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January 31, 2018

Generators at seven health centers in the besieged Gaza Strip have stopped working due to the shortage in fuel, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced today.

Ministry spokesman, Ashraf Al-Qadra, said the medical departments affected are: the Sourani Center, the Palestinian Medical Center, the Medical Foundation, the Gaza Health Administration, Abasan Al-Kabira, the Atatra and the Society of Physically Handicapped People – Gaza Strip.

The crisis management committee in the ministry confirmed that the situation in the Strip has entered an unprecedented stage due to the fuel crisis, demanding donors intervene immediately to bring it to an end.

The committee called on the energy company to work urgently to provide electricity to hospitals around the clock.

“Our health services are on the decline after a number of them stopped at the Beit Hanoun Hospital for the third day and Al-Durra children’s hospital and patients were transferred to other hospitals because of the lack of fuel. We are only a few hours away from seeing the generator at the psychiatric hospital stopping.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180131-no-electricity-at-7-more-gaza-medical-centres/.

February 1, 2018

The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, yesterday called on the Turkish government to support Lebanon on enhancing its security and to invest in the country’s infrastructure renovation.

“I’ve asked the Turkish government to support Lebanon in its two national priorities, including enhancing the capabilities of the army and the security forces, and developing the country’ infrastructure sector,” Hariri said on Twitter.

Hariri noted that he had asked the Ankara “to help in encouraging the country’s private sector to participate in the government’s investment plan.”

“We [Turkish government] expect the private sector to fund a third of our investment plan,” he added.

The Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, recently announced that Turkey was willing to boost bilateral relations with Lebanon on a number of issues, a move that Hariri welcomed.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180201-lebanon-calls-for-turkeys-support-for-boosting-security-infrastructure/.

2018-02-08

DUSHANBE – Tajikistan has granted amnesty to more than 100 of its nationals following their return home from Syria and Iraq, where they had joined radical Islamist groups, the interior minister said Thursday.

Speaking at a news conference in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda said the returnees had been pardoned in line with a 2015 government pledge.

“Regarding the fate of 111 Tajik citizens who returned from Syria and Iraq voluntarily, all of them are free under Tajik law,” Rahimzoda said.

Most of the returnees in question had spent time in Syria, which became a magnet for jihadists from around the globe following its descent into civil war in 2011.

Rahimzoda also told reporters that 250 citizens of Tajikistan, a majority-Muslim country, had died fighting for radical groups in Iraq and Syria, mostly the Islamic State group.

Authorities have previously said that over 1,000 Tajik citizens, including women, had joined the radical militants.

Most had traveled to Syria and Iraq through Russia, where over a million Tajiks are believed to work as labor migrants.

The Islamic State group’s most high-profile Tajik recruit Gulmurod Khalimov had served as the chief of the interior ministry’s special forces unit prior to his sensational defection in 2015.

Russia’s defense ministry said in September last year that Khalimov, who may have been IS’s “minister of war”, had been killed in an airstrike.

Rahimzoda said Thursday that Tajikistan was still verifying that report.

Mountainous Tajikistan, the poorest former Soviet republic, shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Afghanistan, long a hotbed of Islamist militancy and the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin.

Governments have warned that fighters returning to their home countries after the collapse of the Islamic State group could raise the terror threat there.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=87176.

2018-01-22

Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies have launched a cross-border offensive against the Afrin region of northern Syria, held by a powerful Kurdish militia.

Since “Operation Olive Branch” began on Saturday, rebels and Turkish forces have advanced about five kilometers (three miles) into Syrian territory.

An alliance of pro-Ankara rebels is amassing on front lines around Afrin for an expected ground attack.

– The fronts –

Afrin is a hilly enclave that juts out from Syria’s northern Aleppo province. Turkey holds the borders to the north and west while Syrian rebels control those south and east.

Rebels have deployed along a highway east of Afrin between their two strongholds of Azaz and Marea.

Other forces, including some fighters from the neighboring province of Idlib, have gathered south of Afrin.

Rebels have also launched a push alongside Turkish soldiers from inside Turkish territory, south into the enclave.

Ankara had bused around 600 rebels from northern Syria into Turkish territory ahead of a ground invasion.

– The forces –

The Turkish-backed rebel forces taking part in the offensive number around 25,000, according to Yasser Abdelrahim, a key member of the campaign’s joint operations room.

They include factions from Euphrates Shield, an operation launched by Ankara in 2016 against the Islamic State group and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia which Turkey considers as “terrorists”.

Euphrates Shield brought together a smattering of non-jihadist factions that have received Turkish and US support, among them the Sultan Murad Brigades, Hamzat Division, and Mutasem Brigades.

