Israel strikes ‘dozens’ of targets in Syria over rockets fired by Iranian force

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel strikes ‘dozens’ of targets in Syria over rockets fired by Iranian force

Army says it attacked Iranian and regime sites in the country, blames Tehran’s Quds force for launches at Israel; footage shows nighttime blasts over Damascus

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a damaged building targeted by Israeli missile strikes is seen in Qudsaya suburb, western the capital Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.  (SANA via AP)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a damaged building targeted by Israeli missile strikes is seen in Qudsaya suburb, western the capital Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (SANA via AP)

The Israeli military said it struck dozens of targets in Syria belonging to Iranian forces and the Syrian regime in the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, in response to four rockets that were fired at Israel the day before.

“The attack was carried out in response to the launching of the rockets by the Iranian Quds force from Syrian territory,” the army said in a statement. The rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Though Israel rarely takes direct responsibility for airstrikes in Syria, it always acknowledges conducting reprisal raids in response to attacks from the country.

The targets of Wednesday’s predawn strikes included missile launchers, weapons warehouses, command centers and bases, the army said.

A large explosion is seen over the Damascus skyline in footage purportedly taken on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, November 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

Syrian media reported that two people were killed and others were injured during the overnight strikes.

Video footage from Syria appeared to show a Syrian air defense missile crashing to the ground in a heavily populated area shortly after launching, which may account for at least some of the casualties.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the strike: “I have made clear that any who attack us — we will attack them. That is what we did tonight towards military targets of the Iranian Quds force and Syrian military targets.”

Footage circulated on social media showed nighttime explosions over the Damascus skyline.

The official Syrian news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying: “At 1:20 a.m. on Wednesday, Israeli warplanes… targeted the vicinity of the city of Damascus with a number of missiles. Our air defense confronted the heavy attack and intercepted the hostile missiles, and was able to destroy most of them before reaching their targets.”

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Syrian authorities regularly claims to destroy most missiles in such attacks, though the veracity of such assertions is questionable. The Israeli military acknowledged being targeted by Syrian air defenses during the assault and said it destroyed several anti-aircraft missile batteries in response.

The Israeli Air Force refrained from hitting Syria’s Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft batteries due to the presence of Russian troops in their vicinity. It was not clear whether S-300s had fired on the Israeli aircraft.

SANA added that the attack was carried out from “Lebanese and Palestinian territories.” Israel sometimes launches its strikes on Syria from planes flying over neighboring Lebanon.

The Quds force is a part of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations, and is a key actor in Syria — both against rebels and in Tehran’s efforts to entrench itself along Israel’s border and threaten the Jewish state from there.

Early Tuesday morning Israel’s anti-missile defense system intercepted four rockets fired from Syria toward the Golan Heights. All four were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. (YouTube screenshot)

Shortly afterwards blasts were heard near Damascus International Airport, the official SANA news agency reported. The agency gave no further details, but its statement came shortly after the Israeli army had announced that it had intercepted the rockets fired from Syria.

Some Syrian outlets speculated that the blasts were an Israeli airstrike, while others said it may have been the sound of the rockets being launched at Israel.

The rockets triggered sirens in the northern Golan Heights and Galilee region at 4:52 a.m., sending residents rushing to bomb shelters.

Last week Syrian state media reported that an Israeli strike hit the home of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist in Damascus, Akram al-Ajouri, killing his son and another person. Islamic Jihad accused Israel of being behind the strike in Damascus. The Israeli army refused to comment.

On the same day, an Israeli airstrike killed Islamic Jihad military commander Baha Abu Al-Ata, whom Israel blamed for recent rocket fire into its territory, in a strike on his home in Gaza City. Around 450 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the military operation against Abu Al-Ata, according to the Israeli army, as the military struck back at Islamic Jihad targets. A ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad was reached after 50 hours of clashes, but the deal remains precarious.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets over the last several years, but does not generally comment on specific attacks. Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah and Gaza terrorists.

Screen capture from video showing the delivery of Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Syria. (YouTube)

In August, in a rare announcement, the IDF said it had targeted sites in the town of Aqrabah, southeast of Damascus, near the city’s airport to foil what it said was an imminent armed drone attack on Israel by Iran-backed fighters.

