C’è anche una attivista per i diritti delle donne tra i 9 civili trucidati ieri a sangue freddo dai miliziani filo-turchi nel nord-est della Siria. Secondo quanto riferisce il Guardian, Hevrin Khalaf, 35 anni, segretaria generale del Partito Futuro siriano, e il suo autista, sono stati assassinati a colpi di arma da fuoco su un’autostrada dopo essere stati prelevati dalle loro auto da milizie sostenute dalla Turchia, riferiscono le forze curde. Le uccisioni di tutti e 9 i civili sono state filmate e il video diffuso in rete.
Türkiye’nin Suriye’nin kuzeyine yönelik askerî harekâtının beşinci gününde Suriye ordusunun ana omurgasını YPG’nin oluşturduğu Suriye Demokratik Güçleri (SDG) ile anlaştığı öğrenildi. Bu anlaşma kapsamında Suriye ordusunun Menbiç’e girdiği duyuruldu. Suriye ordusunun bu gece de Kobani’ye gireceği belirtiliyor.
Menbiç yerel kaynakları Suriye ordusunun çeşitli bölgelerden kente doğru ilerlemeye başladığını aktarıyor.
Menbiç’e giren Suriye ordusundan ilk görüntüler geldi.
Ve Suriye Ordusu Menbiç’e girer
— Hayrizng (@hayrizng) October 13, 2019
Fırat Bölgesi Savunma Komitesi Eşbaşkanı İsmet Şêx Hesen de Kuzey ve Doğu Suriye Özerk Yönetimi’nin Suriye rejimi ile anlaştığını açıkladı. Hesen “Rusya ve Suriye rejimiyle anlaştık. Bugün akşama kadar gelmeleri gerekiyor” dedi.
Mezopotamya Ajansı‘nın haberine göre Hesen “Elimizden geleni yapıyoruz. Bütün devletlere çağrıda bulunduk; ancak bir şey yapmadılar. Kendi derdimize derman olacağız. Yaralarımızı kendimiz saracağız” diye konuştu.
Gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu da Kuzey ve Doğu Suriye Özerk Yönetimi’nin Şam yönetimi ile SDG’nin Suriye sınırını birlikte koruması konusunda anlaşmaya vardığını yazdı. Çiviroğlu, anlaşmanın Afrin de dahil tüm bölgelerin özgürlüğüne kavuşturulmasını da içerdiğini belirtti.
North Press Agency’nin haberine göre Suriye rejiminin Fırat Bölgesi Başkan Yardımcısı Mohammed Shaheen, SDG ile anlaşan Suriye ordusunun bugün Kobani bölgesine girmeye hazırlandığını duyurdu.
Kobani’deki SDG yetkilisi, Suriye hükümetiyle birkaç saat içinde Kobani’ye girmek için bir anlaşma yaptıklarını söyledi.
Gazeteci Aylina Kılıç da bölgedeki bazı yerel kaynakların SDG ile anlaştığını ve Suriye ordusunun Kobani’ye gireceğini bildirdiğini yazdı. Kılıç, “Aynı zamanda Minbiç için de bu yönde bir anlaşma olduğu belirtiliyor. Dün akşam ABD ile Rusya’nın Minbiç’te görüştüğü iddia edilmişti” dedi.
Kılıç anlaşamaya Rusya’nın dahil olduğuna dair haberlerin bulunduğunu belirtti.
Tactic is to advance into Arab-majority areas and drive a wedge between YPG-controlled territory, observers say.
Arab and Kurdish civilians flee following Turkish bombardment in Syria’s northeastern town of Ras al-Ain [Delil Souleiman/AFP]
In the first hours of Operation Peace Spring, Turkish air raids across the border reached as far as Qamishli in the east and further west of Kobane.
Mutlu Civiroglu, a Washington-based Middle East analyst, told Al Jazeera the scale of the attack surprised many analysts.
“They’ve already hit 300km length and 50km depth, almost all major cities are hit,” Civiroglu said.
Soner Cagaptay, Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s research programme director, told Al Jazeera Turkey’s assault at this point was focused on Arab-majority towns.
“I think that’s quite a smart choice for Ankara because of the fact that Turkish troops will be more welcome in Arab-majority areas, given how friendly Turkey has been towards the Arab population,” Cagaptay said.
He said Turkey will continue to drive a wedge between Kurdish-controlled territory as a strategy to undermine the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and weaken the political authority that controls the border region with Turkey.
The SDF is spearheaded by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has operated inside Turkey for decades. The PKK has been branded a “terrorist” organisation by Turkey and several other countries.
Wednesday’s cross-border operation was not the first. Last year, Turkey launched a similar offensive dubbed Operation Olive Branch into Syria’s Afrin town to “clear the area of terrorists”.
