One Turkish soldier was killed and another was wounded yesterday after an attack by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in northeast Syria’s Tel Abyad, the Turkish Ministry of National Defense said, despite a deal to pause military operations as militants withdraw from the area.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with US Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a “safe zone” Turkey aims to form in northeast Syria near its border.
On Saturday, the truce was holding along the border, with just a few Turkish military vehicles crossing, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
However, yesterday’s attack has underlined how fragile the agreement is.
Ankara regards the YPG, the main component of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey. The YPG has been a close US ally in the fight the against Islamic State group.
An attack by the YPG with anti-tank and light weapons had struck Turkish soldiers carrying out a reconnaissance and surveillance mission in Tel Abyad, the ministry said in a statement.
“The immediate response based on self-defense was given,” the ministry said. “Despite the Safe Zone Agreement with the United States ... 20 harassments/violations were committed by PKK/YPG terrorists,” it said, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
On Friday, the Kurdish militia accused Turkey of violating the five-day pause by shelling civilian areas in the northeast and the border town of Ras al-Ain.
A senior Turkish official on Saturday dismissed the accusations, saying these were an attempt to sabotage the agreement between Ankara and Washington, and that Turkey fully supported the deal.
Erdogan on Saturday said that the offensive would continue and Turkey would “crush the heads of terrorists” if the deal was not fully implemented, while Turkey has insisted that it is the duty of Washington to ensure the withdrawal of the YPG.
The ministry late on Saturday said that it was closely monitoring the withdrawal of the YPG and that it was in close contact with US officials over the issue and to provide logistical information.
Turkey aims to establish a “safe zone” about 32km into Syria. Erdogan on Friday said it would run for about 440km along the border, though the US special envoy for Syria said the accord covered a smaller area where Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies were fighting.
Erdogan also said on Friday that Turkey would set up a dozen observation posts across northeast Syria, and that he would hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on what steps to take in the planned “safe zone” next week.
Meanwhile, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a bipartisan delegation of US lawmakers have visited Jordan to discuss “the deepening crisis” amid the shaky ceasefire.
The delegation on Saturday met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman and held “vital discussions about the impact to regional stability,” a statement from Pelosi’s office said.
Jordan is a key US ally in the region.
Additional reporting by AP
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and