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Turkish Warplanes, Tanks Back Syrian Rebels Against Kurdish-allied Fighters

Ankara steps up its cross-border offensive, as rebels seek to wrest control of areas around border-city Jarablus from forces backed by Kurds.

Kurdish-backed rebels fought Turkish tanks in northern Syria on Saturday, both Turkish-backed rebels and Kurdish militias said, as Ankara ratcheted up its cross-border offensive by launching airstrikes on Kurdish forces.
The Turkish-backed Nour el-din el-Zinki rebel group said fighters advanced on the village of Youssef Beik that lies southwest of Jarablus - a town they recently seized from ISIS militants - in a bid to wrestle control of the surrounding Kurdish-held territory.
The rebel group seized the village from Kurdish-affiliated forces and claimed to have captured two Kurdish fighters.
A spokesperson of the Kurdish militias also said that forces allied with the Kurds were battling Turkish tanks south of Jarablus.
The latest clashes highlight concerns that Turkey's incursion into Syria was likely to raise the potential for an all-out confrontation between Syrian rebel groups and Kurdish forces, which are both American allies.
Earlier on Saturday, Turkish security sources said two F-16 jets bombed a site controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia, which is part of the broader U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces coalition. The sources also said the jets hit six ISIS targets.
Ankara's opponents said Turkish forces had targeted YPG-allied forces but that no Kurdish forces were involved.
Saturday's use of warplanes against what Turkey said was a Kurdish YPG militia target highlights its determination to prevent any Kurdish territorial expansion in north Syria.
Any action against Kurdish forces in Syria puts Turkey at odds with its NATO ally the United States, which backs the SDF and YPG, seeing them as the most reliable and effective ally in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.
It adds complexity to the Syrian conflict that erupted five years ago with an uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad and has since drawn in regional states and world powers.
'Dangerous escalation'
The Jarablus Military Council, part of the SDF, had said earlier on Saturday that Turkish planes hit the village of al-Amarna south of Jarablus, causing civilian casualties. It called the action "a dangerous escalation".
The Kurdish-led administration that controls parts of northern Syria said Turkish tanks advanced on al-Amarna and clashed with forces of the Jarablus Military Council. But the Kurdish administration said no Kurdish forces were involved.
However, the leader of one Turkey-backed rebel group gave a rival account. He told Reuters the rebels battled the Kurdish YPG around al-Amarna and denied any Turkish tanks took part.
Turkish security forces simply said Turkish-backed forces had extended their control to five villages beyond Jarablus.
A video released by Turkey's military showed the Turkish Red Crescent distributing food and aid to people in Jarablus, with the help of Turkish troops. It also showed what appeared to be Turkish-backed rebels flicking v-for-victory signs in the town.
The newly formed Jarablus Military Council has said it was made up of people from the area with the aim of capturing the town and the surrounding region from Islamic State militants. However, the Turkish-backed rebels seized Jarablus first.

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Several militias under the SDF banner pledged support to Jarablus Military Council after it reported the Turkish bombing.
The Northern Sun Battalion, an SDF faction, said in a statement it was heading to "Jarablus fronts" to help the council against "threats made by factions belonging to Turkey".
Tension has mounted in Syria's Aleppo region in the past year between the U.S-backed Kurdish YPG force and its allies on one hand and Turkish-backed rebel groups on the other. The two sides have clashed on several occasions.

The Associated Press

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/turkey/1.738915

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Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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