Trump Hails ‘Great Day’ For Turkey, Kurds

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he departs the White House in Washington, DC on June 26, 2019.  Anna-Rose GASSOT / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump on Thursday hailed the announcement that Turkey had agreed to suspend its offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, calling it a “great day” for the Turks and the Kurds.

“We have a five-day ceasefire,” Trump told reporters, after Vice President Mike Pence said that Ankara had agreed to suspend its military operation, and end it entirely once Kurdish fighters withdraw from a safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border.

“It’s a great day for the United States,” the president said in Fort Worth, Texas, where he is to hold a reelection rally.

“It’s a great day for Turkey,” Trump said. “It’s a great day for the Kurds. It’s a great day for civilization.”

“This is a situation where everybody’s happy,” Trump declared.

Trump has come under bipartisan fire in Washington for abruptly pulling US troops in Syria near the Turkish border, paving the way for Ankara’s operation against the Kurds, who have been US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Trump heaped praise on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“He’s a hell of a leader,” Trump said. “He did the right thing.

“I have great respect for the president.”

Asked whether a November visit to Washington by Erdogan was still on the table, Trump said “that would be very much open.

“I would say, yeah, he would come. He did a terrific thing.”

The president it would no longer be necessary to impose US sanctions on Turkey.

“Sanctions won’t be necessary because Turkey’s doing what they’re doing,” he said.

Asked whether he believed a ceasefire would last, Trump said “I think it’s going to last.”

“I think President Erdogan’s very smart,” he said. “He wants it to last.”

“Turkey is a friend of ours, a neighbor of ours and a member of NATO,” he said. “And what Turkey is getting now is, they’re not going to have to kill millions of people, and millions of people aren’t going to have to kill them.”

The agreement struck by Pence left some lawmakers in Washington, including in Trump’s Republican Party, unimpressed.

“Other than giving Kurds a chance to leave so they don’t get slaughtered, it doesn’t sound like a change of any of the other dynamics I’m concerned about,” Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters.

Senator Lindsey Graham, who hours earlier unveiled legislation that would impose sharp sanctions on Turkey, said that while he was encouraged with the recent developments between Pence and Erdogan, “we’re going to keep working” to get the sanctions bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

Turkey and Syrian rebel proxies began an offensive in northern Syria last week against Kurdish fighters who Ankara brands terrorists, despite international concern over regional stability and civilian deaths.

Ankara considers Syrian Kurdish YPG militants to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — a group that has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for 35 years.

AFP

France Says Turkey’s Syria Action ‘Currently’ No Threat To Jihadist Jails

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a session of questions to the government at the National Assembly (Assemblee Nationale) in Paris on October 15, 2019. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

 

 
France said Wednesday that the security of Kurdish-run prisons holding suspected jihadists in northern Syria was “currently” not threatened by a Turkish military operation in the region.

“To my knowledge, the Turkish offensive and the positioning of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) have so far not led to the safety and security of these camps… currently being threatened,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French broadcaster BFMTV and RMC radio.

Meanwhile, Le Drian said he would discuss a judicial framework for putting jihadists on trial during an upcoming visit to Iraq, as calls grow for an international court to judge the extremists.

“We need to work things out with the Iraqi authorities so that we can find the ways to have a judicial mechanism that is able to judge all these fighters, including obviously the French fighters,” he told newsmen, without specifying when he would go to Baghdad.

Turkey May Be ‘Responsible’ For Executions Of Kurds In Syria – UN

Turkish soldiers and Turkey-backed Syrian fighters gather on the northern outskirts of the Syrian city of Manbij near the Turkish border on October 14, 2019, as Turkey and its allies continue their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria. PHOTO: ZEIN AL RIFAI / AFP

 

The UN warned on Tuesday that reported summary executions of civilians in northeastern Syria carried out by pro-Turkish fighters could amount to a “war crime” and that Ankara could be “deemed responsible”.

The Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces said over the weekend that at least nine civilians were “executed” as part of Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria, which began nearly a week ago.

Among them was 35-year-old Hevrin Khalaf, the secretary-general of the Future Syria Party, who according to the forces was taken out of her car and killed by Turkish-allied Syrian fighters.

The UN rights office said its staff had viewed two separate pieces of video footage “showing what appear to be summary executions carried out by fighters belonging to the Ahrar al-Sharqiya armed group, which is affiliated with Turkey, on 12 October.”

