Published: Sun, October 13, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

Turkey intensifies assault on Kurdish-held border towns

Turkey intensifies assault on Kurdish-held border towns

"The (Syrian rebel) national army took control of (Ras al Ain) town center this morning", a senior Turkish security official said.

But Kurdish authorities denied the town had fallen to the Turks, saying fighting was continuing.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - a coalition of Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen, led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) - guard about 11,000 ISIS detainees in facilities throughout northern Syria.

An AFP correspondent in the area said Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels had entered the town but had yet to capture it.

On Saturday morning, thick plumes of smoke rose around Ras al Ain, one of two Syrian border towns targeted in the offensive, as Turkish artillery pounded the area.

Pressure is building on Turkey to halt its operation, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says it will continue.

On the Syrian side at least 28 civilians have been killed, according to the Britain-based Observatory, and 17 are dead in Turkey, according to Turkish reports. The US does not want the Kurds turning to the Russians, administration officials say. The main USA base in Kobane was not affected, and the officials said they expect the evacuation of the outpost will be temporary.

Ras al-Ain, Tal Abyad and other border towns between them have been nearly emptied in a huge wave of displacement.

The incursion against the Syrian Kurds - who played a key role in dismantling the IS caliphate but are regarded as terrorists by Turkey - has been widely condemned by Western powers.

"The explosion occurred within a few hundred meters of a an area known by the Turks to have USA forces present", the statement said.

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Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria on Wednesday to secure its borders by eliminating militants there and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria's territorial integrity.

A number of countries have condemned Turkey's offensive, and Finland, Norway and The Netherlands have already announced that they are stopping arms exports to the country.

He demanded to know whether the U.S. would do anything to protect Syrian Kurds, who lost 11,000 fighters battling ISIS alongside USA troops.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the civilian death toll resulting from Turkey's offensive has risen to 30.

Overnight a vehicle bomb exploded outside a prison in Hasaka in northeast Syria, causing serious damage but no casualties, a statement from security forces in the region said.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also dismissed an offer by Trump to mediate between Ankara and Kurdish YPG forces.

SDF forces currently hold some 12,000 ISIS militants in their prisons following years of helping the quashing the group's influence, but now that the USA has effectively withdrawn its support and allowed a Turkish incursion into their territory, the Kurdish-led group must focus its efforts on protecting its people and borders, head spokesman Mustafa Bali told Rudaw.

As part of the operation, PKK/PYD-YPG terrorist targets were effectively hit by land and air, it said.

SDF spokesman Marvan Qamishlo said they had only carried out a "tactical retreat" in response to hours of heavy Turkish bombardment.

In a telephone call to the Turkish leader, the Prime Minister voiced his "grave concern" that the action could worsen the humanitarian situation in the region and undermine the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS).

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