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'West playing judge, jury & executioner in Syria over chemical attack not balanced'

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On Thursday Russia attacked a report from the UN and the chemical weapons watchdog the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW,) which blames the Syrian government for a deadly attack in April. Moscow says the report is superficial and unprofessional. The gas attack at Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province killed at least 70 people and injured hundreds more. Damascus denies carrying it out.

Russian defense ministry experts have now presented their findings. Its aviation specialists said Syrian SU-22 fighter jets could not have delivered the toxic weapon, because their flight paths, recorded by the coalition, did not come within range of Khan Shaykhun. Russia also says the traces left by the explosion, and the lack of fragments, suggest the bomb was placed on the ground.

Despite criticizing the joint UN chemical watchdog mechanism, Russia’s foreign ministry says it’s all for renewing its mandate. On Thursday, Russia submitted a resolution to the UN Security Council to extend the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), investigating chemical incidents in Syria, reported TSS, citing a UN source. It seeks to extend the mandate until May 16, 2018,

In October, Russia blocked a Security Council resolution to prolong the mandate, urging the international community to evaluate the results of the mechanism’s work first.

According to military analyst Kamal Alam, “some very valid points” are made by the Russian defense ministry on the incident in Idlib province.

“There’s definitely a very political agenda here without looking at the expert analysis. No one has gone on the ground to look at it. It’s been done from far away – thousands of miles away, and in a neighboring country, which is more or less compromised given its stance against the Syrian government. There seems to be very political vested interest, rather than carrying out a proper investigation,” he told RT.

Alam agrees the investigators should be looking at all kinds of possibilities of how this attack occurred and where it may have come from, rather than just one specific avenue. “Especially given the history of what’s been going on in the region,” he added.

“The international community, particularly the US, became very sure, who had done it within a few minutes of the attack. So it is almost impossible to then say that this was an objective finding,” Alam said.

While Russia “is saying – there should be a proper rule of law applied, and no one should jump to conclusion,” he said, “the other international community, unfortunately, decided to be the judge, jury and the executioner at the same time – which is not a very balanced way of looking at it, especially when you did not have experts on the ground examining.”

“The Russians were saying that there should be a joint committee to go there and check things out – rather than doing it in a neighboring country or thousands of miles away,” he added.

Nicolas Davies, the author of Blood on our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq, says the Russian findings are more convincing “than what the US has said all along to justify its assault on the Shayrat Airbase.”

He also said the OPCW report lacks any investigation at the possibility of a staged incident. “This is strange because in 2014 the OPCW did investigate an alleged chemical weapons incident in Syria, which did turn out to be staged,” he told RT.

“Then of course… the 2013 incident, Ghouta, where there was very, very serious evidence that this was, in fact, a staged chemical weapons incident. So I have to say I find the Russian position on this to be a lot more convincing, than what the OPCW, even Human Rights Watch (HRW,) or Western journalists have reported on this,” Davies added.

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Syria

Turkey Begins Ground Assault on Kurdish Enclave in Syria

- 22turkey1 facebookJumbo - Turkey Begins Ground Assault on Kurdish Enclave in Syria


Photo
Turkish soldiers waiting Sunday near the Syrian border. Turkish forces renewed their assault on Kurdish militia. Credit Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

ISTANBUL — Turkish troops crossed the Syrian border into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday morning, beginning a ground assault against American-allied militias there, as the first accounts of casualties emerged amid rising international criticism of Turkey’s military action.

Turkish fighter jets were again in the skies Sunday bombing Kurdish militia targets in the border region. Ten people were reported killed in the bombing raids, according to Kurdish militants, and three people died on the Turkish side of the border in retaliatory shelling, local people said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey confirmed to local journalists that his country’s troops had crossed the border into Syria on Sunday morning.

Mr. Yildirim said the forces intended to create a security zone about 18 miles deep inside Syria. The area would encompass urban centers, including the town of Afrin, with a predominantly Kurdish population, and the much larger city of Manbij, further east, as well as dozens of outlying villages.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to eliminate “terrorist nests” in the Kurdish enclave, but on Sunday he promised that the operation would be swift. “Hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time,” he said in a speech to the women’s branch of his Justice and Development Party in the city of Bursa.

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“The real issue here is to deliver Afrin to its real owners,” Mr. Erdogan said. He said that “we have 3.5 million Syrians in our lands” and that Turkey wanted “to send our Syrian brothers back to their own land as soon as possible.”

Mr. Erdogan’s comments came amid growing international dismay over Turkey’s intervention, and amid reports of Syrian fighters massing to join the fight on both sides.

Members of the Free Syrian Army have been joining to fight alongside Turkish troops. Many of them are refugees from Arab villages and towns in the region.

At the same time, hundreds of Kurdish fighters from the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, were assembling in towns to the east and south of Afrin, according to The Associated Press.

Photo
Syrian-Kurds demonstrating Sunday in the town of Amuda against the Turkish military action. Credit Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A shopkeeper in Raqqa, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety, said by text message that a large number of Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were being sent from Raqqa to Manbij to prepare for a Turkish attack. His cousin was among 1,000 fighters gathered in Manbij and commanders were telling them an attack was imminent.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson spoke by telephone with his Turkish and Russian counterparts on Saturday to express concern about the situation, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said in a statement.

