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Turkey to lay siege to Afrin city center soon: Erdogan

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said the Turkish army would lay siege to Syria’s Afrin city center in the coming days.

Addressing the Justice and Development (AK) Party’s parliamentary group meeting, Erdogan said Turkey entered Syria’s Afrin region “to make the region livable and secure.”

The president said the “lasting” security of the region was of “utmost” importance for Turkey.

“Afrin city center will be besieged in the coming days,” he said.

“So that the external aid coming to the city and the region gets cut.”

Erdogan highlighted that Turkey would make its red lines clear to everyone.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists from Afrin.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria’s territorial integrity, it said.

The military also said only terror targets were being destroyed and that “utmost care” was being taken to not harm civilians.

Erdogan said Turkey had launched the military operation as a last resort and for a compelling reason.

“We had been waiting for the threat coming from terror organizations in Syria to be prevented through the country’s own dynamics and the international coalition,” he said.

“[But] we have seen that the threat has increased, not decreased, and harmed us in our own territories when it crossed into our borders.

There was no other option but to launch an operation.”

Recalling Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria that ended last March, Erdogan said:

“The region where we have cleared terrorists after Operation Euphrates Shield has turned into a peaceful and secure place.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Daesh-based terror attacks also disappeared from Turkey after the operation.

“The same thing will happen in Afrin, Idlib and Manbij as well; it will also happen [in areas] from Tal Abyad to Qamishli along our borders.

“Both for the future of our brothers there and for the security of our country, our fight will continue in the entire region until the last terrorist dies.”

Operation Euphrates Shield began in August 2016 and ended in late March 2017 to improve the security, support coalition forces and eliminate the terror threat along the Turkish border.

Under the operation, approximately 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles) of territory was freed from terrorists and transformed into safe zone for residents.

Erdogan commemorated the 1992 Khojaly Massacre in which 613 Azeri citizens were killed in occupied Karabakh.

“If there is someone who looks for a wild massacre in the world, then this massacre is in Khojaly,” said Erdogan.

Erdogan said that one of the biggest persecutions in the human history took place in Khojaly 26 years ago.

“Have you ever heard a country in the world which demanded or conducted sanctions against the perpetrators of Khojaly Massacre by mentioning the human rights,” said Erdogan.

“We will never forget Khojaly Massacre…

We will always remember the human crimes committed against our brothers in Khojaly.”

The massacre of Feb. 25-26, 1992 is regarded as one of the bloodiest and most controversial incidents of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan for control of the now-occupied Upper Karabakh region.

On the heels of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Armenian forces took over the town of Khojaly in Karabakh on Feb. 26 after battering it with heavy artillery and tanks, assisted by an infantry regiment. When the massacre happened, the population of the town was more than 11,000.

The two-hour offensive killed 613 Azeri citizens, including 116 women and 63 children and critically injured 487 others, according to Azerbaijani figures.

One hundred and fifty of the 1,275 Azerbaijanis that the Armenians captured during the massacre remain missing. AA


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Rohingya refugees in BD exceeded

Monitoring Desk

ISTANBUL: The World Health Organization on Tuesday said an estimated 688,000 Rohingyas refugees had crossed over into Bangladesh from Myanmar since Aug. 25, 2017, joining over 200,000 people who had arrived earlier.

In a written statement issued on Tuesday, the WHO said the camps — which it called the world’s biggest refugee settlement areas — were risking disease outbreaks. Urging further efforts in health services for nearly 1.3 million people in Cox’s Bazar — Rohingyas and their surrounding host communities — the WHO said health needs continued to be immense.

According to the regional director for WHO South-East Asia, Poonam Khetrapal Singh, cited in the statement, major efforts had been made by the Bangladeshi government and partner agencies to prevent the spread of diseases such as cholera and to rapidly control outbreaks of measles and diphtheria. “However, the challenges are huge, multiple and evolving. The magnitude of the crisis requires continued efforts and generous contributions by all partners to scale up health services for the people,” she said. AA


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UK won’t be like ‘Mad Max’ after Brexit, minister says

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON: The U.K. does not want to undermine the EU and it won’t be “plunged into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction,” Brexit secretary said Tuesday.

In a speech delivered in the Austrian capital Vienna, David Davis said the U.K. will continue its “track record of meeting high standards” when it leaves the EU.

Responding to claims by the British opposition, including the Labour Party, that the U.K. will be turned into a “low-wage, offshore tax haven” with lowered industry standards, Davis said the claims are baseless.

“They fear that Brexit could lead to an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom,” Davis said.

“With Britain plunged into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction. These fears about a race to the bottom are based on nothing, not our history, not our intentions, not our national interest.”

