Air strikes on rebel-held neighborhoods in Syria’s second city Aleppo on Friday killed at least 14 civilians and wounded more than a dozen others, the local civil defense told AFP.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime warplanes carried out the air strikes and gave a toll of 10 dead.
An AFP correspondent in the opposition-held eastern part said several neighborhoods were targeted and that the wail of ambulances could be heard throughout the morning.
In Bustan al-Qasr, one of the most heavily-populated neighborhoods, a strike hit a five-storey apartment building, shearing off part of an entire floor.
Civil defense volunteers were climbing into the building to search for families trapped in the rubble, according to the AFP journalist.
Seven civilians were killed and 10 wounded there, a civil defense member said.
Two other people were killed and eight wounded in Al-Mashad district, the source said, adding that in the opposition-held Salhin neighborhood a strike killed five civilians.
The Britain-based Observatory said the air strikes targeted Bustan al-Qasr and other Aleppo neighborhoods, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens more.
“The number of martyrs is expected to rise because many of those wounded are in critical condition,” said the monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its reports.
Once Syria’s commercial hub, Aleppo has been divided between rebel control in the east and government forces in the west since 2012.
Nearly all warring parties in Syria – the regime, rebels, jihadists, and Kurds – have carved out zones of control in war-torn Aleppo province.
A ceasefire took effect in Syria at the end of February but the country has been rocked by fighting in recent weeks, particularly around Aleppo.
On Sunday, at least six civilians were killed in government strikes on eastern parts of the city, and another 16 were killed by rocket fire by Islamist rebels.
Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests, but has since spiraled into a multi-front war that has left more than 270,000 people dead.
Official Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/211307#.Vxp7NvkrLx8
No claim of responsibility yet for deadly attack in capital as jets strike Kurdish group’s bases in Qandil mountains
Turkey’s air force has hit Kurdish targets in northern Iraq after a car bombing struck the Turkish capital, Ankara, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 70 others.
The state-run Anadolu news agency said nine F-16s and two F-4 jets on Monday raided 18 positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), including the Qandil mountains where the group’s leadership is based.
The targets struck consisted of ammunition depots, bunkers and shelters.
Police also carried out raids in the southern city of Adana, detaining suspected PKK members, Anadolu reported.
The private Dogan news agency said at least 36 suspects were taken into custody.
Fifteen suspected Kurdish fighters were also detained in Istanbul, Anadolu said.
Security officials told Reuters news agency on Monday that a female member of PKK was one of two suspeced perpetrators.
A police source said her severed hand had been found 300 metres from the blast site.
The second suspected bomber was a male Turkish citizen with links to PKK, Reuters cited a Turkish security official as saying.
There has not been any claim of responsibility for the bombing.
Sunday’s attack was the second devastating blast to rock Ankara in three weeks.
Witnesses said the blast set vehicles on fire and heavily damaged several buses.
The explosion, which could be heard several miles away, also sent burning debris showering down over an area a few hundred metres from the justice and interior ministries, a top courthouse, and the former office of the prime minister.
“These attacks, which threaten our country’s integrity and our nation’s unity and solidarity, do not weaken our resolve in fighting terrorism but bolster our determination,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement.
Local broadcasters reported that an Ankara court ordered a ban on access to Facebook, Twitter and other sites in Turkey after images from the car bombing were shared on social media.
Sunday’s attack comes just three weeks after a suicide car bombing in Ankaratargeted buses carrying military personnel, killing 29 people.
“We know how and when we will respond,” Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s prime minister, told Al Jazeera in an interview, referring to the February attack.
“Definitely, those who made this attack against our people will pay the price. But how and when, we will decide. And when it happens, everybody will see that Turkey can respond [to] any challenges and any attack against it.”
A Kurdish armed group, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), which is an offshoot of the outlawed PKK, claimed responsibility for that attack. TAK says it split from the PKK.Turkey has been fighting on multiple fronts. As part of a US-led coalition, it is battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), which has seized territory in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.
It is also battling the outlawed PKK in its southeast, where a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire collapsed last July, prompting the worst violence since the 1990s.
Turkey sees the unrest in its largely Kurdish southeast as deeply linked to events in northern Syria, where the Kurdish YPG militia had been seizing territory as it fights both ISIL and rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey fears those gains will stir separatist ambitions among its own Kurds and has long argued that the YPG and PKK have close ideological and operational ties.
In its armed campaign in Turkey, the PKK has historically struck directly at the security forces and says it does not target civilians.
ISIL has carried out at least four bomb attacks on Turkey since June 2015, including a suicide bombing which killed 10 German tourists in central Istanbul in January.