In January Israel was said to have conducted a daylight missile attack on Iranian targets at the airport. Iran responded by firing a surface-to-surface missile at the northern Golan Heights, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system over the Mount Hermon ski resort, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Earlier Tuesday Foreign Minister Israel Katz had accused Iran of being behind the morning’s rockets.

But he also said the threat posed by Iran in Israel’s north was “less than what it used to be,” crediting “US sanctions and the aggressive Israeli activity.”

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Russia: Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria a ‘wrong move’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia: Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria a ‘wrong move’

Moscow, which is allied with Assad regime, says reprisal attack after rockets launched at Israel is in ‘stark contrast’ with international law; IDF said it coordinated with Kremlin

Russia's deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, speaks with journalists after meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut, Lebanon, December 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, speaks with journalists after meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut, Lebanon, December 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Russia on Wednesday condemned Israel for striking Iranian targets in Syria overnight, saying the operation was in contravention of international law.

In the predawn hours, the Israeli Air Force launched a large airstrike operation, targeting dozens of Iranian and Syrian military sites in Syria in response to a rocket attack on northern Israel the day before.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said that at least 11 people were killed, including seven “foreigners” who were likely Iranian, and that others were injured during the overnight strikes.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the strikes were a “wrong move” that is in “stark contrast” to international law, Interfax reported.

He added that Moscow had reached out to its allies regarding the incident, the report said.

Russia backs the government of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and has criticized previous Israeli attempts to prevent an Iranian entrenchment near Israel’s northern border.

Photo taken on October 18, 2017 shows an Israeli flag fluttering above the wreckage of an Israeli tank sitting on a hill in the Golan Heights and overlooking the border with Syria. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The IDF had said it coordinated its aerial campaign with Moscow through the deconfliction mechanism the two countries established in light of Russia’s significant military presence in Syria.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and that it will retaliate for any attack on the Jewish state from there.

Israel’s leaders issued fresh threats to Iran after the operation, with the defense minister saying even Tehran’s leaders were “not immune.”

“The rules have changed: Whoever fires at Israel during the day will not sleep at night. That was the case last week and it is the case this week,” said newly installed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, also referring to last week’s targeted killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror chief Baha Abu al-Ata in his home in Gaza, which sparked a two-day conflagration.

“Our message to the leaders of Iran is simple: You are not immune anymore. Wherever you send your octopus tentacles, we will hack them off,” Bennett added.

A senior defense official told reporters Israel believes it killed and injured a number of Iranians in the strike. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, reiterated the image of an octopus as a metaphor for Iran’s actions in Syria, as well as the implicit threat to attack Iranian leaders.

“Iran is an octopus with its head in Tehran that sends its tentacles to wrap around us. We have not yet threatened Tehran, but we are beginning to get close to the head of the octopus. We struck a building staffed by Iranians at the Damascus airport. We assess that there are Iranians killed and injured,” the official said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)

The official said that Israel destroyed six Syrian air defense batteries, as well as multiple buildings on Syrian military bases that are controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the strike: “I have made clear that anyone who attacks us, we will attack them. That is what we did tonight toward military targets of the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian military targets in Syria.”

The IDF said it was girding for several possible Iranian responses, from total calm to a full-scale attack.

“We are preparing for defense and attack, and we will respond to any attempt to retaliate,” IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters Wednesday morning.

“We are ready for three scenarios: no response, a minor response, and a more significant response,” he said.

Video footage from Syria appeared to show a Syrian air defense missile crashing to the ground in a heavily populated area shortly after launching, which could account for the casualties.

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Zilberman said the targets of its strikes were all located within 80 kilometers of Israel’s border and were focused around Damascus and the Syrian Golan Heights.

The Quds Force is a part of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations, and is a key actor in Syria — both against rebels and in Tehran’s efforts to entrench itself along Israel’s border and threaten the Jewish state from there.

AFP contributed to this report.

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23 killed as Israeli strikes in Syria, 16 of them likely Iranian

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

23 killed as Israeli strikes in Syria, 16 of them likely Iranian – war monitor

Identities of foreigners killed in attacks not immediately confirmed; Russia denounces Israeli strikes, calling them a ‘wrong move’

An Israeli M109 self-propelled howitzer is stationed near the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on November 19, 2019, after Israeli air defenses intercepted four rockets fired from neighboring Syria. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

An Israeli M109 self-propelled howitzer is stationed near the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on November 19, 2019, after Israeli air defenses intercepted four rockets fired from neighboring Syria. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

At least 23 “fighters” were killed in Israel’s predawn airstrikes in Syria Wednesday, 16 of them likely Iranians, according to a Syrian war monitor.

