Syria’s Assad backs ‘popular resistance’ against Turkey
search
Live updates (closed)

Poll: Third elections won’t break Israel’s political deadlock

Results of TV survey indicate fresh vote would have little impact on makeup of Knesset, with both Gantz and Netanyahu still having no clear path to coalition

Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. (Gili Yaari, Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. (Gili Yaari, Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they happened.

Ex-Supreme Court chief justice Shamgar lies in state

Israelis pay their respects to retired Supreme Court chief justice Meir Shamgar, who died over the weekend at 94.

Shamgar’s coffin is lying in state at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, a building whose construction he championed.

“Dad fulfilled the Zionist vision that was so deeply ingrained in him throughout his life, from a sense of mission and commitment to the nation, the land, the society and the fundamental values he carried on his shoulders,” Dan Shamgar says in a eulogy for his father, according to Channel 13 news.

Among those paying their respects are Supreme Court Chief Justice Ester Hayut, President Reuven Rivlin, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz.

“You were committed to devoted to human rights and the rule of law. You stood up for the importance of checks and balances between the branches [of government]. Balances whose purpose is to prevent the creation of excessive governmental power,” Rivlin says.

Shamgar will be buried later this afternoon at Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem.

Iraq says US troops leaving Syria cannot stay in Iraq

BAGHDAD — US troops leaving Syria and heading to neighboring Iraq do not have permission to stay in the country, Iraq’s military says today.

The statement appears to contradict US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who has said that under the current plan, all US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military would continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence in the region.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to the Middle East, Esper did not rule out the idea that US forces would conduct counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. But he said those details will be worked out over time.

A US military convoy arrives near Dahuk, Iraqi, October 21, 2019. (AP Photo)

His comments were the first to specifically lay out where American troops will go as they leave Syria and what the counter-IS fight could look like. Esper said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift the estimated 1,000 troops leaving Syria into western Iraq.

The statement by the Iraqi military, however, says that all American troops that withdrew from Syria have permission to enter northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, and then from there to be relocated out of Iraq.

“These forces do not have any approval to remain in Iraq,” it says. The statement did not specify a time limit for how long the troops can stay there.

— AP

UTJ sticking with Netanyahu as Gantz to get shot at forming government

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party reiterates its position that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be tasked with forming a government, after the premier informed President Reuven Rivlin he failed to do so.

Harel Tubi, the director-general of the President’s Residence, is informing Knesset factions that Rivlin intends to tap Blue and White chief Benny Gantz to form a government.

“This stance of ours has not changed,” Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, the head of the UTJ, writes on Health Ministry stationery to Tubi.

“This is in accordance with the position of all right-wing factions which together number 55 representatives who united as a bloc,” adds Litzman.

UTJ is part of a bloc that includes Netanyahu’s Likud, the fellow ultra-Orthodox Shas party and pair of national religious factions that are conducting coalition talks as a united bloc.

Gantz is calling for a “liberal” unity government with Likud, but rules out sitting with Netanyahu’s religious allies, as well as the premier himself in light of his legal woes.

Earlier today, New Right MK Ayelet Shaked said her party was willing to meet with Gantz but would only hold coalition negotiations as part of the right-wing bloc.

4 years after IS plane bombing, UK lifts ban on flights to Sharm el-Sheikh

LONDON — The British government says UK airlines can resume flights to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, suspended after an Islamic State bombing that brought down a Russian passenger plane four years ago.

The Department for Transport says today that “improvements in security procedures at the airport, and close co-operation between the UK and Egypt on aviation security, mean commercial airlines can now be allowed to operate routes to and from the airport.”

The Sinai Peninsula resort had been a major package-holiday destination for British tourists before the November 2015 attack, which killed all 224 people on board and was claimed by the Islamic State extremist group.

Travel company Tui welcomes the decision and says it plans to re-introduce trips to Sharm el-Sheikh “taking into account customer demand.”

— AP

File: Debris of the A321 Russian airliner lie on the ground a day after the plane crashed in Wadi al-Zolomat, a mountainous area in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, on November 1, 2015 (Khaled Desouki/AFP)

 

PA court blocks 59 websites critical of government, many with Hamas links

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A Palestinian court has blocked access to 59 websites critical of the Palestinian Authority, a decision that has drawn wide criticism.

The court ruling, handed down on October 17 but revealed yesterday, says the websites publish materials that “threaten national security and civil peace.”

Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, left, with Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza City on March 17, 2007. (AP Photo)

Most of the sites are run by supporters of the Islamic terror group Hamas or Mohammed Dahlan, rivals to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. All are critical of the Palestinian Authority. The PA has blocked dozens of critical websites in recent years.

