Live updates on all the latest developments in the battle to retake the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq from ISIS.Read More
[Live Updates] - Turkish military units have crossed into Turkey in support of rebel fighters in an attempt to create a safe zone along the country’s border in northern Syria.Read More
A coup was launched last night against the Turkish Government, which appears to have failed, and left hundreds dead.Read More
An in-depth look at the domestic and foreign policy outcomes from Turkey's continuing arrests of Kurdish politicians.Read More
Bombings and violence ramp up in Istanbul from Kurdish militants and terrorists, refugees are flowing over Turkey's borders, and President Erdogan is cracking down hard on dissent. A look into the different issues the country now faces.Read More
Timeline of live updates from the Ankara Bombing.Read More
The Syrian regime managed a highly strategic advance over the last few days around north Aleppo, cutting off rebels from key supply lines.Read More
A Kurdish peace rally was devastated by a suicide bombing in Istanbul.Read More
Since the shootdown of a Russian Su-24 by the Turkish Air Force on the 24th of November, Russia has escalated its bombing campaign in Syria against rebel groups in the north of Syria, including ones the US calls ‘moderate forces’. Some of these groups have the backing of the US & Turkey and have been actively fighting against both the Assad regime and ISIS for some time. Following Russia’s intervention in the war, the number of deadly airstrikes have increased targeting both rebels and also truck convoys moving across the border from Turkey into Syria which allegedly carried aid. Russia has as stepped up its attacks in areas close to the Turkish border that are home to a large number of Turkmen, seen by Turkey as their ethnic brethren.
As well as bombing, Russia has committed heavier and more sophisticated hardware to the region, including the S-400 anti aircraft system. Although there was some evidence that suggested that the S-400 was in the country already, Russia only revealed the system after the shootdown of the Russian jet. Furthermore, Russia has also started arming some of their fighter/bomber aircraft with air to air missiles for ‘defence’ and has deployed the guided missile cruiser ‘Moskva’ to the region, in order to provide additional anti-aircraft protection.
Aside from these direct military deployments, Russia has been hitting back at Turkey in other ways, such as arresting Turkish businessmen, banning Russian football clubs from signing Turkish players and seizing Turkish cargo ships. The Russian government has even gone so far as to pursue economic sanctions against Turkey, and discouraging Russian tourists from visiting.
While Turkey has a very controversial relationship with the Syrian conflict through its support and alleged military aid for various Islamist rebel factions, over the past few months it has talked about establishing what it calls a ‘safe zone’ in Northern Syria. Turkish President Erdogan has many times threatened to create such a zone, however has remained rather vague about how it could be established. The zone itself would stretch over much of the north of Aleppo Governorate in Syria, in a roughly 45km strip between the Euphrates River and the YPG/SDF controlled Afrin Canton. Many have suggested part of Turkey’s reason for establishing the zone is to prevent a contiguous Kurdish controlled territory across all of Northern Syria.
Originally it was thought that this would be established through a deployment of Turkish ground forces, however this failed to transpire. Then, rhetoric from Turkey suggested that its proxy militias would establish the zone themselves in areas captured for ISIS with air support from Turkish and Coalition jets. This too has yet to see any real success.
Following the shoot-down of a Russian jet by Turkish forces, and Russian bombing of Turkey rebels along the border area, Erdogan has once again revived rhetoric of establishing this safe zone as a way to protect ethnic Turkmen rebels.
Today may turn out to be a critical day for the course of the Syria Civil War. While the exact details are still far from clear, for the first time in 50 years a NATO country has shot down a Russian jet in air-to-air combat. Turkey, in shooting down a Russian jet has ratcheted up the tension over Syria to its greatest level in the four and a half year long war. But what is confirmed so far about what happened?
At around 09:00 local time this morning, Turkish F-16 fighter jets intercepted a Russian Su-24 ‘Flanker’ jet. Turkey claims this jet had breached its airspace, while Russia claims that it was 4km within Syrian airspace. According to radar tracking information released by Turkey, even in their version of the story, the jet only was in Turkish airspace for a matter of seconds.
Following a number of (alleged) warnings, an F-16 jet fired an air-to-air missile at the Russian Su-24, destroying it and forcing its two pilots to eject. While this ejection was successful, the pilots fell towards rebel-controlled territory in Latakia Governorate in Syria. Video footage from a rebel group on the ground then showed fighters firing at the descending pilots, before another video showed at least one pilot dead on the ground with wounds consistent from small-arms fire. The second pilot was also reported dead by these rebels, however this has yet to be confirmed via photographs or other means.
Following the shoot-down, the Russian Air Force deployed a number of rescue helicopters to retrieve the downed pilots. These attempts were unsuccessful, and one Mi-8 helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing for an unknown reason. While on the ground, this helicopter was targeted by Abu Hamza of the FSA 1st Coastal Division, who destroyed it with a US supplied TOW missile. The Russian Ministry of Defence later confirmed that one Russian marine was killed in this incident. The fate of the rest of the crew is currently unclear.
Aftermath and Political Fallout
This event marked the first time a NATO member has ever shot down a Russian jet. The initial response by Russia was rather muted, likely due to their leadership trying to ascertain the specifics of what happened. Several hours later, Putin responded to the shoot-down, calling it a “stab in the back" committed by "accomplices of terrorists". The Russian Ministry of Defence also characterised the shoot-down as an “unfriendly act”, and promised a series of measures in response.
