Connect with us

Middle East News

Body count hits 68 since migrant boat sinking off Tunisia

BEIRUT,AMMAN: The Syrian regime’s assault in the northwest has been met with a painful opposition counterpunch that underlines Turkish resolve to keep the area out of his hands and shows why he will struggle to take back more of Syria by force. More than two months of Russian-backed operations in and around Idlib province have yielded…

Body count hits 68 since migrant boat sinking off Tunisia

BEIRUT,AMMAN: The Syrian regime’s assault in the northwest has been met with a painful opposition counterpunch that underlines Turkish resolve to keep the area out of his hands and shows why he will struggle to take back more of Syria by force.

More than two months of Russian-backed operations in and around Idlib province have yielded little or nothing for Bashar Assad’s side. It marks a rare case of a military campaign that has not gone his way since Russia intervened in 2015.

While resisting regime attacks, the insurgents have managed to carve out small advances of their own, drawing on ample stocks of guided antitank missiles that opposition and diplomatic sources say have been supplied by Turkey.

“They’re even targeting personnel with these missiles … it means they are comfortably supplied,” an opposition source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing opposition military capabilities. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on reports that Ankara has stepped supplies of arms to opposition fighters.

With Turkey committed to the opposition, the battle for the northwest stands in stark contrast to a campaign in the southwest a year ago, when Western and Arab states stood by as Assad and his Russian- and Iranian-backed allies took the area.

Despite Russian backing in the latest fighting, questions have arisen over whether Assad and his allies are entirely on the same page when it comes to the northwest, where Turkey has deployed forces in agreement with Russia and Iran.

Moscow has appeared keen to preserve its ties with Ankara even as its air force bombs in support of Assad: Turkey says Russia has intervened to stop attacks on Turkish forces from Syrian regime-held territory.

And this time there has been no sign of a major role for Iranian backed Shiite forces that have helped Assad to victories in parts of Syria that are of greater interest to Iran, including territory near Iraq, Lebanon and Israel.

The capture of the southwest a year ago remains Assad’s last big gain. The prospects of further advances have been obstructed not only by Turkish interests in the northwest but also the presence of US forces in the east and northeast.

American troops are still supporting Kurdish-led fighters following a reversal of President Donald Trump’s decision last December to pull them all out.

After more than eight years of war, this leaves Syria carved up into areas of US, Russian, Turkish and Iranian influence that seem unlikely to be stitched back together any time soon.

“We could see the front lines harden and remain like that for some time, where either the appetite or capability to fight through them is not there on the part of the regime or its allies,” said a Western diplomat speaking anonymously in order to offer a candid assessment.

‘Bone-breaking battle’

The Idlib area is dominated by Tahrir Al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front. Proscribed as a terrorist group by the UN Security Council, the group has set aside past conflict with Turkish backed opposition to defend the northwest.

Col. Mustafa Bakour, a commander in the Jaish Al-Izza fighter group, said coordination among opposition was a major factor in foiling regime attacks.

“I expect the battles to continue for a time because it has become a bone-breaking battle,” he said in written answers to questions from Reuters.

The regime campaign of airstrikes and barrel bombing that began in late April was followed by the capture of around 20 villages. This led to an opposition counterattack in early June that seized ground the regime has been unable to recover.

The Syrian regime has described its operations as a response to militant violations of cease-fire agreements.

Russia says action was needed to stop attacks from being launched from Idlib, including drone strikes on its nearby air base. President Vladimir Putin said in April a full-scale operation in Idlib was impractical for now.

Though the regime has not declared the goals of the campaign, opposition sources believe it was to capture two highways that pass through opposition-held territory.

Some 300,000 people fleeing bombardment have moved toward the Turkish border since April, prompting the UN to warn that Idlib was on the brink of a “humanitarian nightmare.”

For Ankara, the Syrian opposition’s last major state sponsor, preventing another major influx of Syrian refugees is of paramount importance: Turkey already hosts 3.6 million of them.

While accusing the Syrian regime of targeting civilians and its military observation posts in the Idlib area, Turkey has stopped short of blaming Russia, instead saying it would continue to cooperate with Moscow over the northwest.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry, in a written response to questions from Reuters, also said “necessary messages have been sent to Russian officials to end the attacks on our observation points and civilians” in the Idlib area.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed, as have many fighters on both sides, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman described the operation as “a failure on all levels” for Russia and Damascus.

