Netanyahu offers ‘gallant Kurds’ humanitarian aid

Netanyahu said that the IDF is prepared – offensively and defensively – to deal with any threat, and has “overwhelming power” to do so.

By REUTERS
October 10, 2019 21:23
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Memorial Service for the Victims of the Yom Kippur W

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Memorial Service for the Victims of the Yom Kippur War at the Herzl Memorial Hall in Jerusalem, October 10 2019. (photo credit: GPO/AMOS BEN GERSHOM)

   In his first public comments regarding the US withdrawal from Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement on Thursday “strongly condemning” the Turkish military action and offering humanitarian assistance to the Kurds.


“Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies,” he said. “Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people.”
 
Israeli officials indicated that Israel was willing to render any non-military aid the Kurds might need, though they would not be more specific.
 
Earlier in the day, at the 46th annual Yom Kippur War memorial service, Netanyahu did not mention US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria but seemed to have it in mind when he said that Israel can ultimately only rely on itself.
 
“We do not aspire to be ‘a nation that dwells alone,’ but that is how we were forced to stand at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War,” he said, noting that American assistance arrived only toward the end of the war. “As in 1973, also we very much appreciate the United States’ important support, which has greatly increased over the years, and also the United States’ enormous economic pressure it is exerting on Iran.”
 
But, Netanyahu added, “We always remember and apply the basic principle that guides us: Israel will defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”
 
Netanyahu said that the IDF is prepared – offensively and defensively – to deal with any threat, and has the “overwhelming power” to do so. He said this power includes firepower and the spirit of the people, which is something inherited from the Yom Kippur War generation.
 
The prime minister said that the current focal point of aggression in the region is Iran, which is constantly arming itself, has recently downed an American drone and attacked Saudi oil facilities, and threatens constantly to “wipe us off the map.”
 
“Time after time, Iran tries to attack us, and therefore we must stand ready to protect ourselves against this danger,” he said.
 
Turkey’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, who serves under President Tayyip Erdogan, slammed Netanyahu on social media for offering to assist the Kurds.
 
“Empty words of a disgraced politician looking at many years in prison on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges,” Altun tweeted. “The Syrian Kurds, including the 300,000 exiles in Turkey, are under Turkish protection. We will eliminate all terrorists in the area and help Syrians return home.”
 
US Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham voiced his agreement with Netanyahu on Twitter.
 
“Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria attacking one of America’s most reliable allies – the Kurds – is a nightmare for the US and Israel,” he said.
 
Turkey pounded Kurdish militias in northeast Syria for a second day on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee and killing dozens.
 
At least 23 fighters with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and six fighters with a Turkish-backed Syrian rebel group had been killed, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria’s eight-year war.
 
The SDF said Turkish air strikes and shelling killed nine civilians. In an apparent retaliation by Kurdish-led forces, mortar fire from Syria killed three people, including a child, in the Turkish border town of Akcakale, hospital and security sources said.
 
The International Rescue Committee said 64,000 people in Syria have fled since the campaign began, the Observatory said. The cities of Ras al-Ayn and Darbasiya, some 60 kilometers to the east, have been largely deserted as a result of the attack.
 
The Observatory said Turkish forces had seized two villages near Ras al-Ayn and five near the town of Tel Abyad.
 
An official affiliated with Kurdish-led fighters in northeast Syria repeated a call to impose a no-fly zone amid a Turkish offensive in the area.
 
“We ask for no-fly zone over our area,” Sinam Mohamad, US co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, the SDF’s political arm, told reporters on Thursday. “At least we will not have civilian casualties then.”
 
A senior Kurdish official warned that Islamic State terrorists could break out of prisons in northeast Syria as fighting intensifies.
Badran Jia Kurd, an adviser to the Kurdish-led authority running much of north and east Syria, told Reuters the number of security forces guarding the ISIS detainees would have to be reduced and “poses a grave danger.”
 
“This attack will definitely reduce and weaken the guarding system for those Daesh militants in the prisons,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “This could lead to their escape, or to behaviors that may get out of the control of the security forces. The number of forces guarding the prisons is reduced the more the battles intensify.”
 
Erdogan told members of his AK Party in Ankara that 109 fighters had been killed so far. Kurds said they were resisting the Turkish assault.
 