Spokesman Rupert Colville said the footage, which has been widely shared on social media, appeared “to show the fighters filming themselves capturing and executing three Kurdish captives” on a main highway.

“Only one of the captives appeared to be wearing military uniform,” he told reporters in Geneva, adding that the office had also received reports of Khalaf’s execution the same day “on the same highway”.

He said the UN was working to verify the footage and confirm the details of the events, but stressed that under international law, “summary executions are serious violations, and may amount to a war crime.”

He warned that “Turkey could be deemed responsible as a state for violations committed by their affiliated armed groups, as long as Turkey exercises effective control over these groups, or the operations in the course of which those violations occurred.”

Colville called on Ankara “to immediately launch an impartial, transparent and independent investigation into both incidents.”

Turkey, he said, must also “apprehend those responsible, some of whom should be easily identifiable from the video footage they themselves shared on social media.”

Since the Turkish offensive began last Wednesday, Colville said that the UN rights office had been able to verify a number of civilian deaths each day in northeastern Syria due to “airstrikes, ground-based strikes and sniper fire.”

He pointed in particular to an airstrike that hit a convoy of vehicles on Sunday, which reportedly killed “at least four civilians, including two journalists” and injured dozens of others.

He said the UN was “appalled” by a number of attacks on medical facilities in the region.

As of Monday, he said the UN had received reports of five facilities hit — all of them allegedly by airstrikes or ground-based strikes carried out by Turkish forces and their allies.

Kurds Seal Deal With Damascus As Turkey Pushes Deep Into Syria

Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels gather outside the border town of Ras al-Ain on October 12, 2019, during their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria. Nazeer Al-khatib / AFP

 

 

Syria’s Kurds have announced a groundbreaking deal with Damascus on a Syrian troop deployment near the border with Turkey, as Ankara presses a deadly cross-border offensive that has sparked an international outcry.

The announcement on Sunday came as the United States ordered the withdrawal of almost its entire ground force in Syria.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the move to withdraw 1,000 US troops came after Washington learned that Turkey was pressing further into Syria than expected.

Turkey’s relentless assault, which has seen airstrikes, shelling and a ground incursion manned mainly by Syrian proxy fighters, has killed scores of civilians and fighters since its launch on Wednesday.

The Kurds feel they have been betrayed by the United States, their once formidable ally in the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group, and left to fend for themselves in the battle against Turkish forces.

The massively outgunned Kurds described their deal with the Syrian government as a necessary step to stop the assault.

“In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government… so that the Syrian army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” the Kurdish administration said in a statement.

It came after Syria’s state news agency SANA said the army was sending troops to the north to “confront the Turkish aggression”.

In an editorial published in Foreign Policy magazine, SDF chief Mazlum Abdi wrote: “If we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people.”

Kurdish authorities and foreign powers have warned of a major humanitarian crisis, which has already forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.

They have also warned repeatedly that the hostilities could undermine the fight against IS and allow jihadists to break out of captivity.

– More civilian casualties –

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the aim of Operation Peace Spring was to establish a “security zone” that would extend 30 to 35 kilometres (20 to 25 miles) into Syria and run between Kobane to Hasakeh, a stretch of 440 kilometres.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said at least 26 civilians were killed on Sunday.

Among them was Kurdish news agency ANHA’s correspondent, Saad Ahmad. He died in a Turkish airstrike on a convoy of vehicles transporting civilians and journalists.

At least 60 civilians have now died on the Syrian side of the border, with Turkish reports putting the number of civilians dead from Kurdish shelling inside Turkey at 18.

Aid groups have warned of another humanitarian disaster in Syria’s eight-year-old war if the offensive is not halted.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said the exodus sparked by the fighting had grown to 130,000 people and it was preparing for that figure to more than triple.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron said the Turkish offensive — over which France has suspended arms exports to Ankara — risked creating an “unbearable humanitarian situation”.

Macron told reporters that he and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had spoken separately with Trump and Erdogan to deliver a single, clear message: “Our common wish is that the offensive must cease”.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, one of Ankara’s main arms suppliers, said he would press for an EU ban on arms sales to Turkey.

– Camp ‘without guards’ –

On the ground, the Kurdish administration in northern Syria said that the Turkish bombardment near a camp for the displaced led to nearly 800 relatives of IS members fleeing.

