Turkish troops launch offensive into northern Syria, says Erdogan

Thursday, 10 Oct, 2019

The Turkish leader declared an offensive against US-allied Kurdish fighters who effectively control northeastern Syria after a telephone conversation with Trump, who promised to withdraw USA troops serving as a buffer.

Turkey Wednesday began a military operation in northern Syria against Kurdish fighters, days after the United States announced it was withdrawing troops from the area.

Several large explosions rocked Ras al Ain, just across the border across from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar, a CNN Turk reporter said, adding that the sound of planes could he heard above.

Syrian Democratic Forces - a coalition formed with U.S. assistance in 2015 with Arab and Turkmen and other ethnic groups in northern Syria, the group has been a key fighter against the Islamic State (IS) group.

In an unprecedented reversal for Washington's policy in Syria the Americans armed, trained and encouraged the SDF to liberate wide swaths of Syria from ISIS only to turn around on October 6 and, under the leadership of US President Donald Trump, give Turkey the open skies and borders to attack US partner forces. In sometimes conflicting statements since then, Trump has defended the removal of USA troops.

"I told Turkey if they do anything outside of what we think is humane. they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy", the President said.

Trump said he is "slowly & carefully" bringing home "our great soldiers & military", in line with his campaign promise to do so.

Kurdish flags were hoisted on tents, opposite the Turkish flag flying on the other side of the frontier. After Erdogan announced the offensive, Trump called the operation "a bad idea".

Turkey has also stressed that supporting terrorists under the pretext of fighting Daesh is unacceptable.

Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidency's communications director, called on the global community in a Washington Post op-ed published Wednesday "to rally" behind Ankara, which he said would also take over the fight against the Islamic State group. This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS. The American presence, which includes about 1,000 troops in northeastern Syria, is a lean force dispersed across a number of bases.

The EU is paying Turkey 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) to help the country cope with nearly 4 million Syrian refugees on its territory in exchange for stopping migrants leaving for Europe. Multiple launch rocket systems were stationed at Suruc, some 60 km to the west, opposite the Syrian border town of Kobani, he said. However, multiple outlets cited US officials who did confirm that information.

Senior Republican senator Lindsey Graham addressed a tweet to the Turkish government saying, "You do NOT have a green light to enter into northern Syria".

The military would advance as far as 18 miles into Syrian territory, the report said, without naming its source. (Turkish Armed Forces) A man steps down from a tank as Turkish Armed Forces drive towards the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province on October 8, 2019.

"This attack will spill the blood of thousands of innocent civilians because our border areas are overcrowded", the group said in a statement.

It was one of the places from which United States troops withdrew on Monday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

According to a local broadcast citing Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Wednesday, the Turkish army's preparations continue.

"There has been a massive amount of people leaving the city; the roads are congested with civilians trying to get out", said Joan Garcia, a 27-year-old in the northeastern city of Serekaniye. "The only people heading to the marketplace today are those who need to buy food or things that are absolutely necessary".

"They're going to be escaping to Europe", Trump said.

And the town itself was divided. Now the PYD appears to be aiming to maintain influence in any future peace process in Syria, although attempts to involve themselves in UN-backed processes have been vetoed by Turkey. "All indications, field information and military assembly on the Turkish side of the border indicate that our border areas will be attacked by Turkey".

"People are scared. When we used to see United States troops in the streets of Tal Abyad, we would feel safe; they were here to protect us. We are prepared to defend the people and the people of NE #Syria", the SDF said.