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Turkey makes major presence at Cityscape Qatar

DOHA: At the four-day Cityscape Qatar, where top-notch regional and international developers are showcasing their projects, Turkish players are out in full force at the event. Over half a dozen developers have showcased their iconic projects at the expo, inviting international investors to be part of Turkey’s economic and social growth.
Turkish companies have displayed a wide range of real estate opportunities including residential, office, commercial, hotel & leisure, retail, industrial and infrastructure. Turkey’s foreign investment bodies; project management companies, construction companies, property advisors, real estate solution providers, corporate end users and retailers are also making their active presence at the event.
Turkey is an attractive partner of choice for international investors. With a dynamic population combined with modern infrastructure make Turkey a perfect investment destination, says Can Turkan (pictured), Partner Arma Properties.
Arma, one of the world’s leading developers, have bespoke projects across Turkey, including Istanbul, Bodrum, Bursa, Trabzon, Alanya and Yalova.
With its strategic location, Turkey has access to multiple markets worth of a combined $23.7 trillion in GDP, 7.1 trillion trade and 1.6 billion people. The country is closer to the $18.6 trillion European economy and have easy access to the $1.3 trillion Russian economy and $312bn Central Asia & Caucasus, in addition to the proximity to $3.5 trillion Mena region, said Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey (ISPAT) official. ISPAT is the official organization that promotes the investment environment of Turkey and provides assistance to investors, which reports directly to the Prime Ministry.
According to ISPAT, Turkey attracted $180bn of foreign direct investment (FDI) during the past 13 years, compared to $15bn in the preceding eight decades.

‘Invest4Land’, the Turkish agricultural investment expert company is offering an alternative investment option to international investors. The company, with over with over 30 years of experience in the field, is looking for partners to invest in Turkey’s Walnut Farmlands.

The investor will own a land with valuable walnut trees planted on them and high capital appreciation. Production based investment will secure a 24.7 percent net yearly income on average, it claims. “It is the most foreigner-friendly investment option with the foreign investor-own title deed”, said the company spokesperson. The trees will be insured and certificated from the government to minimize all the risks. No maintenance fees will be charged from the foreign investor during production.
The second day of the high-profile expo witnessed a huge line-up of speakers and influencers who explained on the vast investment potential in Turkey. Eliff Sukkar from Qatar Financial Markets Authority & Qatar Representative Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey (ISPAT) kicked off the talks, highlighting the sustainable partnerships between Qatar and Turkey and how the property market is set to foster stronger relationships between the two countries.
Another Turkish company, the Anatolian Real Estate, which has office in Qatar, has showcased their bespoke project in Luxembourg. “Investing in a high-standing property in the Cloche d’Or, with close proximity to the city-centre, will benefit from advantageous taxation and different government subsidies, said Zeynel Kotener, Partner.
In Luxembourgh, by 2020, there will be need for just over 71,500 new homes. In order to keep up with the increasing number f household, a little over 3,000 homes need to be built per year, he said.

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Florida Museum Unearths Ancient Mosaics It Buried Years Ago and Forgot About

Mosaic fragment from the east lawn of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida (all photos courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg)

For almost three decades, buried treasure lay beneath the lawn of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in St. Petersburg, Florida. Conservators recently unearthed two ancient mosaics, originally excavated from the ancient city of Antioch, that the museum had acquired in the 1960s. It turns out that those responsible for placing them beneath soil were actually museum officials, who did so as an unorthodox and mysterious storage solution that puzzles staff to this day.

Mosaic fragment from the east lawn of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida

“I don’t know why the mosaics ended up under the lawn, but I assume this was considered the best option under the circumstances at the time,” Dr. Michael Bennett, the museum’s senior curator of early Western art, told Hyperallergic.

Bennett is spearheading a longterm project to conserve and exhibit the mosaics, called Antioch Reclaimed: Ancient Mosaics at the MFA. The museum, in fact, owns five mosaics from the same site in modern-day Turkey, two of which have been on permanent display since the acquisition of the group in 1964. A third was also placed in storage, albeit indoors, beneath a stage in one of the museum’s rental spaces.

Each was once installed as attractive flooring in five different villas, which had very distinct names such as the “House of the Drinking Contest” and “House of the Evil Eye.” Archaeologists with Princeton University had excavated them in the 1930s; MFA purchased the group in 1964, as one of its very first acquisitions. All five date between 100–300 CE and are made of limestone and marble tesserae. Decorating their surfaces are, for the most part, various intricate, geometric patterns, although one mosaic includes a partially preserved human figure and a portion of an inscription.

“It is clear to me that the founders had a vision that the new museum would be an encyclopedic art museum,” Bennett said. “And you don’t have an encyclopedic art museum without antiquities. They represent the foundation of the permanent collection.”

Mosaic fragment showing partially preserved human figure and a portion of an inscription
View of mosaic floor from House of the Drinking Contest (c. 100-300 CE), as photographed in the 1930s

Two of these mosaics went on display — one, on a garden wall, and the other, embedded in the basin of a fountain. The buried pair went underground around 1989, and were forgotten about over time. That is, until last year, when the museum’s executive director Kristen Shepherd decided to research the garden mosaic. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Shepherd found documentation on the buried mosaics, but these records offered minimal information. She then interviewed previous directors and staff members to learn more about them.

“My understanding is that this was museum lore,” Bennett told Hyperallergic. “Several people seemed to know that mosaics had been buried, but no one presently at the museum knew exactly where.” Excavators began surveying the lawn, and their work eventually revealed a corner of one mosaic.

Mosaic fragment from the House of the Evil Eye, as photographed in the 1930s

Burying ancient mosaics might seem like a less-than-ideal storage option, but this pair could have suffered a worse fate. As the History Blog notes, in 1951, Princeton University had installed one of the Antioch mosaics on the exterior of its School of Architecture, “where it was pummeled by the New Jersey elements and the tromping of thousands of feet for six decades.” The History Blog continues:

When, as was inevitable, the tesserae were dislodged or loosened, layers of cement were slapped on top. It continued to be brutalized in this manner until finally in 2011 it was raised and conserved. Significant portions of it were lost beyond repair.

In comparison, the mosaics buried at MFA are “in generally good condition,” Bennett said.

The museum has since set up an outdoor conservation lab, where visitors can witness the restoration of all five mosaics. Once stabilized, they will be displayed in a temporary exhibition that places them within the larger tradition of Greco-Roman mosaic art, scheduled for the fall of 2020. MFA is also considering the possibility of permanently installing all five on the walls of its “Membership Garden,” leaving space for rotating long-term loans of mosaics from institutional and private collections, Bennett said. While the museum has outlined this timeline, it has not yet secured all the necessary funds to realize all these endeavors. It is currently accepting donations to support this multi-year project.