Some 12,000 IS fighters — Syrians, Iraqis as well as foreigners from 54 countries — are detained in Kurdish prisons, according to official Kurdish statistics.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that “the U.S. has the worst of the ISIS prisoners,” using an acronym for IS, but added: “Turkey and the Kurds must not let them escape.”

Displacement camps host some 12,000 foreigners — 8,000 children and 4,000 women.

“The brutal military assault led by Turkey and its mercenaries is now taking place near a camp in Ain Issa, where there are thousands (of people) from families of IS,” a Kurdish administration statement said.

“Some were able to escape after bombardments that targeted” the camp, it said, adding that guards were attacked and the gates of the camp flung open.

Ain Issa camp is “now without guards” and 785 relatives of IS jihadists have fled, it said.

According to the Observatory, at least 104 SDF fighters have been killed since the start of the Turkish offensive.

Turkish forces and their proxies captured Tal Abyad on Friday afternoon, which left Ras al-Ain, further east, as the last major target in the offensive.

AFP

Macron, Merkel Call For End To Turkish Offensive In Syria

 

The leaders of France and Germany called Sunday for an end to Turkey’s offensive against Kurds in northern Syria, warning of dire humanitarian consequences and a boost for the Islamic State group.

Emmanuel Macron hosted Angela Merkel in Paris for a working dinner amid turmoil stirred up by Ankara’s attack and Britain’s pending exit from the European Union, both issues on the leaders’ agenda.

Macron told reporters the pair had spoken separately Sunday with US President Donald Trump and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan to deliver a single, clear message: “Our common wish is that the offensive must cease.”

“Our conviction… is that this offensive risks, and we see it already on the ground, to create unbearable humanitarian situations on one hand and on the other help IS re-emerge in the region,” he said at a joint press conference with the chancellor.

Merkel said she had spoken to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan for an hour and told him: “We must put an end to this Turkish invasion.

“There are humanitarian reasons for this,” she said, adding: “We can no longer accept this situation against the Kurds. Another solution must absolutely be found.”

Fighting has engulfed northern Syria since Wednesday when Ankara launched a long-threatened offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which it considers “terrorists” linked to insurgents in Turkey.

Trump has been accused of abandoning a loyal ally in the fight against IS after ordering American troops to pull back from the border region.

At least 60 civilians have been killed in raids by Turkey and its proxies — Syrian ex-rebels, according to observers.

The UN says the violence has forced 130,000 people to flee their homes.

Arms Sales Stopped

France and Germany on Saturday suspended weapons exports to Turkey, amid international condemnation that had already seen Finland, Norway and The Netherlands stopping arms sales to Ankara.

A meeting in Luxembourg Monday of the European Union’s foreign affairs committee will discuss a coordinated European approach to the issue.

Macron has also called a French defence council meeting, involving Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and the ministers of justice, foreign affairs, defence and the interior, for Sunday night.

The French president called for a stronger, more unified Europe in what he described as “difficult and sometimes worrying” times for the continent and the world.

One reason for this is Brexit — Britain’s exit from the European Union by a 31 October deadline with so far no “divorce deal” in place.

“We are about to lose a member and we will see how the discussions, which have advanced this weekend, will be finalised,” said Macron.

“In this context, it is very clear to me that we can allow ourselves neither division nor self-deception nor weakness.”

Rebuff

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday played down hopes of a breakthrough in his last-ditch bid to strike an exit deal with Europe.

On Monday, Macron will host European Council President Donald Tusk for a working lunch at the Elysee presidential residence, before heading to Toulouse in the south of France to lead a French-German ministers meeting with Merkel on issues of defence, security, and climate change.

On Wednesday evening, they will meet the EU’s incoming president Ursula von der Leyen, followed on Thursday and Friday by an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels.

One issue likely to come up is the rejection by European MEPs of Sylvie Goulard, Macron’s chosen candidate for the European Commission portfolio of industrial policy, defence spending, high-tech and space — a rebuff considered a major political blow to the French president.

“I believe very deeply that in this moment in particular, Europe cannot allow itself the luxury of vengeance, of small disputes, or to add internal crises to the tensions of the world already affecting us,” he said Sunday.

“Our strength is in our unity.”

IS Car Bomb Kills Kurdish Police Officer In Northeast Syria

 

 

A police officer was killed Sunday in a car bomb attack claimed by the Islamic State group (IS) in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeast Syria, police said.

