Turkish forces push into Syria, battle U.S.-backed Kurdish militia

Turkey says it will swiftly crush U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG fighters in an air and ground offensive in the Afrin region beyond its border. Turkish forces crossed the border into Syria’s Afrin district on Sunday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said. At a news conference in Istanbul, he said Turkey’s military aimed to create a security zone some 30 kilometers (18 miles) inside the war-ravaged country. The state-run Anadolu news agency also reported the arrival of Turkish forces in the enclave as part of an operation codenamed Olive Branch, adding that airstrikes and artillery shelling that targeted the area, which began on Saturday, were continuing. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped the offensive would be completed in “a very short time.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Turkish war planes bombed targets in Syria

Military jets of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) bombed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in Syria’s Afrin, according to a senior military official. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara plans to launch an operation against Kurdish militants in the northern Syrian city of Manbij as Turkish warplanes launch airstrikes on positions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria. Erdogan made the announcement in a televised speech in the city of Kutahya on Saturday after Ankara started a de-facto ground operation in the northwestern border region of Afrin in Syria.
“The Afrin operation has de-facto been started on the ground,” said Erdogan, adding, “This will be followed by Manbij.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a televised speech on Saturday that Turkish “armed forces have started an air campaign in order to destroy elements” of the YPG. Reports said that Turkish fighter jets carried out 11 raids on the villages of Ain Dikneh, Mariamin, Tal Rif’at, Kafr Jannah, Maranaz and villages in the vicinity of Afrin in the northern countryside of  Aleppo. Afrin and Manbij are controlled by the YPG, which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey has in recent days sent dozens of military vehicles and hundreds of troops to the border area. Over the past two days, Turkish forces have been shelling YPG targets around Afrin.

 

 

 

 

Turkey deploys armored vehicles to Syrian border

Turkey has reportedly dispatched a convoy of over 40 military vehicles and tanks to the southern regions along the Syrian frontier amid growing Ankara-Washington tensions over a US plan to create a “border force” at Turkey’s doorstep. Military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency on Monday that two dozen armored vehicles had entered the Reyhanli district of Turkey’s Hatay Province with military jammer vehicles “for reinforcement reasons.”
Another 20-vehicle military convoy, including tanks, had also arrived in the Viransehir district of Turkey’s Sanliurfa Province to provide assistance to the military units already deployed to the Syrian border, the sources added. The US infuriated its NATO partner Turkey on Sunday by announcing that Washington and a coalition of its allies purportedly fighting Daesh will work with US-backed militants of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to set up a new 30,000-strong “border security” force. The force would operate along the Turkish border with Iraq and within Syria along the Euphrates River.
Washington also said it is supplying weapons and training to anti-Damascus militants of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the SDF’s main backbone. Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and the Syrian arm of the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for independence over the past decades. The US had promised to take back the weapons from Kurdish militants once Daesh falls. Reacting to the US military’s announcement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Washington is “building an army of terror” on the border with Syria,” and that “it is our responsibility to suffocate this effort before it is born.”

 

 

 

 

Turkey signs deal to buy Russian S-400 missile systems

Turkey has signed a deal with Russia to buy S-400 missile defence systems in its first major weapons purchase from Moscow, Turkish newspapers quoted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying. The accord for the surface-to-air missile defence batteries is Ankara’s most significant pact with a non-Nato supplier. “Signatures have been made for the purchase of S-400s from Russia. A deposit has also been paid as far as I know,” Erdogan said in comments published in the Hurriyet Daily and other newspapers. “(Russian President Vladimir Putin) and myself are determined on this issue,” he told journalists.
The purchase of the missile systems from a non-Nato supplier will raise concerns in the West over their compatibility with the alliance’s equipment. The Pentagon has already sounded alarm, saying bluntly that “generally it’s a good idea” for Nato allies to buy interoperable equipment. Erdogan said Turkey was free to make military acquisitions based on its defence needs. “We make the decisions about our own independence ourselves, we are obliged to take safety and security measures in order to defend our country,” he said. Moscow also confirmed the accord, with Vladimir Kozhin, Putin’s adviser for military and technical cooperation, saying: “The contract has been signed and is being prepared for implementation.”
He said that the S-400 was one of the most complex systems, made up of a whole range of technical materials. “I can only guarantee that all decisions taken on this contract strictly comply with our strategic interests,” he was quoted as saying by Russian state-owned [TASS]2 news agency. “For this reason, we fully understand the reactions of several Western countries which are trying to put pressure on Turkey,” he added. Russia’s relations with Nato have been in crisis over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and for backing pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. Turkey, a Nato member since 1952, has currently troubled ties with the United States over a number of issues including Washington’s support of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) Syrian Kurd militia which Ankara considers a terror group.

Turkey referendum : President Recep Erdogan celebrates victory

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has welcomed the “Yes” vote in the referendum to amend Turkey’s constitution and grant the country’s presidential office new executive powers. “We have been attacked by other nations of the world. You have seen how the West attacked us,” Erdogan told cheering supporters in Istanbul on Sunday. “We have not been divided … We have already been on our way, now we will gear it up [with the new system],” he said. “We have so much work to do in this country.” The constitutional changes were backed by Erdogan, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) founded by him, and the leadership of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), whose parliamentary support was vital to take the amendments to a public vote.

Turkey’s president : ‘Nazism is alive in the West’

Turkey said it does nott want the Netherlands ambassador to return “for some time” as relations quickly deteriorated between the NATO allies after the Dutch government barred Turkey’s foreign minister from flying to the country. In response to the Netherlands’ withdrawing landing permission, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Dutch government of acting like “fascists” and “Nazi remnants”. Turkish authorities blocked the Dutch embassy and consulate as the dispute between the two countries over Turkey’s political campaigning in Europe intensified. Turkey also closed off the residences of the Dutch ambassador, charge d’affaires, and consul general.

The long road to Raqqa

The Raqqa offensive (codenamed Operation Wrath of Euphrates), is an ongoing military operation launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Raqqa Governorate, with the goal of isolating and eventually capturing the Islamic State’s capital city, Raqqa. Another one of the main goals is to capture the Tabqa Dam and the nearby city of Al-Thawrah. The offensive has also been dubbed the Battle to End All Battles in the War on ISIL. The offensive is concurrent with the Turkish anti-ISIL Battle of al-Bab, the Battle of Mosul in Iraq, the Battle of Sirte (2016) in Libya, the Palmyra offensive (December 2016) launched by ISIL, and a reignition of fighting in Deir ez-Zor’s siege.

Islamic State encircled in Syria’s al-Bab

Islamic State militants are now effectively surrounded by Syrian government forces from the south and Turkish-backed rebels from the north, as Damascus and Ankara race to capture the largest Islamic State stronghold in Aleppo province.  

Turkey mourns after Istanbul terror attack

Carnations lie on the ground near the scene of the Dec. 31 shooting attack in Istanbul, as family and friends began attending funerals for its victims. Turkey’s state-run news agency says police have detained eight people in connection with the incident. The gunman, who escaped after carrying out the attack, wasn’t among the eight. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the violence, which killed 39 people, most of them foreigners.