Turkish air raids break peace deal with Kurds

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‘THE truce has no meaning any more after these intense air strikes by the occupant Turkish army,’ the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) said on Saturday.

This came after Turkish warplanes bombed Islamic State (IS) positions in Syria and Kurdish PKK militants in northern Iraq. The overnight air strikes in northern Iraq were the first time Turkey had attacked the PKK since a 2013 truce.

Turkey’s air force is defending the country’s security, Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu claimed. Up to now Turkey has been known to finance, arm and train IS terrorists and facilitate their entry to Syria through its border.

Many see Turkey’s air strikes as seeking to achieve its objective, along with US imperialism, to depose the government of President Bashar Assad, while dealing with the PKK at the same time. Premier Davutoglu added that 590 suspected IS and PKK members had been arrested. This follows a week which saw a bomb attack blamed on IS killed 32 Kurdish socialist youth activists in the Turkish town of Suruc.

Subsequent clashes with IS fighters on the Turkey-Syria border led to the death of a Turkish soldier.

The PKK’s military wing said it had killed two Turkish police officers last Wednesday, claiming they had collaborated with IS in the bombing in Suruc.

As well as IS and the PKK, the arrest operations on Saturday also targeted suspected members of the PKK’s youth wing, The Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), and the Marxist Revolutionary People”s Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C). With tensions running high across the country, Turkish police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a protest in the Istanbul district of Kadikoy by hundreds of people to denounce IS violence.

In the anti-establishment district of Gazi, protesters threw Molotov cocktails and engaged in pitched battles with police. A statement by the Turkish government of President Erdogan on Saturday morning said the air force had hit PKK shelters, bunkers, storage facilities and other ‘logistic points’ in northern Iraq, including the Qandil mountains where the PKK’s high command is based. It did not give details of what the jets had targeted in their attacks on IS in Syria.

NATO and the United Nations have been kept informed of the operations, the Turkish statement said.

Turkey’s military had also shelled Islamic State and PKK positions from across the Turkish border, it added. ‘At around 11:00 pm (2000 GMT) tonight, Turkish warplanes started bombing our positions near the border, accompanied by heavy artillery shelling,’ PKK spokesman in Iraq, Bakhtiar Dogan, confirmed on Friday.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Prime Minister Davutoglu claimed: ‘Unfortunately Turkey is surrounded by a ring of fire.’ He said: ‘In such an atmosphere, Turkey tries to keep her democracy and development alive.’ He added: ‘These operations have carried a message to the countries in the region and to international circles – whatever happens in Syria and Iraq, in our border regions, we will not allow them to threaten Turkey’s security and will not hesitate to take necessary measures.’

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said areas of northern Syria cleared of IS fighters would become natural ‘safe zones’. Turkey has also said it will let the US use a key airbase to attack IS targets. Separately the Turkish authorities banned a peace march by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) due to take place in Istanbul yeasterday.

The office of Istanbul governor in a statement banned the rally, citing ‘intense traffic’ expected in the city and also ‘provocations’ which could jeopardise security. The HDP in reaction pledged that its ‘struggle for peace and democracy will continue’. The first round of anti-IS air strikes on Friday marked the first time Turkey had confirmed air strikes against targets in Syria since IS began its advance through Iraq and Syria in 2013.

The Turkish government has faced criticism at home and abroad for not doing enough against IS, despite being part of the international coalition fighting it. The agreement to let the US use the Incirlik airbase, following months of negotiations, was made in a phone call between President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but has yet to be approved by the Turkish cabinet.

It could allow the US to step up air strikes against IS, as it is closer to northern Syria and Iraq than the Gulf, which currently serves as a launch-pad for bombing missions. The agreement for US planes to use Incirlik base in southern Turkey envisages a 90-kilometre (56 mile) no-fly zone between the Syrian towns of Marea and Jarabulus to the east, Turkey’s Hurriyet daily newspaper said. The no-fly zone would back up a planned safe zone on the ground that would extend up to 50 kilometres (31 miles) inside Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference on Saturday: ‘When the northern regions of Syria will be cleared from the Islamic State’s threats, there will be established a buffer zone. We have constantly advocated the necessity of establishing a no-fly zone and the security zone in Syria, where the country could resettle the refugees.’