In a rare move, Abbas’s government has called on the attorney general to overturn the latest decision.

Ammar Dweik, head of the Palestinian Commission for Human Rights, says his organization will appeal against the ruling, which “restricts free reporting and free speech.”

— Agencies

Norway police shoot man who reportedly drove into crowd

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norwegian police say they have shot and wounded an armed man who stole an ambulance in Oslo and who reportedly ran down several people.

Norwegian broadcaster NRK says today that several people were hit, including a baby in a stroller who was taken to a hospital. NRK says that police are looking for another person who may have been involved, but authorities won’t confirm the report.

Further details aren’t immediately available.

The incident takes place in the northern part of Oslo, the Norwegian capital.

— AP

Gantz to receive Knesset security detail once tasked with forming government

The Knesset announces that in accordance with police instructions, it will begin providing security to Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz once he is formally tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a government.

Eulogizing Shamgar, Netanyahu says judiciary must remain independent

Prime Minister Netanyahu eulogizes former Supreme Court chief justice Meir Shamgar, hailing him as the “pillar of fire” of Israeli law.

In a ceremony at the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem, Netanyahu notes Shamgar’s contributions to Israel’s legal system, first as chief military prosecutor, then as attorney general and finally as a judge on the nation’s top court.

“His firm and consistent belief in freedom of expression, individual liberties, human dignity [and] tolerance is reflected in all of the rulings that came from his hand,” Netanyahu says.

“He understood that law is a living and breathing body. The law changes, just as life itself changes,” the prime minister adds.

In this spirit, Netanyahu notes the constant “structural tension” between the executive, legislature and judiciary.

“This tension is not a defect of democracy, it is the essence of democracy, as long as we preserve this simple principle that I have paid heed to during all my years as prime minister: the court must remain an independent body,” Netanyahu says.

Following elections in April, Netanyahu reportedly backed legislation that would allow the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings striking down laws and parliamentary decisions as unconstitutional.

The proposed legislation, which was championed by allies of the prime minister, was put on the back burner after Netanyahu failed to form a government and then failed to secure a majority of Knesset seats together with his partners in elections last month.

Such a law could have theoretically shielded Netanyahu from indictment in a trio of graft cases he faces charges in by blocking the Supreme Court from striking down any Knesset decision to grant the premier immunity.

Trump likens House impeachment inquiry to ‘a lynching’

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump is comparing the House impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine to “a lynching.”

Trump and his Republican allies complain that the process House Democrats are using for the inquiry is unfair and that Democrats are trying to undo the 2016 election that sent Trump to the White House.

Trump tweets today that if a Democrat becomes president and the GOP wins the House they can impeach the president “without due process or fairness or any legal rights.”

The president adds: “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching.”

Lynchings, or killing someone by hanging, historically were mostly used by whites against black men in the South beginning in the late 19th century, according to the NAACP.

— AP

Syria’s Assad backs ‘popular resistance’ against Turkey

Syrian President Bashar Assad says he is ready to support any “popular resistance” against Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria.

The Syrian government has agreed, after Russia mediation, to deploy in areas Kurdish-led forces control in northeastern Syria after US troops withdrew. The US withdrawal had opened the door for Turkey’s offensive earlier this month.

In this photo released on the official Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency, Syrian President Bashar Assad, center right, speaks with Syrian troops during his visit to the strategic town of Habeet, in the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria, October 22, 2019. (Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency via AP)

Syria’s troop deployment sets up a potential wider conflict between Turkey and Syrian government forces. But Russia, Assad’s ally, is currently hosting negotiations with Turkey about arrangements along the border.

Assad says he has offered clemency to those who had joined the Kurdish-led forces, which his government considers secessionists.

Assad speaks today while visiting troops in another part of Syria.

This is his first tour of areas in the northwestern province of Idlib that were recaptured from opposition fighters. The majority of Idlib remains in the hands of Turkey-backed opposition fighters and jihadi groups.

— AP

Most Israelis think Netanyahu should quit as Likud head over legal woes — poll

A majority of Israelis believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should immediately resign as head of the Likud party in light of his pending indictment on graft charges, according to a survey released today.

Over half of respondents (53.5 percent) to the Israel Democracy Institute poll say Netanyahu should step down now as Likud chief, while 65% believe he should do so if indicted. 24% oppose him stepping down as leader of Likud.