Kurdish police spokesman Ali al-Hassan said the car bomb was detonated by “remote control” near a school, “killing a member of our (police) forces”.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said the car exploded as a Kurdish police patrol drove by, not far from a Syrian army position.

Firefighters rushed to the scene to put out a blaze that spread from the vehicle to nearby trees, the correspondent said, adding that debris and traces of blood littered the ground.

Syrian state news agency SANA said the car bombing caused casualties but did not give further details.

READ ALSO: Four Dead In Romania Psychiatric Hospital Attack

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported that a member of the Kurdish Asayesh security forces was killed in the bombing.

The attack was claimed by IS via the jihadist group’s Telegram account and is the latest to hit Kurdish-held areas of northeast Syria.

In July a car bombing near a church in Qamishli wounded several people.

Another one in June near Kurdish security offices in the city injured seven people, including a child.

Syria’s Kurds have led the US-backed fight in the war-torn country against IS, which continues to claim attacks despite losing its last patch of territory earlier this year.

The jihadists have vowed to avenge their defeat at the hands of Kurdish-led forces and maintain a presence in Syria’s vast Badia desert as well as in the east and northeast of the country.

Kurdish forces control most of Qamishli while Syrian government troops are deployed in the city’s Arab quarters and around the airport.

Car Bomb At Rebel Checkpoint In Syria’s Afrin Kills 13

 

A car bomb near a checkpoint manned by Turkey-backed rebels in the northern Syrian city of Afrin killed 13 people including eight civilians Thursday, a war monitor said.

Turkish troops and their Syrian proxies took control of Afrin from Kurdish forces in March last year after a two-month air and ground offensive.

“The car bomb exploded near the checkpoint at the entrance to the town where vehicles were gathering to be checked,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Those killed also included four fighters and an unknown person, the Observatory said.

“Among the victims, at least six are originally from Eastern Ghouta”, a former rebel stronghold outside Damascus retaken by the regime last year, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

READ ALSO: Clashes Kill 71 Fighters In Northwest Syria

There was no immediate claim for the blast, which is the latest deadly explosion to rock the city.

In January, a bomb placed on a bus killed three people.

In December, a car bomb took the lives of nine people.

Since Turkish troops and pro-Ankara Arab rebels captured the town from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the United Nations and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have documented widespread abuses.

The UN and Amnesty have also reported patterns of house appropriations by fighters and civilians bussed to Afrin during the surrender last year of Eastern Ghouta.

Half of the enclave’s 320,000 residents fled, according to a report by the UN Commission of Inquiry, and most are unable to return.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Turkey accuses the YPG of being “terrorists”, but the Kurdish militia also forms the backbone of a US-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State group in Syria.

AFP

Turkey Hits Back At Trump Threats Over Kurds

Turkey’s Erdogan                                                                              Trump

 

Turkey on Monday vowed to keep up the fight against a US-backed Kurdish militia it views as terrorists after Donald Trump warned of economic devastation if Ankara attacks Kurdish forces as American troops withdraw.

Trump’s threat came after Ankara repeatedly threatened a new cross-border operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have working closely with the United States in the war on Islamic State extremists.

US support to the YPG has been a major source of tension between the NATO allies.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said there was “no difference” between IS and the YPG.

“We will continue to fight against them all,” he said.

Trump on Sunday warned the US would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds”.

“Mr @realDonaldTrump Terrorists can’t be your partners & allies. Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and doesn’t want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda,” Kalin said in a tweet to the US president.

Kalin said on Twitter that it was “a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK”, saying that Turkey fought against terrorists not Syrian Kurds.

While there have been tensions over American training of the YPG under the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, there appeared to be some improvement on the issue after Trump said last month 2,000 American troops would withdraw from Syria.

Ankara welcomed the pullout decision after Erdogan told Trump in a phone call that Turkey could finish off the last remnants of IS.

 Renewed tensions 

Turkey views the YPG as a “terrorist offshoot” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

Fahrettin Altun, the communications director at the Turkish presidency, said Monday that Turkey’s fight against terrorism would continue “with determination”, adding that Turkey was “not an enemy of the Kurds”.

“Whether the source of terrorism is ideological, religious or ethnic, it does not matter. Terror is terror,” he said on Twitter.

There has been growing friction between Turkey and the US over the fate of the YPG, especially after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this month said Washington would ensure Turkey would not “slaughter” Kurds.