The Israel Defense Forces launched the strikes against Iranian and Syrian targets around the capital of Damascus and on the Syrian Golan Heights in response to a Tuesday morning rocket attack.

The military said it targeted dozens of sites connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, including a facility at the Damascus International Airport, which Israel says was used to coordinate the transport of military hardware from Iran to Syria and on to other countries in the region.

“We struck a building staffed by Iranians at the Damascus airport. We assess that there are Iranians killed and injured,” a Israeli senior defense official said Wednesday, on condition of anonymity.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a damaged building targeted by Israeli missile strikes is seen in Qudsaya suburb, western the capital Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (SANA via AP)

Israel also targeted a number of Quds Force facilities on Syrian military bases. When Syrian air defenses fired on Israeli jets, the IDF also targeted those batteries, the army said.

A large explosion is seen over the Damascus skyline in footage purportedly taken on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, November 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

Israel has repeatedly warned Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to not intervene during IDF strikes on Iranian targets in his country or else his military will also be targeted, as was the case Wednesday.

According to the Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 23 people were killed in the strike, and 16 of them were foreigners. Though presumed to be Iranian, that could not be immediately confirmed by SOHR.

Four civilians were wounded, the monitor said.

Video footage from Syria appeared to show a Syrian air defense missile crashing to the ground in a heavily populated area shortly after launching, which may account for some of the casualties.

Russia on Wednesday condemned Israel for the strikes. Moscow backs the Assad government and has criticized previous Israeli strikes in the country, especially those that target Syrian military bases in addition to Iranian facilities.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the strikes were a “wrong move” that is in “stark contrast” to international law, Interfax reported.

He added that Moscow had reached out to its allies regarding the incident, the report said.

On Wednesday morning, the IDF said it had coordinated its airstrikes with Russia.

Following its reprisal raids, the Israeli military said it was preparing for a potential Iranian retaliation.

“We are preparing for defense and attack, and we will respond to any attempt to retaliate,” IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters first thing Wednesday morning.

“We are ready for three scenarios: no response, a minor response, and a more significant response,” he said.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and that it will retaliate for any attack on the Jewish state from Syria.

Zilberman said the military targeted both “the host, Syria, and the guest, Iran.”

“Our message to the leaders of Iranian is simple: You are not immune anymore. Wherever you send your octopus arms — we will hack them off,” said newly installed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the strike: “I have made clear that any who attack us, we will attack them. That is what we did tonight toward military targets of the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian military targets.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. (YouTube screenshot)

The Quds Force, led by Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, is a part of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations, and is a key actor in Syria — both against rebels and in Tehran’s efforts to entrench itself along Israel’s border and threaten the Jewish state from there.

Early Tuesday morning Israel’s anti-missile defense system intercepted four rockets fired from Syria toward the Golan Heights.

The rockets triggered sirens in the northern Golan Heights and Galilee region at 4:52 a.m., sending residents rushing to bomb shelters.

Last week Syrian state media reported that an Israeli strike hit the home of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist in Damascus, Akram al-Ajouri, killing his son and another person. Islamic Jihad accused Israel of being behind the strike in Damascus. The Israeli army refused to comment.

On the same day, an Israeli airstrike killed Islamic Jihad military commander Baha Abu Al-Ata, whom Israel blamed for recent rocket fire into its territory, in a strike on his home in Gaza City. Around 450 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the military operation against Abu Al-Ata, according to the Israeli army, as the military struck back at Islamic Jihad targets. A ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad was reached after 50 hours of clashes.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets over the last several years, but does not generally comment on specific attacks. Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah and Gaza terrorists.

In August, in a rare announcement, the IDF said it had targeted sites in the town of Aqrabah, southeast of Damascus, near the city’s airport to foil what it said was an imminent armed drone attack on Israel by Iran-backed fighters.