In light of Israel’s ongoing political deadlock, the survey also asked about support for a rotation agreement under which Netanyahu and his Blue and White rival Benny Gantz would switch off as premier as a condition of forming a unity government.

Fifty-six percent of the Israeli public supports a Gantz-Netanyahu rotation agreement, according to the poll, while 32% oppose such an arrangement.

Also, 56% of survey respondents say they support a political system that has two large parties, while a third are against this. Opposition is highest among supporters of smaller parties, particularly among the ultra-Orthodox Shas and Untied Torah Judaism parties, who have been a central part of most recent governments.

Finally, the poll asked whether voters would back the same party if a third round of elections were held today. All UTJ supporters say they would, as do 90% of Joint List voters, 88.5% of Likud voters, 85% of Democratic Camp voters, 84% of Blue and White voters, 76% of Yamina voters, 70% of Shas voters and 64% of Labor-Gesher voters.

In a potentially troubling sign for Avigdor Liberman, whose Yisrael Beytenu surged from five to eight seats after last month’s elections and became Knesset kingmaker, only 51.5% of Yisrael Beytenu voters say they would back the party again.

The survey, conducted by IDI’s Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, was done on October 3-6. It was made up of 601 voters and had a 4.1% margin of error.

As Gantz set to get his turn, Shas and New Right say they still back Netanyahu to form coalition

Following United Torah Judaism, the Shas and New Right parties inform President Reuven Rivlin’s chief of staff they continue to back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as their candidate to form the next government.

The Shas and New Right parties are responding to Rivlin’s announcement yesterday that he intends to task Blue and White leader Benny Gantz with assembling the next government, after Netanyahu informed the president he had failed to do so.

British PM Johnson warns of new election if Brexit bill nixed

LONDON — UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that if lawmakers reject his accelerated three-day timetable for Brexit bill he will pull it and seek an election.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Johnson tells lawmakers that if they reject the timetable, “the bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election.”

British lawmakers from across the political spectrum had been plotting to put the brakes on Johnson’s drive to push his European Union divorce bill through the House of Commons in just three days, potentially scuttling the government’s hopes of delivering Brexit by October 31.

— AP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons, London during the debate for the European Union Withdrawal Agreement Bill: Second Reading, October 22, 2019. (House of Commons/via AP)

Judo federation announces ‘final’ suspension of Iran over refusal to face Israelis

The International Judo Federation announces the “final” suspension of Iran’s judo association from competitions and other activities over its boycott of Israeli athletes.

In a statement posted to its website, the IJF says the suspension will remain in place until the Iran Judo Federation “gives strong guarantees and proves that they will respect the IJF Statutes and accept that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes.”

The Iran Judo Federation now has 21 days to appeal the decision.

The ruling upholds the suspension of Iran announced by the IJF last month.

That suspension came after Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei left the national team in protest of its policy of boycotting Israeli athletes. Mollaei said he was instructed to throw a match at the World Championships in Tokyo over the summer to avoid facing Israel’s Sagi Muki.

‘You are great’: Trump congratulates Netanyahu on 70th birthday

US President Donald Trump has sent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a letter congratulating him on his 70th birthday, which was yesterday.

“There has never been a more productive time in the Israeli-American partnership, and I know there are many more victories to come,” Trump writes in the letter, dated October 21.

Trump thanks Netanyahu for his “strong leadership and loyal friendship,” describing the premier as “one of my closest allies.” He says he looks forward to further working with Netanyahu, whose political future is murky after announcing yesterday he failed to form a government for a second consecutive time.

“You are great,” Trump adds in a handwritten message at the bottom of the letter.

Netanyahu thanks Trump for his “warm words,” writing on Twitter that “our alliance and friendship have never been stronger.”

Snoop Dogg to promote Israeli pot-growing machine

An Israeli startup that promotes home-grown marijuana says it has signed on American rapper Snoop Dogg as a brand ambassador.

Snoop, an outspoken advocate of marijuana use, will promote Seedo’s small refrigerator-like machine that grows plants with the help of artificial intelligence.

Snoop Dogg performs in concert during his “The High Road Tour” at the BB&T Pavilion on August 5, 2016, in Camden, New Jersey. (Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

The self-contained “grow box” regulates temperature, light, carbon dioxide and minerals and is monitored by an application.

The company says its box can grow a variety of plants and herbs, though much of its advertising has focused on the marijuana market.

In a statement released by Seedo today, Snoop says that promoting a product that enables people to grow plants in unused urban spaces “is something I’m all the way down with.”

Snoop started his own line of marijuana products, Leafs by Snoop, in 2015.