Those forces are fighting side-by-side again in the Afrin assault.

Also taking part in “Operation Olive Branch” are fighters from Al-Jabha al-Shamiya and Faylaq al-Sham, two rebel alliances operating in northern Syria since 2014.

Many of these groups have threatened the YPG or already clashed with them.

– The mission –

Rebel forces behind the offensive say they are opposed to the YPG and its political branch, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), calling the groups “terrorists” and “separatists”.

“The operation is to liberate the area from all kinds of terrorism and protect civilians, Arabs and Kurds,” said Abdelrahim, who is also Faylaq al-Sham’s military chief.

“We’re not attacking to reach the town of Afrin. The residential buildings are not our aim — just the military bases and military positions used by the PYD and YPG.”

But rebels also blamed the YPG for not battling regime forces and have even evoked ethnic divides and accuse them of displacing Arabs.

“The goal of the offensive is, in the first phase, to oust the separatist parties from the Arab villages in our areas,” said Abu Meslem, a field commander in Al-Jabha al-Shamiya.

He insisted “Operation Olive Branch” does not aim to push out the entire Syrian Kurdish community.

“This is our duty: to oust the separatist parties and bring back the displaced families who have been living in tents during the winter,” he said.

– The operation –

On Sunday, a day into the operation, rebel forces and their Turkish backers entered the Afrin region and claimed to have captured several villages and hilltop positions.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said Turkish troops, whose number was not specified, were advancing alongside pro-Ankara rebels and were already five kilometers (three miles) inside Syria.

Turkey has mainly provided air cover to the operation, pounding dozens of YPG targets with artillery and air strikes.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86877.

January 08, 2018

BEIRUT (AP) — A Syrian monitoring group and paramedics in the northwestern city of Idlib say the death toll from a massive car bombing there the previous evening has risen to at least 25. Also, nearly 100 people were wounded.

The first-responders Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets says four children and 11 women were among the 25 killed. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Monday gave a higher death toll, saying 34 people were killed, including 18 civilians.

The Sunday night bombing targeted the office of Ajnad al-Koukaz, a militant group consisting of foreign fighters mostly from the Caucuses and Russia, according to activists. Idlib is the capital of a province by the same name that is controlled by several rebel factions, including an al-Qaida-linked group.

2018-01-24

BERLIN – Berlin and Ankara planned to discuss on Wednesday Turkey’s cross-border offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria, officials said, amid controversy over German-built tanks being deployed in the conflict.

German ambassador Martin Erdmann and Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli were to talk about “how the Turkish operation is equipped,” said German foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr.

The German government has come under domestic pressure after battlefield images appeared to show Turkey deploying German-made Leopard 2 tanks in its offensive to oust Kurdish militants in northern Syria.

The Kurdish Community Group of Germany accused Berlin of “complicity through weapons delivery to the terror state Turkey”.

German conservative lawmaker Norbert Roettgen, who heads the parliamentary committee of foreign affairs, urged Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to halt further arms deals with Turkey.

“It is completely out of the question for Germany to increase the combat strength of the Leopard tanks in Turkey if the Turkish army is going after the Kurds in northern Syria,” Roettgen told Tagesspiegel daily.

Roettgen, a leading figure in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party, said weapons deliveries to Turkey should instead “be banned due to the human rights situation and the dismantling of the rule of law in the country.”

Germany’s criticism of the human rights situation in Turkey, particularly after the government’s crackdown following a failed coup in 2016, badly strained ties between the NATO allies.

Relations have started to gradually thaw in recent weeks with the foreign ministers of both countries vowing to mend ties.

But Turkey’s offensive against the Kurdish militia threatens to reverse the rapprochement with Germany, which is home to large ethnic Turkish and Kurdish minorities.

Berlin delivered 354 Leopard 2 tanks to Turkey between 2006 and 2011.

Under the weapons deal sealed in 2005, Ankara is prohibited only from giving or selling the tanks to third parties without prior approval from Berlin, with no other restrictions on how the tanks are used.

– Skirmishes –

Leading Turkish and Kurdish groups in Germany on Wednesday accused each other of “importing” a foreign conflict in the wake of Ankara’s cross-border offensive against a Syrian Kurdish militia.

Skirmishes have erupted between the two groups in Germany since Turkey on Saturday launched its operation “Olive Branch” to oust the US-backed YPG, whom Ankara views as a terror group, from their Afrin enclave in northern Syria.

Three million ethnic Turks live in Germany, the largest diaspora and a legacy of the country’s “guest worker” program of the 1960 and 70s, as well as hundreds of thousands of Kurds.