Mad Max is a dystopian film series, which depict a dystopian future world where natural resources are scarce and gangs fight brutally each other for oil. The first Mad Max was released in 1979.

“But while I profoundly disagree with those who spread these fears — it does remind us all that we must provide reassurance.”

The U.K. is expected to set out what kind of a future trade deal it aims with the EU following Brexit, as the second round of negotiations will shape the future trade between the sides following the British departure.

The U.K. is set to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, but the sides are expected to agree on a transition period, which the EU says will end in Dec. 2020.

The EU previously said it would agree on a transition period as long as the U.K. is to follow all EU rules during such a period. The U.K. will also have to obey all the new rules the EU might bring during such a period, without having say in EU legislation processes after Brexit.

A deal on the terms of the proposed transition period is still to be agreed by the sides next month. (AA)


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Egypt places Opposition figure on terror list

Viola Fahmy

CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Tuesday ordered that Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, a prominent opposition figure, be added to Egypt’s list of “terrorists”, according to Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency.

The ruling is set to go into effect 60 days from its announcement.

Last week, public prosecution authorities ordered that Aboul-Fotouh be detained for 15 days so he might answer charges of having “led and revived an outlawed group” and “spread false news”.

The leader of Egypt’s opposition Strong Egypt Party, Aboul-Fotouh was detained last Wednesday — one day after he visited London where he had criticized Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in an interview with Qatar’s Al Jazeera news channel.

A prominent politician, Aboul-Fotouh had been a leading a member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood before splitting from the group and running for president as an independent candidate in Egypt’s first free election in 2012.

Egypt is currently gearing up to hold presidential elections late next month in which al-Sisi hopes to secure a second term in office. (AA)


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Syrian regime attacks kill 167 civilians in E Ghouta

Mohamad Misto

EASTERN GHOUTA: At least 167 civilians have been killed in past two days by intensified Syrian regime attacks in the Damascus suburbs of Eastern Ghouta, said sources from the Syrian Civil Defense on Tuesday.

Sources from the Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, told Anadolu Agency that regime attack on civilian areas in Eastern Ghouta had killed 88 people on Monday and 79 on Tuesday.

According to an Anadolu Agency correspondent on the ground, the regime forces and their supporters have been intensifying attacks on such areas as Duma, Haresta, Hammuriya, Misraba, Marj, Saqba, Kafr Batna, Ayn Tarma, Shifonia and Beit Sawa since Monday morning.

The death toll is expected to increase as attacks are still continuing in several areas.

Eastern Ghouta falls within a network of de-escalation zones — endorsed by Turkey, Russia and Iran — in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Nevertheless, the Syrian r-egime continues to target residential parts of the city, ki-lling at least 539 people — a-nd injuring more than 2,000 others — since Dec. 29 of last year. Home to some 400,000 civilian residents, Eastern Ghouta has remained under a crippling regime siege for the last five years.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011, when the regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity. (AA)


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Six Houthis killed in skirmish with army in Yemen

Mohamed al-Samei

SANAA: Six Houthi rebels were killed fighting army troops in Yemen’s central Al-Bayda province on Monday, according to a local official.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency by phone, Mossad al-Salahi, general director of Al-Bayda’s Nati directorate, said army troops and pro-government “popular resistance” forces had opened fire on a Houthi patrol with rocket launchers.

“The ambush resulted in the death of six Houthi rebels,” al-Salahi said, going on to note that the Nati directorate had recently seen fierce artillery exchanges between government forces and Houthi rebels.

He did not provide any more details.

Houthi spokesmen, for their part, have yet to confirm the official’s assertions.

Houthi rebels free 4 govt soldiers in northern Yemen: Houthi rebels have released four government soldiers in northern Yemen, according to a Yemeni military spokesman on Monday.

The soldiers were set free on Sunday as part of a swap with rebels under which the body of a slain Houthi commander was handed over, Col. Abdullah al-Ashraf told Anadolu Agency.

“The soldiers had been captured during clashes in Al-Yatma directorate in Al-Jawf province ten days ago,” the spokesman said. The Houthi commander had been killed during the clash.

Yemen has been racked by chaos since late 2014, when the Shia Houthi group overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa, forcing the Saudi-backed government to flee to Riyadh.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies — who accuse the Houthis of serving as a proxy force for Shia Iran — launched a wide-ranging military campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains and shoring up Yemen’s Saudi-backed government. (AA)

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30 killed in regime attacks in Syria

Adham Kako

EASTERN GHOUTA: At least 30 Syrian civilians were killed in fresh regime attacks in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta on Monday, according to local civil-defense sources.

Regime forces launched air and ground attacks on several districts in the suburb, which has been under a crippling siege since 2012.

Twenty civilians, including children and women, were killed in the town of Hammuriya in Eastern Ghouta, the sources — who are affiliated with the White Helmets civil-defense agency — said.

Seven people were also killed by ground attacks in the town of Saqba, while three others were killed by an airstrike in the town of Jisrin, the same sources added on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns. (AA)

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Israel warns Lebanon over Hezbollah attack

Abdel Raouf Arnaout

JERUSALEM: Israel will hold Lebanon responsible for any future attack by Hezbollah group, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Monday.

Speaking at a conference of Jewish community in North America, held in Jerusalem, Erdan said Hezbollah is a key member of the Lebanese government.

He called on the U.S. to intervene to prevent Iran from turning Syria into what he described as a “puppet state”.

“If the US chooses not to be a major player in shaping the future of Syria, then others will – and trust me, it won’t be the democratically- elected representatives of the Syrian people. The Islamic Republic [of Iran] will replace the Islamic State, and will try to set up a Syrian Hezbollah made up of Shia militias,” he said.

There was no comment from the Lebanese government or Hezbollah on the minister’s statements.

Israeli officials have accused Iran and Hezbollah of building a precision-rocket factory in Lebanon.

Iran and Hezbollah are key backers of the Bashar al-Assad regime, whose forces have violently cracked down on pro-democracy protests in 2011, triggering a deadly civil war that has killed thousands and displaced millions. (AA)

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Ex-football coach jailed in child sex abuse case

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON: A British court on Monday sentenced a former football coach for 31 years in prison over child abuse offences.

Barry Bennell, 64, was found guilty on 50 counts of child sexual abuse for his offences between 1979 and 1991 during his work as a youth team coach in Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra clubs.

Sentencing Bennell for 31 years, Liverpool Crown Court’s judge Clement Goldstone branded the convict as “sheer evil”.

His past abuse came into light last year when former Bury and Sheffield United player Andy Woodward told the Guardian newspaper he had been abused at Crewe Alexandra as a young boy by Bennell.

Shortly after the revelations were made, Bennell was found unconscious at a hotel and taken to hospital.

British police had launched Operation Hydrant into the allegations after more than 370 people followed Woodward’s lead.

Since he spoke out, more than 55 professional and non-league football clubs’ names have been linked to similar allegations in a country-wide scandal engulfed the football world.

Bennell was described by the prosecution as an “industrial-scale child molester” and a “predatory and determined paedophile”, during his 5-week trial.

“To those boys you appeared as a god… in reality you were the devil incarnate. You stole their childhood and their innocence to satisfy your own perversions,” judge Goldstone said.

Bennell trial has prompted another 86 people to make complaints against the former Manch-ester City and Crewe Alexa-ndra youth team coach. (AA)

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Daesh kills 27 Hashd fighters in Kirkuk, says Iraq officials

Ali Mukarrem Garip

KIRKUK:  Daesh terrorists executed 27 Hashd al-Shaabi fighters captured earlier in Iraq’s northern Kirkuk province, according to a Monday statement released by the Iraqi government.

“On Sunday evening, a Hashd al-Shaabi force was ambushed by Daesh terrorists, resulting in violent clashes that lasted for more than two hours,” the statement read.

A largely Shia fighting force, the Hashd al-Shaabi was incorporated into the Iraqi armed forces in 2016.

“Due to the large number of attackers and difficult circumstances, about 20 of our fighters were killed,” the statement added.

Afrasyav Qamil, a spokesman for the Kirkuk Police Directorate, told Anadolu Agency earlier Monday that Daesh had killed all the Hashd fighters that were captured following the clashes. According to Qamil, the bodies of at least 27 slain Hashd fighters were found by Iraqi security forces who arrived in the area in the wake of the clashes.

Noting that the Hashd fighters had been “brutally” executed, Qamil pointed out that the terrorist group had also managed to capture several military vehicles and large amounts of ammunition.

In a statement issued earlier Monday, Qamil had reported that “fierce clashes” had erupted between Daesh terrorists and Hashd fighters in the village of Saduniye in southern Kirkuk.

Kurdish region flight ban to be lifted soon; Iraqi PM: International flights into and out of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region will resume once the central government reasserts full control there, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider  told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Monday.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle’s Arabic-language television channel, al-Abadi spoke about the tense relations that currently prevail between Baghdad and Erbil, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)’s administrative capital.

“The people of the Kurdish region are a part of Iraq and fall within the scope of a united Iraq,” he said. “There was a referendum [last September] on the secession of the Kurdish region [from the Iraqi state],” he added.

“This referendum clearly failed and resulted in regional instability.”

“In order to eliminate this instability, we want to support our citizens in the Kurdish region as we support our citizens in other parts of Iraq,” al-Abadi asserted. (AA)