And before a visit to Ankara last week, White House National Security adviser John Bolton said the US retreat was conditional on the safety of the Kurdish fighters, provoking angry retorts from Turkish officials.

But Pompeo on Saturday said he was “optimistic” a way could be found to protect Syrian Kurds while allowing Turks to “defend their country from terrorists”.

The threat of new sanctions hit the Turkish lira which weakened early Monday to reach over 5.5 to the US dollar, a loss of over 1.1 percent in value on the day.

Washington previously hit Ankara with sanctions last August over the detention of an American pastor in Turkey.

The lira plunged to seven dollars at the height of tensions.

But to Turkey’s relief, the US sanctions were later lifted after Pastor Andrew Brunson was released by a Turkish court in October.

 ‘Radical solution’ in Idlib 

Turkey previously launched military offensives in northern Syria in 2016 and 2018 respectively against IS and the YPG. In early 2018, Syrian rebels backed by Turkish military forces captured the YPG’s northwestern enclave of Afrin.

Ankara, which supports Syrian opposition fighters, is also involved in the last rebel bastion of Idlib, where Turkey has agreed on a buffer zone deal with Damascus ally Russia.

But the deal has not stopped an assault by jihadists in Syria. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by jihadists from Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, last week extended its administrative control over the whole of the Idlib region.

Syria’s National Coalition, the leading opposition body, on Sunday called for a “radical solution” to put “an end to its (HTS) presence in Idlib”.

AFP

Pressure Brews As Turkey, Israel Engage In War-Of-Words

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday lambasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an “oppressor” after he accused Turkey of “massacres” against Kurds in a new war of words.

Netanyahu hit back in a speech later Sunday, calling Erdogan an “anti-Semitic dictator” who is “obsessed with Israel.”

Relations between Turkey and Israel have been tense this year over multiple issues including a controversial law passed by the Israeli parliament in July which defined the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

“You are an oppressor, cruel and at the head of state terror,” Erdogan said of Netanyahu.

In a televised speech in Istanbul, the president also accused Israel of “occupying Palestine” as well as committing “sins, crimes against humanity, massacres”.

The latest diplomatic row began after Erdogan warned young Turks on Saturday: “Do not kick the enemy you have brought down to the ground. You are not a Jew in Israel.”

READ ALSO: Israeli Leaders Lauds Donald Trump’s Latest Stand On Syria

Netanyahu told Erdogan in a tweet late on Saturday that he “should not preach to Israel” as “the occupier of northern Cyprus, whose army massacres women and children in Kurdish villages, inside and outside Turkey”.

Before Erdogan’s comments on Sunday, his chief advisor Ibrahim Kalin hit out in a tweet at Netanyahu who he accused of using Erdogan “bashing… as a political chip” in a bid to save himself “from his domestic troubles”.

On December 14, Erdogan also said Palestinians were subjected to “pressures, violence and intimidation policies no less grave than the oppression done to the Jews during the Second World War”, referring to the Holocaust.

Turkey-Israel ties have been strained since Ankara ordered the Israeli ambassador to leave Turkey in May over the killing of protesters along the border with the Gaza Strip.

Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinians, has bitterly criticised Israel previously, calling it in July “the world’s most fascist and racist state”.

However, despite the heated rhetoric, experts point to strong economic ties and robust trade between the two countries.

Syrian Kurds Mourn Female Fighter Shown Mutilated In Video

Syrian Kurds Mourn Female Fighter Shown Mutilated In Video
A picture taken on February 3, 2018, in the town of Afrin shows the mother (C), brother (2nd-L) and sister (L) of the late 23-year-old YPJ fighter Barin Kobani, attending a mourning ceremony in her honor, after the YPJ and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accused Turkish-backed Syrian rebels of filming her mutilated dead body. Delil souleiman / AFP

 

Thousands of Kurds gathered in Syria’s Afrin Saturday to mourn fighters and civilians killed in a blistering Turkish assault on the region — including female combattant Barin Kobani. 

But there was no casket for the young woman fighter.

Her mutilated body appeared in a shocking video published earlier this week, prompting accusations by her family and Kurdish officials that she was “defiled” by Turkish-backed rebels.

Family members have yet to retrieve her corpse from those rebels and could not bury her alongside 17 other fighters and civilians during the mass funeral on Saturday.

“They all have their burials, except my daughter Barin,” said her shell-shocked mother, surrounded by wailing mourners carrying posters of the woman in her early 20s.

