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Turkey increases military deployment to Syrian border | News

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Turkey is sending reinforcements to its border with Syria, Demiroren News Agency (DHA) reported on Sunday, adding that some 100 vehicles, including mounted pick-up trucks and weaponry had made their way to the area.

The heightened military activity comes days after President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would postpone a planned military operation on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) armed group in northern Syria, after the United States’ surprise announcement to withdraw its troops from Syria.

Washington has for years supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also know as ISIS) group in Syria, as part of an international coalition dominated by the YPG.

But on Wednesday Trump said he was ordering a withdrawal of the estimated 2,000 US troops in Syria because ISIL had been defeated, an assessment criticised by many. US officials have said the details had not yet been finalised, but they expect the country’s forces to be out of Syria by mid-January.

Turkey’s state broadcaster, TRT, aired live footage from the outskirts of Manbij, a Syrian town in the Elbeyli district, which has been a source of tension between Ankara and Washington. In June, the NATO allies reached an agreement that would see the YPG removed from the area but Turkey has complained the plan has been delayed.

DHA said the Turkish convoy, headed towards the border district of Kilis, located in the southern province of Hatay, included tanks, howitzers, machine guns and buses carrying commandos.

Part of the military equipment and personnel are to be positioned in posts along the border while some had crossed into Syria via the district of Elbeyli, DHA said.

“Around 35 tanks and other heavy weapons, carried on board tank carriers, crossed the Jarablos border crossing in the early evening,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP on Saturday.

“They headed for an area near the Sajour River, between Jarablos and Manbij, not far from the front lines where Kurdish fighters of the Manbij Military Council are stationed,” he added.






Turkey and US too coordinate Syria Withdrawal and avoid vacuum [WATCH: 2:37]

Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey will take over the fight against ISIL fighters in Syria as the US withdraws its troops, adding that the planned operation would target the YPG, as well as ISIL in Syria.

Ankara considers the US-backed YPG a “terrorist organisation” and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged attacks on Turkish soil since the 1980s.

In the past two years Turkey has conducted two offensives into northern Syria, dubbed “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch”. In 2016 it launched an operation against ISIL, which also aimed to block the YPG from joining up the territory it held in northern Syria. In January 2018 Turkey staged an offensive against  Kurdish fighters in its northwestern enclave of Afrin.


SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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