Syria
Kurdish refugees

‘Ceasefire’ or ethnic cleansing in northeast Syria?

After meeting in Ankara, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a “ceasefire.” However, Ankara is insisting the deal is not a “ceasefire” but a halt in the offensive to give Kurdish forces time to retreat from zone. Far from being a peace move, the pact amounts to an ultimatum to the Kurds to quit their territory. Some 160,000 Kurds have already fled the Turkish offensive—some to a refugee camp that has been established across the border in Iraq. (Photo: UNHCR via Twitter)

Syria
Ahrar al-Sharqiya

UN warns Turkey over rights violations in Syria

A spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that Turkey may be held responsible for executions and civilian casualties that have occurred as a part of its military offensive in northern Syria. Rupert Colville stated that the office has received reports detailing civilian casualties as well as “summary executions carried out by fighters belonging to the Ahrar al-Sharqiya armed group, which is affiliated with Turkey.” Especially mentioned were videos widely shared on social media that seem to show fighters executing three Kurdish captives on the al-Hassakeh-Manbij highway. Only one of the captives appeared to be wearing military uniform. (Photo via Twitter)

Syria
SDF

Syrian Kurds forge military pact with Assad regime

In a deal brokered by Russia, the leadership of the Rojava Kurds have agreed to cooperate with the Assad regime in resisting the Turkish incursion into northeast Syria. With Assadist forces already mobilizing to the region from the south and Turkish-backed forces advancing from the north, the Kurds have been left with little other choice. Accepting a separate peace with Assad is now their only hope to avoid outright extermination, or, at the very least, being cleansed entirely from their territory. But the sticking point in previous peace feelers between the Kurds and Assad has been the latter’s refusal to recognize the Rojava autonomous zone*—so its survival now is gravely in doubt, even in the improbable event that the Turkish advance is repulsed. Worse still, with the Kurds now open allies of the brutal regime that Syria’s Arab opposition has been fighting for nearly eight years, a general Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria appears terrifyingly imminent. (Photo: SOHR)

Syria
Rojava

Turkey prepares ‘humanitarian’ genocide of Kurds

Turkey launched its assault on the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria, with air-strikes and artillery pounding areas along the Syrian-Turkish border. Hundreds of civilians have fled the bombardment, headed south into areas still held by Kurdish forces. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is cloaking this aggression in the guise of a “safe zone” for refugees, a humanitarian operation. In reality, Erdogan is exploiting the refugees as demographic cannon fodder, using them to populate areas Kurds are now to be displaced from, creating a new class of refugees, pitting Arabs against Kurds, and establishing the conditions for potentially generations of Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria. (Map: Genocide Watch)

North Africa
drone

Drone wars over Libya

With the forces of eastern strongman Khalifa Hifter stalled outside Tripoli in his drive to oust Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), both sides have been sniping at each other with drone strikes. Experts say that Haftar has procured Chinese-made Wing Loong drones from his main backer, the United Arab Emirates. The GNA, meanwhile, has turned to Ankara, its own increasingly open backer, which is believed to be supplying Turkish Bayraktar drones. Over 1,000 have been killed, close to 6,000 injured, and 120,000 displaced in the battle for Tripoli, which opened a year ago. (Photo of Wing Loong II drone via Xinhua)

Iraq
warplane

Multiple powers still bombing Iraq

Drone strikes targeted positions of an Iran-backed pro-government militia, the Popular Mobilization Forces, in northern Iraq near the Syrian border, and in the Fallujah area. Reports suggested the strikes were carried out by Israel, whch has been stepping up attacks on Iran-backed forces across the border in Syria. Turkish warplanes meanwhile attacked a village near Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan, killing a local shopkeeper. Turkey has been for years targeting positions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Days earlier, US-led coalition forces bombed a supposed ISIS stronghold on Qanus Island in the Tigris River, in Salahuddin province. ISIS fighters wh had fled areas re-taken from the group in Mosul and Syrian territory are said to have taken refuge on the island. (Photo via IraqNews)

