Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters celebrate the first anniversary of the liberation of the Raqqa Province from ISIS, Oct. 27, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Aboud Hamam.
Kurdish-led forces in Syria said they would complete the evacuation of thousands of civilians from Islamic State’s last redoubt in the area on Friday, and welcomed a White House reversal of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out all US troops.
With Washington’s allies poised for victory against Islamic State fighters making a final stand in a pocket near the Iraqi border, the White House announced plans on Thursday to keep “a small peacekeeping force” of 200 troops in Syria.
The announcement partially reversed Trump’s abrupt decision in December to withdraw the entire 2,000-strong US contingent, which had alarmed Washington’s Kurdish allies and prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to quit.
Although the US contingent would now be small, Kurdish leaders suggested it could have a major impact on the fate of the area, preventing a security vacuum. Washington could retain control of the air space and its European allies could complement the force with more troops.
The Kurdish-led administration that runs much of northern Syria welcomed a US decision to keep 200 American troops in the…
The planned assault on the final Islamic State redoubt in the area, Baghouz, would effectively end the territorial rule of the jihadist group, which ruled around a third of both Iraq and Syria at its self-proclaimed Caliphate’s height four years ago.
Reporters near the front line at Baghouz saw dozens of trucks leaving loaded with civilians, and empty ones driving inside accompanied by fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia.
Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesman, said the evacuation would be completed on Friday, with thousands of civilians still inside the pocket from an estimated 7,000 at the start of the day.
More than 20,000 civilians have left Baghouz in recent weeks, according to previous SDF estimates.
The U.S.-led coalition which supports the SDF has said Islamic State’s “most hardened fighters” are holed up inside.
“If we succeed in evacuating all the civilians, at any moment we will take the decision to storm Baghouz or force the terrorists to surrender,” said Bali.
Though the fall of Baghouz would mark a milestone in the campaign against Islamic State, the militant group is still seen as a security threat, using guerrilla tactics and still holding some territory in a remote area west of the Euphrates River.
The battle against Islamic State in the area has taken place since December in the shadow of Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw all US troops, which raised doubt about the future of the fighters that had served as US allies on the ground.
The Kurdish-led authorities in the north welcomed the White House reversal. They had feared that a total US withdrawal would leave their area exposed to attack by Turkey, which sees the main Kurdish militia as a national security threat.
“We evaluate the White House decision … positively,” Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of foreign relations in the region held by the US-backed SDF told Reuters.
“This decision may encourage other European states, particularly our partners in the international coalition against terrorism, to keep forces in the region,” Omar added. “I believe that keeping a number of American troops and a larger number of (other) coalition troops, with air protection, will play a role in securing stability and protecting the region too.”
The SDF’s top commander earlier this week called for 1,000 to 1,500 international troops to remain in Syria to help fight Islamic State and expressed hope Washington would halt Trump’s plans for a total pullout.
A Western diplomat said it remained to be seen whether European allies would contribute troops, or whether the force would be able to secure the area.
“Even if 200 troops remain and the US decides to continue claiming the airspace, it’s not clear whether that would convince Britain, France and other partners to stay — and whether that could keep the Syrian regime out of the northeast for now, or Turkey, or an IS resurgence.”
The Kurds, who want to preserve the autonomy they have carved out, have made overtures to President Bashar al-Assad, urging government forces to deploy at the borders as Washington withdraws. The US decision may strengthen the Kurds’ hand.
“I believe that these forces in this region … will be a motivation, an incentive and also a means of pressure on Damascus to try seriously to have a dialogue to resolve the Syrian crisis,” Omar said.
Netanyahu’s support for the settlement enterprise, is believed to have been reigned by former democratic US president Barack Obama who was in office from January 2009 to January 2017.
A man photographs a woman as she stands next to a mural depicting U.S. President Donald Trump and Is
Spending on West Bank settlements spiked by 39% in 2017, the first year US President Donald Trump was in office, the left-wing group Peace Now reported on Tuesday.
Weekend work permits for Eurovision complicate Netanyahu’s coalition bargaining with ultra-Orthodox parties
Israeli singer and past Eurovision winner Dana International at the Orange Carpet event in Tel Aviv, May 13, 2019.
Israeli singer and past Eurovision winner Dana International at the Orange Carpet event in Tel Aviv, May 13, 2019.Tomer Appelbaum
Seeking to quell ultra-Orthodox anger over holding the Eurovision Song Contest’s final in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday it was an “individual international event” not sponsored by the state, and that the government doesn’t want to violate the Sabbath.
French Holocaust denier Alain Soral. Photo: Egalite et Réconciliation.
The mayor of one of southern France’s most picturesque towns expressed fury on Tuesday after learning that a group of right-wing activists and conspiracy theorists — including convicted Holocaust denier Alain Soral — were planning to hold a “summer school” there at the end of August.
“I say it clearly, Soral is not welcome here,” Alexandre Reynal — mayor of the town of Amelie-les-Bain in the spectacular Pyrénées-Orientales region — told a local news outlet on Tuesday.
I urge all visitors to join me in a conspiracy to violate the UN Security Council Resolution…Obama, himself, engineered the Resolution. He pushed it through the Security Council despite some reservations by other members, including Egypt, which believed that the Resolution itself could become a barrier to a negotiated two-state solution. After all, if Israel’s control over Judaism’s holiest site is deemed illegal, then Israel would have to negotiate its legality with the Palestinians.
The ruling Law and Justice Party views Poland as a victim of World War II, and that therefore Poland should not be required to pay damages to other victims.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reacts after receiving his nomination during a government s
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reacts after receiving his nomination during a government swearing-in ceremony in Warsaw, Poland, December 11, 2017..
Only three-quarters of a century after Der Stürmer incentivized the mass murder of Jews by dehumanizing them, we see a revival of such bigoted caricatures.
I do not believe in free speech for me, but not for thee. But I do believe in condemning those who hide behind the First Amendment to express anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic, sexist or racist views.
One of the most influential newspapers in the world, the Jewish-owned New York Times decided to present the Jews with a gift in honor of the last day of Passover – a major Jewish holiday – an antisemitic caricature. The controversial cartoon shows US President Donald Trump as a blind man with a skullcap on his head, being led by a dog that looks like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And to make sure the reader knows it is indeed the Israeli premier, the dog has a Star of David dangling from its collar.
Last week, Jared Kushner, one of the administration’s point men on the Middle East, dispensed with the term “two-state solution” in its impending peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. “The two-state solution has failed,” he said.
The “two-state solution” does not appear in the 1993 Oslo Accords, which called only for “interim self-government” for the Palestinians. The goal was a negotiated final status agreement, in which independence was not specified.
Religious fervor always picks up before the Jewish holidays. Not surprisingly, Israeli undercover police arrested Jewish activists from the Hozrim L’Har (Returning to the Mount) organization early Friday afternoon, just before the onset of the Passover holiday, after an apparent attempt to bring a young goat on to the Temple Mount for a self-proclaimed sacrificial rite. Indeed, this drama plays itself out every year, but according to Jerusalem police, this year a record of at least twelve members of the organization were arrested throughout the course of the day on counts of disturbing the peace.
Every year when Passover eve arrives, I do my best not to think about that night; to allow the joy of cherished rituals meant to renew our family’s tribal history and faith envelop us in its warm glow as whoever among the kids and grandkids it’s our turn to host partake of the matzoh, bitter herbs, and wine. Often – actually most often – I succeed.