Reports of Turkish troops slaughtering hundreds of civilians trapped in the basements of Cizre, which is located in Turkey’s Sirnak province, first surfaced in February. Some 150 people were allegedly burned to death in one of them.
That particular claim was made by Turkish MP Feleknas Uca from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, who spoke to Sputnik agency. These and other trapped people were reportedly denied access to food and medical supplies. However, until now, the alleged atrocities committed by the Turkish forces could not be substantiated on the ground.
Whiteman found witnesses who survived the offensive and were able to show the exact place of the mass killing, while providing terrifying details on what had happened.
“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Erdogan has destroyed our world. He has burned us,” said a female witness, while showing blood stains on the debris of the deadly building.
“Three, four – maybe five hundred people. There were old people, women and children – some as young as 10 years old. They killed a heavily pregnant woman,” added the woman, blaming Erdogan for indiscriminately killing innocent people during the so-called counter-terrorism operation against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatists.
“Women and children lived here. Erdogan killed all of them with heavy artillery, he destroyed this home,” added the woman.
“They claim they are fighting ‘terrorists’ – but where are the terrorists?” she said, arguing that all of the victims had been civilians.
While inspecting the town, Whiteman reported a strong scent of decomposing bodies. This led him to another chilling discovery – a building whose basement has served as a mass grave.
Between 45 and 50 people were burned alive in one of the buildings, according to a local woman speaking to Whiteman. What is worse, many of the victims appear to have been cold-bloodedly beheaded by the Turkish troops, she said.
“They [Turkish forces] burned all of them. When we entered this basement we found decapitated bodies,” the witness told Whiteman. “They burned them and beheaded them.”
RT has submitted the footage shot in Cizre to HRW (Human Rights Watch), MSF International and MSF Middle East (Médecins Sans Frontières), the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), the OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights), and Amnesty International. The channel asked if the organizations in question are planning to investigate the claims of Turkish forces’ atrocities against civilians there, and if any statements will be made.
Ever since the military operation on the Kurdish population in the Cizre region began, members of the European Parliament have been addressing Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in open letters and public speeches, calling on him to put an end to the violence in Turkish regions inhabited by Kurds.
“The objective of the Erdogan government is to completely have a genocidal campaign against the Kurds, because that’s what’s now occurring,” said Gregory Copley, editor of the journal Defense and Foreign Affairs. “This is now genocide, because the Turkish government has denied that there is any major military operation underway there.”
The Turkish military has clearly been using “heavy ground weapons” in Cizre and “possibly even air weapons,” he added.
‘Erdogan could end up in The Hague for genocide of Kurds’
Commenting on the violence in Cizre, Kani Xulam, director of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN), accused Erdogan’s government of war crimes.
“What the government of Turkey has done in Cizre is a war crime. They have attacked civilians who have not taken part in the fighting,” Xulam told RT, stressing that the Turkish military attacked Kurdish civilians that were not taking part in the fighting. “In a country that is aspiring to join the European Union and calls itself a member of NATO, you don’t target a whole town,” the expert said, adding that the “laws of war” imply making a distinction between civilians and belligerents.
According to data provided by the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, “178 civilians were deliberately targeted in three different basements and among some of the dead were children as young as nine to 10 years old…The government not only deliberately targeted and killed them, but also burned them. Some relatives were given piles of bones of their loved ones,”Xulam said.
Xulam believes that Ankara’s offensive against the Kurds stems from the fact that Erdogan wants to be an uncontested“supreme leader” or “sultan” of Turkey, which the Kurdish population and its MPs strongly oppose. According to Xulam, Erdogan’s goal is to make the significant Kurdish ethnic minority (15 to 30 percent of Turkey’s population by various estimates) accept “inferior” status as “subjects,” and stop demanding language and cultural rights, as well as autonomy.
The Turkish military operation against PKK militants in the southeastern part of the country was launched in July 2015, breaking a ceasefire agreement that had held for two years. At the time of the alleged mass murder in Cizre, Turkish state television announced that 60 “terrorists” were killed in a building basement. The operation in Cizre, which, according to Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala, was completed “in a very successful fashion,” officially ended early February.
The alleged atrocities have brought little reaction from Western governments, as Turkey is a NATO member state and crucial to stemming the refugee and migrant crisis gripping Europe.
Most criticism has come from international human rights groups. Amnesty International reported in January that at least 150 civilians, women and children among them, had been killed in the Turkish military operation, saying that some 200,000 people had been put at risk and were being denied access to services due to strict curfews.
