Ammon News, World

US-led coalition hits mosque used by ISIS in Syria

[1/19/2019 10:36:26 AM]

AMMONNEWS - The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria destroyed a command center in a mosque in the war-torn country on Thursday, officials said. The strike is another indication that ISIS has not been “defeated” in Syria, as Trump claimed last month when he ordered the withdrawal of US forces from the country. Coalition aircraft “destroyed an ISIS command and control facility in a mosque in Safafiyah,” a coalition statement read. “ISIS continues to violate Law of Armed Conflict and misuse protected structures like hospitals and mosques, which cause a facility to lose its protected status,” the statement added. ISIS holdouts in Syria are mainly in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. Four Americans, including two US soldiers, were killed Wednesday in a suicide blast claimed by ISIS in the northern city of Manbij. It was the deadliest attack against US forces since they first deployed to Syria four years ago. *AFP

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Erdogan: Turkey to set up Syria ‘security zone’ suggested by Trump

[1/15/2019 5:09:03 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Ankara would set up a “security zone” in northern Syria suggested by US President Donald Trump. Erdogan said he held a “quite positive” telephone conversation with Trump late on Monday where he reaffirmed that “a 20-mile (30 kilometre) security zone along the Syrian border... will be set up by us.” Turkey has welcomed the planned withdrawal of some 2,000 US troops from Syria but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces regarded as terrorists by Ankara has poisoned Ankara-Washington ties. Trump on Sunday tweeted that the United States would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds”, a threat that drew angry retorts from the government in Ankara. Erdogan on Tuesday said Trump’s tweet “saddened me and my friends”, but added that the two leaders reached an agreement during Monday’s phone conversation. “We have reached an agreement of understanding that is of historic importance,” he said. Erdogan said Turkey would solve issues with a “spirit of alliance” with Trump as long as his country’s sensitivities were taken into account. US support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) during the Syria conflict has been a major source of friction between the NATO allies. The US regards the YPG as an effective ground force in the fight against ISIS. Ankara has however threatened to launch a cross-border operation to eradicate Syrian Kurdish fighters it sees as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is blacklisted by Turkey as well as by the United States. *AFP

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Pompeo says Trump’s Turkey threat won’t alter Syria troop withdrawal

[1/14/2019 5:15:04 AM]

AMMONNEWS - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that President Donald Trump’s threat to devastate Turkey economically should it attack a Washington-backed Kurdish militia in Syria would not change plans to withdraw troops from that country. The top US diplomat told reporters in Riyadh that he assumed Trump’s comments on Twitter were referring to sanctions, adding: “You're going to have to ask him about that.” Pompeo said he had told Saudi Arabia's king and crown prince during morning meetings that “every single person who has responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi needs to be held accountable”. Analysts have told Al Arabiya English that while the grisly murder of the late Saudi journalist has been a sour point in the relationship between Washington and Riyadh in recent months, ties would endure given the strategic benefit for both countries. “The Saudi-American relationship is historical and deeply-rooted. It has seen many challenges over the years, I would say stronger than the Khashoggi episode and it has endured and even became stronger,” Prince Abdullah bin Khaled al-Saud, director of research at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, told Al Arabiya English. “I think it is a relationship that is important for the stability of the region,” he added. Appeasing allies as US withdraws from Syria Pompeo’s visit to the region comes after the decision of the US to withdraw 2,000 of its troops from Syria. At the same time, the secretary of state is pushing a Trump administration hope in establishing a coalition consisting of the GCC states, Egypt, and Jordan, naming it the “Middle East Strategic Alliance” (MESA). The withdrawal has come at a sensitive time, especially with Syrian Kurds fearing that any void left would leave them vulnerable in front of Turkey. But Pompeo told Al Arabiya that a big part of his regional tour was to ensure that the forces which they fought with in the region are protected from threats from all folks in the region. “We are trying to create an orderly, successful, deliberate departure of our forces. And I am confident that we can do that and the conversations with the Turks, in that respect, have been very productive,” Pompeo told Al Arabiya. Abdulaziz Sager, chairman and founder of the Gulf Research Center, told Al Arabiya English that Pompeo's statements sent a strong message in assuring that the "Kurds will be protected". “What marked Pompeo’s interview with Al Arabiya is the point when he emphasized that the ‘Syrian Kurds are not terrorists’. This will have an impact on the ground. That would mean that all Turkish actions which are related to the Kurdish file in Syria will be well calculated,” he said. Other analysts say that Pompeo’s efforts in appeasing the Kurds might fall short, especially in the northern region of Syria as Turkey aims to push forward with a campaign against Kurdish forces that have allied with the United States in the past. “The problem that we've got is this kind of slightly two-faced approach from the Americans. My view is that I think the US is signaling from the top that the Syrian Kurds would have to probably fend for themselves,” said Michael Stephens, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies. *Al Arabiya

