Heavy fighting as Syria Kurds hold off Turkish assault
- Author: Sonia Alvarado Oct 12, 2019,
Oct 12, 2019, 0:38
Turkey regards the Kurdish militias of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - who have controlled the cross-border areas - as "terrorists" who support an anti-Turkish insurgency. It gave no further details. Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, says at least 23 fighters with the SDF and six fighters with a Turkish-backed Syrian rebel group had been killed.
Turkey views elements of the USA -backed Syrian militia as terrorists and a border threat.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged Turkey's legitimate security concerns about the Syrian Kurdish fighters, but warned that the offensive could "jeopardize" progress made against the Islamic State terror group.
- U.S. forces in Syria started pulling back today from Turkish border areas, opening the way for Ankara's threatened military invasion and heightening fears of a jihadist resurgence. Almost 70 were injured. Trump said in a Twitter post on Thursday.
President Donald Trump has called the invasion a "bad idea" and held out the possibility of the US mediating a settlement.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for an emergency meeting of the US-led coalition against IS.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier said he doubted the Turkish army has enough resources to take control of prison camps in the region housing Islamic State detainees, and he fears the captured fighters "could just run away", leading to a revival of the militant group. Both sides report civilian deaths and injuries as mortars are lobbed over the border into Turkey.
The US has received a high-level commitment from Turkey on taking responsibility for IS captives but had not yet had detailed discussions, the official said.
Al-Hol is home to some 71,400 people, mostly wives, widows and children of IS fighters.
He said that "3.6 million Syrians should be able to keep living in Turkey until peace is restored in Syria".
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"This decision was made to ensure American troops were not caught up in the fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces", he said.
The Observatory said Turkish forces had seized two villages near Ras al-Ain and five near Tal Abyad.
The SDF said Turkish air strikes and shelling had killed nine civilians.
Outside the American base, a poster commemorates the Kurdish fighters who have died in the battle against ISIS. "That is why I consider yesterday's threats made by President Erdogan totally out of place", Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said on October 11 after his meeting with President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades.
"Hey, European Union!" he said Thursday.
The senior Pentagon official said that Turkish forces should be aware of US positions "down to the grid". We have a very good relationship with the Kurds.
In a meeting Friday with reporters, Sedar Kilic, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, said that his government had no intention of "slaughtering" Kurdish fighters, as some USA lawmakers have alleged, but that it was determined to bring an end to Kurdish occupation of the border area and would not stop until it had reached its goals.
"This crackdown violates Turkey's obligations under worldwide human right law, and it will not make the brutal realities of the offensive magically disappear".
One of the Kurds' last hopes is that the prospect of IS prisoners breaking out and regrouping with increasingly active sleeper cells will spur the world into action. There are roughly 12,000 ISIS prisoners now held in Kurdish detention facilities, although it is unclear what will happen to them as a result of the invasion.
A vehicle bomb also went off Friday in Qamishli, one of the main towns in the Kurdish region, killing at least six people, civilians and members of the security forces, officials and the Observatory said.