Friday’s and Saturday’s airstrikes came as the Syrian army and Hezbollah were making significant advances in al-Zabadani, as they seized control of a strategic neighbourhood in the city. The allied forces advanced towards al-Mehrajan square, south of Zabadani, noting that they are raiding positions of the insurgents in the city. This advance was preceded by seizing control of al-Kahhala neighbourhood.

The strongholds of the Takfiri militants are in the reach of the Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters, the Syrian Army sources stressed, noting that several hilltops are in the hand of the allied forces. Heavy losses have been inflicted upon the terrorists, according to the sources. On Thursday, the allied forces blew up two tunnels used by the insurgents to transfer supplies.

The Syrian army and Hezbollah have been since July 4 engaged in the battle of Zabadani, the last city under the control of terrorists in the Qalamoun region on the Lebanese border. The ongoing battle is part of a wider operation launched by the Syrian forces and the resistance movement’s fighters on May 4th, which has reportedly driven militants out of more than 90 per cent of the territory in the mountainous region.

Units of the Syrian Army continued operations against terrorist organisations on Friday, hitting more of their positions in various areas and destroying their equipment and weapons, state-run SANA news agency reported. In Idleb, the army air force destroyed dens of ‘al-Nusra Front’ in Kan-Safra Tauom, Tal Zardana, al-Tamani’a, Tal’as, Binnish, Abu al-Dohour, Tal Salmo, Um Jrin and Ariha in Idleb countryside.

In Homs, army units destroyed a vehicle and a cannon for terrorists of the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) Takfiri group in the countryside of Tadmur and targeted terrorists’ positions in Tadmur city in the eastern countryside of the central Homs province. An army unit foiled terrorists’ attempt to infiltrate a military checkpoint in al-Houla in Homs countryside, killing and injuring all of the attackers.

In the neighbouring province of Hama, army units killed a number of ISIL terrorists and destroyed their machineguns-equipped vehicles in al-Rahjan to the east of Hama city. The army also targeted terrorists’ hideouts and concentrations in al-Mafkar village in al-Salamyeh countryside, killing a number of them and destroying their weaponry and munitions. In Lattakia, the Army air force destroyed dens and vehicles, some of them equipped with machineguns, and killed dozens of terrorists in Marj Khokha, Shalaf, Dwirika, al-Sikaria and al-Dura in the northern countryside of the coastal Lattakia province.

In Aleppo, the army air force destroyed a number of vehicles equipped with machineguns and eliminated scores of terrorists in al-Lairamon, Bani Zaid, al-Khaldyeh, Karm al-Tarrab, al-Atareb and near the air force academy in Aleppo and its countryside. The army also destroyed a 140-metre long tunnel near the air force academy. In southern province of Daraa, army units killed terrorists and destroyed their equipment in various areas in Daraa al-Balad neighbourhood in the city of Daraa and in al-Nueimeh and al-Bitar farms in the countryside of Daraa province, southern Syria.

An Army unit destroyed a rocket launcher to the south of Tafas in Daraa countryside. Another army unit destroyed four vehicles loaded with weapons and ammunition and killed a leader of a terrorist group in al-Nu’ayma in Daraa countryside. In Sweida, a terrorist group that tried to infiltrate towards Bouthaina Hill in the north eastern countryside of the neighbouring Sweida province was repelled, with many of its members getting killed.

On Saturday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree announcing a general amnesty for military deserters who violated the country’s compulsory military conscription law. The decree, which was announced on state television, said the law that would lift legal penalties against thousands of army deserters, applied to those outside and inside Syria. Also on Saturday, Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi stressed that the media of the resistance, including the Syrian media, have successfully managed to enter the battlefield with its modest capabilities, backed by a strong will and determination for survival and victory.

He was speaking during the second session on the second and last day of the International Media Conference Against Terrorism held in Damascus. He referred to the state of confusion currently suffered by the tendentious and hostile media as they have been confronted by the media of the resistance that have highly contributed to exposing the disinformation practised by the former about the nature of the terrorist war targeting Syria and the region.

Al-Zoubi highlighted the important role of the media of the resistance in confronting terrorism, referring to the need for further unmasking the true image of criminality and extremism under which Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and other terrorist organisations are operating. ‘In order for our media not to lose their credibility,’ said al-Zoubi, they must further focus on circulating pictures and materials that uncover the horribleness of the crimes committed by ISIS in challenge of the various media outlets that are acting as platforms for this and other terrorist and Takfiri organisations.