Germany’s Turkish-dominated Coordination Council of Mosques said the conflict had been used as an excuse to launch a spate of “attacks on Turkish mosque groups” in Europe’s biggest economy.

“The fighting in northern Syria has been taken as an opportunity to incite against Turkish infrastructure and in particular mosques, and to import terror into Germany,” it said in a statement.

At least two mosques of the Turkish-controlled Ditib group were hit in western Germany’s Minden and the eastern city of Leipzig, said the council.

Windows of the buildings were smashed and walls vandalized, said the council, without naming possible suspects.

It also pointed to a brawl that broke out between Kurds and Turkish passengers at Hanover Airport on Monday, which forced police to intervene to separate the two sides.

“We condemn these attacks and call for calm on all sides,” said the council.

The Kurdish Community of Germany, for its part, accused Ditib imams of calling for jihad against the Kurds in Syria.

“The believers are told to pray for a victory of the Turkish army in the war against the Kurds,” the Kurdish group said, deploring the “instrumentalisation of religion and mosques for a war”.

“Mosques, that are partly financed by taxes and donations from citizens in Germany, are praying for glorious victory and death through jihad, the holy war,” added the group’s deputy leader Mehmet Tanriverdi.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86911.

2018-01-08

BEIRUT – Syria’s army has broken the siege of an army base encircled by opposition forces on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, state television and a war monitor reported on Sunday.

Last Sunday, rebels, mainly belonging to the Islamist Ahrar al Sham faction, widened their control of parts of the Military Vehicles Administration base in the Eastern Ghouta town of Harasta.

Army elite forces, backed by Russian jets, launched an offensive to break the siege and liberate at least 200 troops who were believed to be trapped within its sprawling, heavily defended grounds.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Syrian forces had “opened a loophole” that led them into the base.

Extensive bombing and violent clashes were taking place inside and around the base late at night, while the army fought its way to recapture the compound’s buildings, the state tv reporter said during a live broadcast from a nearby location.

“Fighting is underway to expand the route that was opened into the base … and the army will press on with its offensive beyond liberating the base,” he added, expecting the battle for the base to end in the coming few hours.

The tv station aired footage of the battles earlier in the day that showed heavy smoke billowing from the battered buildings targeted by the army fire.

Rebel fighters had stormed the base last November in a drive to relieve pressure on Eastern Ghouta’s towns and villages.

The base has long been used to strike at the densely populated Eastern Ghouta in an attempt to force the rebel enclave into submission. More than 300,000 people there have lived under siege by army troops since 2013.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86688.

January 1, 2018

Thousands of Syrian families have fled violent clashes between Daesh and the Syrian forces in the country’s north-western province of Idlib, Anadolu Agency reported yesterday. Many have taken refuge in camps scattered along the border with Turkey.

Early last week, the Syrian army, backed by Russian air power and pro-Iranian fighters, launched intense airstrikes targeting areas in the southern countryside of Idlib province. Idlib and the eastern countryside of Hama province are the only areas that still remain outside government control.

The ten-day offensive and clashes between the regime army and Daesh fighters have also forced the refugees to head to Idlib’s southern countryside of Sinjar, which was later targeted by the army, displacing at least 6,500 civilians.

At least nine civilians were reported dead by the regime airstrikes over the weekend.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180101-syrians-continue-to-flee-violent-clashes-in-idlib/.

Sunday, 31 December, 2017

Hundreds of opposition fighters arrived on Saturday in the Syrian provinces of Idlib and Daraa after they were displaced from the towns of Beit Jin and Mogher al-Meer in Damascus’ western Ghouta suburb.

The evacuation was made possible after an agreement with the Syrian regime forces that began sweeping the two towns.

State television showed footage of the convoy of buses containing the rebels moving out of Beit Jin.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that six bus convoys left Beit Jin as part of the agreement between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other factions and between the regime.

The buses that arrived in the southern region of Daraa were transporting some 100 fighters from the factions, as well as some 30 of their family members. The buses that arrived in the northern Idlib province also held similar numbers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent said on Friday they had finished a medical evacuation of 29 very sick people from eastern Ghouta as part of a swap deal for prisoners held by the rebels.

Beit Jin’s location near Israeli-controlled territory made it a strategic flashpoint given the role of Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” in fighting the rebels there.

Israel has bombed “Hezbollah” convoys and weapons caches several times in Syria this year and fired on military positions in Syria after projectiles landed in the Golan Heights.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1128841/displaced-syria%E2%80%99s-beit-jin-arrive-idlib-daraa.