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US-backed Syrian Kurds to turn to Damascus if Turkey attacks

The US-backed and Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria said Tuesday that they will turn to the government in Damascus for support should Turkey go ahead with its threat to launch a new incursion into the war-torn country.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, said after a meeting of its command that its priority is to reduce tension near the border with Turkey but also prepare for a long fight if Ankara carries out its threat.
The announcement appears to be a message directed at the US and meant to elicit pressure from Washington on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to put aside his offensive plans.
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Erdogan has repeatedly said over the past weeks that he’s planning a major military operation to create a 30-kilometer (19 mile) deep buffer zone inside Syria along Turkey’s border, through a cross-border incursion against US-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters – an attempt that failed in 2019.
Analysts have said Erdogan is taking advantage of the war in Ukraine to push his own goals in Syria – even using Turkey’s ability as a NATO member to veto alliance membership by Finland and Sweden as potential leverage.
On the ground, the situation has been tense with near daily exchanges of fire and shelling between the US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters on one side and Turkish forces and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition gunmen on the other.
The Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters have been preparing for weeks to take part in the expected operation against Syrian Kurdish-led forces, seeking to expand their area of influence inside Syria.
On the other hand, relations between the Kurdish-led fighters who control large parts of northern and eastern Syria – including the towns of Tel Rifaat and Manbij that Erdogan has named as possible targets – with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have been mostly frosty over the past years.
But faced with Erdogan’s threat, Syrian Kurdish fighters may want those ties to thaw.
“The meeting confirmed the readiness of (SDF) forces to coordinate with forces of the Damascus government to confront any possible Turkish incursion and to protect Syrian territories against occupation,” the statement said and added that a “possible Turkish invasion will affect the stability and unity of Syria’s territories.”
The statement did not elaborate on what such a coordination entailed – and whether an alliance with al-Assad’s government in Damascus would translate into joint forces on the ground. Syrian Kurdish officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Since 2016, Turkey has launched three major operations inside Syria, targeting Syria’s main Kurdish militia – the People’s Protection Units or YPG – which Turkey considers to be a terrorist organization and an extension of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The PKK has for decades waged an insurgency within Turkey against the government in Ankara.
The YPG, a backbone of the SDF, has led the fight against the militants of the extremist ISIS group and has been a proven top US ally in Syria.
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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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