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World View: Egypt Begins Evacuating Sinai Residents on Gaza Border

World View: Egypt Begins Evacuating Sinai Residents on Gaza Border

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Egypt begins evacuating Sinai residents on Gaza border
  • Iraqi Kurdish fighters to enter Kobani, Syria, from Turkey
  • Turkey explains why they won’t send troops into Kobani

Egypt begins evacuating Sinai residents on Gaza border

Tunnel underneath wall separating Gaza and Egypt (AP)
Tunnel underneath wall separating Gaza and Egypt (AP)

Following on the car bomb that killed 33 Egyptian troops in Sinai lastFriday, which Egypt’s president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi said in anationally televised speech was an existential threat to Egypt, Egyptis now beginning to evacuate residents of Sinai along the border withGaza near the Rafah crossing, in order to create a buffer zone.

Several readers wrote to me regarding the article I wrote on Friday’sattack. ( “26-Oct-14 World View — Egypt in state of emergency after terrorist attack in Sinai”) They said that although the article was accurate, theheadline was misleading in that the state of emergency did not applyto all of Egypt, but only to parts of the Sinai peninsula.

Al-Sisi has blamed Hamas for supporting the attack, and has orderedthe creation of a 500 meter buffer zone along the border with Gaza, toprevent the smuggling of weapons. The buffer zone will eventuallystretch along the full 8 mile length of the border. Residents livingin homes along the border are being forced to evacuate so that theirhomes can be demolished. Over 800 houses and 10,000 residentsmay be affected.

For years, Egypt has been destroying tunnels that are used tosmuggle weapons and terrorists underneath the walls separatingGaza from Egypt. This has been a somewhat futile effort, sinceHamas quickly rebuilds tunnels after they’re destroyed.

In an effort to end the building of tunnels once and for all, Egypt’sarmy intends to dig a deep trench along the Gaza border, and fill itwith water. The trench will be 500 meters deep along the entire Gazaborder, but will be as much as three km deep in the final stage.Al-Ahram (Cairo) and BBC andJerusalem Post

Iraqi Kurdish fighters to enter Kobani, Syria, from Turkey

Apparently, final agreement has been reached for Turkey to permit 161Iraqi Kurdish fighters (Peshmerga) to enter Turkish soil from Iraq andthen cross the border into Kobani, Syria, later this week.

Kobani has become one of the major symbols of the rise of the IslamicState of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), in that the UnitedStates coalition has been using air strikes to prevent ISIS fromoverrunning Kobani, and this has energized ISIS to pour more troopsinto the battle in order to humiliate the United States.


Turkey explains why they won’t send troops into Kobani

Turkey has been under a great deal of international pressureto send troops into Kobani, across the border in Syria, tosave the Kurdish population from extermination by thethe Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL).

Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu gave a very interestinginterview on the BBC on Tuesday on Kobani and on Turkey’s position onnumerous issues. Davutoglu speaks English, and the following excerptsare my own transcription, with a little bit of editing for clarity:

Saving Kobani has been the main slogan, the mainmessage of the international community for last 2 months, but wehave to define what it means, saving Kobani.

If saving Kobani means saving civilians living in Kobani, you’rewell aware that people of Kobani already came to Turkey [asrefugees], and they’re under safe conditions.

But if saving Kobani is retaking Kobani and some area aroundKobani from ISIS, then there’s a need of a military operation.Who will be doing this military operation? This is the questionthat I was really surprised and shocked when some internationalmedia accusing Turkey or expecting Turkey to do something, shoulddefine what Turkey should do. If Turkish military intervenesKobani, I am sure many of these media or international partieswill criticize Turkey for intervening in anothercountry.

The only way to help Kobani, since other countries don’t want touse ground troops, is sending some peace oriented or moderateforces to Kobani. What are they? Peshmerga [Kurdish militia inIraq]. The Peshmerga is part of the Iraqi army, constitutionallythey are part of the Iraqi army, and the Free Syrian Army. Sowhen the Free Syrian Army and Peshmerga said that they’re ready togo, we said yes. But if other countries, Americans, Europeans,want to send their troops, Turkey never said no.

