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.
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 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.
Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was shot dead in front of a crowd at a posh art gallery in the capital Ankara as the angry gunmen screamed “don’t forget Aleppo”. Police later killed the assailant on Monday night, Turkish station NTV reported.
The assailant was a 22-year-old off-duty police officer who worked in Turkey’s capital, said Ankara’s Mayor Melih Gokcek. After the initial shot, the attacker approached Karlov as he lay on the ground and shot him at least one more time at close range, according to an AP photographer at the scene. He also smashed several of the framed photos on exhibition, but later let the stunned guests out of the venue, according to local media. The spectacle of Karlov’s assassination by a member of the Turkish security forces at a photography exhibit meant to highlight Russian culture reinforced the sense of unease over the region’s conflict and complex web of alliances and relationships.
Several media outlets reported a gunfight later ensued after Karlov was shot. Local broadcaster NTV television said at least three people were wounded and were taken to the hospital. Mayor Gokcek told reporters outside the exhibition centre the “heinous” attack was aimed at disrupting newly re-established relations between Turkey and Russia. Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone about Monday’s attack. “On behalf of my country and my people I once again extend my condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the friendly Russian people,” said Erdogan.
‘Don’t forget Aleppo’
The assailant referenced the situation in Aleppo after he shot the ambassador in the back. “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria,” the attacker said in Turkish after gunning down the ambassador, as seen on a video shared by Turkish media from the scene. “Whoever took part in this cruelty will pay the price, one by one… Only death will take me from here,” the man said while holding a pistol. He then continued in Arabic, saying: “We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, for jihad.” Diego Cupolo, a photojournalist in Ankara, told Al Jazeera there were about 100 armed soldiers in camouflage and police officers at the scene, along with armoured fighting vehicles.
Turkish army tanks make their way in the Syrian border town of Jarablus as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Karkamis, in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey. Turkish special forces, tanks and jets backed by planes from the U.S.-led coalition launched their first co-ordinated offensive into Syria on Wednesday to try to drive Islamic State from the border and prevent further gains by Kurdish militia fighters.