Ongoing conservation on the mosaic fragments
Excavation of a mosaic fragment
Mosaic fragment from House of Ge and the Seasons (c. 100-300 CE)
View of House of the Drinking Contest in 1939, excavated down to mosaic level with Mount Casius in background

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White nationalist alliance plans “White Lives Matter” rally for Tennessee

Over the next few months, the Nationalist Socialist Movement, along with southern nationalist groups, will hold rallies in Tennessee.

When the Nationalist Front first formed in 2016, they united the fledgeling white nationalist groups scattered across the U.S. under a banner of common values: traditionalism, anti-capitalism and the achievement of a white ethno-state. The last time they met — in Charlottesville, Virginia, as a part of the Unite the Right rally in August — it brought the subject of white nationalism into the public consciousness like no other rally yet this century.

And now, they’re coming together again.

On Oct. 28, the Nationalist Front will descend on the small town of Shelbyville, Tennessee, for a “White Lives Matter” rally. It will be the first of many anti-immigration rallies in Tennessee, and will bring together a collection of nationalists, Confederates and neo-Nazis.

Where Unite the Right was an attempt at building a broad coalition of far-right groups with disparately virulent feelings about race and immigration, the White Lives Matter rally will bring together a smaller, more coherent group that uniformly advocates for a independent white nation.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to come together — a gathering of the clans, like the Scots would do,” Matthew Heimbach, the leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party and one of the nation’s foremost white nationalist thinkers and organizers, said in an interview Tuesday.

The “Unite the Rally” rally in Charlottesville put white nationalist movements in the spotlight.

Another rally is planned that same day for nearby Murfreesboro, where a mosque was vandalized with graffiti and strips of bacon in July. The Traditionalist Workers Party says the event “isn’t optional.”

By the terms laid out in its own manifesto — which every member group must agree on — the Nationalist Front is anti-capitalist, anti-finance, and anti-bourgeois. It wants a nation that, like many fascist groups of 20th-century Europe, transcends leftist and right-wing ideology and “promotes jobs with justice, the self-sufficiency of the nation and class cooperation between workers and the wealthy.”

“We want an independent free nation for our people, but not one that still lives under the boot heel from global capital,” Heimback said.

But central to the Nationalist Front is the creation of a white ethno-state, and the idea that nations are built on “blood, culture, language and traditions.” More directly: that this nation should be whites only.

Part of the inspiration for the upcoming rally was a recent shooting in which a local named Emanuel Samson allegedly opened fire at a church in Antioch, Tennessee, killing one. Samson is a Christian and a legal resident of the U.S. from Sudan, but the League of the South referred to Samson as a Sudanese refugee in its announcement for the event. They also claim, without evidence, that Samson went to the church that day in “retaliation for the Dylann Roof shooting in Charleston.”

In Charlottesville, the Unite the Right rally turned violent before it even began.

Though the term “neo-Nazi” is often deployed broadly to describe some outcroppings of recent far-right activism, describing the groups holding the White Lives Matter rally requires less caution. Besides Matthew Heimbach, the speakers will include Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement and Dillon Hopper from Vanguard America, a “blood and soil” white nationalist group that stylizes itself as a militia.

While American flags and Confederate battle flags are welcome at the rally, the only reason cited for for not allowing swastikas is bad “optics.” Organizers are still determining whether they’ll encourage attendees to bring weapons, as they did in Charlottesville.

In Charlottesville, Boston and Berkeley, California, public officials often did all they could within their legal power to prevent recent spate of far-right rallies, rallies that often fizzled before they began. Events in Berkeley and San Francisco were cancelled by their organizers before they began, and an August “Free Speech” rally was drowned out by thousands of counterprotesters.

But the League of the South said it specifically chose Shelbyville so that they could hold a rally uninterrupted by liberal politicians and declarations of unlawful assembly. The white nationalists behind White Lives Matter look to the broader American south and see a safer haven for their demonstrations in solidly red states and counties.

In 2010, the National Socialist Movement held a neo-Nazi rally in Los Angeles to protest immigration.

“In Charlottesville, we had to deal with a Democrat governor, a Jewish mayor, a black city manager and a black police chief in a place that had proclaimed itself the ‘Capitol of the Resistance,’” representatives from the League told Hunter Wallace, a prominent white nationalist blogger, as part of the event announcement.

But already, counterprotesters are organizing across Tennessee to hold a demonstration against the White Lives Matter rally.

“We have shown that we can exponentially beat their numbers when we organize as a community,” the Tennessee Anti-Racist Network wrote on the Facebook page for the counterprotest. “And laughing and humiliating them off the streets is not so difficult! We support nonviolent protest!”

“Come and make Charlottesville 2.0 a failed reboot.”

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12 Hidden Athens Gems Spotted by Locals

What is it that makes Athens special to live in and experience on a day-to-day basis?

If you ask our Spotters, that would be the unpretentious Mediterranean-meets-Oriental tsipouro and meze bars/restaurants; the indie cinemas (always playing movies in their original language with Greek subtitles); it’d be the sidestreets in the centre that so delicately strike the balance between decline, neglect, vitality and reappropriation, or the great weather that makes exploring in the city a joy of its own.

Here are some of our picks for some of the most unique, locals gems in Athens, in the words of our very own team of Spotters.

Stunning views from atop a neglected secret
Aghios Ioannis Park (by Nikos Palavitsinis)

Well, this kind-of park isn’t the best choice for a walk, but it has a breathtaking view! It is located behind the Aghios Ioannis Metro Station (red line) and it’s quite steep, which makes it almost impossible to climb, apart from a small path that was made a long time ago and runs through it. Along the path, you will find pensioners playing backgammon and chess in groups!

It’s quite neglected but it’s charming in its state of decay. It’s really interesting to walk around and see the houses built on the other side of the hill, as most of them look like village houses, although built in the center of Athens. Don’t visit after nightfall, just to be on the safe side.

The view from Aghios Ioannis Park is one of the best in Athens, although the surrounding area and the park could be preserved a bit better! —Nikos Palavitsinis

Athens urban street life distilled, complete with bikes
Melanthiou Street (by Andreas Papadopoulos)

There is a small street called Melanthiou in the area of Psiri, in the centre of Athens. In the last few years, this area transformed from a drug area into a cyclists’ joint. One of the pioneers of this movement is Welsh Gareth Jones, who came from London to open a bike store here.

At Melanthiou street you will find everything and everyone who has ties to biking philosophy in the city: the bike store VCA, Handlebar cafe, the Bondex cyclist couriers, along with Silver 925 graffiti store and creative design studio Pi6. You can come and drink your coffee while your bike is being fixed or eat something at very low prices. The best time to visit Melanthiou street is in the evening, when people are gathered at small tables by the road and it all creates a single company.

