Beirut, Oct 11 (AP/UNB) — Turkey's Defense Ministry says a second soldier has been killed in clashes with Syrian Kurdish fighters during the country's cross-border operation.
The ministry said in the statement the soldier was "martyred" Friday. That brings the death toll of Turkish soldiers in the offensive to two.
Turkey's official Anadolu news agency said four Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters died Thursday in an ambush near Tal Abyad.
Turkey is fighting the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, which Turkey considers to be an extension of a Kurdish insurgency at home. The YPG forms the backbone of U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against the Islamic State group.
Turkey says the operation against the group, which it considers terrorists, is necessary for national survival.
Doctors Without Borders say it has shut down one of the hospitals it supports in northeastern Syria, which served more than 200,000 people, because of violence caused by the Turkish offensive on Kurdish-held areas.
The aid organization, also known as MSF, said Friday the hospital in the border town of Tal Abyad is the only public one and served patients farther afield. MSF said the violence forced the vast majority of the town's residents to leave, including the medical staff and their family.
MSF said its staff have relocated to provide services in other parts of the region.
MSF said aid groups had to suspend or limit their operations in the crowded al-Hol camp, home to more than 70,000 women and children, as well as Ain Eissa camp.
Turkey's state-run news agency says two more civilians have been killed in a mortar attack on a Turkish border town while another person died of wounds from a similar attack a day earlier.
Anadolu Agency said the latest assault targeted the town of Suruc on Friday, while officials said a child in the town of Ceylanpinar died of his wounds late Thursday. The fatalities increased the death toll of civilians killed in mortar attacks on Turkish border towns to nine.
Turkish officials say the Kurdish militia has fired dozens of mortars into Turkish border towns since the start of Turkey's military offensive in northeast Syria on Oct. 9. The victims include a 9-month-old boy and four children aged 15 or less.
Turkey's interior minister says Friday that 121 people have been detained for social media posts critical of Turkey's military offensive into Kurdish-held northeastern Syria.
Suleyman Soylu said nearly 500 people were investigated for posts characterizing Turkey as an "invading" force and "insulting" the operation —dubbed Peace Spring— which is in its third day.
Turkey is fighting the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, which it considers to be an extension of a Kurdish insurgency within the country.
Turkey's police force has previously said the investigations were under the charge of "terror propaganda." Similar measures were taken during Turkey's 2018 cross-border operation in Afrin in northwestern Syria, which was previously controlled by the YPG.
Turkey's anti-terror laws are broad. Pro-Kurdish lawmakers and journalists have been convicted and imprisoned for terror propaganda.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry has rejected warnings that Turkey's cross-border military offensive in northeast Syrian would lead to a humanitarian crisis and mass displacement.
A ministry statement Friday dismissed such claims as allegations "fabricated in order to discredit Turkey's counter-terrorism efforts," adding that only Syrian Kurdish fighters' hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons, vehicles and equipment were being targeted.
The statement also dismissed warnings from Western nations that Turkey's assault on the U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters would put the fight against the Islamic State group at risk.
"Those who even refrain from repatriating their own citizens who are foreign terrorist fighters in the ranks of (IS), do not have the right to lecture Turkey on the fight against (IS)," the statement read.
Syrian Kurdish officials say their security agencies have contained an apparent escape attempt at a sprawling camp in northeastern Syria, home to thousands of family members of Islamic State militants.
Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Friday that dozens of camp residents attacked the exit gate of al-Hol camp, home to over 70,000 women and children. He said the situation was brought under control but described it as "critical."
Video from a closed-circuit camera show security members chasing women covered in black dress, as they flee away, down the main road that runs in the center of the camp.
The already restive camp is dominated by radical wives of IS members, who have tried to recreate the rules of the militant group. The Kurdish-led authorities have already struggled with securing and providing humanitarian aid to the sprawling camp.
An official who deals with the camp said residents there are taking advantage of the Kurdish-led fighters' focus on fending off a Turkish invasion that began Wednesday, to riot.
Turkey's official news agency says two more Kurdish-held villages have been captured on the third day of the cross-border offensive.
Anadolu news agency said Friday Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters and the Turkish military captured the villages of Tal Hafer and Asfar Nejjar near Ras al-Ayn.
Thirteen villages around Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn in northeastern Syria were captured in the last two days.