In January Israel was said to have conducted a daylight missile attack on Iranian targets at the airport. Iran responded by firing a surface-to-surface missile at the northern Golan Heights, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system over the Mount Hermon ski resort, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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Key Syrian White Helmets Backer Found Dead in Istanbul

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Key Syrian White Helmets Backer Found Dead in Istanbul

Monday, 11 November, 2019 – 13:00
James Le Mesurier. (AFP file photo)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The founder of an organization that trained the Syrian “White Helmets” emergency response group has died in Istanbul.

Anadolu Agency said James Le Mesurier’s body was found early Monday near his home in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district by worshippers on their way to a mosque to pray.

An investigation has been launched into his death, Anadolu said, adding that police believe he may have fallen to his death.

A security source told Reuters it was believed that Le Mesurier had fallen from the balcony of his home office and his death was being treated as a suspected suicide. A third person, a diplomat, said the circumstances around his death were unclear.

Police had established that no one had entered or left his home at the time of his death, Anadolu reported.

The White Helmets, known officially as Syria Civil Defense, have been credited with saving thousands of people in opposition-held areas during years of bombing by Syrian regime and Russian forces in the country’s war.

Mayday Rescue, a not-for-profit organisation, began its operations in 2014 and established an office in Istanbul in 2015 to support its Syria project. Its projects have been funded by the United Nations and various governments, its website said.

Mayday Rescue did not immediately respond to an emailed Reuters query about Le Mesurier.

A former British army officer, Le Mesurier was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth in 2016 for services to Syria Civil Defense and the protection of civilians in Syria.

Turkish Army Vehicle Kills Protester in North Eastern Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkish Army Vehicle Kills Protester in North Eastern Syria

Friday, 8 November, 2019 – 12:15
Turkish army armoured vehicles arrive near the Turkish town of Idil at the Turkey-Syria border before Turkish and Russian troops conduct their third joint patrols in northeast Syria, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. AP
Asharq Al-Awsat
A Kurdish group and a Syria war monitor said on Friday that a protester has been killed after he was run over by Turkish military vehicle.

Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said the man was killed in northeastern Syria.

The man was run over in the village of Sarmasakh near the border by a Turkish vehicle during a joint patrol with Russia, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights .

The Observatory said the man died in the hospital in the town of Derik from internal bleeding and broken bones, the Associated Press reported.

The man was among residents who pelted with shoes and stones Turkish and Russian troops who were conducting their third joint patrol in northeastern Syria, under a cease-fire deal brokered by Moscow that forced Kurdish fighters to withdraw from areas bordering Turkey.

Saudi: Turkey to Send Captured ISIS Fighters to Home Countries

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkey to Send Captured ISIS Fighters to Home Countries

Saturday, 2 November, 2019 – 12:45
Turkish military vehicles arrive at the Turkish-Syrian border before a joint Turkish-Russian patrol in northeast Syria, near the Turkish border town of Kiziltepe, Turkey, November 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey announced Saturday that it would send captured ISIS members back to their home countries, complaining about European inaction on the matter.

“That is not acceptable to us. It’s also irresponsible,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said of Europe leaving Turkey to deal with the prisoners alone.

“We will send the captured ISIS members to their countries,” he told reporters.

Turkey has captured some escaped ISIS members in northeastern Syria over the last month after it launched a military incursion there.

Ankara launched its offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units following President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of 1,000 US troops from northern Syria in early October. The YPG helped the United States defeat ISIS in Syria.

Last week, Ankara and Moscow agreed to remove the Kurdish fighters to a depth of at least 30 km south of the border.

Under the deal, Turkish and Russian troops in armored vehicles held their first joint ground patrols in northeast Syria on Friday.

Saudi: 6 Civilians Killed in Russian Airstrike in Idlib

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

6 Civilians Killed in Russian Airstrike in Idlib

Saturday, 2 November, 2019 – 12:15
FILE PHOTO: Russian and Syrian national flags flutter on military vehicles near Manbij, Syria, October 15, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
A Russian air strike killed on Saturday six civilians including a child in the embattled opposition bastion of Idlib in northwestern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The strike hit the village of Jaballa in the south of the Idlib region, taking the lives of all six from the same family, it said.

The monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria, says it determines who carries out an air strike according to flight patterns, as well as aircraft and ammunition involved.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said it was the bloodiest such Russian air raid in two months since Moscow announced a truce for the surrounding area on August 31.