Syria

Erdogan exploits refugees in Syria land-grab

A meeting in Ankara between the Turkish, Russian, and Iranian presidents failed to reach a breakthrough on what is obviously a planned carve-up of Syria. But a consensus does appear to be emerging on betrayal of the Syria Kurds. Ankara is promoting a plan to resettle displaced Syrians in a Turkish-controlled “safe zone” stretching across Syria’s north. While the US wants the width of the “safe zone” confined to 10 kilometers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that the zone could be expanded to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor—respectively some 100 and 200 kilometers from the Turkish border. Significantly, the city of Raqqa and much of Deir ez-Zor province are controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Erdogan has named a figure of 3 million refugees and displaced persons to be settled within the “safe zone.” (Photo via Ahval)

Syria

Erdogan bargains with refugees in Syria land-grab

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to allow Syrian refugees to leave Turkey for Europe if his long-sought “safe zone” in northern Syria is not established. Having recently declared the EU-Turkey deal on refugees struck back in 2016 to be no longer in effect, Erdogan is now using the some 4 million Syrian refugees in his country as a bargaining chip in his dispute with Washington over the size of the military “safe zone.” US Central Command maintains that Kurdish militia forces have withdrawn from the strip along the Turkish border, acquiescing in establishment of the “safe zone.” But the US and Turkey remain at odds over the width of the zone, with Ankara demanding 40 kilometers and Washington insisting on 10.  (Photo via Ahval)

Greater Middle East

Turkey: sweeps, unrest follow electoral dispute

The municipalities of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van in Turkey’s east have been rocked by unrest since the central government removed their mayors from office over alleged links to a Kurdish armed group last month. “Trustees” have been appointed to govern the municipalities, as protesters have repeatedly clashed with riot police, who have deployed tear-gas, water-cannons and armored vehicles. The leftist and Kurdish-supported Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has refused to accept the suspension of the mayors and called for ongoing protests to uphold “the will of the people.” Amid the protest wave, Ankara has launched “Operation Kıran,” a new campaign against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the region, with hundreds arrested. Among those sentenced to prison last week was Raife İnatçı, a 70-year-old Kurdish woman in Diyarbakır, whose six-month term was upheld by a local court. She was accused of spreading “terrorist propaganda” with a placard she carried at a demonstration. (Photo of Raife İnatçı via Turkey Purge)

Syria

Trump joins Putin in bombardment of Idlib

US warplanes struck a position outside the capital of Syria’s northern Idlib province, targeting a faction named as Huras al-Din and reportedly killing some 40 militants. Huras al-Din split from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the leading insurgent front in much of Idlib, after HTS broke ties with al-Qaeda in 2016. The US air-strikes come amid an ongoing massive aerial assault on Idlib by Russia and the Assad regime. Two days earlier, at least 13 civilians were killed in Russian and regime air-strikes on the town of Marat al-Numan. Hundreds of Syrians meanwhile attempted to storm a border crossing with Turkey in Idlib, demanding refuge from the relentless bombardment. (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria

Idlib bombardment resumes after brief respite

Russia and the Assad regime resumed attacks on opposition-held northwest Syria, breaking a four-day pause declared by Damascus. Russian and regime forces, whose spring offensive shattered a “demilitarized zone” announced last September by Moscow and Turkey, again began bombing and shelling both rebel positions and civilian areas. The regime’s military said last week that it was halting operations, which have killed more than 700 civilians and wounded more than 2,200 since late April, while giving an ultimatum to anti-Assad forces to withdraw from the 20-kilometer “demilitarized zone” through Idlib and northern Hama province. As the new air-strikes were launched, an army statement said: “The agreement to a truce was conditional… This did not happen… We resume our military operations against terrorist organizations.” (Photo via EA Worldview)

Syria

Turkey deports Syrians to bomb-wracked Idlib

In a new campaign against migrants who lack residency papers, Turkey has for the past weeks been deporting Syrians from Istanbul to Syria—including to the war-torn northwest province of Idlib. The crackdown comes at a time of rising rhetoric and political pressure on the country’s 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees to return home. Estimates place hundreds of thousands of unregistered Syrians in Turkey, many living in urban areas such as Istanbul. Refugee rights advocates say deportations to Syria violate customary international law, which prohibits forcing people to return to a country where they are still likely to face persecution or risk to their lives. Arrests reportedly began in mid-July, with police conducting spot-checks in public spaces, factories, and metro stations around Istanbul and raiding apartments. As word spread quickly in Istanbul’s Syrian community, many people shut themselves up at home rather than risk being caught outside. (Photo: The New Humanitarian)