Turkey says it intends to go 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep into northern Syria to push back Kurdish forces and set up a so-called "safe zone." It is shelling, conducting airstrikes and using ground forces in the operation.
Pakistan's prime minister has offered rare backing for Turkey's invasion of Syria, a deadly cross-border incursion that started this week and has already displaced tens of thousands.
Friday's government statement says Prime Minister Imran Khan called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express "support and solidarity."
It says Khan told Erdogan that "Pakistan fully understands Turkey's concerns relating to terrorism" and the "threats and challenges being faced by Turkey" as it has lost 40,000 people in acts of terrorism in recent years.
Khan said he is praying that "Turkey's efforts for enhanced security, regional stability and peaceful resolution of the Syrian situation are fully successful."
Erdogan is due to visit Pakistan later this month.
Syrian Kurdish officials say they are evacuating people from a camp for the displaced near the border with Turkey amid Ankara's invasion in northeastern Syria.
The local Kurdish-led administration says Turkish artillery shells have landed in the vicinity of the Mabrouka camp, west of the town of Ras al-Ayn, prompting the evacuation.
It was not immediately clear if there were any injuries on Friday. The camp is 12 kilometers, or 7 miles, from the border.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say intense clashes are underway between Syrian Kurdish fighters and Turkey-backed groups on the outskirts of Ras al-Ayn.
U.N. and aid officials had no immediate comment amid an increasingly fluid military situation. Mabrouka is home to 7,000 displaced people, many of whom had fled advances of the Islamic State group in eastern Syria years before.
The local Kurdish administration says it's evacuating the residents to another camp to the south.
European Union Council chief Donald Tusk says Turkey's military operation in northern Syria is of "grave concern" and urged Ankara to stop its military incursion before it triggers another "humanitarian catastrophe."
Tusk spoke to reporters after talks with the Cypriot president on Friday.
He says Turkey's security concerns should be dealt with through diplomatic and political means and that military action only exacerbates civilian suffering, causes further displacement of people and threatens progress that has been achieved so far in battling the Islamic State group.
Tusk said Syrian Kurdish forces have been "crucial" in fighting IS and abandoning them "is not only a bad idea" but raises many "questions both of a strategic and moral nature."
The EU official strongly criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for suggesting Thursday he would send 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey to Europe unless the 28-member bloc stops calling Turkey's action an "invasion."
Tusk said Erdogan's remarks were "totally out of place," adding that the EU will never accept "that refugees are weaponized and used to blackmail us."
Several unidentified people have attacked protesters outside the Turkish Embassy in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv who were rallying against Turkey's invasion in northeastern Syria.
The attackers came out of the embassy.
Footage posted by activists on Friday morning shows several men, some in suits and ties, come out of the embassy and charge the protesters.
The attackers threw some of the protesters on the ground and tore some of the signs they were holding. The men were later seen going back into the embassy compound.
Police in Kyiv had no immediate comment on the incident.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is worried that the Turkish invasion in Syria could pose a threat of a terrorist revival in the region.
The Russian leader spoke during a visit to Turkmenistan on Friday.
Putin says that he doubts that the Turkish army has enough resources to promptly take control of the IS prison camps, saying that he fears that the captured IS fighters "could just run away."
He said in comments on Russian news agencies: "I'm not sure that the Turkish army could take this under their control this fast."
Putin said that Russia is concerned about this threat: "We have to be aware of this and mobilize the resources of our intelligence to undercut this emerging tangible threat."
NATO's secretary-general is urging Ankara to exercise restraint in its incursion into northeast Syria though he acknowledges what he says is Turkey's legitimate security concern about the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Jens Stoltenberg also expressed hos worry that Turkey's offensive launched earlier this week may "jeopardize" gains made against the Islamic State group in the war in Syria.
Stoltenberg spoke a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday in Istanbul, where he arrived as part of a regional visit that also took him to Rome and Athens.
The NATO chief told reporters that "an imminent concern is that captured Daesh terrorists must not be able to escape," referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic name.
Cavusoglu said Turkey expected solidarity from its allies and added that "it is not enough to say you understand Turkey's legitimate concerns, we want to see this solidarity in a clear way."
A French official says sanctions against Turkey will be "on the table" at next week's European Union summit, after the country's incursion into Syria.
Amélie de Montchalin, the French secretary for European affairs, told France Inter radio on Friday that Europe rejected any idea that it was powerless to respond to what she described as a shocking situation against civilians and Europe's Kurdish allies against the Islamic State group.
