Turkey steps up Attack on Syria Kurds defying sanctions threats
Ankara stepped up its attack on Kurdish-held border cities in northeastern Syria on Saturday, defying mounting threats of international sanctions, even from Washington.
Buoyed by a night of continuous advances in the countryside, Turkish troops and their Syrian allies entered the battleground city of Ras al-Ain, sources on both sides said.
The Turkish defence ministry hailed its own forces’ catch of the first Kurdish-held city of the offensive up to now.
However, Ras al-Ain’s Kurdish defenders denied that the town had dropped and an AFP correspondent close to the town said Turkish troops and their Syrian allies had entered but had to catch it.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who had been the most important ground spouse from the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group, have taken mounting losses against the vastly superior firepower of the Turkish military.
At least 20 SDF fighters were killed in clashes overnight, taking their losses because the Turkish offensive started on Wednesday to 74, the Allied Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, stated.
Turkish air strikes Kurdish-held cities and intense artillery exchanges caused mounting casualties on either side of the border, with 28 dead on the Allied side, according to the Observatory, and 17 dead in Turkey, according to Turkish reports.
The Turkish military has dropped four deceased, according to the defence ministry and the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The city of Ras al-Ain and that of Tal-Abyad further west have been primary goals of the Turkish offensive and have both come under heavy bombardment.
They lie at either end of a section fo the boundary that although Kurdish-controlled has an ethnic Arab majority.
Civilian exodus –
Ankara says its forces’ mission is to establish a secure zone run by its own mainly Arab Syrian allies where a number of the 3.6 mllion mainly Arab refugees in Syria could be rehoused.
But the Kurds say the Turkish invasion, which has resulted in an exodus of civilian inhabitants, Arab as well as Kurdish, amounts to an effort to redraw the cultural map fo the area at their cost.
The offensive has up to now displaced some 100,000 people, according to the United Nations.
Roads leading from this region have been dilled with fleeing civlians, some on foot, other in vehicles piled high with their possessions.
Few have any idea when if ever they’ll have the ability to go back to their homes.
– Help group warnings –
Aid groups have warned of yet another humanitarian tragedy in Syria’s eight-year-old war when the offensive isn’t stopped.
“More people are leaving on a daily base and those numbers will go up,” the World Food Program said Saturday.
The majority of those fleeing were going east towards town of Hasakeh, which hasn’t yet been targeted by Turkey.
“Turkey’s goal is to prevent further afield Syrian civilians from entering Turkey instead of genuinely providing security,” Human Rights Watch said Friday.
The SDF dropped 11,000 fighters at the protracted US-led campaign against the Islamic State team before eventually overrunning its self-proclaimed”caliphate” in March.
– Trump warnings unheeded –
President Donald Trump has faced a firestorm of criticismfrom his own domestic fans, for abandoning a loyal ally.
The Turkish offensive started after Trump ordered US troops to pull back from the boundary and he stands accused of giving it a green light.
He’s since toughened his policy towards Ankara and on Friday threatened crippling sanctions if the surgery goes too far.
But Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced defiance and the Pentagon has reported no progress in its belated attempts to persuade Ankara to stop the offensive.
France, an integral partner in the US-led anti-IS coalition, has threatened sanctions against NATO member Turkey.
French leader Emmanuel Macron reported the Turkish offensive should stop”as soon as possible” in a telephone conversation with Trump on Friday, the presidency said.
– IS fears –
Turkey is still far from having attained the aims of its military invasion but the risk seems to be growing that arrested IS fighters could break loose.
Kurdish officials said IS inmates managed to escape from a centre in the border town of Qamishli housing largely foreign jihadists after depositing struck nearby.
A car bomb maintained by IS also went Friday in Qamishli, one of the key cities in the Kurdish region, killing at least six people, officials and the Observatory said.
The Kurdish administration says some 12,000 men are held in seven detention centers across Kurdish-controlled places.
The US says it’s plucked two of the handiest IS jihadists to have been seized and spirited them out of Syria.