Taking aim at the EU and Arab powers Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which have voiced opposition to the operation, Erdogan said those objecting to Turkey’s actions were “not honest.”
 
He threatened to permit Syrian refugees in Turkey to move to Europe if EU countries described his forces’ move as an occupation, despite previously saying that Turkey intends to create a “safe zone” for the return of millions of refugees to Syria.
 
“Hey European Union, pull yourself together,” Erdogan said during his speech in Ankara. “I say it again. If you try to label this operation as an invasion, it’s very simple: we will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way.”
 
To Saudi Arabia, Erdogan suggested that the country leaders “should look into the mirror. Who brought Yemen to this state? Look at its current condition. Did tens of thousands of people not die in Yemen? Hey Saudi Arabia, give account for this first. You cannot comment on our move for the unity and solidarity of Syria.”
 
To Egypt, he said, “Egypt, you can’t talk at all. You are a country with a democracy killer.”
 
Turkey’s operation began days after a pullback by US forces from the border, and senior members of US President Donald Trump’s own Republican Party condemned him for making way for the incursion and for abandoning Syrian Kurds, loyal allies of Washington in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.
 
Turkish authorities on Thursday started investigations into leaders of the pro-Kurdish opposition, and detained 21 people for criticizing the military offensive, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said.
 
On Thursday, 21 people were detained in the southern province of Mardin for their social media posts.
 
The suspects are accused of “provoking the public to hatred and animosity” and “carrying out propaganda for a terrorist organization,” Anadolu reported.
 
Turkish authorities have launched similar investigations after each of its two previous cross-border operations into Syria. More than 300 people were detained for social media posts criticizing Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria in January 2018.
 
Britain Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called for restraint on Thursday. Raab said he had spoken to Turkey “to express the UK’s disappointment and concern about the military incursion into northeast Syria, and call for restraint. The intervention risks greater humanitarian suffering and undermines the focus on countering” ISIS.
 
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a de-escalation of the conflict in Syria.
 
“I want to express my deepest concerns about the escalation of conflict in eastern Syria,” he told reporters in Copenhagen on Thursday. “It is absolutely essential to de-escalate. Military operations must always respect the United Nations’ chapter and international humanitarian law, and I am worried with the humanitarian concerns that exist in relation to not only casualties, but also the displacement that is taking place.”
 
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he expected Turkey to show restraint and to avoid actions that would cause human suffering.
 
Both the French and Italian foreign ministries summoned the Turkish ambassador in their country to a meeting.
 
Turkey must consider that its bid to join the EU requires it to adhere to EU foreign policy, the bloc’s Executive Commission said on Thursday, again rejecting Ankara’s military operation in northern Syria.
 
“Joining the European Union requires all candidates to align themselves with the European Union foreign policy... in that context, if Turkey is serious about its ambitions (to join the bloc), that is the path it must follow,” a Commission spokeswoman told a news briefing.
 
Trump said on Thursday he was talking to “both sides” as Turkey pressed its offensive against US-allied Kurds in Syria, and warned Ankara that it would be hit hard financially if it did not “play by the rules.”
 
“Turkey has been planning to attack the Kurds for a long time,” Trump tweeted. “They have been fighting forever. We have no soldiers or Military anywhere near the attack area. I am trying to end the ENDLESS WARS. Talking to both sides. Some want us to send tens of thousands of soldiers to the area and start a new war all over again.”
 
Trump warned that he is “watching closely.”
 
“Turkey is a member of NATO,” Trump continued on Twitter. “Others say STAY OUT, let the Kurds fight their own battles (even with our financial help). I say hit Turkey very hard financially with sanctions if they don’t play by the rules!”
 
Former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, who served during the Obama administration, said that Trump’s actions and words had given a harmful impression of impulsive chaos within his administration.
 
“Trump’s raging tweets [and] unhinged rantings give the impression of a man totally out of control, careening from crisis to crisis in a desperate bid for survival,” Shapiro tweeted. “Allies everywhere notice and worry: who and what else will he sell out as he goes into a tailspin?
 
“A POTUS needs to make decisions based on what is best for US interests, even when allies disagree,” Shapiro continued. “But we’re stronger when allies understand the logic of our decisions, can make their voice heard, & have confidence that our own process is working. None of that exists now.”


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