— AP

WeWork accepts SoftBank bailout plan valuing WeWork at $8 billion — source

NEW YORK — Japan-based SoftBank will take control of WeWork in a bailout plan that will see the office-sharing startup’s co-founder Adam Neumann exit the board, a person close to the matter says.

SoftBank, which already holds 29 percent of WeWork, will invest at least $5 billion more, the source says today. About $1.7 billion will go to Neumann, who will step down.

The deal values WeWork at about $8 billion, a far cry from the $47 billion at the start of the year and a fraction of the sum envisioned in an initial public offering that was abandoned last month.

— AFP

Regev praises judo federation for banning Iran over Israel boycott

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev hails the International Judo Federation for indefinitely suspending Iran for refusing to allow its judokas to face Israeli athletes.

Regev praises IJF head Marius Vizer for working to remove international politics from sport and says the recent success of Israel’s national judo team lead to the IJF decision.

“I’m sorry about the heavy price Iranian athletes will be forced to pay because of the decision of the Iranian regime and its efforts to prevent its athletes from competing against Israeli athletes,” she says in a statement.

She also calls on the International Olympic Committee to adopt Vizer’s “brave policy.”

Netanyahu ally predicts no 3rd election, says government will be formed at last minute

A close political ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicts that a new government will be formed and a third of election will be prevented, but believes coalition talks will come down to the wire.

Likud MK David Bitan speaks to Channel 12 a day after Netanyahu, who heads Likud, announced he was unable to form a government following last month’s elections. Blue and White party head Benny Gantz, who rebuffed Netanyahu’s calls to join a “broad unity government” with Likud and its religious allies, will get the next crack at forming a government.

Bitan says Gantz will unlikely be able to assemble a coalition during the 28 days he’ll have to do so, but a government will be formed during the final 21 days when any lawmaker can try to obtain a majority for a government.

“Because then everyone will be under pressure — there won’t be blocs anymore — everyone will be prepared to do something to prevent third elections,” he says.

Bitan demurs when asked what specifically politicians will be prepared to do to stave off further elections.

“I think during the final 21 days, the blocs won’t be what they were, on both sides,” he says. “And then it’ll be possible to form a government without any problem.”

Following the September 17 election, Likud and three religious parties agreed to act in coalition talks as a united bloc and only enter a government together. No such agreement was reached between any other parties.

Bitan also says Likud has a proposal that can “square the circle” and create a government in which Netanyahu and Gantz will rotate the premiership but doesn’t give details.

Syrian Kurds say they’ve withdrawn from Turkey border in accordance with cease-fire

A senior Syrian Kurdish official says his forces have finished withdrawing from a border area before the end of a US-brokered cease-fire.

But Redur Khalil says Turkish troops and allies are continuing military operations in northeastern Syria outside the withdrawal zone.

Khalil says today his forces have abided by the cease-fire that is set to expire in a few hours, pulling fighters out of a 120-kilometer (75-mile) stretch of land between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. But he says Turkish attacks are continuing outside of that area, capturing 15 Kurdish villages outside of the town of Kobani, and continuing to advance.

Turkey had threatened to relaunch its offensive if the withdrawal was not carried out. Ankara has agreed to the specified zone but Turkish officials said they still want to clear Kurdish fighters from their entire shared border.

— AP

Trump approves $4.5 million in aid for Syria’s White Helmets

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump has authorized $4.5 million in aid for Syria’s White Helmets group, famed for rescuing wounded civilians from the frontlines in the civil war, the White House says today.

Trump ordered the funds for what is formally known as the Syria Civil Defense group “to continue United States support for the organization’s important and highly valued work in the country,” spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham says in a statement.

— AFP

Civil defense workers known as the White Helmets carry children after airstrikes hit a school housing a number of displaced people, in the western part of the southern Daraa province of Syria, on June 14, 2017. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

Rivlin to task Gantz with forming government Wednesday evening

President Reuven Rivlin’s office says Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz will be formally tasked with forming a government in tomorrow evening at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

A statement from the President’s Residence says after the signing of the mandate to form a government, Rivlin and Gantz will give televised speechs at 8:00 p.m.

Third elections won’t break Israel’s political deadlock — poll

There may be no end in sight to Israel’s ongoing political deadlock, with a television poll published this evening predicting further stalemate in the event of a third round of elections.

According to the Channel 13 survey, Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White would remain as the largest party after fresh elections, growing from 33 to 34 seats. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud would also see a one seat bump, rising to 33 seats.

The Joint List of four predominantly Arab parties would preserve its strength at 13 seats, as would Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu at eight seats.

