Lebanese City of Tripoli Under Army Control After Deadly Clashes Over Syria
Conflicting Reports over Attacks & “Kidnappings” Amid Renewed Clashes Near Maaloula


Turkey & Syria Op-Ed: Ankara Caught in the Cross Fire
Spotlight: Refugee Children in Crisis

Amid growing concern over foreign jihadists in Syria, Turkey has claimed that it has deported 1,100 European citizens who tried to join extremist insurgent groups.

See Turkey & Syria Op-Ed: Ankara Caught in the Cross Fire

Ankara said it had arrested the jihadists in 41 operations this year. However, it said there are still about 1,500 European citizens who are still trying to go to the Syrian front lines.

The report also asserted that Turkey has carried out 141 operations against Al Qa’eda and Al Qa’eda groups in last the three years and detained 518 suspects, imprisoning 217 of them.

Turkish authorities have been accused of allowing the foreign fighters to make their way from Istanbul to southeastern Turkey and then across the Syrian border.

Responding to a question in Parliament on Monday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, “It is out of question for Turkey to support terrorist organizations, extremists groups and allow such groups to take shelter in Turkey and also it is out of question for Turkey to turn a blind eye to inhuman activities, whoever carries them out.”

The Foreign Minister also denied that Turkey has security forces inside Syria.

In late November, during a two-day visit to the US, Davutoğlu called for “better intelligence cooperation” with the home countries of foreign fighters: “Ankara had asked Western countries to share intelligence on suspected militants so that Turkish authorities could stop them from entering the country.”

Germany, France, Belgium, Greece and the Netherlands have asked Turkey to detain suspected jihadists after they enter Turkey, according to Turkish intelligence sources.

CNN’s report in early Turkey on foreign fighters in Turkey:

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Lebanese City of Tripoli Under Army Control After Deadly Clashes Over Syria

Lebanese authorities have ordered army control of the northern city of Tripoli for six months, amid continuing fighting between supporters and opponents of Syria’s President Assad.

“It has been decided, for a period of six months, to task the army with all necessary measures to restore security,” interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s office said on Monday.

The order for army control of a city is the first since the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990.

At least 11 people died and 61, including 12 soldiers, have been injured in fighting since Saturday.

Violence began almost a year ago, mainly between anti-Assad groups in Bab Tabbaneh and those in the Alawite district of Jabal Mohsen. More than 100 people have been killed.

Conflicting Reports over Attacks & “Kidnappings” Amid Renewed Clashes In Maaloula

Fighting has surged again in the mainly-Christian town of Maaloula, northeast of Damascus, which was briefly occupied by insurgents in September.

There are unconfirmed reports that the opposition has taken the town, famed for its links to ancient Christianity, including the use of Aramaic.

A Syrian “security source” claimed the insurgents, based in the hills around the town, had sent down explosive-filled tires on regime forces. Opposition sources countered that the Syrian military was shelling Maaloula.

A pro-regime report from Lebanon’s Al-Manar on the fighting:

Syrian State news agency SANA, echoing claims made during the insurgent takeover in September, said opposition fighters had taken nuns hostage after they entered the Mar Taqla convent in the middle of the town.

Vatican Radio, citing the Holy See’s ambassador to Syria, said 12 nuns had been taken north towards the town of Yabroud.

The ambassador, Mario Zenari, said, “We don’t know the reasons behind this act by the armed opposition. It is a kidnapping, or an act of control over the monastery in order to free their hand in Maaloula.”

However, opposition activists denied that the nuns had been taken hostage, claiming that insurgents were protecting the nuns from the fighting and shelling. They said the fighters were still inside the convent, as attempts at evacuation had been prevented by regime troops.