Turkish-led forces taken Syrian border town

Turkey, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began its assault on Kurdish-held northeastern Syria on Wednesday after President Trump withdrew US troops from the region, with bombs coming down on Turkish border towns on Thursday.

Marvan Qamishlo, an SDF spokesman, said Turkish-backed forces had entered the town's industrial district following hours of heavy Turkish shelling that had forced the SDF into a "tactical retreat" from that area.

Washington said Turkey's incursion was causing "great harm" in relations with its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

One placard depicted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a bloodied sword unleashing Syrian dogs on a Kurdish mother and child.

Late news Saturday reports that as a result of the Trump surrender in Syria, Turkish forces have begun firing on U.S. troop placements near the Syrian town of Kobane.

The SDF says the Turkish assault could allow the jihadist group to re-emerge. The regional Kurdish-led administration in Syria's northeast said almost 200,000 people had been displaced as a result, while the U.N. World Food Programme put the figure at more than 100,000 in the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain.

Turkey aims to set up a "safe zone" inside Syria to resettle numerous 3.6 million Syrian war refugees it has been hosting.

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and Turkish soldiers watch as smoke billows from the border town of Ras al-Ain. "Please help us, please help us, it's enough", Bawan, one of the Kurdish protesters, told Reuters. "Mine and booby trap searches are being carried out".

Speaking as night fell Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, said the SDF was still in control inside Ras al Ain, and fierce clashes were going on there.

Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad have been the primary focus of Turkey's offensive launched on Wednesday against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

"It's a harsh reality - this could have been me", she said, noting reports of dozens killed since tanks began to roll across the border over the past week.

The Syrian government does not recognize the legitimacy of the Kurdish autonomy in the country's north-east, although Damascus has repeatedly condemned Turkey's occupational policies in the area.

The Turkey-backed fighters have denied her killing, saying they had not advanced that far, according to Reuters news agency.

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The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four civilians were killed in Tal Abyad when an air strike hit the auto in which they were fleeing the fighting, while another three were shot dead by snipers around the border town.

In the latest global censure of the assault, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Saturday called it an "invasion of an Arab state's land and an aggression on its sovereignty".

Jafar Said, a doctor who is among those seeking safety in Iraq, said his home town in northeastern Syria is mostly governed by Kurdish authorities. "The only thing to be done is for these terrorists to lay down arms", Cavusoglu told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

A communique issued by Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers indicated the league will consider suspending military cooperation with Turkey as well as economic and investment measures.

Shoukry also warned against the "catastrophic consequences" of the Turkish offensive including the possible reappearance and reassembly of defeated militants of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization, besides undermining the long-awaited political process in Syria.

A rebel group fighting under the Syrian National Army banner said it had momentarily cut off part of the M4 highway, the main east-west artery running through the Kurds' enclave to the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Turkish soldiers on Wednesday launched a cross-border assault against Kurdish fighters Turkey sees as terrorists, in defiance of global criticism and threats of sanctions.

Turkish officials had previously communicated to the United States that the scope of the operation was narrower.

The suspension of weapons sales comes as European Union ministers prepare to meet in Luxembourg next week to plan a response to Turkey's "Operation Peace Spring" offensive, and after German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass announced a similar halt to arms exports earlier on Saturday. However, "instead of returning fire, the Special Forces withdrew once the shelling had ceased". It did not say if any Islamic State prisoners there had escaped.

SDF forces had then repelled the attackers and the road was reopened, it said.

Trump has faced a storm of criticism for abandoning a loyal ally in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group.

In defending his decision to pull US forces from the operation area in the northern Syria, Trump said: "I don't think our soldiers should be there for the next 50 years".

In its first big attack since the assault began, IS claimed responsibility for a deadly auto bomb on Friday in Qamishli, the largest city in the Kurdish-held area.

  • Sonia Alvarado