A Russian private military contractor who was based near Idlib province told Reuters that opposition fighters there are far more professional and motivated than their adversary. Pro-regime forces cannot win the battle for Idlib unless Moscow helps them on the ground, he said.

A second Western diplomat said the regime had suffered heavy casualties for minimal gains, which was “deeply embarrassing.” “Turkey is trying to tell them ‘you cannot take this militarily. You have to negotiate’,” the diplomat said.

A regional source close to Damascus described the escalation since April as a limited confrontation, saying Russia’s ties with Turkey were the main brake on any full-scale assault to take the entire northwest.

“Of course the regime has the desire to recover Idlib by force, but … without the Russians it can’t, because there are many militants and the Russians are completely committed to the Turks,” the source said. “It is expected that the situation in Idlib will stay as it is for a long time.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

code

Middle East News

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

ANKARA: Accusations that Turkey has used banned incendiary weapons against civilians in its invasion of northern Syria are credible, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday. Kurdish leaders said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fighter jets had dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus on civilian targets in the border town of Ras…

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

ANKARA: Accusations that Turkey has used banned incendiary weapons against civilians in its invasion of northern Syria are credible, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday.

Kurdish leaders said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fighter jets had dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus on civilian targets in the border town of Ras Al-Ain, a key objective for Turkish troops.

“The Turkish aggression is using all available weapons against Ras Al-Ain,” the Kurdish administration said. “Faced with the obvious failure of his plan, Erdogan is resorting to weapons that are globally banned, such as phosphorus and napalm.”

Nicholas Heras, an analyst at the Center for New American Security, told Arab News: “There are now multiple credible reports that Turkey has used white phosphorus munitions in its campaign in northeast Syria, and especially against the stubborn defenders of the city of Ras Al-Ain.”

The attacks on Ras Al-Ain are being investigated by UN chemical weapons inspectors, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and Human Rights Watch. 

OPCW said it had “not yet determined the credibility of these allegations,” and its inspectors were monitoring the situation.

HIGHLIGHTS

Erdogan’s jets ‘dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus in Ras Al-Ain.’

The attacks are being probed by UN chemical weapons inspectors and Human Rights Watch.

A video posted on social media shows children with burns that a doctor says were consistent with the use of banned weapons.

If the use of banned incendiary weapons were proved, it would be a grave violation of Turkey’s pledge to wage war with concern for civilian lives, Heras said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there had been a spike in burn wounds treated at the Syrian-Kurdish hospital at Tal Tamir, mostly casualties brought in from the Ras Al-Ain area. 

The Kurdish Red Crescent said at least six people were being treated in hospital for burns. 

Kurdish officials posted a video on social media showing children with burns that one doctor in Hasakeh province said were consistent with the use of banned weapons.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British chemical weapons expert, told the UK newspaper The Times that the burns appeared to have been caused by white phosphorus.

The substance may be used to create a smoke screen, or as a battlefield marker, especially at night, but its use as an incendiary weapon is prohibited under international law.

Since 1997, Turkey has been a signatory to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

Dr. Willem Theo Oosterveld, a senior fellow at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, said the deployment of white phosphorus was not explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. 

However, he said, under humanitarian law “the use of means and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering is prohibited.”

Continue Reading

Middle East News

Libya’s navy intercepts about 150 Europe-bound migrants

ANKARA: Accusations that Turkey has used banned incendiary weapons against civilians in its invasion of northern Syria are credible, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday. Kurdish leaders said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fighter jets had dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus on civilian targets in the border town of Ras…

Libya’s navy intercepts about 150 Europe-bound migrants

ANKARA: Accusations that Turkey has used banned incendiary weapons against civilians in its invasion of northern Syria are credible, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday.

Kurdish leaders said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fighter jets had dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus on civilian targets in the border town of Ras Al-Ain, a key objective for Turkish troops.

“The Turkish aggression is using all available weapons against Ras Al-Ain,” the Kurdish administration said. “Faced with the obvious failure of his plan, Erdogan is resorting to weapons that are globally banned, such as phosphorus and napalm.”