With a bike or not, take a break at this spot during your city walk in Athens’ center. You will probably meet me here while I’m fixing my bike again. –Andreas Papadopoulos

A century-old house turned bar
Syntrimi (by Dimitris Hall)

My very first time at Syntrimmi, I discovered its mini-atrium that could very well be the foyer to my personal heaven. I returned for their literally unbeatable wine & coffee prices. Then I went back for their super-welcoming environment for quiet work in the afternoons. Then I went back for their music choices which fit my taste like a glove (Ibrahim Maalouf, Yes, Django Rheinhardt)…

Syntrimmi has become my favourite spot in the city!—Dimitris Hall

Super-local lunch dead in the centre
Biftekares (by Nikos Palavitsinis)

If all my articles for Spotted by Locals were a crown, this would be the crown jewel! I am so proud to introduce this place, as this is something that merely 1% of Greeks know about! Biftekares is a really small spot, with 6-7 tables, mainly outside, overlooking Syntagma Square. The old man that owns it prepares 4-5 dishes, like delicious burgers, small pizzas of his own making, French fries, omelet, Greek salad and sausages. That’s it!

Keep in mind that once you locate the building, you just go in and take the elevator to the 9th floor. No signs there, no nothing. Even the doorman won’t let you know about the canteen.

This is probably the best hidden secret of Syntagma! —Nikos Palavitsinis

Large botanical garden few Athenians know about
Diomidous Botanical Garden (by Pantelis Mavrodopoulos)

The Diomidous Botanical Garden is the largest botanical garden of the eastern Mediterranean. It was founded in 1952, and in 1975, after completion of landscaping, it was opened to the general public. In its area of 470 acres you can find trees and bushes can be found from all over the world, as well as plants mentioned in Greek mythology and history, like the myrtle of Aphrodite and Socrates’ hemlock.

If properly prepared, you can have a picnic under the shade of the trees, in one of the outdoor monastery-type tables, where you can meet other groups or families (or even me?) rolling around on the grass. —Andreas Papadopoulos

Festival cinema with bar attached
Mikrokosmos (by @miss_psipsina)

Call it a cinema, call it a bar. Personally, I can’t really decide what it is, since I use it as both.

Film festivals of every kind take place here during the year while the normal selection of the films featured in Mikrokosmos is of the best kind and from all over the world. But as I said, there is also the bar!

I’ve spent hours laughing dead to the endless jokes of the owner and his wife. While sitting at the bar staring at the Tom Waits wallpaper in the back, I sometimes even forget I want to go home… —Margarita Kalogeropoulou

Best street food in Athens?
Feyrouz

If you are wandering around Athens and are looking for street food, there is a place you should not miss! In the hyped, central neighborhood around Aiolou Street, you can have the most tasty lechmatzoun of the city! Mrs Feyrouz, who comes from Antioch in Turkey, bakes the lechmatzoun, and her sons, Andreas and Savvas, serve them. But most of all they create a gastronomic tour for you! They have a story to tell you about every delicious dish their mother makes and they share this story with you.

Since the very first time I visited Feyrouz I have visited them again and again. Not only because of how gastronomically happy they make me but also because you can feel that this family runs their small business with love for food and also love for the tradition that is related to their food!

Feyrouz was voted as the best place for “street food” in Athens and we are really proud of them! —Marilena Salamanou

Art and drinks at the old train
To Traino sto Rouf

To Traino sto Rouf (‘The Train in Rouf’) is a well preserved old train in its natural environment, a train station. Theatrical plays, music performances and art exhibitions take place in the train wagons. The theater wagon is reformed as a theatrical scene, the wagon bar, with its wooden decoration and low lights creates a mysterious, retro atmosphere, while the restaurant wagon is as if taken from those old time movies, where so many things could happen on a train…

The schedule varies from season to season. In the summer you can have a drink of wine on the platform and in winter you can dine in the wagon restaurant, experiencing a unique atmosphere. Feels like you are in a movie… Anna Karenina maybe? —Sofia Skioti

The city’s most exciting overgrown stream
Rema Pikrodafnis (by Dimitris Hall)

Among the blocks of flats, the avenues and the urban “growth” lies a different kind of growth. One that seems to be frozen in time together with its surroundings.

Rema Pikrodafnis is one of the few remaining relatively untouched streams in Athens. You can see the areas it runs through by clicking here. Polluted waters, illegal dwellings tacked on the stream itself, an overgrowth of reeds everywhere… It’s a forgotten, completely different world. You’ll find such things as chicken coops, tin shacks, tortoises, frogs and great views over the stream from the winding, labyrinthine roads that run parallel to it. Some might say it’s not an interesting sight and might wonder why anyone would want to visit a place such as it. I for one love this seemingly abandoned part of the city and really think it’s a symbol of the part of Greece a lot of people choose to forget. —Dimitris Hall

Innovative Greek concept store
Graffito

Since Graffito opened its doors in 2012, it has been supporting new Greek entrepreneurs while bringing first-class design from all over Europe and the world. If you’d like to explore what Greek creativity and design has to offer, this is your spot. From deli to fashion, this place gathers some of the most up and coming Greek brands.

I love it for gift shopping, cause simply I can find special gifts for everyone here — from my parents to my best friend and even my dog. Moreover, there is a coffee shop inside the store which is ideal for getting a break from shopping with an espresso and some delicious cake. —Angeliki Georgokosta

Fertile breeding ground for upcoming creatives
Neon Raum (by Aigli Andritsopoulou)

Upcoming creatives have finally found the right space to showcase their art in the urban core. Neon Raum is more than just another showroom and photography studio promoting Greek designers, it is a fertile breeding ground for artists and hoarders of unique moments of collaborative artistic practice, who have the need to express themselves and unlock their creativity by being part of a community that speaks a global language.

Innovative ideas by colourful individuals make Neon Raum the city’s hub of a limitless world of fashion, art and culture focusing on the beauty in the process.

Extra tip: Before you visit, check Neon Raum’s Facebook page for any popup events. Join their Sunday specials and get the chance to chit-chat with the designers while brunching in Raum’s sunbathed loft. —Aigli Andritsopoulou

Indie-underground apartment
Velvet Room (by The Callas)

Velvet Room is an actual room, a very typical central Athens apartment which has been turned into a live music, performance, art, party and seminar venue. When there aren’t any events taking place, Velvet Room is the studio of the band The Callas.

I mostly go there for the music. It hosts some of the best local gems as well as international artists. Some of my favorite acts like Chickn, Kid Flicks, Victory Collapse and Angelos Kyriou have played there.

Don’t miss the opportunity to get a glimpse of the Athens indie – underground scene. —Angeliki Georgokosta

For more hidden gems, check out the Spotted by Locals Athens cityblog.

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2,000-Year-Old Mosaics Unearthed Under Florida Art Museum

After five mosaics dating back to ancient Antioch were acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg in the mid-1960s, museum officials buried two of them in the east lawn near the sculpture garden.

The reason why the Hellenistic art ended up underground has been lost in the subsequent decades. But as Maggie Duffy reports for Tampa Bay Times, a restoration project is underway to revive the mosaics and their history.

Duffy reports that mosaics were first discovered by a team from Princeton University in the 1930s during a dig in the ancient Greco-Roman city’s ruins near the modern-day borders of Turkey and Syria.