“Cuts to water and electricity supplies combined with the dangers of accessing food and medical care while under fire are having a devastating effect on residents, and the situation is likely to get worse, fast, if this isn’t addressed,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia, as cited in the report.
Pointing out the lax reaction to the human rights violations committed en mass by Turkish authorities against the Kurdish population, he urged the international community not to turn a blind on the conflict.
“While the Turkish authorities appear determined to silence internal criticism, they have faced very little from the international community. Strategic considerations relating to the conflict in Syria and determined efforts to enlist Turkey’s help in stemming the flow of refugees to Europe must not overshadow allegations of gross human rights violations,” he added.
Official Source: https://www.rt.com/news/335200-cizre-burned-beheaded-kurds-erdogan/
New reports from the Kurdish media in Syria suggest the US is expanding its operations inside northeast Syria, and is now working on two separate air bases inside territory controlled by the Kurdish YPG.
A US project to expand theRmelian Airfield was initially reported back in January, and the new report suggested that the Rmelian project is almost finished. The second project is at an as-yet-undisclosed site near the Kurdish city of Kobani.
US Central Command issued a statement “denying” that the US had any direct control over any airfields in Syria, though they did not actually deny that the projects themselves were ongoing, saying they are looking to increase “efficiency for logistics” in Syrian Kurdistan.
The Kurdish reports suggested that the US is already actively using the Rmelian field for flights of military helicopters. Even after expansion, the base is not expected to be big enough for most warplanes, but could accept arms deliveries as well as flights to deliver troops to the area.
In the course of the last day, the Russian party has signed cease-fire agreements with four commanders of moderate opposition units, which controlled Dumeir (Damascus province). Total number of reconciliation agreements has reached 38.
Peacemaking negotiations with leaders of five armed formations located in the Damascus, Daraa and Homs province are continued.
By the mediation of the Russian Federation, leadership of the Daraa province had meetings with civilians from Etbaa, al-Samein, Mesmia, Nava, Saida and Nahtah. More than 1,000 people participated in the meeting.
In accordance to the meeting results, 842 members of Jaysh al-Islam, Free Syrian Army and al-Yarmuk Brigade signed consents to stop warfare and back to the peaceful life.
The meeting took place despite efforts of radical groups taken in order to foil the event. Several civilians were beaten by militants on their way to the meeting.
Moreover, militants have captured retired Colonel of the Syrian army Zaidan al-Nasirat, who is one of the meeting initiators.
Results of ceasefire monitoring
Fifteen cease-fire violations have been registered. The most of them took place in Damascus, and provinces of Aleppo, Homs and Latakia.
Thus, positions of government troops and Kurdish units as well as inhabited areas in the north-west of Aleppo have been attacked with mortars and small arms for five times.
In Damascus, Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups opened mortar fire against al-Madje Azra, Mukhim al-Vafdein and central jail area at 5.00 – 5.30 a.m. for three times. As the result, a civilian was killed and three others received wounds of varying severity.
Near Marj al-Sultan (Damascus), a militants’ group took efforts to force positions of Syrian army.
In the Latakia province, Jabhat al-Nusra militants, who controlled Kabana, Kanedda, Bdama and Narphus, opened mortar and small arms fire against positions of government troops in order to instigate to open fire in response. The Syrian army units did not fire in response.
In Homs province, militants took efforts to attack positions of government troops and militia near Narb Nafsa.
The rising number of cease-fire violations is caused by efforts taken by the ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra leadership in order to foil the truce regime by shelling positions of government troops and inhabited areas with oppositions located in the areas controlled by “moderate opposition”.
Russian Aerospace Forces have not carry out strikes on regions controlled by “moderate opposition”, which had joined peacemaking agreements and have been following them.
On February 29, the Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in the Syrian Arab Republic received from the American party a list of 61 armed opposition groups, which confirmed their loyalty and agreement with the terms of the ceasefire in Syria, in addition to 69 previous ones.
The ceasefire in Syria is a joke. Turkish military units continue to mass along the border, and militants are pouring across the border to attack targets in northern Syria. The Prime Minister of Turkey is now openly admitting that his government is supporting the militants that are trying to overthrow the Syrian government, and the Turkish government has also made it abundantly clear that they have no plans to stop shelling the Kurds on the other side of the border. So despite the “ceasefire”, the truth is that the threat of World War 3 breaking out in the Middle East is greater than ever.