“They tore up her body. She doesn’t get a funeral. Oh, my daughter.”

Footage published this week by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed the lifeless body of a woman lying on the ground, surrounded by a dozen men, some armed.

The woman’s sweater is pulled above her head and trousers dragged low, revealing a large blackened abrasion from her chest down to her bellybutton.

One man is seen stepping on her left breast.

The lifeless body was identified by Kurdish officials and locals who knew Kobani.

The Britain-based Observatory said it received the video from a Syrian rebel fighting as part of Turkey’s two-week assault against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which control Afrin.

– ‘Defiled’ –

Kobani, whose real name is Amina Omar, took up arms in 2014 to battle the Islamic State group as it swept through parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

She joined the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the all-female arm of the YPG, and fought IS in the border town of Kobane in 2015 and in the jihadists’ self-styled capital Raqa last year.

The YPJ on Friday announced the death of four of its fighters — including Kobani — and accused Turkey-backed factions of “mutilating them.”

YPJ spokeswoman Nesrin Abdullah told AFP that Kobani and the other three female fighters were caught up in clashes with the pro-Ankara rebels, refused to withdraw, and “fought until death.”

“I swear to God, we’ll avenge you,” cried out Kobani’s brother, thirty-year-old Aref Mustafa Omar, at Saturday’s funeral.

Sweat poured down his face and mixed with his tears as he sobbed next to his other sister, brother, and their elderly, stoic mother.

He told AFP that his sister had detonated explosives she was carrying because she did not want to be taken hostage.

“They defiled her dead body brutally, unnaturally. They put her on their media to show their masculinity,” said Omar.

“She was a saint,” he said before his face turned a yellowish colour and he collapsed.

Men and women of all ages paid their respects to the Kobani family at the funeral, telling her mother that Barin had become a symbol.

“She’s not just your daughter, she’s our daughter too,” one mourner said.

– Investigation begins –

Turkey, which has blacklisted the YPG as a “terrorist” group, launched its offensive on Afrin on January 20.

It has bombed and battled Kurdish fighters in northern Syria multiple times in recent years, as have rebel factions allied with Ankara.

Turkey has provided political and military support to Syria’s fractious opposition since the uprising began in 2011.

The video of Kobani’s body sparked outrage in the Kurdish community and on social media, prompting calls for an investigation.

Syria’s exiled opposition government, which is based in Turkey and oversees an array of rebel factions, said it had begun investigating the incident.

“We have formed a committee to… determine the accuracy of allegations of mutilation of the fighter’s body by the national army,” it said in a statement.

And the Istanbul-based National Coalition opposition grouping condemned the actions in the video as “criminal acts.”

AFP

Turkey Launches Attacks On IS, Kurds in Syria

Turkey, Attacks On IS, Kurds, Syria Turkey has begun attacking Islamic state (IS) targets, in Northern Syria amid reports that Syrian rebels are also set to launch an offensive against the group.

Artillery positioned inside Turkey, fired on ISIS as well as Kurdish militia targets in the towns of Jarablus and Manbij.

The attack follows from the blast which occurred on Saturday at a Kurdish wedding in the Northern area of Gaziantep, killing at least 50 people and leaving many injured.

Some 1,500 Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, are thought to be in the Turkish town of Gaziantep waiting to attack.

Analysts say the imminent offensive may have spurred the suicide bombing believed to have been carried out by Isis.

However, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says, the identity of the bomber, initially thought to be a child, has not yet been established.

Kurds accuse Turkey of using the US-led coalition against IS as a cover to attack the PKK in both Turkey and Iraq, and now against the YPG in northern Syria.

The Kurds also say Turkey’s bombardment of their positions is helping IS to attack Kurdish-held frontline areas in Syria and Iraq.

 

Syria Hospital Attacks Constitute War Crimes – Turkey

syriaA day after airstrikes brought down two hospitals in Syria, France and Turkey say the horrific attacks which killed several people constitutes war crimes.

The United Nations says up to 50 people have been killed in missile attacks on schools and hospitals in the region.

Turkey’s foreign ministry blames Russia for the attacks but Moscow is yet to respond to the allegations.

Meanwhile, Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, has cast doubt over plans to implement a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria.

Last week world powers agreed to work towards a selective truce in Syria, to begin later this week.

But in his first comments on the announcement, President Assad says such a ceasefire does not mean all the parties will put down their weapons.