According to the museum’s website, it acquired the pieces in 1964 from the university. It was one of the first purchases made by the then-fledgling museum, which opened its doors to the public in 1965. Three of the mosaics were incorporated into various spaces in the brand-new museum: one was added to fountain in the museum’s sculpture garden, one was put on display in the membership garden, and one was placed under a stage.

And the two remaining pieces, for unknown reasons, were buried in 1989.

According to Duffy, Kristen Shepherd, who became executive director of the museum in January 2017, had a longtime fascination for the mosaic embedded in the membership garden and began researching its history. Learning about the location of the other four pieces, she set out find the ones buried in the lawn.

An excavation successfully re-discovered the two mosaics in early March.

As Tim Fanning reports for WUSF News, the mosaics show complex, geometric patterns. On one of the pieces, a face is visible.

“These mosaics give us a virtually unmatched opportunity to talk about how important conservation of antiquities is,” Michael Bennett, the museum’s senior curator of early western art, tells Fox 13 News. “We’re fortunate to have them but we’re also responsible for preserving and caring for objects from antiquity. What a gift these are to the community.”

A three-phase restoration project is now underway for the mosaics, called “Antioch Reclaimed: Ancient Mosaics at the MFA.”

The process is open to visitors, as it’s taking place at an outdoor lab at the museum. According to the museum’s website, it plans to temporarily exhibit the mosaics in the fall of 2020 before permanently installing them as part of a renovation.

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Let’s Eliminate The Term Middle East – And Response

The term Middle East is imprecise, culturally and geographically biased, susceptible to misunderstanding, and therefore useless in terms of accuracy. Though the term has been called Eurocentric, it is more precisely Anglo-centric, originating at the height of the British imperial century (1815-1914). I also suggest that the related acronym “MENA” (Middle East-North Africa) also be dropped.

The broadest definition of the term “Middle East” came at the 2004 conference of the G8 nations, based on the definition of USA’s Bush administration. This included the entire Muslim world, because to the Bush administration Middle East = Muslim = terrorist (or oil in the case of “friendly” regimes). Often called the “Greater Middle East”, this list includes the “traditional” Middle East nations in Anatolia, the Levant, the Arabian peninsula, and Mesopotamia, as well as those in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and North Africa.

Anatolia, also called Asia Minor, is the peninsula containing most of the (soon-to-be Islamic) Republic of Turkey, its Asian portion. The Levant includes Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, the Sinai peninsula of Egypt, and Hatay province of Turkey, the capital of which is Antakya, the ancient Syrian city of Antioch. The Arabian peninsula nations are Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates), Qatar, and Bahrain. Mesopotamia is made up of Iraq, Kuwait, and Iraqi Kurdistan.

The city of Antioch, the great rival of the Egyptian city of Alexandria for power and influence in the Eastern Mediterranean world in late ancient times (and with it one of the two great centers of Hellenistic Judaism), was founded by Seleucus I, one of the Macedonian Diadochi succeeding Alexander the Great. It served as the capital of the dynasty that he founded to rule over the Seleucid Empire.

Historically always considered part of Syria, Antioch has been part of Turkey since the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. No one in Antakya is at all eager to rejoin Syria at this time, however. It is the most culturally diverse region of Turkey and celebrates that diversity.

The nations of the Greater Middle East as defined by the G8 (Group of Eight) and the USG (United States government) include the core Middle East nations of Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, UAE, Yemen; the North African nations of Algeria, Djibouti, Libya, Mauretania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR; Western Sahara), and Tunisia; the South Asian nations of Afghanistan, Azad Kashmir (Pakistani Kashmir), and Pakistan; the Caucasian nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia; and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

These G8 nations, by the way, are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States of America. So here we have the absurdity of having an envoy from Russia, whose easternmost border comes to a mere 82 kilometers (51 miles) from the western border of the U.S.A. state of Alaska, referring to events in Morocco as happening in the “Middle East”. Or that of an American cultural attaché in Athens discussing the same thing, something possible since the USG (United States government) still uses the same definition.

The term “Middle East” first began to be used by the British imperial government in the middle during the 1850’s, the decade that witnessed both the Crimean War, which involved all the major imperial powers of Europe and West Asia, and the assumption of rule of the Empire of India by the British government from the British East India Company. As defined at that time by the British government, India included modern India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, and, at least hypothetically, Afghanistan.

As a term useful to locating an area, “Middle” East has no meaning without having other regions on either side, which was the case with the imperialist colonial vocabulary of the British imperial government, where it was part of a referential scheme that included the terms Near East and Far East, all three referring to separate regions. The system of terminology references the nations of Asia in relation both to each other, the UK’s Empire of India, and the Ottoman Empire.

The term “Near East”, often mistakenly equated with “Middle East”, refers to Anatolia, Cyprus, and the Levant; in the case of the last, most of what is now Jordan was then part of Arabia rather than the Ottoman Empire.

The “Middle East” was everything between the eastern outskirts of the Near East and the western border of the Empire of India.

The “Far East” was everything west of the UK’s Empire of India.

Some writers have accused the term “Middle East” of being Amero-centric, but in the context of this three-term scheme that doesn’t make any sense because the UK’s “Far East” is America’s Far, Far West. For example, Oliver Perry did not get to Japan by sailing around the Horn of Africa and through the Molucca Straits. In another example, the Philippine Island were the most western of American’s colonial possessions throughout most of the first half of the 20th century.

Inhabitants refer to the area included in the Greater Middle East by other names: the Maghreb, which includes the North African nations along the Mediterranean Sea (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya), Bilad al-Sham (the Levant), and the Mashriq (eastern Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and the nations of the Arabian peninsula). Egypt is not included in either the Maghreb or the Mashriq, nor is Iran included in the latter. Egypt, along with the Sudan, are assigned to the Nile Valley, considered a region in and of itself.

The term “MENA” which I decried above is an acronym for Middle East-North Africa which at least acknowledges the difference between the two separate regions.

Another often misunderstood and misused term related to all of these is “the Orient”. When I first heard the name of Agatha Christie’s famous novel, I though the Orient Express was in China, because at the time I heard it (mid-1970’s), “Orient” meant East Asia. In truth, the line ran from Paris to Constantinople (now Istanbul) from 1883 to 2009. A plan by the governments of the German and Ottoman Empires to extend the line from what was then Constantinople to Baghdad, then part of the latter empire, and its nearby oilfields played a major part in sparking the First World War.

The term Orient derives from the Latin for “East”, and in the Roman Empire referred to most of the area of the “traditional” Middle East. Its major usage came about after the division of the empire into four prefectures in the 330’s CE, one of which, taking in Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Libya, was called the Prefecture of the Orient. Orient did not mean something distant, exotic, and foreign, just the eastern end of a far-flung empire in relation to its western half, the Occident.

