Ankara tells US, “This is not befitting of a friendship and alliance”
Turkey has denounced the US over Washington’s public confirmation that it is arming the Kurdish YPG militia.
After a 4-1/2-hour meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the National Security Council said in a statement:
It has been stressed that the policy of supporting the PKK/PYD-YPG terrorist organization, acting under the guise of the Syrian Democratic Forces, by disregarding Turkey’s expectation is not befitting of a friendship and alliance.
On Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed the supply of small arms and vehicles to the YPG, even though Turkey considers the militia part of the “terrorist” Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.
The US has discreetly supplied the YPG since late 2015 when the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Kurdish militia, was created to fight the Islamic State in northeast Syria. Washington only acknowledged the arrangement this month, with Donald Trump signing an order openly authorizing the deliveries.
The Americans made the move despite a high-level appeal by Turkey’s top military and political officials in a trip to the White House, just before Erdoğan met Trump.
The SDF has advanced steadily against ISIS, moving through northeast Syria and west of the Euphrates River despite a Turkish “red line”. However, there have been months of political wrangling over whether the YPG would be involved in the SDF’s offensive to take Raqqa, the Islamic State’s central position in northern Syria.
Journalist in Northern Syria Says His UK Nationality Revoked
Akif Razaq, a journalist with On the Ground News in northern Syria, says his UK nationality has been revoked because British authorities consider him a “threat”.
Razaq said he learned the news from his family in Birmingham, where he was born. While he had no detailed explanation, he says he has been targeted for years by UK authorities, including a raid on his family’s home.
On the Ground News covers civilian and military developments in northern Syria, the range of opposition forces from rebels to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, once linked to Al Qa’eda. Its American-born founder, Bilal Abdul Kareem, has not only survived threats from the Assad regime but a series of aerial attacks, including suspected US drone strikes.
Iran Proclaims “US-Backed Terrorists” in East, Rebels Say Russian Warplanes Attack
Amid escalating tension in eastern Syria — including a possible showdown between pro-Assad forces and US-supported rebels, the outlet of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has proclaimed that “terrorists supported by Washington kicked off military operations against the Syrian army forces’ positions” in the desert region.
Fars fired the propaganda shot with the exaggerated declaration that the current pro-Assad offensive in the Badia could take 5,000 square km — the actual figure so far is just over 1,000 square km — in an advance towards the Free Syrian Army base at Tanf near the Iraq border.
US special forces provide training and support to the FSA at Tanf as part of the campaign against the Islamic State. Two weeks ago US warplanes attacked pro-Assad forces, including Iranian-led militia and Hezbollah, when they moved within a 55-km exclusion zone around the base.
Fars, which hailed the movement of 3,000 Hezbollah fighters into the area just before the US attack, claims in another exaggeration that the pro-Assad forces are 30 km from Tanf.
Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army claims that six “Russian warplanes” attacked its positions in the Badia on Wednesday.
The FSA did not say whether the jets were piloted by Russian or Assad regime personnel. It said there were no casualties.
UN: Assad Regime Steps Up Denial of Aid to Besieged Areas, Turns Hospitals Into “Death Traps”
Despite — or possibly because of — capitulations by some opposition areas and political talks in Astana and Geneva, the Assad regime is stepping up the denial of aid to besieged territory.
In cross-line areas, we have only been able to secure facilitation letters for seven convoys under the April/May access plan, allowing us to reach 266,750 people in need. This is out of a million people requested under the bimonthly plan. And as a result, we are essentially down to one cross-line convoy per week
to reach those who are most in need.
Compared to last year, when we deployed 50 cross-line convoys through May, today we stand at 18 cross-line
convoys in 2017.
The UN’s Undersecretary General for humanitarian operations, Stephen O’Brien, also wrote the Secretary General and Security Council about the regime’s ongoing thefts and attacks on medical facilities:
The removal of life-saving medicines and medical supplies such as surgical kits, midwifery kits, and emergency kits has continued unabated, with nearly 100,000 medical supplies refused or removed from convoys since the beginning of the year….
Attacks on hospitals and other health facilities…have become commonplace in Syria – about 20 per month between January and April this year, an average of one attack every 36 hours, turning Syrian hospitals into death traps. These attacks and restrictions are not only violations of international law and Council resolutions, they are deliberate and cowardly acts aimed at those – the sick, the injured, the infirm, unborn children, the elderly, pregnant women, young children – who are least able to protect themselves and are most in need of care and assistance.
The denial and delay of access, particularly to those in besieged locations, is a political calculation and a military tactic; this much is clear in Syria. We may speak about the practical elements of delay and denial – facilitation letters, inspections, checkpoints – but these are simply the manifestation of a mindset and approach by the Government of Syria to use civilian suffering as a tactic of war.
Report: Kurdish-Led SDF Displacing Arabs from Homes in Northern Syria
Local Arab residents say they have been displaced from their homes in northern Syria after the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Kurdish militia YPG, pushed out the Islamic State.
The UN says about 200,000 civilians have left their homes since November — 160,000 of them in the last two months.
Four displaced families spoke about their departure, saying that they have been stripped of identity and told that they cannot return without a sponsor.
“They [the SDF] told us, ‘You can go anywhere you want, but not to our areas,’” says Khiro Abdullah Aboud, who arrived in the Turkish-controlled zone near the borer with his wife and five children in early May.
Abu Yasser, a fisherman who lived in a village near the Tabqa Dam, and his family of 12 fled last week on a six-day journey to the camps. “They [the SDF] told us, ‘Arabs cannot stay here,’” he said.
Mohammad al-Omar, 74, claimed:
The Kurds expelled me, my family, and the entire village. They called us filthy names — asses, animals. [I was called a] traitor working for Turkey and against us.
A UN report raised the issue last week: “Freedom of movement of internally displaced persons remains a concern with regards to the ongoing displacement in [the area of] Raqqa, due to the security screening and sponsorship requirement imposed by the [YPG]-led Syrian Democratic Forces for those displaced to remain in the area.”
US Central Command declined to comment on the SDF’s blocking of any returns without a sponsor, but maintained that the US-led coalition “supports the right of residents throughout northern Syria to govern themselves and to prevent a return of ISIS”.