Assad Says Refugees May Be Terrorists, Should Return to Syria
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said some refugees who have fled his country are “definitely” terrorists, Yahoo News reported.
Nearly 5 million people have fled Syria in the past six years, after largely peaceful demonstrations were met with state violence in 2011. Since then, the country has spiraled into a complex proxy war, with half the pre-war population internally displaced amid the violence. Most of the country’s refugees have settled in Syria’s neighboring countries.
“For me, the priority is to bring those citizens to their country, not to help them immigrate,” Assad told Yahoo News. He added that he would not take sides on President Donald Trump’s attempted ban on refugees and immigrants from Syria. “It’s an American issue,” he said.
Russian Warplanes Accidentally Kill Turkish Soldiers in Syria
Russian aircraft accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers in Syria on Thursday, Reuters reported. Both countries were involved in an operation against the so-called Islamic State in Syria, a Turkish military statement said.
“During an operation by a Russia Federation warplane against Islamic State targets in the region of the Euphrates Shield operation in Syria, a bomb accidentally hit a building used by Turkish army units,” the Turkish military said in a statement.
Eleven other people were wounded in the incident, for which Russian president Vladimir Putin blamed poor coordination between the two countries. Putin also called his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, to express his condolences.
A statement from the Kremlin on Thursday said Ankara and Moscow have agreed to increase military cooperation in Syria.
More Than 100 Women, Children, Released in Prisoner Swap
The Syrian government and rebel factions exchanged more than 100 prisoners and hostages on Tuesday, some of them children, Reuters reported.
Some 112 people, including 24 children, were swapped between rebel and government representatives in Hama, according to the United Kingdom-based monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
Half of them were female prisoners released from government-held areas and then taken to opposition-held areas. In exchange, rebels freed female hostages and three unidentified men who were then taken to government-held areas in the coastal region.
Prisoner swaps in Syria are rare, but have been increasing recently, the SOHR said.