In its geoscheme of the world, the UN assigns the nations of the “traditional” Middle East to the subregion of Western Asia, except for Iran, which it inexplicably attaches to the subregion of South Asia (the nations of British India) despite its millennia old cultural and historical ties and megannni old geographical ties to the former subregion. Iran should definitely be included in Western Asia. Of course, the UN also assigns the subregion North Asia (Siberia), to the region of Europe, despite its extension to within 82 km of North America and being part of the region or continent of Asia.

An alternate name for Western Asia is Southwest Asia, perhaps because of another subregion called Southeast Asia with which it is parallel. However, since the subregion in question is almost entirely west of the meridian through the Ural Mountains and therefore directly south of European Russia, Western Asia is the more accurate.

So, this is what I propose: accept the name Western Asia. This would lend itself to an acronym referring more accurately to the same area as the rather inaccurate term “Greater Middle East”, similar to that in current vogue (i.e., MENA) as WANA. I think from the context in which it is used, folks will be able to discern that the writer or speaker is not discussing the Washington Association of Nurse Anesthetists. Or if using the alternate designation, that the speaker or writer is not discussing the Solid Waste Association of North America.

Chuck Hamilton

* * *

I’m still trying to determine if you actually care about any of what you said, or if you just wanted a guise to take a pot-shot at President Bush without appearing to be doing so.

Assuming you do actually care about the semantics of the term "Middle East," why not also go ahead and tackle the terms "African-American" and "Caucasian." Both are used to refer to all members of a certain race, and only those members. The former refers to all black people, and *only* black people, while the latter refers to all white people, and *only* white people, despite the fact this is factually inaccurate in both directions.

All white people are not from the caucasus region, and many non-white people are, indeed, from the caucasus region. Likewise, all black Americans are not from Africa, and there are many non-black Americans who are, indeed, from Africa.

Side note: Nelson Mandela was referred to as a great "African-American" many times, despite the fact he was not an American.

So, since you’re so worried about semantics in commonly-used terms, go ahead and tackle those terms as well. Maybe one day we can become 100 percent politically correct and won’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings due to one’s perception of being "culturally and geographically biased."

Jim Dothard
Apison

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Where Crusaders Camped in Turkey

By SCOTT REDFORD; SCOTT REDFORD is resident director of Georgetown University’s McGhee Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies in Alanya, Turkey.

ON their way to the Holy Land, the medieval soldiers, pilgrims, priests and nobles of the Crusades left behind them trails of settlement and plunder and awestruck accounts of the rich empires of the eastern Mediterranean. Although Jerusalem was the ultimate object of their voyaging, over the centuries many Crusader armies carved out principalities far from the Levant proper. Thus the numerous countries and fiefdoms of the Peleponnesus, the Aegean, Cyprus, Rhodes and, in a daring act of brigandage, Constantinople, were established.

Anatolia, too, bears many traces of the Crusades era. In fact, both the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey are scattered with castles built, occupied or besieged by the Crusaders. Through them the traveler may visit some of the pivotal moments in several Crusades, when crossing Anatolia was one of the most perilous portions of the long trail east to the Holy Land.

The best-known Crusader castles today lie within the boundaries of Jordan, Israel, Syria and Lebanon. Kerak, Beaufort, Saone, Crac des Chevaliers: these names conjure up the romantic 19th century prints of ruined Crusader bastions. Today, those bastions, both Frankish and Arab, are major tourist sites.

Crusader remains in Anatolia are farther off the beaten track, though Turkey’s popularity as an inexpensive destination in the late 1980’s has made it easier than ever to travel there. In searching them out, the Western tourist can experience a sense of discovery of his own history. Although there are many castles and city walls associated with the Crusades in Turkey, especially in the southeast, four examples are particularly worth visiting: the city walls of Antioch and the castles of Silifke, nearby Kiz Kalesi and Bodrum. And all lie in scenic venues. Antioch

After the dangerous traverse of Anatolia, the first safe haven for all Crusaders was the city of Antioch. Antioch had been one of the great emporiums of the Hellenistic and Roman world. Despite its decline under Byzantine and Muslim rule, it was still a city of enormous strategic importance, commanding the northern Syrian coast and guarding access to the rich plain of Cilicia. A natural target for the armies of the First Crusade, Antioch was besieged, and finally conquered in 1098.

The visitor to present-day Antioch (Antakya in Turkish) will encounter little of the momentousness that once placed this city center-stage in world history. A pleasant provincial city of 100,000 people, the capital of the Hatay region, it lies in a valley astride the Orontes River, and below the heights of Mount Silpius, with which it was once linked by a circuit of bastions, towered walls, fortified gates and a citadel.

Apart from a visit to Antioch’s walls and its justly famous museum, visitors can use the city as a departure point for trips to the Roman town of Daphne (Harbiye in Turkish), about 10 miles to the south, as well as several nearby castles of the period. There is also a beach resort at Samandag, where the Orontes flows into the Mediterranean, although it is pretty commercial.

An earthquake in 1872 leveled Antioch, and subsequent rebuilding effaced many ancient remains. Only the spectacular mosaics in the museum and the grid layout of its downtown streets betray the city’s Hellenistic and Roman past. Gone too from the immediate vicinity of the city are the medieval walls.

But there is ample evidence of the fortifications that made the medieval city so redoubtable. The walls were Byzantine, rebuilt by Justinian the Great following a great earthquake in A.D. 526. Most of the remaining ones are to be found by climbing the steep slopes of Mount Silpius, which rises over a thousand feet above the city. The trek, about five miles, takes several hours on foot, but is well worth it for the refreshingly cool air and the view from the citadel at the top . A rough road also leads to the summit. After reaching it, one can slake one’s thirst at a cafe and absorb the magnificent view. Following the walls as they snake down toward the valley of the Orontes, one can trace the outline of the medieval city. Visitors may also clamber around the walls of the citadel and the massive Iron Gate, the postern from which Yaghi-Siyan, the Turkish ruler of Antioch, attempted to escape the final Crusader onslaught in 1098.

Descending from Silpius, a quiet evening meal can be had in downtown Antioch, followed, in warm weather, by a stroll along tree-lined streets by the Orontes River with the rest of the populace.

The best punctuation for the evening’s entertainment is a seat at a local pastry shop and a helping of baklava made with local pistachios, the most savory this side of Iran.

Several castles guarded the approaches to Crusader Antioch and can be visited by renting a car and driver in the town. The most impressive is Baghras, whose looming form dominates a valley in the Amanus mountains to the north. Silifke

The town of Silifke, ancient Seleucia Ciliciae, is picturesquely situated in a crook between the flat green of the Cilician plain and spurs of the Taurus mountains, near Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Through Silifke flows the Goksu River, remarkable for the milky blue-green of its water.