European diplomats in Brussels have responded cautiously to the idea of sanctions on Ankara.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that he will send millions of refugees into Europe if there is any backlash against his military cross-border operation in Syria.
Turkey's Defense Ministry says a Turkish soldier has been killed during action in Syria — Turkey's first military fatality in Ankara's cross-border offensive, now into its third day.
The ministry said Friday that three soldiers were wounded. It didn't provide details.
Separately, the ministry said 49 more "terrorists" were "neutralized" in the incursion, in reference to Syrian Kurdish fighters. It said the total number of Kurdish fighters killed in the incursion now numbers 277.
Those numbers could not be independently verified.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters terrorists linked to a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey and has launched an invasion into northeastern Syria this week.
Ankara says the offensive is necessary for national security.
There have been civilian casualties on both sides: six civilians in Turkey and seven in Syria.
Akcakale, Oct 11 (AP/UNB) — Turkish forces pushed deeper into northeastern Syria on Friday, the third day of Ankara's cross-border offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters that has set off another mass displacement of civilians and met with widespread criticism from the international community.
There were casualties on both sides and Turkey reported its first military fatality, saying a soldier was "martyred" in the fighting.
Earlier, at least six civilians were reported killed in Turkey and seven civilians have been killed in Syria since Ankara this week launched the air and ground operation into Syria's northeast. The invasion came after President Donald Trump opened the way by pulling American troops from their positions near the border and abandoning U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Trump's unexpected decision came as he faces an impeachment inquiry at home. It drew swift criticism from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, along with many national defense experts who say it's endangered not only the Syrian Kurds and regional stability but U.S. credibility as well. The Syrian Kurdish militia was the only U.S. ally in the campaign that brought down the Islamic State group in Syria.
Trump warned Turkey to act with moderation and safeguard civilians. But the barrages of the invasion so far showed little sign of holding back.
In Syria, residents fled with their belongings loaded into cars, pickup trucks and motorcycle rickshaws, while others escaped on foot. The U.N. refugee agency said tens of thousands were on the move, and aid agencies warned that nearly a half-million people near the border were at risk — in scenes similar to those from a few years ago, when civilians fled the Islamic State group militants.
On Friday morning, plumes of black smoke billowed from the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad as Turkey continued bombarding the area.
The Turkish ministry statement that reported the death of a soldier also said three soldiers were wounded in the action but didn't provide details. Separately, the ministry said 49 more "terrorists" were "neutralized" in the incursion, in reference to Syrian Kurdish fighters. It said the total number of Kurdish fighters killed so far numbers 277. Those figures could not be independently verified.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters terrorists linked to a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey and says the offensive is necessary for national security.
Turkish officials said the Kurdish militia has fired dozens of mortars into Turkish border towns the past two days, including Akcakale, killing at least six civilians, including a 9-month-old boy and three girls under 15. On the Syrian side, seven civilians and eight Kurdish fighters have been killed since the operation began, according to activists in Syria.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said the offensive was progressing "successfully as planned." A Kurdish-led group and Syrian activists said that despite the bombardment, Turkish troops had not made much progress on several fronts they had opened. But their claims could not be independently verified.
As the incursion drew widespread criticism, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the European Union not to call Ankara's incursion into Syria an "invasion." He threatened, as he has in the past, to "open the gates" and let Syrian refugees flood into Europe.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said the military intends to move 30 kilometers (19 miles) into northern Syria and that its operation will last until all "terrorists are neutralized."
Meanwhile, a French official said Friday that sanctions against Turkey will be "on the table" at next week's European Union summit, over Ankara's incursion into Syria.
Amélie de Montchalin, the French secretary for European affairs, told France Inter radio that Europe rejected any idea that it was powerless to respond to what she described as a shocking situation against civilians and Europe's Kurdish allies against the Islamic State group.
European diplomats in Brussels have responded cautiously to the idea of sanctions on Ankara though the invasion — which began Wednesday and was dubbed by Turkey "Operation Peace Spring" — has met with unanimous criticism.
The Turkish assault aims to create a corridor of control along the length of Turkey's border — a so-called "safe zone" — clearing out the Syrian Kurdish fighters. Such a zone would end the Kurds' autonomy in the area and put much of their population under Turkish control. Ankara wants to settle 2 million Syrian refugees, mainly Arabs, in the zone.