Later in the evening, the MoD also announced a significant tightening of its air support in Syria. All operations would now reportedly fly with a fighter escort and “dangers” to Russian aircraft would be "destroyed” with support from ship-based anti-aircraft systems.
For its part, Turkey has defended its actions, with President Erdogan claiming that “we did our best to prevent this outcome”. As well, Erdogan claimed that Turkey’s actions were in some part driven by the desire to protect ethnic Turkmen in Syria from Russian bombing saying: “Russia is bombing Bayirbucak Turkmens and claiming they are targeting ISIS.” As well, in a leaked letter to NATO his government referred to repeated breaches of its airspace over the last few years as a further pretext for its actions.
No WWIII, But More Room for Escalation
While there will likely be no further escalation or direct reprisals from either party following this incident, there is now a much greater risk of escalation. With both sides taking aggressive postures to defend their aircraft and strategic interests, mistakes and miscalculations are possible, if not probable. As has become the norm over the previous years, Syria is becoming an even more dangerous flashpoint.
The recent bombing in Ankara on Saturday, October 10th, was one of the deadliest ever terrorist attacks on Turkish soil. At least 97 were killed and scores more were injured, with many in intensive care.
The attack targeted a peace rally of mainly Kurdish HDP supporters and left-wing activists, both in strong opposition to the ruling AK Party. The bombing came a day after the Kurdish PKK militant group announced their intentions for a unilateral cease-fire with Turkey to begin on Sunday, October 12th. This article will plot a timeline of Turkey's response to the attack.
All times are in CEST time zone, Turkey is one hour ahead.
First two tweets about the bombing from @Conflicts were at 10:38 am Oslo time.
After the bombs went off, Turkish police quickly sprang into action and launched tear gas and water cannons against the victims, including those trying to help them. Police were also seen beating people with batons.
There were not any police helping victims, only civilians helping civilians.
Here you can see a longer, very graphic video which shows the aftermath in more detail. Again only civilians aiding civilians, no authorities helping: http://t24.com.tr/video/1010-vuruldun-ey-halkim-unutma,1297
The next Tweet sent out shows how police blocking ambulances from reaching the injured, as well as civilians beating them out of the way in desperation.
Full video of civilians beating police out of the way for ambulances here: https://www.facebook.com/evrenselgzt/videos/10153244883967921/?pnref=story
@Conflicts found a first-hand account of police actively trying to stop people form helping the injured.
Around 1 pm, the PKK decided to announce their unilateral cease-fire with Turkey a day early in light of the bombing.
At 1 pm, the Turkish State News agency stated there was no need for blood donations, even though many were severely injured and in desperate need of blood.
At 1:20 pm, the Turkish Medical Association posted an urgent message on their website asking the Ministry of Defense to pick up their phones and help organize a response.
At 2:12 pm, reports of Twitter being blocked in Turkey come in.
At 2:38 pm, Turkish security officials banned the showing of images of the attack and announced suicide bombers responsible.
At 3:13 pm, the Turkish Interior Minister announced that there has been no security lapse in a press conference.
Many were angered by their response, and many comments were made about them smirking.
At 4:45 pm, PM Davutoglu announced three days of morning -- not only for the Ankara Bombing victims, but for all victims of terrorism.
Another AKP Minister blamed the victims and called them "provocateurs."
At 5:19 pm, the Turkish PM hinted that the attack could have been carried out by ISIS, Kurdish PKK, or far left DHKP/C.
At 11:56 am, the next day, Turkey began a bombing raid against the PKK, who had declared a unilateral cease-fire the day before. Attacks inside Turkey's south-east were reported as well.
Pro-Kurdish HDP co-chair Demirtas strongly condemned the Turkish government and accused them of being complicit in the attack (English Subtitles).
At 3:56 pm, Turkish PM, claims emerge that one of the suspected bombers could be the older brother of the Suruc bomber, who would have been on Turkish security services watchlist.
At 10:52 am, the Turkish PM announced that ISIS is the prime suspect. At this point ISIS had not claimed responsibility for the attack.
At 12:11 pm, the PKK commander announced that they will keep to their cease-fire despite Turkish bombing the day before.
At 5:39 pm, the Ankara Second Criminal Court of Peace, a Turkish provincial criminal court, ordered secrecy of the Ankara Bombing.
At 9:03 pm, the Turkish Deputy PM stated that the PKK cease-fire is not enough.
At 8:44 am, Turkey security forces announced a list of possible suspects - the Suruc bomber's brother being one of them.
Here a man who trampled flowers left by mourners at the Ankara Bombing site.
In a soccer game between Turkey and Iceland, there was a minute of silence for the victims of the Ankara Bombing. Turkish fans booed and chanted Islamist slogans.
More evidence comes in that the Suruc bomber's brother was allegedly involved in the bombing.
At 11:46 am, the Turkish PM again tried to connect the PKK to the Ankara Bombing.
The father of the Ankara Bombing suspect stated that he demanded the police arrest his son (brother of the Suruc bomber).
At 2:28 pm, the Ankara Court prosecutor issued a media blackout on the Ankara Bombing.
To be continued...