Since then, eight other civilians have been killed in Russian air strikes on different dates in the region, he said.

Bashar al-Assad’s forces launched a devastating military campaign against Idlib in April, killing around 1,000 civilians and forcing more than 400,000 people to flee their homes.

But a ceasefire announced by the regime’s major backer Moscow has largely held since late August, though the Observatory says skirmishes persist.

Syrian Kurds: ‘The world has closed its eyes on us’—“Trump Has No Honor”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Syrian Kurds: ‘The world has closed its eyes on us’

Displaced Syrian man and children in Hasakeh, north-east Syria (24/10/19)Image copyright AFP
Image caption Gains made by Kurds over the years have been rolled back in a matter of days

On our way to Qamishli, the largest Kurdish city in northern Syria, we see a US military convoy escorted by fighter jets heading east towards the Iraqi border. They are leaving the Kurdish region.

The first time I saw an American in Syria was in 2016. He was part of US special forces, sent to support the Kurds fighting the Islamic State (IS) group. Locals were excited to see them arriving.

But it was in stark contrast this time around. Now you could see the fear and anxiety in the faces of onlookers.

We were only a few kilometers from the Turkish border as one of the jets circled overhead, leaving a trail of white smoke as it passed in and out of Turkish airspace.

One of our guides sighed. “Trump bi namoose,” he said to me in Kurdish. “Trump has no honor.”

Media caption Trump on Syria: “Let someone else fight over this long, blood-stained sand.”

The Kurds have every reason to be worried. On one side they face neighboring Turkey, on the other, Syrian government forces.

Now the US is leaving, Kurds here are convinced they have no friends other than the mountains they inhabit.

‘Trump sold us’

From the moment we arrived in Qamishli, ordinary Kurds from baker to waiter asked, “why did Trump sell us out?” This is a traditional society that prides itself on a code of honour and does not understand why it has effectively been cut loose.

“America stabbed us in the back… Trump sold us… we were betrayed,” we heard, again and again.

Kurdish woman at funeral of SDF fighters in Ras al-Ain (24/10/19)Image copyright AFP
Image caption Syrian Kurds have died in Turkey’s offensive, for which many say the US gave a green light

Qamishli ‘s squares and electricity poles are decorated with the pictures of the fallen – men and women killed in the war against IS.

Every day there are funerals somewhere in this tiny region. It has been this way since IS attacked the Kurds in 2014. But now the victims are those who have been killed since Turkish and allied forces launched their cross-border attack earlier this month.

At the funerals, many mourners hide their tears. Instead they lead the caskets to graveyards with dances and chants.

At one such ceremony, for a fallen fighter of the Kurdish YPG, a tall man in his 60’s approaches me and calmly says: “Erdogan doesn’t like the Kurds. He wants us to leave,” referring to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regards the YPG as terrorists.

The Kurds lost 11,000 men and women battling against IS. “The fight wasn’t ours only, we fought on behalf of humanity,” the man says. “Where is the international community? Why don’t they stop Erdogan?”

‘What’s the point?’

In a bakery sits a pile of bread, baked for fighters on the front line. Bahouz, a 16-year-old boy who is cutting dough, asks me my opinion of Americans and Europeans.

“Do you think they will stop Erdogan from massacring us?” An older boy shouts: “Trump sold us – oil is more important than our lives.”

Map showing Turkey and Russia's deal on north-east Syria (23 October 2019)
Presentational white space

The young boys are clearly frightened. They know if the pro-Turkish Islamist militias arrive here, they would be prime targets. Already videos have emerged apparently showing Turkish-backed militias shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and shooting handcuffed young men just like them.

At a hospital treating wounded YPG fighters, a doctor, Rojda, runs from one operating theatre to another. Rojda, a petite woman in her 30s, is also the director of the facility.

“What’s the point of filming?” she asks wearily. “Don’t waste your time. The world has closed its eyes on us.”

Media caption“We were by the gate when a shell hit”

One of the patients I meet there is 23-year-old Jiyan. She sits on her bed, staring into the distance. There are dark circles around her eyes. Her head has been surgically pinned, her skull fractured; a hand and both legs are injured.

She laughs derisively. “I survived fighting IS in Kobane, Manbij, and Raqqa, but it was the Turks who almost killed me!”

