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Syrian government forces ‘enter’ Kurdish-controlled Manbij region | USA News

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Syrian government forces have entered the country’s northern border region of Manbij controlled by Kurdish fighters, local sources told Al Jazeera and Turkey’s state-run Anadolu agency.

Trucks carrying regime forces and equipment, two tanks, and other armoured vehicles have arrived in the village of Arimah in the western countryside of Manbij, sources told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday. Arimah is 25km away from the centre of Manbij.

The development comes a day after Turkish-backed Syrian fighters dispatched fighters and armoured vehicles to the front line along Manbij and days after Washington took an unexpected decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

Manbij is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), seen as a “terrorist” group by Turkey.

Ankara says a Turkish operation in Syria will target areas under the control of YPG fighters, including Manbij.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday that Ankara and Washington agreed to complete withdrawal of the YPG forces from Manbij before US pulls out of Syria.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his threats to target Kurdish fighters.

Turkey was in Syria “to return the freedom of our Arab brothers and sisters, to return the freedom of our Kurdish brothers and sisters”, Erdogan said during a speech.

Turkey has sent reinforcements at the border with Syria in the previous days, with local media reporting that some vehicles had crossed it.

In the past two years, Turkey has conducted two offensives into northern Syria, dubbed “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch”.

Surprising decision

President Donald Trump‘s surprise decision to withdraw the estimated 2,000 US troops from Syria on Wednesday has created shock among members of the Congress, including Republicans, as well as among Washington’s Western allies.

Erdogan’s spokesperson said on Monday that US military officials will come to Turkey this week to discuss coordination on Syria.

Washington for years supported the YPG-led SDF in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in Syria.

A senior Syrian Kurdish official said they were reaching out for help to protect the Kurdish-administered areas against a possible Turkish offensive following the US withdrawal, adding that they were in talks with Russia, the Syrian government and European countries.

“We will deal with whoever can protect the good and stability of this country,” the Associated Press news agency quoted Ilham Ahmed as saying on Monday.

A delegation of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of SDF, arrived in Russia last week for talks.

Ankara claims the YPG is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged attacks on Turkish soil since the 1980s as they sought autonomy.


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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