The 13th-century Knights Hospitalers assisted in the defense of the Kingdom of Cilician Armenia, an ally of the Crusader states, by garrisoning the castle here. Sitting on a rocky promontory dominating the town, the castle is easily accessible by car or on foot, and a tourist restaurant sits in a portion of the moat, facing south toward the view. The walls, built of ashlar masonry attached to a now exposed rubble core, define a large oval enclosure at the top of the hill. From the outside, one can navigate its stout perimeter wall, studded with large round towers standing on solid rock.

Little remains of the once extensive interior constructions of Silifke Castle, although an occasional cistern or a tumbled vault can be discerned. Mainly constructed by the Hospitalers and restored in recent years, the castle retains the aura of a ruin, ripe for ruminations on the once absolute dominion held by its masters over the town huddled below.

Modern Silifke is a run-of-the-mill market town of about 50,000. In addition to the castle, it has a small museum and the ruins of a Roman Temple of Jupiter. Mainly, it is a transportation hub and market town, with frequent buses to Konya in central Anatolia, Mersin (some 50 miles away) and Adana (about 100 miles). The castle-minded traveler can use Adana or Mersin as bases for exploring the castles of the Kingdom of Armenian Cilicia, which perch atop surrounding crags. Anazarbus, Lampron, Sis and Yilan Kalesi are all sites of wondrous and well-preserved works of medieval masons. Kiz Kalesi

In addition, about 15 miles south of Silifke, lie the ruins of the classical and medieval city of Korykos, with its island castle clearly visible from the main road. Kiz Kalesi (Turkish for Maiden’s Castle) occupies an entire small rocky island some 500 yards offshore. A companion castle along the sea’s edge on the mainland was once linked to Kiz Kalesi by a now-eroded breakwater. Adventurous visitors can swim out to the castle; others can get there by renting a rowboat.

The tumbled masonry and overgrown buildings on both sides of the coastal road near the site remain from the classical city of Korykos. Its fine cut ashlar stones were reused by the Byzantines, who built both castles in the early 12th century to guard against Crusader expansion from Antioch. Crusader forces do seem to have gained control of Korykos by the mid-12th century, but the island castle visible today is generally of Byzantine design and execution. The land castle, notable for its double trace, is in ruins, but one gateway incorporating a classical triumphal arch still stands. Inside the castle walls one can see the outlines of three small stone chapels through the shrubbery.

One can eat agreeably while castle-hopping. Every region of Turkey is known for a different preparation of lamb, and the southeast is no exception. Whether in Silifke, Adana or Mersin, almost any restaurant will offer Adana kebap. Ground lamb spiced with hot peppers, it is wrapped on a skewer and grilled over a high flame, then served on thin unleavened bread with a garnish of radishes, parsley and tomatoes.

The spiciness of the meat is best balanced with a tall glass of ayran, a diluted yogurt drink that is incredibly refreshing, or, in the evening, with a glass of raki, the ubiquitous anise liquor of Turkey. Raki is called aslan sutu, lion’s milk, by the Turks, who claim that it never inflicts a hangover.

Silifke is easily accessible by car and bus, A few miles outside the town, on the inland road, one reaches the defile – the actual spot has been pinpointed by German scholars – where one of the pivotal events of the Crusades took place. It is there that Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor and leader of the Third Crusade, drowned one hot June day in 1190 while fording the Goksu. Before this calamity, the Crusader armies had reason to be glad: they had traversed most of Anatolia, warded off Byzantines and Seljuk Turks alike, and were close to Antioch. And yet, at the very end of the descent through the Taurus mountains, the aging Emperor (he was in his late 60’s, ancient by medieval reckoning) succumbed, plunging the whole Third Crusade into disarray. Bodrum

One of the most celebrated and best preserved medieval monuments in Turkey is the Castle of St. Peter at Bodrum on the Aegean Coast. It is the only surviving castle in Turkey built entirely by the Crusaders, who lingered here centuries after they had lost Jerusalem, or any foothold further east.

Writing in the late 12th century, William, Archbishop of Tyre, chronicler of the Crusades, cited several advantages in situating a castle. One of them, the presence of ruins for building materials, may have persuaded the Hospitalers to relocate on this rocky promontory following their defeat by Tamerlane at Smyrna (Izmir) in 1402. Bodrum is the site of classical Halicarnassus, and much of the tomb of Mausolos, or Mausoleum, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, which was mined for its stone, must still have been standing in the late Middle Ages.

Spotting the classical friezes and column capitals embedded in the walls is a minor pleasure compared to others this splendidly situated castle has to offer. Wandering its well-preserved ramparts and bastions, one can read practically the entire history of the castle in the escutcheons of the various langues or divisions of the Hospitaler order of knights. There are over 300 of these once brightly colored coats of arms peppering the walls, and with the help of a handy guidebook by Mrs. Evelyn Kalcas that is available locally, one can while away hours tracing out the insignia of some of the great noble houses of France, England, Italy and Germany.

As the word implies, each langue consisted of knights who spoke the same language, and each of these built and maintained its own tower. In the center rise the French, Italian and German towers, while the English tower overlooks the sea.

The Hospitalers held Bodrum, together with castles on Rhodes, Kos and adjacent Greek islands, until the fall of Rhodes in 1522. Bodrum was evacuated the following year, depriving the Crusaders of their last Asian stronghold. Today, the castle serves as Turkey’s only Museum of Underwater Archeology. The Turkish Department of Antiquities, assisted by the Institute of Nautical Archeology, College Station, Tex., has installed a series of exhibits of finds from underwater excavations.

Bodrum itself was once a sleepy fishing village of considerable rustic charm. All that has changed in the last decade, as Bodrum has developed into a major destination for cruise ships, yachts and tourists of all stripes. In summer it is mobbed. The approaches are strewn with concrete bungalows; vacation or retirement condos for upper-middle class Turks and hotels for European travelers seeking a cheap holiday. The Turkish press refers to this phenomenon as betonlasma, the cementing of once poor but pristine coastal regions.

If this development has a bright side, it is the elevation of Bodrum to something approaching iconic status as a refuge for intellectuals and artists. Bodrum in summer is filled with writers and musicians from Istanbul and Ankara who congregate at night in cafes and a couple of jazz clubs scattered among the fish restaurants lining the harbor. Lazy Bodrum summers have become a trope of contemporary urban Turkish life.

Riding anchor on its isolated mooring, the castle at night sits in spotlighted splendor. To either side, the shoreline of Bodrum’s double harbor is thick with pleasure craft, the streets are packed with tourists, and the walls echo with the pulse of music and the calls of importunate restaurateurs. GETTING AROUND AND LODGINGS Transportation

The airport closest to both Antakya (Antioch) and Silifke is Adana. There are daily flights from both Istanbul and Ankara on Turkish Airlines. In Adana, it is easy to rent a car from Hertz, Avis or other agencies.

Travel is also easy by bus in Turkey. The bus station, or Otogar, in Adana, bristles with bright signs advertising every known destination from Munich to Mecca. Turkish buses are clean, economical and reliable.