Nicholas Heras, an analyst at the Center for New American Security, told Arab News: “There are now multiple credible reports that Turkey has used white phosphorus munitions in its campaign in northeast Syria, and especially against the stubborn defenders of the city of Ras Al-Ain.”

The attacks on Ras Al-Ain are being investigated by UN chemical weapons inspectors, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and Human Rights Watch. 

OPCW said it had “not yet determined the credibility of these allegations,” and its inspectors were monitoring the situation.

HIGHLIGHTS

Erdogan’s jets ‘dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus in Ras Al-Ain.’

The attacks are being probed by UN chemical weapons inspectors and Human Rights Watch.

A video posted on social media shows children with burns that a doctor says were consistent with the use of banned weapons.

If the use of banned incendiary weapons were proved, it would be a grave violation of Turkey’s pledge to wage war with concern for civilian lives, Heras said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there had been a spike in burn wounds treated at the Syrian-Kurdish hospital at Tal Tamir, mostly casualties brought in from the Ras Al-Ain area. 

The Kurdish Red Crescent said at least six people were being treated in hospital for burns. 

Kurdish officials posted a video on social media showing children with burns that one doctor in Hasakeh province said were consistent with the use of banned weapons.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British chemical weapons expert, told the UK newspaper The Times that the burns appeared to have been caused by white phosphorus.

The substance may be used to create a smoke screen, or as a battlefield marker, especially at night, but its use as an incendiary weapon is prohibited under international law.

Since 1997, Turkey has been a signatory to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

Dr. Willem Theo Oosterveld, a senior fellow at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, said the deployment of white phosphorus was not explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. 

However, he said, under humanitarian law “the use of means and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering is prohibited.”

Continue Reading

Middle East News

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

An electronics engineer in Cairo who looks like Mo Salah has revealed the highs and lows of being a dead ringer for the footballing superstar.Ahmed Bahaa is used to being mistaken for the Egyptian player because of the strong resemblance, and has even appeared as Salah in ad campaigns for cellphones and bottled water when…

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

An electronics engineer in Cairo who looks like Mo Salah has revealed the highs and lows of being a dead ringer for the footballing superstar.Ahmed Bahaa is used to being mistaken for the Egyptian player because of the strong resemblance, and has even appeared as Salah in ad campaigns for cellphones and bottled water when the player was unavailable.Fans take selfies with him, thinking they are standing next to their hero, and foreign TV channels ask him for interviews.But the 32-year-old revealed he could have been killed because of the physical similarities with the striker.He went to Arab League Street, one of the most crowded places in Cairo’s Mohandiseen area, to celebrate Egypt winning a soccer match. “People thought I was Salah and crowded around me. I couldn’t get out. The police saved me,” he told Arab News.Bahaa met Salah at his home once, with the engineer recalling how he was welcomed with warmth and hospitality. The pair took photographs together.“When I walk on the street, people think I’m Salah,” he said. “They ask to take pictures with me. They always call me Salah at work and public places, not Ahmed. Even my own kids sometimes call me Salah. When the Egyptian soccer team reached the World Cup, I ate, drank and took transportation, all for free, because I looked like Salah. Even when I went out with my wife and kids, a lot of people took photos with me.”

FASTFACT

Fans take selfies with him, thinking they are standing next to their hero, and foreign TV channels ask him for interviews.

There have been examples of mistaken identity in more unusual places too.“I once went to the British Embassy in Cairo to apply for a visa. All of a sudden the officers took me to a private room. They thought I was Salah and surrounded me while taking photos.”Salah joined Liverpool in 2017 and, according to transfermarkt, has a current market value of €150 million ($167 million). He has more than 10 million followers on Twitter and more than 33 million followers on Instagram, sharing candid shots of his life on and off the pitch. Bahaa, who has a more modest following on Instagram, is also a fan.“I used to be a soccer player but had to stop to focus on my work. I have loved Salah since I was young. He is a national symbol and international role model for all young people. I am happy that I look similar to Salah. It’s such a great honor. We look very similar if you compare the hair, chin, and smile.”The engineer added that he wanted to be a famous actor and make a film about Salah’s success story.

Continue Reading