Turkey strikes in Syrian-Iraqi border ahead of planned offensive

Cornelia Mascio
Ottobre 9, 2019

Trump said reiterating that America's support to the Kurds is not going away.

However, the 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. The area is about 620 kilometres northwest of Tehran.

Even some typically loyal allies of the president have been highly critical of the move, warning that the pullback would harm the Kurds and embolden ISIS, as well as Russian Federation and Iran.

But a Reuters witness saw no sign of military activity near the Turkish border town of Akcakale, across from Syria's Tel Abyad. While they may publicly oppose a Turkish incursion into Syria, they probably don't mind an operation that diminishes the Kurdish forces.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is accusing the United States of playing "very unsafe games" with the Syrian Kurds, whose fighters were top USA allies in the war against the Islamic State group in Syria. "As a result, we have moved USA forces in northern Syria out of the path of potential Turkish incursion to ensure their safety", a spokesperson for the Pentagon said Tuesday afternoon.

Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's strongest foreign ally, said it was not told in advance by the USA or Turkey about any agreements they had about plans to pull American troops from the north-east, adding that it was watching the situation very closely.

Trump later cast his decision to pull back US troops from parts of northeast Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from the "endless war" in the Middle East. It went on to call on the worldwide community and those countries fighting against ISIS "to carry out their responsibilities" to avoid a "possible impending humanitarian disaster".

"We are going to be extremely careful that this announced disengagement from the United States and a possible offensive by Turkey does not create a risky [move] that diverts from the goal we all pursue-the fight against the Islamic State-which is unsafe for the local population", Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly told French reporters after Trump's latest decision, according to France 24.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe criticized President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw USA troops from northern Syria, suggesting the White House's policy was inconsistent and lacked "coherence".

Mr Mustafa Bali, an official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said the continued Turkish military build-up on the border, together with information about a further mobilisation of Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, indicated that "an attack is imminent and we expect it soon".

Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidency's communications director, called on the worldwide community in a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday "to rally" behind Ankara.

Altun says Turkey seeks to "neutralize" Syrian Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria and to "liberate the local population from the yoke of the armed thugs".

But the Free Syrian Army is accused by the United Nations of committing human rights abuses when it and Turkish forces invaded the Kurdish-held, Syrian city of Afrin in early 2018. Ankara brands them terrorists due to their links to Kurdish militants who have waged a long insurgency in Turkey.

Trump denied he had abandoned the Kurdish forces, the most effective US partners in fighting Islamic State in Syria.

The expected offensive comes days after US President Donald Trump provoked a storm of criticism, including within his own party, by announcing that US troops would be pulled back from the border area.

Britain said it was "deeply concerned" by Turkey's plans to attack Kurdish fighters, who lead the SDF. There was no immediate word on casualties. Raqqa is being Silently Slaughtered, an activist collective that covers news in the northern city, reported an exchange of fire and a blast.

The key border town was one of the places from which USA troops withdrew on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, UK-based activist group.

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