Davutoglu was reminded that the Americans and the Europeans haverepeatedly said that they would not send in ground troops to Kobani.

Well, if they don’t want to send their ground troops,how can they expect Turkey to send Turkish ground troops with thesame risks on our border? So the question is here: is it easy toaccuse, to say something against another country?

But they have to make empathy, and they should ask, what can wedo, and what can we expect from Turkey to do? Nobody can accuseTurkey or blame Turkey for the situation in Kobani.

Two weeks ago, American vice president Joe Biden was forced toapologize to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates afteraccusing them of having funded ISIS and contributing to its rise. Theinterviewer reminded Davutoglu of that, and said that even Jordanianand Egyptian intelligence officials have accused Turkey of the samething. Davutoglu firmly denied this:

You mentioned some intelligence services – theycannot claim this – there is no evidence that Turkey has any link,any cooperation, any support to these type of groups.

It is up to Turkey – it is on our border – and Turkey declaredISIS as a terrorist organization last year in Oct 2013 – whenthese countries didn’t do so for many months, and they are alsonot fighting against them. Turkey is fighting.

Only Turkey has bombarded ISIS troops in December 2013. Andseveral hundreds of them were killed when they approached theTurkish border.

Next, Davutoglu was reminded that Turkey is accused of allowingforeign fighters and jihadis to come to Turkey and then crossthe border into Syria to join ISIS. Even Turkish fightershave done this.

Turkish fighters on the ground who went thereillegally are [far fewer] than British fighters. Much less.

I spoke with my colleagues two years ago, on how to prevent theseforeign fighters [from going] in, and I asked them to stop thesepeople [from leaving] their countries like Britain to come toTurkey. They said we’re a democratic country, so how can we stopthem? I told them, then, then please give us the names, so thatwe can prevent them from coming into Turkey.

They said we cannot give the names unless they’ve committed acrime. Then I said, how can you expect Turkey to stop them, whenTurkey receives 35 million tourists every year. We cannot makesuch a check.

So fighting against this type of flow is the combined effort ofall the concerned parties. Nobody can expect from us to stoptourism or coming foreign people inside Turkey, and check themwhether their name are Muslim names, and so forth.

Finally, Davutoglu was given an opportunity to talk about therefugee situation. Lebanon has announced that they will nolonger accept refugees, and Davutoglu was asked whether Turkeywill adopt the same policy:

Thank you very much for this question. Nobody islooking at refugee crisis, this humanitarian crisis. We have nowaround 1.6 million [refugees in Turkey], but this is approachingalmost 2 million after the Kobani cases.

Yesterday I was in a town, not a border town, and there are 56,000Syrians living there, not only in camps, but also in the cities.In some other cities, the Syrians outnumber the Turkish citizenswho are living there. We have been taking a huge responsibility,and huge risk receiving Syrian refugees, and we spent 4.5 billionuntil now, and it is increasing every day, and nobody is helpingus. I have to make very clear- UNHCR and others are doing theirefforts, but altogether around 200 million. Very minimal.

And I understand very well the Lebanese situation, because it isaffecting the Lebanese social political demography altogether.[But we would not do the same] in Turkey because of our historicrelations.

We’ve always said, not only in Syrian case. When Kurds weremassacred by Saddam, we opened our border. When Bosniaks weremassacred by [Slobodan] Milosevic we opened our border. […] 

So this is the historic tradition that our border has been openfor people, for victims, and it is against our tradition to closeour door.

But we will insist to have safe havens on the other side of theborder, so that Syrian people will stay in Syria, rather than tocome into Turkey. Therefore, we have a long-term vision, and wecan see the consequence of any policy if Aleppo is being taken, oris being bombarded by Syrian regime like today, millions ofSyrians may come. at that time of course, we have to take certainmeasures – how to keep them on Syrian side.

The final remarks refer to Turkey’s proposal to create a protectedborder strip within Syria where Syrian refugees can go rather thanTurkey. BBC

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Egypt, Sinai, Gaza, Hamas,Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, Muslim Brotherhood,Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey, Kobani, Kurds, Iraq, Peshmerga, Syria,Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL
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