The SDF, while not wanting to comment on specifics, told Al Jazeera it was reviewing Turkish military strategy during Olive Branch to map out a response to the current operation.
According to local activists on the ground, the number one target for Turkey is the Arab-majority town of Tal Abyad, where Ankara hopes to quickly establish a ground presence.
Turkish security analyst and former special forces soldier Necdet Ozcelik told Al Jazeera he expects the first phase of Turkey’s operation will only last about 10 days, or a couple of weeks maximum, with the goal to take control of the area between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.
The offensive will also involve thousands of Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels providing ground support for Turkish commandos and its regular soldiers.
Civiroglu said two scenarios were likely to unfold: Turkey intensifying ground operations, or the operation being halted because of condemnation from the international community.
“Trump is under pressure, the Turkish government is under pressure, the UN Security Council will meet today … The world is not buying arguments of the Turkish government,” he said.
“The SDF always wanted good relations [with Turkey] … Kurdish sympathy is very strong, that’s why there’s strong diplomatic efforts to put an end to this.”
The possibility remains that Syrian government forces of President Bashar al-Assad may try to capture the main city of Manbij, if the United States decides to withdraw its troops from there without giving early warning to the Turks.
“In this case, the Syrian army may try to capture Manbij before the Turkish forces or the FSA,” Ozcelik said.
“We might be seeing some sort of tension, or maybe limited confrontation, between the FSA elements and the Assad regime forces in Manbij area, but not in the eastern part.”
The SDF responded to Turkey’s military action with artillery attacks and rockets fired into Turkish territory.
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Twitter the Kurdish fighters would not allow Turkish troops to advance further. “We will use all our possibilities against Turkish aggression,” he said.
Heavy fighting was taking place in Syrian border villages between advancing Turkish forces and SDF soldiers on Thursday.
Ozcelik said the Kurds were no match for the advancing Turkish-led forces.
“The YPG elements are composed of a lot of PKK ideology people, and they forcibly recruited many people who did not have serious military experience,” he said. “I’m expecting a lot of defections from the YPG side, so the Turkish military is going to take advantage of that.”
Robert Wesley of the Terrorism Research Initiative told Al Jazeera that Turkey will also suffer setbacks considering how vast the area is that it wants to control.
“It will require huge amounts of direct military engagement from the Turkish side,” Wesley said.
“The use of the FSA, that will also be limited [because] these groups are not really well-trained. They don’t have a strong track record with more sophisticated defences.”
Turkey may not have the appetite for sustaining significant casualties, Wesley said, which a serious military encounter with the SDF would necessitate.
“I don’t think either side is particularly well prepared for the engagement,” he said.
The biggest challenge for the SDF is not having a weapon system that can counter Turkish air attacks, Civiroglu said.
“[Even so] they have said they will defend themselves until the end,” he noted.
Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned Ankara after the Turkish operation began to stress that Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected.
The Kremlin said it would not interfere further in Syria after years of supporting Assad’s forces against rebel groups, but cautioned Turkey not to take any steps that would destabilise the region.
Cagaptay said Moscow has no choice but to back Turkey’s move. “The most Russia will do is to voice support behind closed doors, even though they may publicly criticise the operation,” he said.
He said the Kremlin may even be welcoming Ankara’s military action.
“The [Syrian] regime and Russia consider Turkey a threat, so by provoking Turkey to attack Kurds really Russia is hitting two birds with one,” Cagaptay said. “Hitting Kurds, trying to make Kurds dependent on Russia, at the same time allow Turkey to suppress the Kurds, not allow them to make gains.”
Even if Turkey is successful in securing its so-called “safe-zone” to return about two million Syrian refugees, there will be major challenges ahead, observers said.
The complex issue of containing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) fighters who are still active in the region must be addressed by Turkey.
As seen by the suicide attack claimed by the armed group in Raqqa on an SDF intelligence base, killing 13 people, ISIL may be defeated militarily but sleeper cells are still prevalent.
“It’s unfamiliar territory for Turkey,” Civiroglu said. “It’s Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Christians, and Yazidis of the region [who] fought these people.”
Kurds call it a stab in the back: chaos to come will have many participants
On January 13, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed, in an ambiguous tweet, the creation of a 20-mile safe zone in northern Syria.
Almost 10 days later there is still considerable confusion over what exactly it means and how it might be implemented. The Turkish government wants the area cleared of Syrian Kurdish forces, for instance, while Syrian Kurds oppose any Turkish role. And will it be primarily a Turkish venture, or might the United States spearhead its creation?
Ankara’s preferred safe zone is one that is free of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Syrian Kurdish fighters that make up the bulk of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that with U.S. help have largely defeated Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. The Turkish government says the YPG is as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule inside Turkey since 1984.
“The leaks about the buffer zone are unworkable,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East programme at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Ahval News. “This is going to be fraught and tenuous.”