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Netanyahu confirms weekend strike by Israel on Iran target in Syria

[1/13/2019 4:52:06 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel had at the weekend carried out an air strike on Iranian weapons in Syria, a rare public confirmation of such attacks. “Just in the last 36 hours the air force attacked Iranian warehouses containing Iranian weapons in the Damascus international airport,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting, according to his office. “The accumulation of recent attacks shows that we’re more determined than ever to act against Iran in Syria, just as we promised.” *AFP

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Report says Hamas leader’s trip to Moscow cancelled

[1/10/2019 7:45:52 AM]

AMMONNEWS - A trip to Moscow next week by the leader of Palestinian movement Hamas has been cancelled, Interfax news agency quoted the ambassador for the Palestinian Authority to Russia as saying on Thursday. The Hamas leader had been expected to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on January 15. In the latest development in the escalation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authorities, Egypt announced last Monday that it will bar Gazans from crossing into its territory as of Tuesday after the Palestinian Authority withdrew staff from the border point over alleged abuses. *Reuters

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Turkey to ask US to hand over military bases in Syria

[1/8/2019 7:22:19 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Turkey was expected to ask US officials either to hand over its military bases in Syria to Ankara or to destroy them, the newspaper Hurriyet reported, a request that could further complicate discussions over the US withdrawal from Syria. The request was expected to come in talks on Tuesday between US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Turkish counterpart, Ibrahim Kalin. Bolton had also added a condition to the talks: Turkey must agree to protect the Kurdish YPG militia, a US ally. Ankara calls YPG a terrorist group. It was unclear immediately after the talks whether either condition was met. With tensions simmering over US plans to exit Syria, Bolton did not meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump said last month he was bringing home the some US 2,000 troops in Syria, saying they had succeeded in their mission to defeat ISIS. His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington and allies abroad and prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign. The YPG has been a key ally in campaign against ISIS, an alliance that has long caused tension between Washington and Ankara. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south east. “Give them or destroy them,” a Hurriyet newspaper headline said, referring to what it said were 22 US military bases in Syria. It cited unspecified sources as saying Turkey would not accept Washington’s handing them over to the YPG. A senior Turkish security official told Reuters last week Washington needed to allow Turkey to use its bases in Syria. Bolton was joined by US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and US special Syria envoy James Jeffrey as he met with Kalin on Tuesday morning in Ankara. They concluded their talks by late morning. Kalin is Erdogan’s spokesman and deputy head of Turkey’s security and foreign policies board. Erdogan warned on Monday the US withdrawal must be planned carefully and with the right partners. Only Turkey, he said, had “the power and commitment to perform that task”. In an op-ed article for the New York Times, Erdogan said Turkey was committed to defeating ISIS and “other terrorist groups” in Syria. The White House sought to make the case on Monday that Trump had not changed his position on withdrawing troops. *Reuters

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Griffiths departs Sanaa, fails to convince Houthis to surrender Hodediah

[1/7/2019 8:34:16 AM]

AMMONNEWS - The United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths two-day efforts to convince the Houthis to withdraw its militias from Hodeidah has not yielded results on the ground on Sunday by the time he left the country. Griffiths, who brokered the breakthrough last month in Sweden, returned to Yemen Saturday with a plan to expedite measures agreed between the government and the Iran-backed Houthi militia. Key among them is the redeployment of rival forces from Hodeida, the Red Sea port city crucial for aid and food imports. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the rebel Higher Revolutionary Committee, told AFP that talks on Yemen’s war-torn country’s economy “could take place in Amman... which I discussed with the UN envoy.” For his part, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has stressed the need for the withdrawal of the Houthis from the ports and the city of Hodeidah, according to the plan prepared by the UN head of truce monitoring committee, retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert, and accused the militias of procrastinating in the implementation of the Stockholm agreement. * Al Arabiya

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