The U.N. refugee agency said tens of thousands of people have fled their homes since Wednesday, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, put the figure at more than 60,000.
Tehran, Oct 11 (AP/UNB) — Two missiles struck an Iranian tanker traveling through the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia on Friday, Iranian officials said, the latest incident in the region amid months of heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S.
There was no word from Saudi Arabia on the reported attack and Saudi officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Oil prices spiked by 2% on the news.
"This latest incident, if confirmed to be an act of aggression, is highly likely to be part of the wider narrative of deteriorating relations between Saudi and the U.S. and Iran," private maritime security firm Dryad Maritime warned.
"It is likely that the region, have being stable for the last month, will face another period of increasing maritime threats, as the Iranian and Saudi geopolitical stand-off continues," it added.
Iranian state television said the explosion damaged two storerooms aboard the oil tanker and caused an oil leak into the Red Sea near the Saudi port city of Jiddah. The leak was later stopped, IRNA reported.
The state-run IRNA news agency, quoting Iran's National Iranian Tanker Co., identified the stricken vessel as the Sabiti. It turned on its tracking devices late Friday morning in the Red Sea, putting its location some 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Jiddah, according to data from MarineTraffic.com. The ship is carrying some 1 million barrels of crude oil, according to an analysis from data firm Refinitiv.
Images released by Iran's Petroleum Ministry appeared to show no visible damage to the Sabiti visible from its bridge, though they did not show the ship's sides. Satellite images of the area showed no visible smoke.
The ministry's SHANA news agency said no ship nor any authority in the area responded to its distress messages.
The Sabiti last turned on its tracking devices in August near the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. Iranian tankers routinely turn off their trackers as U.S. sanctions target the sale of Iran's crude oil.
"The oil tanker ... sustained damages to the body when it was hit by missiles 60 miles (96 kilometers) from the Saudi port city of Jiddah," IRNA said.
The agency did not say whom Iranian officials suspect of launching the missiles.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the incident as an "attack" carried out by those committing "dangerous adventurism." In a statement, Mousavi said the Sabiti was struck twice in the span of a half hour and an investigation was underway.
Lt. Pete Pagano, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet overseeing the Mideast, said authorities there were "aware of reports of this incident," but declined to comment further.
Benchmark Brent crude oil rose over 2% in trading Friday to reach some $60.40 a barrel.
The reported attack comes after the U.S. has alleged that in past months Iran attacked oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, something denied by Tehran.
Friday's incident could push tensions between Iran and the U.S. even higher, more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal and imposed sanctions now crushing Iran's economy.
The mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East followed Trump's decision.
The latest assault saw Saudi Arabia's vital oil industry come under a drone-and-cruise-missile attack , halving the kingdom's output. The U.S. has blamed Iran for the attack, something denied by Tehran. Yemen's Houthi rebels, whom the kingdom is fighting in a yearslong war, claimed that assault, though analysts say the missiles used in the attack wouldn't have the range to reach the sites from Yemen.
Mousavi also said that Iranian tankers have been targeted by "damaging activities" over recent months in the Red Sea. He did not elaborate.
In May, an Iranian oil tanker carrying more than 1 million barrels of fuel oil suffered a reported malfunction in the same area as the Sabiti came under attack. The kingdom helped the Happiness 1 reach anchorage off Jiddah, where it was repaired and later left.
In its analysis Friday, Dryad Maritime said the incident involving the Happiness 1 bore "the hallmarks of a potential explosive incident."
Iran said in August another oil tanker, the Helm, faced a technical failure while passing through the Red Sea, without elaborating.
Jerusalem, Oct 10 (AP/UNB) — For the past three years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has bet heavily on President Donald Trump and been rewarded with major diplomatic gains in exchange for his warm embrace of the U.S. leader.
But the U.S. pullback from northeastern Syria, essentially abandoning its Kurdish allies, has called that strategy — and Trump's reliability as a friend — into question. In particular, there are growing fears that Israel's archenemy Iran could be emboldened by what appears to be an increasingly hands-off American policy in the region.
"The Israelis had thought of Trump as a special U.S. leader very much in tune with their view of the region," said Dan Shapiro, who was former U.S. President Barack Obama's ambassador to Israel. "Now they're coming to terms with the cold hard reality that his isolationist instincts and his chaotic, impulsive decision making can actually be very damaging to their interests."