“I have a hard time accepting why the SDF would choose the U.S. proposal over the [Syrian] regime alternative, and how Moscow could then blow all this up,” he said, referring to talks the Syrian Kurds began with Damascus following Trump’s Dec. 19 announcement he was pulling the U.S.’ 2,000 troops from Syria. The Kurds hope that by ceding their border regions with Turkey to Damascus they can prevent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threatened offensive.
Syrian Kurdish authorities have affirmed they will support the creation of a buffer zone if established and run by the United Nations or the U.S.-led coalition. But UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the UN had no plans to participate in the creation of such a safe zone.
The Kurds adamantly oppose any Turkish involvement in the safe zone.
“We really need a safe zone, but without Turkish fingers,” Salih Muslim, former co-leader of the political wing of the YPG, told Kurdistan 24. “We want a safe area with an air embargo. There must be no role for Turkey.”
Any safe zone that is 20-miles deep along the northern Syrian border would include all the major Kurdish cities in Syria.
“The problem with the buffer zone is that there is little information on how the U.S. expects to keep Turkey from attacking and destroying the SDF,” said Nicholas Heras, Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “This is the heart of the matter because Turkey’s vision for the buffer zone is for the Turkish military to control the major Kurdish population centres in northeast Syria.”
“A large component of the SDF comes from these Kurdish areas, and it is to be expected that the SDF would fight Turkey, rather than be dismantled by it,” he said. “The buffer zone concept was supposed to achieve a deal between Turkey and the SDF that allows for power sharing in northeast Syria, as a way to prevent disastrous conflict between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds. Any plan to allow Turkey to control the Kurdish areas of northeast Syria will force the SDF into conflict with Turkey because the SDF is existentially threatened by Turkey.”
Heras said the SDF was trying to reach an agreement with Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad to prevent Turkey seizing land in Syria.
Yaşar Yakış, a Turkish former foreign minister, believes the terms buffer/safe zone are vague.
“A safe zone as it is conceived by Turkey is difficult to set up in northeast Syria. Russia, Iran, the U.S. and many members of the international community will have to be persuaded for it,” Yakış said.
He said Turkey had no means of persuading the SDF to peacefully leave the area.
“However, it may dare to achieve it by using its military power, without persuasion,” Yakış suggested. “If Turkey succeeds in persuading the U.S., Washington has the means to force the YPG to establish a safe zone. But if this is going to be a safe zone with international legitimacy, it has to be sanctioned by a U.N. Security Council resolution, which means that the permanent members of the Security Council – Russia, China, France and the UK – also have to be persuaded.”
Turkey fears the creation of a safe zone similar to the one in northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, which led to Iraqi Kurds achieving autonomy, he said.
“This will be considered a nightmare by Turkey, as it is vehemently opposed to the emergence of any type of Kurdish entity in the north of Syria,” Yakış said.
Mutlu Civiroglu, a Syria and Kurdish affairs analyst, said Trump’s tweet suggested a preference for protecting Syrian Kurds before mentioning the 20-mile safe zone.
“It’s not clear what it really means,” he said. “Assuming the buffer zone is something the U.S. is going to initiate to protect Kurds, that would be positive and would be accepted by Kurds and their allies.”
Russia could stymie the creation of such a zone though, Civiroglu said.
“Moscow can certainly undermine not only this safe zone, but also any development in Syria since it has the power,” he said. “Its move will depend on the details. Russia has the power and capability of preventing or shaping the steps taken by Turkey, the Syrian government and any other player.”
Mustafa Gurbuz, a non-resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the United States had engaged in dual discourse by promising Turkey a safe zone along its southern border on the one hand and promising Syrian Kurds protection from any potential Turkish attack on the other.
“YPG leaders will not retreat in a silent matter,” he said. “The YPG will exploit U.S.-Russia competition to prevent the Turkish safe zone and, in the case of Turkey-Russia agreement, may use its ties with the Assad regime. Thus, it’s a troubling case for Turkey.”
US forces patrolling in northeastern Syria near the Turkey border for the second time in three days, November 4, 2018. Image: @mustefa2bali/Twitter
The order to withdraw American troops from Syria has been signed, the U.S. military said Sunday, December 24, after President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart agreed to prevent a power vacuum in the wake of the controversial move.
The announcement that U.S. troops would leave Syria – where they have been deployed to assist in the multinational fight against Islamic State – shocked global partners and American politicians alike.
“The execute order for Syria has been signed,” a U.S. military spokesperson told AFP when asked about the withdrawal order, without providing further details.
Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Trump’s momentous decision on Syria, a country where it will now have a freer rein to target the People’s Protection Units (YPG), U.S.-allied fighters who have played a major role in the war against ISIS but are deemed terrorists by Ankara.
Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Sunday and “agreed to ensure coordination between their countries’ military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
Late Sunday, Trump tweeted that Erdogan had assured him that any remaining ISIS fighters in Syria will be eliminated.
“President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria,” Trump said in a tweet around midnight Sunday.
Trump added that Erdogan “is a man who can do it.”
The U.S. president concluded: “Our troops are coming home!”
Hours earlier, Trump had tweeted that he and Erdogan “discussed ISIS, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area.”
U.S. politicians, including those from his own Republican party, and international allies fear the withdrawal of the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops is premature and would further destabilize the already devastated region.
A U.S. withdrawal, said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Kurdish affairs analyst, will open the way “for Turkey to start its operations against the Kurds, and a bloody war will begin.”
Turkey considers the predominantly-Kurdish YPG, which forms the core of the multiethnic Syrian Democratic Forces, inextricable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies.
But the YPG is not a proscribed organization in the European Union, United Kingdom or United States, and U.S. defense officials have publicly supported the group due its unique capabilities in battling Islamic State as part of the U.S.-backed SDF.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he “deeply regretted” Trump’s decision, and that “an ally must be reliable.”
Two top leaders of the political arm of the SDF, the Syrian Democratic Council, visited France on Friday for talks on the U.S. military withdrawal from Syria and Turkey’s threats to launch a military operation.
New Pentagon chief
U.S. troops will leave under the auspices of a new Pentagon chief set to start next month, after Jim Mattis resigned from the post citing key differences, including on Syria, with the often-impulsive Trump.
Several U.S. politicians from both parties rejected Trump’s claim that ISIS had been defeated, and the decision also caused alarm and dismay in the U.S. military over the prospect of suddenly abandoning Washington’s Kurdish partners.
Trump’s sudden decision sparked turmoil within his administration, prompting the resignation of Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, as well as Mattis.
Plans for the troop withdrawal will now be overseen by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who Trump on Sunday said would replace Mattis starting January 1.
Mattis, 68, had said he would leave at the end of February to allow a smooth transition for the next chief of the world’s top military power – but a reportedly angry Trump accelerated his departure by two months.
Defense spokesperson Dana White tweeted that Mattis would still assist in the handover, working with Shanahan to ensure the department “remains focused on the defense of our nation during this transition.”
According to U.S. media, Trump voiced resentment over news coverage of Mattis’ stinging resignation letter that laid bare his fundamental disagreements with the president.
Days later, special envoy McGurk made a similar move, saying he could not support Trump’s Syria decision that, he said, “left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered.”
Unlike Mattis, Shanahan has never served in the military and has spent most of his career in the private sector.
He spent over three decades working for aircraft giant Boeing, including as vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, before moving to the Pentagon as deputy in 2017.
Until Trump finds a permanent Pentagon chief, Shanahan will lead plans for US troops to leave Syria along with a significant drawdown in Afghanistan, both of which critics worry will leave war-torn regions at risk of continued and potentially heightened bloodshed.
Senior U.S. diplomat William Roebuck on Saturday visited a Kurdish journalist in hospital in northern Syria’s Manbij where she is recovering from being shot by Turkish forces, Rudaw reported.
Two journalist, two members of Syrian Kurdish forces and a civilian, were reportedly lost their lives this week due to the shelling from the Turkish side targeting Kurdish-held northern Syrian territory, media reports.
“I wish you a quick recovery. You’re a brave woman,” Ambassador Roebuck told Gulistan Mohammed, in comments published by the Manbij Military Council.
The U.S. envoy Roebuck, an advisor to Brett McGurk who deals with Syria policy from the U.S. State Department and helps coordinate stabilisation efforts in Syria, stressed the important role that journalists and the media play in stability and security which was very important for the United States. Roebuck will meet with the Manbij civil administration before leaving.
The 20-year-old Mohammed was one of two journalists working for local media ANHA news who were injured in Turkish fire on Friday morning. She was shot in the face. In critical condition, she was transferred to Manbij for surgery and is now in intensive care, according to ANHA.
The other journalist, Ibrahim Ahmed Marto,19, was wounded in hand by a bullet. He was treated at Gire Spi General Hospital.
The two were covering Turkish attacks on villages and Kurdish forces in the Kobane and Gire Spi (Tal Abyad) area. ANHA said Turkish snipers deliberately targeted them.
The shelling by Turkey started last week and targeted areas held by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) which forms the backbone of the U.S. backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the battle against the Islamic State. However, Ankara considers the YPG as an extension of its own insurgent group Kurdistan Worker’s Party which took guns against the Turkish government in 1984. Both are seen as terrorist organisations by Turkey.
Turkey and the United States began joint patrols in neutral zones near Manbij on Friday. Ankara has threatened the YPG with military operations against them in Manbij and eastward. But Washington said that Turkish forces will not enter Manbij city, and the joint patrols are only to complement local security.