Jiyan was in Ras al-Ain when Turkey attacked the border town. Her unit came under extensive Turkish artillery and bombardment.

“We put up a good fight against Turkish-backed thugs, but we couldn’t match Turkish firepower,” she tells me, adding: “I lost many friends.”

‘They are coming for us’

On our way out of Syria, I meet Kino Gabriel, spokesperson for the SDF, the Kurdish-led alliance of militias.

Media captionCivilians pelt US vehicles with potatoes

A tall man with a big smile, he is the founder of the Christian Syriac Military Council, part of the SDF. He avoids criticising President Trump, hoping, it seems, that the US will change course and come back to the SDF’s aid.

“Those jihadists backed by Turkey are not only coming for our land, they see us as infidels. They are coming for us,” he says.

US soldier with YPJ insignia on his sleeve in Tal Tamr, northern Syria (20/10/19)Image copyrightAFP
Image captionA US soldier pictured with the insignia of the Kurdish YPJ militia on his sleeve

As US troops withdrew from Qamishli last week on Donald Trump’s orders, one picture in particular – of a US soldier in his armoured vehicle wearing YPJ (the Kurdish women’s fighting force) insignia on his sleeve – resonated with the Kurdish allies they were leaving in haste.

“The American soldiers are just like us – shocked and disappointed with this political decision,” Kino Gabriel says. “But it is not their fault. We honour their sacrifices too.”

U.S. Troops May Remain In Northeast Syria To Protect Oil Fields

(This article is courtesy of NPR news)
(THIS IS LOGICAL FOR OUR PRESIDENT, PUT AMERICAN TROOPS LIVES IN DANGER FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF PROTECTING OUR ENEMIES INCOME AND FUEL FOR THEIR WAR MACHINES TO USE AGAINST SYRIAN CIVILIANS.)(oped: oldpoet56)

Some U.S. Troops May Remain In Northeast Syria To Protect Oil Fields

U.S. military vehicles drive on a road in the town of Tal Tamr on Sunday after pulling out of a base in northern Syria. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says some troops may remain in northeast Syria to secure oil fields.

Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. may now keep some troops in northeast Syria, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday. It is the latest in a series of consequential pivots the Trump administration has made in its Syria policy.

Esper said the troops are needed to secure oil fields from falling into the hands of ISIS and profiting from them, The Associated Press reports. But most recently it was Russian mercenaries, not ISIS fighters, who tried to seize the oil fields and who were repulsed by U.S. airstrikes, NPR’s Tom Bowman reports.

Despite President Trump’s earlier announcements that ISIS is defeated and that he is bringing the troops home rather than being entangled in “endless wars,” the U.S. forces are not heading immediately for home. Instead, they’re being moved to western Iraq to continue to fight ISIS there, Esper said during his overseas trip to Afghanistan and other countries.

Shortly after Esper spoke, President Trump acknowledged during a Cabinet meeting that the troops would be deployed to different areas first — but he added they would then return to the U.S.

“Well, they’re going to be sent initially to different parts, a different method,” Trump said. “Ultimately, we’re bringing them home.”

According to a White House pool report, Trump said of America’s allies in Syria, “We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.”

U.S. forces could be seen withdrawing on Monday. They left a base in Turkey and rolled into the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil, NPR’s Jane Arraf reports. Thousands of refugees are also flooding across the border into Iraq, doubtful that the ceasefire the U.S. brokered with Turkey last week will hold, and unsure of what will happen next.

As U.S. forces left the northeastern city Syrian of Qamishli, residents of the majority Kurdish city pelted American military vehicles with potatoes, the AP reported. “Like rats, America is running away,” a man was quoted shouting in Arabic.

There has been widespread criticism of President Trump’s decision two weeks ago to pull troops from northeast Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to assault the Kurds, key allies with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, says 120 civilians have been killed since Turkey began the operation it calls “Peace Spring” on Oct. 9. The group says 300,000 people have been displaced by the violence.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said on Monday that Turkish-aligned forces had violated the terms of the ceasefire. The SDF said violent clashes had broken out, with casualties among both the SDF and the Turkish-backed forces.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in Jordan on Sunday, leading a delegation meeting with leaders including Jordan’s King Abdullah II to discuss the crisis in Syria.