At times it is difficult to see the dividing line between the Turkish military and the radical jihadists that are hopping back and forth across the border with the full support of the Turkish government. Over the weekend, militants from Turkey that crossed over into northern Syria were supported by artillery fire from the Turkish military as they attacked a key Kurdish town…
In the Raqqa province, a group of some 100 fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey. The group later joined forces with other militants and attacked the Kurdish town of Tell Abyad.
The 250-strong group was supported by artillery fire from the Turkish territory, a fact that Russia said the US should explain. The Kurdish YPG militia fended off the attack, the report said.
This is an act of war, and yet the Obama administration does not seem to mind.
If Turkey will not even honor the ceasefire, what hope is there that anything will be able to stop them from acting so aggressively?
At this point, the Turks are not even pretending anymore. Just the other day, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu openly admitted that his nation is backing the militants that are trying to overthrow the Assad regime…
“How would they be able to defend themselves if there was no Turkish support of the Syrian people? … If there’s today a real moderate Syrian opposition, it’s because of the Turkish support. If today the [Assad] regime isn’t able to control all the territories [it’s] because of Turkish and some other countries’ support,” he told Al-Jazeera earlier this week.
Obviously this ceasefire is not going to work. Turkey has not even pressed pause in their relentless campaign against the Assad regime and the Kurds.
The Turkish government has become absolutely obsessed with their neighbor to the south, and that is a very dangerous thing for the rest of the planet. The only way that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and their allies are going to be able to win the war now is to conduct a massive ground invasion of Syria. Such a move would lead to direct conflict with Iran, Hezbollah and the Russians, and since Turkey is a member of the NATO alliance, that could threaten to drag the U.S. and western Europe into the war as well. The following comes from the International Business Times…
The wider consequences of any disagreement between Ankara and Moscow could lead to a standoff between Russia and NATO. Jen Stoltenberg, secretary general of the Brussels-based organization, said in late 2015 that it would be prepared to defend the member state of Turkey if it were attacked by Russia.
“NATO will defend you, NATO is on the ground, NATO is ready,” Stoltenberg said in the aftermath of repeated breaches of Turkish airspace by Russian jets and just one month before Ankara shot down a Russian jet in November.
The 28-country alliance is bound by Article 5 of its treaty to collectively defend its members. “Collective defense means that an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies,” the article states.
Saudi Arabia does not appear ready to back down either.
The Saudis continue to reiterate their position that either Assad must go peacefully or he will be removed by force…
Saudi Arabia is prepared to send troops to Syria if President Bashar Assad doesn’t resign and leave his war-torn nation peacefully. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir warned Sunday that his country will take military action if Syria violates the terms of a ceasefire agreement.
“I believe that abiding by the truce would be an important indicator of the seriousness to reach a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis that would include setting up a transitional council and the transfer of power from Bashar to this council,” he said during a joint press conference with his Danish counterpart Kristian Jensen in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
Al-Jubeir warned that Saudi Arabia has prepared a “Plan B.” If “the coalition decided to send ground troops into Syria, Saudi Arabia is ready to contribute,” he said.
The goal since 2011 has been to get rid of Assad so that Syria could become a full-fledged Sunni nation with a Sunni government.
Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies have poured enormous amounts of money and resources into this conflict, and they don’t appear to be willing to walk away now that the tide of the war has turned. In fact, how the Saudis have been behaving lately has been causing a tremendous amount of anxiety in the Middle East…
Saudi Arabia’s recent actions have caused a great deal of anxiety within its region. On February 4, a military spokesman suggested that Saudi Arabia was ready to send troops ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria. A week later Saudi Arabia announced that it will send combat aircraft and soldiers to Turkey to participate in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.
Three days later the Saudis launched “Northern Thunder,” described as the “largest military exercise in the history of the Middle East.” Participants from 20 countries sent troops to the maneuvers run over three weeks in Hafar al Batin in northern Saudi Arabia, not far from the Iraqi and Kuwaiti border. According to a Saudi media outlet, some 350,000 troops were expected to participate in the maneuvers.
So if Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies are preparing for war, then what is the purpose of the ceasefire?
Well, first of all the goal was to stop the bleeding. The Sunni militants were losing ground steadily, and this pause will enable them to regroup and get resupplied.
Secondly, this pause in the action gives “the coalition” time to move forces into position for a potential ground invasion of Syria.
But more than anything else, this ceasefire seems to be a trap. It appears to be inevitable that the U.S. and other western powers will accuse Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian government of breaking the ceasefire, thus providing “legal justification” for “the coalition” to militarily intervene.
Watch developments in Syria very closely. Many had hoped that this ceasefire would bring the five year civil war to an end, but the truth is that it could just be setting the stage for something far, far bigger.