Kiz Kalesi is easily reached from the main road south of Silifke. There are tricky currents around the island on which the castle stands, so while it is possible to swim the 500 yards to it, renting a rowboat from a local concessionaire is recommended.

Bodrum is about four hours from the airport at Izmir. It is also accessible by bus from Izmir, Istanbul and Ankara. The town has many car rental agencies, and it is the point of departure for yacht cruises. Accommodations

In Antakya there are any number of clean, quiet hotels charging up to $30 a night for two. Two at the higher end of this scale are the Atahan and the Divan. Resort hotels complete with nightclubs are to be found at the nearby beach town of Samandag.

In Bodrum, it is advisable to book in advance. Many visitors prefer to stay in a simple pension in one of the neighboring and quieter towns, like Turgut Reis. The streets behind the harbor contain many old stone houses where a bed may be had for $3 to $5 a night. Towards the outskirts of town, there are newer guesthouses but lacking the charm of the port.

The fanciest Bodrum gets is the T.M.T. Hotel, modern, with gardens, tennis courts and pool. Rooms are about $50 dollars a night, double occupancy. The Halikarnas Hotel is also in the higher brackets, but it is best known perhaps for its discotheque. – S. R.

The island castle of Kiz Kalesi stands across from the ruins of the classical and medieval city of Korykos (Kurt Wyss); Sotiria (salvation) mosaic in the Archeological Museum in Antioch, ancient Greek site (Tom Brosnahan); fortifications at Silifke, which were built mostly by the Knights Hospitalers (Kurt Wyss); visitors strolling in Bodrum, site of the Castle of St. Peter (Kadir Kir) (pg. 14); shoeshine men on the main square in Antakya (Henry Kamm) (pg. 18); map of Turkey (pg. 14)

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The Latest: Russia says pilot downed in Syria fought back

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Russia’s military says a pilot who ejected after Syrian insurgents shot down his plane traded fire with militants on the ground and then blew himself up to avoid being captured.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Maj. Roman Filipov on Saturday bailed out successfully from the burning plane over the northern Idlib province, but was surrounded by al-Qaida-linked militants when he landed. It says he fought the militants and then blew himself up with a hand grenade when they came close.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has ordered that Filipov be honored posthumously with the nation’s highest medal, the Hero of Russia.

Filipov’s plane was struck by a portable air defense missile, the first time a Russian jet has been shot down by insurgents since Moscow launched an air campaign in support of President Bashar Assad’s forces in 2015.

9:15 p.m.

The Russian military says "several" Syrian civilians were killed when mortar rounds fired by rebels struck Russian aid distribution points in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko, the head of the military’s Reconciliation Center in Syria, said Monday’s shelling also wounded people, without providing figures. He added that Russian aid workers were evacuated to safety and were not hurt.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that mortar shells landed near the offices of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, killing two people inside and wounding three.

Russian volunteers were distributing aid collected by Russia’s Muslim and Christian communities outside the building and at another location.

6:15 p.m.

Turkey’s military says a soldier has been killed in shelling in the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

A military statement said the soldier died Monday in the Kuri Hill region.

At least 16 Turkish soldiers have been killed since Ankara launched an offensive last month aimed at driving Syrian Kurdish fighters out of the northern Syrian enclave along the border.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish force to be an extension of the Kurdish insurgency in its own southeast.

Earlier Monday, a Turkish tank was hit by an anti-tank missile in the Kuchuk Darmik region, the military said. No one was wounded in that attack.

5:40 p.m.

Rebels under siege on the outskirts of Damascus are pounding the Syrian capital with rockets and mortar shells, a barrage that state media says has killed one person and wounded 13.

The SANA news agency said Monday that "armed groups" were firing into Damascus from the eastern Ghouta suburbs, one of the last remaining opposition-held pockets in the capital region.

Government forces pounded the suburbs with airstrikes on Monday. Syrian activists say at least 28 people have been killed.

The U.N. estimates 400,000 people are trapped under a government siege in eastern Ghouta. A top humanitarian official called the region the "epicenter of suffering" in Syria.

4:30 p.m.

Turkey says it has detained 573 people for criticizing its offensive in northern Syria since the operation began earlier this month.

An Interior Ministry statement said Monday that 449 people have been detained so far for allegedly engaging in "terror propaganda" on social media, while a further 124 were detained for participating in protests against the military operation into the Syrian Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin.

Turkey launched its offensive on Jan. 20 to clear Afrin of Syrian Kurdish forces, whom Ankara views as terrorists because of their links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused opponents of the offensive of supporting terrorism, while authorities warned they would be prosecuted.

Those detained include several members of the Turkish Medical Association who warned against the operation’s human costs. Erdogan accused the group of being "terrorist lovers."

———

3 p.m.

A Russian news agency says two people have been killed and three wounded in shelling near two Russian aid distribution points in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

RIA Novosti said mortar shells landed near the offices of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch on Monday, killing two people inside and wounding three.

Russian volunteers were distributing aid collected by Russia’s Muslim and Christian communities outside the building and at another location.

The Russian Orthodox Church said none of its staff were hurt.

———

2:50 p.m.

Turkey’s state-run news agency says a Turkish military convoy has been dispatched to establish an observation post in northwest Syria.

The Anadolu Agency says the convoy reached a rural area in the western countryside of the province of Aleppo to establish Turkey’s fourth post in Syria’s largest rebel stronghold.

Turkey began deploying forces in an observer role to northwestern Syria in October, as part of a "de-escalation" agreement with Iran and Russia to stabilize the lines of conflict in war-torn Syria.

The deployment comes amid heightened tensions between rebels and pro-government forces at their shared frontier, after the government retook a contested air base in January.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a convoy of dozens of armed vehicles crossed into rebel-held territory from Turkey early Monday.

A similar convoy was struck by a car bomb while transiting through rebel territory last Tuesday. It was not clear who was behind the attack, which killed a civilian who was part of the convoy.

2:30 p.m.

Syrian activists say at least 23 civilians have been killed in intense government airstrikes on a rebel-held suburb near Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says waves of airstrikes hit at least five neighborhoods in the Eastern Ghouta suburb, the only remaining rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus.

The activist-run Ghouta Media Center also reported that 23 were killed. The Observatory says at least 70 have been wounded and that the number of casualties is likely to climb as rescuers operations are underway.

Among those killed was a rescue worker from the first-responders team known as White Helmets. The two groups say he died on duty in Arbeen, one of the neighborhoods hit by the airstrikes.

An estimated 400,000 residents live in Eastern Ghouta, besieged by Syrian government forces. ———

11:45 a.m.

Syrian activists say two hospitals have been hit amid a wave of airstrikes on opposition-held areas in the northwest province of Idlib, the largest remaining rebel stronghold in Syria.

The bombardment comes after rebels shot down a Russian fighter jet on Saturday.

The activist-run Edlib Media Center and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say one of the bombed hospitals was in the town of Kafranbel. They say it was hit on Monday morning.