Shas would fall to seven seats from the nine it now has, while the fellow ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism would stay at seven seats.

The center-left Labor-Gesher would drop from one seat from its current tally to five, while Jewish-Home National Union, which ran in the last elections as part of the national-religious Yamina alliance, would pick up five seats.

New Right, which was also part of Yamina, would get four seats, as would the left-wing Democratic Camp.

Overall, Likud and its religious allies would have 56 seats, the same that the center-left and Arab parties would receive. Liberman would retain his status as kingmaker, holding the balance of power between the blocs.

Asked who they would hold responsible if the country goes to elections for the third time in less than a year, 37 percent of respondents say Netanyahu, 30% say the Likud leader and Gantz equally and another 21% say the Blue and White chief. Eight percent say neither, while four percent don’t know.

The survey was conducted for the network by pollster Camil Fuchs. It included 706 respondents and had a 4.1% margin of error.

McConnell resolution prods Trump to keep troops in Syria

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a resolution denouncing Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria and prodding President Donald Trump to halt his withdrawal of US troops from that part of the country.

The Kentucky Republican is also holding off on separate, bipartisan legislation imposing sanctions on Turkey. This creates a split for now between the House and Senate over what Congress should do.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky) speaks with the media after the Senate Policy Luncheon in Capitol Hill in Washington, October 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

McConnell says slapping sanctions on Turkey, a NATO member, could backfire by driving Ankara closer to Russia.

The Democratic-led House last week overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution opposing the US troop withdrawal.

House Democrats say their chamber will vote next week on a separate measure imposing sanctions on Turkey.

McConnell says sanctions may eventually be needed but says Congress should hold off for now.

— AP

Turkey, Russia reach deal on Syrian Kurdish withdrawal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey and Russia have reached a deal in which Syrian Kurdish fighters will move 30 kilometers (18 miles) away from a border area in northeast Syria within 150 hours.

Speaking at a joint news conference today with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan says the 150-hour time period would begin at noon tomorrow.

Turkey and Russia would then conduct joint patrols, he says.

The agreement comes after the US-backed Syrian Kurdish-led forces withdrew from an area in northern Syria that Turkey demanded be cleared of Kurdish fighters.

— AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands before their meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, October 22, 2019. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool )

UN: Over 176,000 displaced by Turkish offensive in Syria

The UN says that nearly two weeks after Turkey launched its offensive in northeast Syria more than 176,000 people have been displaced, including nearly 80,000 children, and “critical infrastructure has been damaged.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says today that power lines have been damaged, reportedly affecting at least four medical facilities.

He says the Alouk water station, which serves over 400,000 people in Al-Hassakeh city and surrounding displacement camps, has received temporary repairs and generators are now being used to supply safe water for the population in the area.

Dujarric tells reporters at UN headquarters in New York that Imran Riza, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria, said after visiting the northeast that he was grateful UN appeals for humanitarian access were successful and water was restored, “averting more serious humanitarian problems.”

— AP

British MPs give preliminary approval to Johnson’s Brexit deal

LONDON — British MPs give preliminary approval to Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal in a landmark vote today, but the prime minister immediately faces another crucial vote that could derail his plans to leave on October 31.

MPs vote by a majority of 30 in favor of the deal, the first time this year they have backed any kind of agreement for leaving the European Union, although Johnson faces a tougher task in getting them to approve his timetable for the final passage of the bill.

— AFP

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Become a member of The Times of Israel Community
read more:
comments
Live updates (closed)

Syria’s Assad backs ‘popular resistance’ against Turkey

Syrian President Bashar Assad says he is ready to support any “popular resistance” against Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria.

The Syrian government has agreed, after Russia mediation, to deploy in areas Kurdish-led forces control in northeastern Syria after US troops withdrew. The US withdrawal had opened the door for Turkey’s offensive earlier this month.

In this photo released on the official Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency, Syrian President Bashar Assad, center right, speaks with Syrian troops during his visit to the strategic town of Habeet, in the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria, October 22, 2019. (Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency via AP)

Syria’s troop deployment sets up a potential wider conflict between Turkey and Syrian government forces. But Russia, Assad’s ally, is currently hosting negotiations with Turkey about arrangements along the border.

Assad says he has offered clemency to those who had joined the Kurdish-led forces, which his government considers secessionists.

Assad speaks today while visiting troops in another part of Syria.

This is his first tour of areas in the northwestern province of Idlib that were recaptured from opposition fighters. The majority of Idlib remains in the hands of Turkey-backed opposition fighters and jihadi groups.

— AP