Published: Fri, October 11, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Tens of thousands of Syrian fighters mobilised by Turkey

Tens of thousands of Syrian fighters mobilised by Turkey

The Syrian Kurdish forces were long-time USA allies in the fight against the so-called Islamic State group.

Erdogan, announcing the start of the action, said the aim was to eliminate what he called a "terror corridor" on Turkey's southern border. In signaling the intent to invade, Erdogan appeared to buck threats of "economic obliteration" made by President Donald Trump on Monday, including possible sanctions.

Turkey launched an assault on Kurdish positions in northern Syria on Wednesday with airstrikes and explosions reported near the border.

Turkey's campaign - in which a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member rained down bombs on an area where hundreds of USA troops had been stationed - drew immediate criticism and calls for restraint from Europe. Republican leaders denounced Trump's abandonment of the Kurds.

Before Turkey's attack, Syrian Kurdish forces who control almost 30 per cent of Syria's territory warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe".

Turkey has long threatened to attack the Kurdish fighters that Ankara considers terrorists allied with a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

The Kurdish-led civilian administration in northeastern Syria issued a "general mobilization" call along the Syrian border with Turkey on Wednesday as Ankara poised for an imminent invasion of the area in the latest major escalation in the war-ravaged country.

"We will preserve Syria's territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists", Erdogan said.

But Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's communications director wrote in the Washington Post that Turkish military units would "cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly".

"As a result we have moved the U.S. forces in northern Syria out of the path of potential Turkish incursion to ensure their safety", Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

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The American presence, which includes about 1000 troops in northeastern Syria, is a lean force dispersed across a number of bases.

Sabah, a Turkish newspaper close to Erdogan's government, published a report Tuesday describing how the battle might unfold. "The aggressive behavior of the Erdogan regime clearly shows the Turkish expansionist ambitions in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic and can not be justified under any pretext", a source at the Foreign Ministry said, SANA reported.

It had been pushing the United States to jointly establish a "safe zone" extending 20 miles (32 km) into Syrian territory, but repeatedly warned it could take unilateral military action after accusing Washington of dragging its feet. After the operation was completed, Turkey would "continue its humanitarian work to bring back locals in the area".

Turkish media said several mortar shells had landed on the Turkish side of the border but there were no casualties.

"This risks destabilising the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against Daesh (IS) which should be our collective focus", Mr Raab said in a statement.

"I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time by going back to the safe zone concept that was working", said Graham, who also took his message to "Fox and Friends", a favorite show of the television-loving USA leader. A witness said people were fleeing en masse. "People who are out there in the streets look as if they are going to someone's funeral".

An Syrian Democratic Force spokesman appealed to its allies to agree for a "no fly zone".

"More challenging is that there are countless sleeping cells inside Turkey that Turkey's security has in a way been hijacked by the network of these illegal groups", argued Daloglu. "We are prepared to defend the people and the people of NE #Syria", the SDF said.

There is also the danger that these fighters could escape during fights between the Turkish army and the YPG and even the awful scenario that they could be set free and armed by frustrated Kurdish militants in order to join the fight. "Yesterday, we saw United States troops, but this time they were on their way out of the area, and that terrified people", he said.

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