Turkey begins offensive in Syria with air strikes

Elias Hubbard
October 10, 2019

Warning of a "humanitarian catastrophe", Syrian Kurdish forces who are allied with the United States issued a general mobilization call Wednesday as Turkey threatened to invade northeastern Syria.

The SDF said military positions and civilians in the city of Qamishli and the town of Ain Issa - more than 30 km (20 miles) inside Syria - had been hit, and said there were initial reports of civilian casualties.

Turkey views Kurdish YPG fighters in northeast Syria as terrorists due to their ties to militants waging an insurgency inside Turkey.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up mostly of the main Kurdish militia in the region, reported that at least two civilians were killed in air strikes.

The SDF, which is viewed as a terror group by Ankara despite being a long-time ally of Washington on the fight against ISIS, warned the Turkish offensive would enable surviving ISIS leaders to come out of hiding.

But Trump also threatened to "totally destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if the Turkish push into Syria went too far.

Turkey has been massing troops for days along its border with Syria and vowed it would go ahead with the military operation and not bow to the USA threat.

Turkish airstrikes hit the town of Ras al-Ayn on the Syrian side of the border, local activists said.

Mr Graham, usually a vocal ally to Mr Trump, has repeatedly criticised Mr Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops. The withdrawal was criticised in Washington as a betrayal of America's Kurdish allies.

Turkey has said the terrorist group PKK and its extension the YPG/PYD constitute the biggest threat to Syria's future, jeopardizing the country's territorial integrity and unitary structure.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday chaired a coordination meeting on Operation Peace Spring.

A Turkish security source told Reuters the military operation into Syria had begun with airstrikes. "Kurds in Syria. should support the Syrian army", state news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying.

The Kurdish-led civilian administration in northeastern Syria warned on October 9 of a "humanitarian catastrophe" in northern Syria if hostilities break out, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that USA actions in the area could "ignite the whole region".

"We call on all our institutions, and our people in all their components, to head towards the border region with Turkey to fulfill their moral duty and show resistance in these sensitive, historic moments", it said in a statement.

A spokesman for one of the pro-Turkish Syrian militant groups told AFP the land phase of the operation began in Tal Abyad, an area under the control of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Syria's Foreign Ministry condemned Turkey's plans for an invasion, calling it a "blatant violation" of worldwide law and vowing to repel the incursion.

Lavrov, however, took issue with the USA withdrawal, saying during a press conference in Kazakhstan's capital, Nur-Sultan, that the Kurds were "extremely alarmed" and that a broader conflict "must be avoided at all costs".

Russian Federation criticizes "reckless attitude" of U.S.

Earlier on Wednesday, ISIS militants targeted a post of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, which was once the de facto ISIS capital at the height of the militants' power in the region.

IS claimed an overnight suicide attack by two of its fighters in its former Syria stronghold of Raqa, the latest evidence that jihadist sleeper cells remained a threat.

Military cargo planes also intermittently landed at the base. However, state TV didn't mention the expected Turkish operation nor elaborate on the number of troops taking part in the drill in Qushchi in Iran's Western Azerbaijan province.

"Turkey's statements on the safety of the borders are disproved by the fact that they are in violation of the Adana agreements - if Turkey had adhered to the agreements then it could have ensured the safety of its borders" the statement added. One of the officials said USA training of forces in Syria had also been affected.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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