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” the statement said.

France called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the developments and also urged Turkey to act with restraint, noting that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating in several regions of Syria.

Turkish officials have repeatedly criticized the United States for its support and arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., which are spearheading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Yet they made clear Sunday they did not want to confront American troops in Syria.

Mr. Yildirim said Turkish forces would seek to destroy any logistics supply routes to Kurdish units, but Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said United States officials had assured Turkey there were no American troops in the region.

“It is out of the question to have a direct clash between Turkey and the U.S. in the region,” he said at a news briefing for international reporters Sunday.

By nightfall Turkish troops seemed to have advanced only a few miles into Syria.

Syrian fighters allied with Turkish forces claimed to have seized control of Shankal, a village on the northwestern edge of the Afrin district, but Kurdish fighters rejected the claim.

Casualties were reported from both sides, but numbers varied.

Hanadi Hafsi, a homemaker who lives in Reyhanli, a border district in Turkey, said two Syrians and a Turk died Sunday afternoon from shelling by Kurdish militias. The shells fell on a market, killing three and wounding 32, she said. Turkish officials said that only one Syrian had refugee died and that 37 people were wounded.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the “indiscriminate rocket fire by #PYD/#YPG terrorists” in a Twitter post. “This attack on innocent people shows the real face of #PYD terrorists.”

Continue reading the main story

ISTANBUL — Turkish troops crossed the Syrian border into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday morning, beginning a ground assault against American-allied militias there, as the first accounts of casualties emerged amid rising international criticism of Turkey’s military action.

Turkish fighter jets were again in the skies Sunday bombing Kurdish militia targets in the border region. Ten people were reported killed in the bombing raids, according to Kurdish militants, and three people died on the Turkish side of the border in retaliatory shelling, local people said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey confirmed to local journalists that his country’s troops had crossed the border into Syria on Sunday morning.

Mr. Yildirim said the forces intended to create a security zone about 18 miles deep inside Syria. The area would encompass urban centers, including the town of Afrin, with a predominantly Kurdish population, and the much larger city of Manbij, further east, as well as dozens of outlying villages.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to eliminate “terrorist nests” in the Kurdish enclave, but on Sunday he promised that the operation would be swift. “Hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time,” he said in a speech to the women’s branch of his Justice and Development Party in the city of Bursa.

“The real issue here is to deliver Afrin to its real owners,” Mr. Erdogan said. He said that “we have 3.5 million Syrians in our lands” and that Turkey wanted “to send our Syrian brothers back to their own land as soon as possible.”

Mr. Erdogan’s comments came amid growing international dismay over Turkey’s intervention, and amid reports of Syrian fighters massing to join the fight on both sides.

Members of the Free Syrian Army have been joining to fight alongside Turkish troops. Many of them are refugees from Arab villages and towns in the region.

At the same time, hundreds of Kurdish fighters from the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, were assembling in towns to the east and south of Afrin, according to The Associated Press.

A shopkeeper in Raqqa, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety, said by text message that a large number of Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were being sent from Raqqa to Manbij to prepare for a Turkish attack. His cousin was among 1,000 fighters gathered in Manbij and commanders were telling them an attack was imminent.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson spoke by telephone with his Turkish and Russian counterparts on Saturday to express concern about the situation, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said in a statement.

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” the statement said.

France called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the developments and also urged Turkey to act with restraint, noting that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating in several regions of Syria.

Turkish officials have repeatedly criticized the United States for its support and arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., which are spearheading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Yet they made clear Sunday they did not want to confront American troops in Syria.

Mr. Yildirim said Turkish forces would seek to destroy any logistics supply routes to Kurdish units, but Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said United States officials had assured Turkey there were no American troops in the region.

“It is out of the question to have a direct clash between Turkey and the U.S. in the region,” he said at a news briefing for international reporters Sunday.

By nightfall Turkish troops seemed to have advanced only a few miles into Syria.

Syrian fighters allied with Turkish forces claimed to have seized control of Shankal, a village on the northwestern edge of the Afrin district, but Kurdish fighters rejected the claim.

Casualties were reported from both sides, but numbers varied.

Hanadi Hafsi, a homemaker who lives in Reyhanli, a border district in Turkey, said two Syrians and a Turk died Sunday afternoon from shelling by Kurdish militias. The shells fell on a market, killing three and wounding 32, she said. Turkish officials said that only one Syrian had refugee died and that 37 people were wounded.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the “indiscriminate rocket fire by #PYD/#YPG terrorists” in a Twitter post. “This attack on innocent people shows the real face of #PYD terrorists.”

Nytimes

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Syria

Turkey fires barrage of missiles on Kurdish-held targets in Syria (VIDEO)

- 5a64d376fc7e93f94e8b4567 - Turkey fires barrage of missiles on Kurdish-held targets in Syria (VIDEO)


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Syria

Last thing Syria needs after beating ISIS is another conflict – German FM on Turkish op

- 5a64c468fc7e93f8458b4569 - Last thing Syria needs after beating ISIS is another conflict – German FM on Turkish op


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