It is a surprising turn of events for Netanyahu, who has been one of Trump's strongest supporters on the international stage.
That alliance yielded a wealth of dividends for Netanyahu during the first few years of the Trump administration — perhaps none so striking as Trump's decision to break with decades of U.S. policy and recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. He moved the American Embassy to the contested holy city, enraging the Palestinians.
Trump also withdrew from the international nuclear deal with Iran — an agreement that Israel had derided as weak and ineffective. He defended Israel from its many critics at the United Nations, and, early this year, recognized Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war.
Netanyahu routinely boasts that Trump is the best friend that Israel has ever had in the White House. But things have begun to change since he failed to win reelection in April and was forced to hold a second, inconclusive vote last month.
During the first campaign for the April race, Trump embraced Netanyahu's candidacy and made little secret of his support, inviting the Israeli leader to the White House when he announced his recognition of the Golan Heights annexation.
But during the do-over race, Trump kept his distance. And after Netanyahu last month failed for a second time to win a parliamentary majority in national elections, Trump appeared to play down the friendship. "Our relations are with Israel, so we'll see what happens," he said.
Concerns have only deepened following a series of moves in which Trump backed away from possible military confrontations. In June, he called off a planned attack against Iran in response to the shooting down of an American drone. Trump also decided against military action in response to an alleged Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities last month, saying he did not want war.
Then, this week, he abruptly withdrew U.S. troops from Kurdish areas in northeastern Syria, clearing the way for a Turkish invasion aimed at crushing the Kurds, America's allies in the fight against the Islamic State group. Trump has defended the move by saying the United States should not be "fighting and policing" in the Middle East. But it reportedly caught Israeli officials off guard.
The fear is that Trump's actions, or lack thereof, could encourage Iran to step up what Israel sees as aggressive and hostile activity in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
"The main image is a very weak U.S. that does not help its allies. It deserts its allies," said Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations at Israel's Bar-Ilan University.
Israeli officials declined to comment about Trump's decision in northern Syria but said relations with the U.S. remain strong and the country is more than capable of defending itself.
"We will always remember and implement the basic rule that has guided us: Israel will defend itself, by itself, against any threat," Netanyahu said at a memorial ceremony Thursday for soldiers killed in the 1973 Mideast war. "The Israeli military is prepared to preempt any threat, defensively and offensively, with crushing strength."
But while officials have stopped short of openly criticizing Trump, the American pullback from Syria has pushed some to question Netanyahu's close alliance. That support has had the effect of alienating some of Israel's traditional backers in the Democratic Party and the overwhelmingly liberal Jewish American community and caused friction with allies in Europe.
"From Jerusalem's perspective, it is another warning sign that this president — until recently presented as Israel's greatest friend ever in Washington — can't be trusted," said Amos Harel, a commentator in the Haaretz daily. "Again, one must wonder whether too much reliance hadn't been placed on Trump, at the cost of Netanyahu distancing himself far from the Democrats and undermining traditional bipartisan support in Washington for Israel."
Ofer Shelach, a lawmaker with the Blue and White Party, the main rival of Netanyahu's Likud party, said the events in northeastern Syria are "more evidence of Benjamin Netanyahu's ongoing diplomatic failure." He said that despite the close ties with Netanyahu, Trump does "what suits him."
But not everyone views the U.S. move as necessarily bad for Israel — or all that new. Yaakov Amidror, Netanyahu's former national security adviser, said Trump's disengagement in many ways continues Obama's reluctance to become embroiled in yet another Mideast conflict.
Although a U.S. exit from the region could have "very bad consequences" in terms of Iranian actions, he said it also could create new opportunities. Not having to worry about the "sensitivities" of U.S. troops in the area could give Israel more freedom to act, he said.
"The space is more opened to not just the Iranians but to us," he said.
Sanaa, Oct 8 (AP/UNB) — Yemeni health officials say an explosive device has gone off near the flashpoint port city of Hodeida, killing at least four children.
The officials say the explosion took place late on Monday in the town of Wadi Nakhla. Two other children were wounded. All the causalities were from the same family.
The officials blamed the Houthi rebels, saying they scattered land mines and explosive devices in areas under their control in Hodeida to hamper a push by government forces last year.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
Recent heavy rainfall and floods in the region have exposed land mines, which are largely unmapped and remain a threat to civilians.
Yemen's war pits the Iran-aligned Houthis against the internationally recognized government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition.