Five Turkish soldiers have been killed in an attack carried out by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwest, according to the Turkish defence ministry.
A further five troops were wounded in Monday’s shelling on a military base in Idlib province, the last rebel-held stronghold in the war-torn country.
The “regime’s intense artillery fire targeted our elements sent as reinforcement to the region with an aim to prevent clashes in Idlib, ensure our border security and stop migration and human tragedy”, the ministry said.
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The Turkish military retaliated, it added, “destroying targets”.
Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Syrian side of the border, said the attack targeted the Taftanaz military base, which the Turkish army took over from Syrian military last week to establish a new observation post.
“The latest escalation is seen as the highest escalation that has ever happened between Ankara and Damascus in Syria’s nine-year war,” she said.
“The Turkish armed forces are being hit directly by the Syrian army – and today is a benchmark in this escalation.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Defence Minister Hulusi Akar held an emergency meeting immediately the attack, Turkey’s NTV television reported.
Russian delegation in Ankara
The assault came after a similar attack by the government forces last week killed eight Turkish military personnel, prompting another response by Turkey’s army.
It also happened as a delegation from Russia, the Syrian government’s main ally, is in Ankara for talks on the situation in Idlib. Another round of talks is expected to be held on Monday.
Turkey retaliated against the attack to destroy all enemy targets and avenging our fallen troops.The war criminal, who ordered today’s heinous attack, targeted the entire international community, not just Turkey.
— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) February 10, 2020
Ankara has sent major reinforcements to Idlib, as it tries to stem rapid advances by Syrian government forces backed by Russia.
The Syrian government offensive in Idlib has driven nearly 700,000 people from their homes towards the closed Turkish border, threatening a new humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations said on Monday that nearly 700,000 civilians have been displaced by the latest Syrian government offensive against the rebel-held northwest since early December, including some 100,000 in the past week alone.
David Swanson, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the situation was increasingly dire near the border with Turkey, where more than 400,000 people had already taken shelter from earlier anti-rebel offensives last year.
Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, says it cannot absorb any more and has demanded Damascus pull back in Idlib by the end of the month or face Turkish action.
Trump says will pull US troops from ‘delinquent’ Germany |NationalTribune.com
President Donald Trump said on Monday that he would cut the number of US troops in Germany to 25,000, claiming the country had failed to meet NATO’s defence spending target and accusing it of taking advantage of the United States on trade. The reduction of about 9,500 troops would be a remarkable rebuke to one of the…
President Donald Trump said on Monday that he would cut the number of US troops in Germany to 25,000, claiming the country had failed to meet NATO’s defence spending target and accusing it of taking advantage of the United States on trade.
The reduction of about 9,500 troops would be a remarkable rebuke to one of the US’s closest allies and trading partners and undermine a pillar of post-war European security: that US forces would help defend alliance members against Russian aggression.
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It was not clear whether Trump would be able to carry through on his plan, which first emerged in media reports on June 5, given criticism from some of the president’s fellow Republicans in Congress who have argued a cut would be a gift to Russia.
Speaking to reporters, Trump accused Germany of being “delinquent” in its payments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and pledged to stick with the plan unless Berlin changed course.
“So, we’re protecting Germany, and they’re delinquent. That doesn’t make sense. So, I said, ‘we’re going to bring down the count to 25,000 soldiers,'” Trump said, adding that “they treat us very badly on trade” but providing no details.
In 2014, NATO set a target that each of its 30 members should spend 2 percent of GDP on defence. Most, including Germany, do not.
Plan triggers unease
Trump’s remarks were the first official confirmation of the planned troop cut, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and later confirmed to Reuters by a senior US official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
That official said it stemmed from months of work by the US military and had nothing to do with simmering tensions between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who recently declined the president’s invitation for an in-person summit of the G7 nations.
Asked about Trump’s statement, German Ambassador to the United States Emily Haber said US soldiers were in Europe to defend transatlantic security and in an arrangement that also benefitted the United States.
“This is about transatlantic security but also about American security,” she told a virtual think-tank audience, saying US-German security cooperation would remain strong, and that her government had been informed of the decision.
Last week, sources told Reuters that German officials as well a number of US officials at the White House, State Department and Pentagon were surprised by the Wall Street Journal report and they offered explanations ranging from Trump’s pique over the G7 to the influence of Richard Grenell, the former US ambassador to Germany and a Trump loyalist.
“There is sure to be significant bipartisan opposition to this move in Congress, so it is possible any actual moves are significantly delayed or even never implemented,” said Phil Gordon of the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.
“This move will further erode allies’ faith in NATO and US defence guarantees,” Gordon added, saying it may also “weaken the deterrence of Russia or anyone else who might threaten a NATO member.”
Active-duty troops on ‘short alert status’ outside Washington, Pentagon says
Active-duty U.S. troops are on “short alert status” at bases outside the District of Columbia, Pentagon officials said Tuesday, but so far forces have not mobilized in any other region of the country following President Trump’s threat to use the full weight of the American military to quell riots and violent protests. Pentagon officials told…
Active-duty U.S. troops are on “short alert status” at bases outside the District of Columbia, Pentagon officials said Tuesday, but so far forces have not mobilized in any other region of the country following President Trump’s threat to use the full weight of the American military to quell riots and violent protests.
Pentagon officials told reporters that the military’s response to the demonstrations, including in Washington, so far has centered on National Guard troops. At least 1,300 National Guard personnel are on duty in Washington, with additional forces from Utah and New Jersey also activated. Reinforcements from Indiana, South Carolina and Tennessee are expected to arrive Tuesday, officials said.
But so far there’s been little in the way of preparations to deploy active-duty forces anywhere in the country, with the exception of Washington. A Defense Department official said the forces arrived in the capital region yesterday and are staged at bases outside of the District.
No active-duty forces have actually been deployed and were not involved in Monday night’s efforts to contain protests outside the White House.
Mr. Trump on Monday said he’ll mobilize all “civilian and military resources” to protect American citizens in the face of widespread rioting and looting after the death of George Floyd last week during a confrontation with police in Minnesota.
“I am mobilizing all federal and local resources, civilian and military, to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans,” the president said. “I am also taking swift and decisive action to protect our great capital, Washington, D.C. What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace.”
The Insurrection Act of 1807 allows the president to deploy active-duty forces to states if requested by a governor. National Guard forces operate under different regulations and are routinely employed to aid in natural disaster response or civil unrest.
Pentagon officials also defended Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s statement Monday that leaders must “dominate the battlespace” to control the chaos. Officials said the secretary was merely using military language and did not intend to imply that U.S. citizens are the enemy or that American cities are a battleground.
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Venezuela troops seize abandoned Colombian combat boats, weapons
Venezuela’s military said it seized three abandoned Colombian light combat vessels that soldiers found on Saturday while patrolling the Orinoco river, several days after the government accused its neighbour of aiding a failed invasion. The boats were equipped with machine guns and ammunition but had no crew, the defence ministry said in a statement, adding they were…
Venezuela’s military said it seized three abandoned Colombian light combat vessels that soldiers found on Saturday while patrolling the Orinoco river, several days after the government accused its neighbour of aiding a failed invasion.
The boats were equipped with machine guns and ammunition but had no crew, the defence ministry said in a statement, adding they were discovered as part of a nationwide operation to guarantee Venezuela’s “freedom and sovereignty”.
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Colombia’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request to comment. President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday accused Colombian President Ivan Duque of enabling the operation, which Duque denied.
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Venezuela charged two former US soldiers with “terrorism” and “conspiracy” for allegedly taking part in a failed armed incursion aimed at toppling Maduro.
Luke Alexander Denman and Airan Berry were among 31 people captured by the Venezuelan military, which said it thwarted an attempted invasion by mercenaries in the early hours of May 3.
Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab said on Friday they had been charged with “terrorism, conspiracy, illicit trafficking of weapons of war and [criminal] association”, and could face 25-30 years in prison.
Several attackers were reportedly killed in the ill-fated incursion.
Saab said Venezuela requested an international arrest warrant for the capture of Jordan Goudreau, a former US Army veteran who leads a Florida-based company that says it offers paid strategic security services. Goudreau said in media interviews he organised the operation in Venezuela.
Saab claimed Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido was behind the mission [Manaure Quintero/Reuters]
Maduro has accused US President Donald Trump of being directly behind the invasion, which came at a time of high tension between Washington and Caracas, and Saab said on Friday the Venezuelans involved would be tried for “conspiracy with a foreign government”.
Trump rejected the accusation, telling Fox News on Friday: “If I wanted to go into Venezuela, I wouldn’t make a secret about it.
“I’d go in and they would do nothing about it. They would roll over. I wouldn’t send a small little group. No, no, no. It would be called an army,” he said. “It would be called an invasion.”
Venezuela announced on Monday it arrested the two former US special forces soldiers and on Wednesday Maduro, who showed the pair’s passports on state television, said they would be tried.
The US Army has confirmed they were former members of the Green Berets who were deployed to Iraq.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US government would “use every tool that we have available to try to get them back”.
In announcing the arrests, Saab claimed Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is backed in his challenge to Maduro’s authority by the US and more than 50 countries, was behind the mission.
Saab accused Guaido of signing a $212m contract with “hired mercenaries” using funds seized by the US from the state oil company PDVSA.
Guaido has denied having any involvement in the incursion.
Saab blamed Goudreau and two opposition Venezuelan politicians, Miami-based political strategist Juan Rendon and exiled lawmaker Sergio Vergara, for involvement in the “design, financing, and execution” of the plan to invade and overthrow Maduro.
Rendon has said while he negotiated an agreement with Goudreau’s company Silvercorp USA late last year, he cut ties with him in November. He said Goudreau went forward with the failed operation on his own. Vergara did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The bungled operation has put pressure on Guaido, who has failed in his campaign to replace a president who has overseen a six-year economic collapse of the once prosperous OPEC nation and stands accused of human rights violations and rigging his 2018 re-election.
Guaido has largely held together a broad coalition of the anti-Maduro political parties that make up Venezuela’s notoriously divided opposition. But on Friday, one of the largest opposition parties aligned with Guaido – Justice First – criticised him over the failed raid.
“We radically reject the hiring of illegal groups,” Justice First said in a statement, calling on Guaido to “immediately dismiss the officials who – in the name of the interim presidency of the republic – established links with these illegal groups.”
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