Also, a spokesman for the Syrian American Medical Society says a hospitals it operates was struck three times on Sunday night.

The spokesman, Mohamad Katoub, says the hospital is in the town of Maaret al-Numan and is no longer operational.

A hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders was damaged in an airstrike last Tuesday.

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Antioch killing over stolen laundry

Three men looking for clothes stolen from an Antioch apartment complex laundry room shot and killed a man who wasn’t involved in the theft, police said Thursday.

Boise Alexander Duggan and Jeremy Mark Griffin, both 24, and Johntue Felix Hinds, 28, have each been arrested and charged with murder and assault with a firearm in the Nov. 14 slaying of Juan Jose Hernandez.

Griffin, who lives in Oakley, was also charged by Contra Costa County prosecutors with being a felon in possession of a gun and dissuading a witness. He and Duggan, a Concord resident, are also being held on alleged parole violations.

The incident began when Griffin, Duggan and a third person found that their clothes were missing from a laundry room at the Delta Pines apartment complex at 2301 Sycamore Drive, said acting police Sgt. Santiago Castillo.

Griffin, Duggan and Hinds, an Antioch resident, then went to a unit where they believed the thief was staying, Castillo said.

“There were multiple people inside the apartment at the time, which included the victim, who had nothing to do with the theft of the laundry,” Castillo said.

An argument erupted, during which Hernandez was shot dead.

All three defendants are being held without bail at County Jail in Martinez.

Henry K. Lee is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: hlee@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @henryklee

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The Latest: Russia says pilot downed in Syria fought back

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Russia’s military says a pilot who ejected after Syrian insurgents shot down his plane traded fire with militants on the ground and then blew himself up to avoid being captured.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Maj. Roman Filipov on Saturday bailed out successfully from the burning plane over the northern Idlib province, but was surrounded by al-Qaida-linked militants when he landed. It says he fought the militants and then blew himself up with a hand grenade when they came close.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has ordered that Filipov be honored posthumously with the nation’s highest medal, the Hero of Russia.

Filipov’s plane was struck by a portable air defense missile, the first time a Russian jet has been shot down by insurgents since Moscow launched an air campaign in support of President Bashar Assad’s forces in 2015.

9:15 p.m.

The Russian military says "several" Syrian civilians were killed when mortar rounds fired by rebels struck Russian aid distribution points in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko, the head of the military’s Reconciliation Center in Syria, said Monday’s shelling also wounded people, without providing figures. He added that Russian aid workers were evacuated to safety and were not hurt.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that mortar shells landed near the offices of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, killing two people inside and wounding three.

Russian volunteers were distributing aid collected by Russia’s Muslim and Christian communities outside the building and at another location.

6:15 p.m.

Turkey’s military says a soldier has been killed in shelling in the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

A military statement said the soldier died Monday in the Kuri Hill region.

At least 16 Turkish soldiers have been killed since Ankara launched an offensive last month aimed at driving Syrian Kurdish fighters out of the northern Syrian enclave along the border.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish force to be an extension of the Kurdish insurgency in its own southeast.

Earlier Monday, a Turkish tank was hit by an anti-tank missile in the Kuchuk Darmik region, the military said. No one was wounded in that attack.

5:40 p.m.

Rebels under siege on the outskirts of Damascus are pounding the Syrian capital with rockets and mortar shells, a barrage that state media says has killed one person and wounded 13.

The SANA news agency said Monday that "armed groups" were firing into Damascus from the eastern Ghouta suburbs, one of the last remaining opposition-held pockets in the capital region.

Government forces pounded the suburbs with airstrikes on Monday. Syrian activists say at least 28 people have been killed.

The U.N. estimates 400,000 people are trapped under a government siege in eastern Ghouta. A top humanitarian official called the region the "epicenter of suffering" in Syria.

4:30 p.m.

Turkey says it has detained 573 people for criticizing its offensive in northern Syria since the operation began earlier this month.

An Interior Ministry statement said Monday that 449 people have been detained so far for allegedly engaging in "terror propaganda" on social media, while a further 124 were detained for participating in protests against the military operation into the Syrian Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin.

Turkey launched its offensive on Jan. 20 to clear Afrin of Syrian Kurdish forces, whom Ankara views as terrorists because of their links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused opponents of the offensive of supporting terrorism, while authorities warned they would be prosecuted.

Those detained include several members of the Turkish Medical Association who warned against the operation’s human costs. Erdogan accused the group of being "terrorist lovers."

3 p.m.

A Russian news agency says two people have been killed and three wounded in shelling near two Russian aid distribution points in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

RIA Novosti said mortar shells landed near the offices of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch on Monday, killing two people inside and wounding three.

Russian volunteers were distributing aid collected by Russia’s Muslim and Christian communities outside the building and at another location.

The Russian Orthodox Church said none of its staff were hurt.

2:50 p.m.

Turkey’s state-run news agency says a Turkish military convoy has been dispatched to establish an observation post in northwest Syria.

The Anadolu Agency says the convoy reached a rural area in the western countryside of the province of Aleppo to establish Turkey’s fourth post in Syria’s largest rebel stronghold.

Turkey began deploying forces in an observer role to northwestern Syria in October, as part of a "de-escalation" agreement with Iran and Russia to stabilize the lines of conflict in war-torn Syria.

The deployment comes amid heightened tensions between rebels and pro-government forces at their shared frontier, after the government retook a contested air base in January.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a convoy of dozens of armed vehicles crossed into rebel-held territory from Turkey early Monday.

A similar convoy was struck by a car bomb while transiting through rebel territory last Tuesday. It was not clear who was behind the attack, which killed a civilian who was part of the convoy.

2:30 p.m.

Syrian activists say at least 23 civilians have been killed in intense government airstrikes on a rebel-held suburb near Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says waves of airstrikes hit at least five neighborhoods in the Eastern Ghouta suburb, the only remaining rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus.

The activist-run Ghouta Media Center also reported that 23 were killed. The Observatory says at least 70 have been wounded and that the number of casualties is likely to climb as rescuers operations are underway.

Among those killed was a rescue worker from the first-responders team known as White Helmets. The two groups say he died on duty in Arbeen, one of the neighborhoods hit by the airstrikes.

An estimated 400,000 residents live in Eastern Ghouta, besieged by Syrian government forces. ___

11:45 a.m.

Syrian activists say two hospitals have been hit amid a wave of airstrikes on opposition-held areas in the northwest province of Idlib, the largest remaining rebel stronghold in Syria.

The bombardment comes after rebels shot down a Russian fighter jet on Saturday.

The activist-run Edlib Media Center and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say one of the bombed hospitals was in the town of Kafranbel. They say it was hit on Monday morning.

Also, a spokesman for the Syrian American Medical Society says a hospitals it operates was struck three times on Sunday night.

The spokesman, Mohamad Katoub, says the hospital is in the town of Maaret al-Numan and is no longer operational.

A hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders was damaged in an airstrike last Tuesday.

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