With the U.S. pulling out its troops, Kurdish commander Mazlum Kobani is predicting his people will be slaughtered.

“There will be ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people from Syria, and the American administration will be responsible for it,” he told The New York Times. He said the U.S. should work “to limit the damage of this past decision and preserve the areas we liberated together.”

Trump is hanging Israel and Netanyahu out to dry

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump is hanging Israel and Netanyahu out to dry

David A. Andelman, executive director of The RedLines Project, is a contributor to CNN, where his columns won the Deadline Club Award for Best Opinion Writing. Author of “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today,” he was formerly a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and CBS News. Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)With a single stroke, President Donald Trump has effectively brought a newly resurgent and potent triad—Syria, Russia and Iran—to the very doorstep of their declared enemy, Israel, and given aid and comfort to Israel’s longtime and persistent foe, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

David Andelman

The ceasefire and agreement with Turkey that Trump vaunted Thursday as “a great day for civilization,” had already been demonstrated to be a potentially epic challenge to one corner of the world—Israel. It was a reality only highlighted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo breaking off from Vice President Pence’s group in Ankara and taking a plane directly to Jerusalem to reassure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday morning.
Suddenly, with not even a token American force remaining to monitor or check military activities of Russia, Iran or the Syrian army main force of President Bashar al-Assad, the entire map of the Middle East was being redrawn, and Israel left with few viable defenders. When the United States had even a minimal military presence in Syria, it was able to act as some restraint on aid that Iran was seeking to channel to this terrorist forcewhich continues to operate out of Lebanon, targeting Israel at every opportunity.
In late August, anti-tank rocket attacks launched from Lebanon into northern Israel by Hezbollah led to the Israeli army responding with attacks on targets in southern Lebanon. Such effective shadow-boxing had been held in check by the apparent ability of Israel to interdict Iranian efforts to supply Hezbollah with arms and munitions through Syria. Now, with Syria reclaiming a large swath of the northeastern stretch of its country that had been held by the Kurds and their American allies, and with Russian forces moving as a backstop into the vacuum left by the US departure, Israeli efforts could become exponentially more complicated.
At the same time, there is ever more leeway now for Syria, Russia and Iran to work their malevolence on a Lebanese government that is striving desperately to carve a middle road in the region. Hezbollah and Iran share a common religion—Shiite Islam—which has only opened up a host of problems for Hezbollah’s principal host, Lebanon, as it tries to remain reasonably neutral in the Middle East and avoid a return to the decades of bloodshed during its civil wars of the 1980s. Hezbollah would like nothing better than a destabilized Lebanon bordering Israel’s northern frontier.
“Americans can’t be trusted at all since they break promise with anyone who depends on them,” said Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, in a speech to his followers in Beirut on Wednesday, adding that the Kurds’ “fate awaits anyone who trusts Washington.”
Trump’s new bond with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan—”a tough guy who deserves respect” and “my friend” as Trump described him after Wednesday’s truce talks in Ankara, is also likely to have done little to reassure Israel.
Turkey, which has moved into northern Syria with some impunity has demonstrated that it is no friend of Israel. Erdogan, accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, has called it “a terrorist state.” Until now, it has been possible for Israel largely to ignore Turkey’s impact on the Middle East, and its efforts of rapprochement with both Russia and Iran. But that may no longer be possible. On Tuesday, Erdogan is planning to travel to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The American withdrawal and Wednesday’s ceasefire can have few positive results for Israel, where Trump’s actions “have stirred discomfort within Netanyahu’s conservative cabinet,” according to Israeli media reports. Amos Harel, military correspondent for the liberal Haaretz daily, said Trump’s moves have “forced Israel to rethink its Middle East strategy.” After his session with Pompeo, Netanyahu was only somewhat more circumspect. “We hope things will turn out for the best,” he told reporters. Indeed, Netanyahu is facing a Wednesday deadline to cobble together a new coalition government after the recent national elections and has still not managed to do so.
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In short, any number of nations in the region are beginning a frantic reassessment of just what this new map of the Middle East promises—beyond the immediate prospects of a new round of chaos and destruction, with the United States on the sidelines. Somehow Washington must find a way to channel to players like Israel and Lebanon military aid and diplomatic reassurance that can help neutralize an increasingly dangerous situation.