CIVIL­IANS FLEE AS TURK­ISH AT­TACKS SPARK ISIS FEARS

Kurds killed, civil­ians flee as Syria bombed and in­vaded in wake of US with­drawal

The Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHEN DRILL KATINA CUR­TIS

EX­O­DUS: Civil­ians flee with their be­long­ings amid a Turk­ish bom­bard­ment on Syria's north­east­ern town of Ras al-Ain along the bor­der. Turkey has launched a broad as­sault on Kur­dish­con­trolled ar­eas in north­east­ern Syria, which Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son is con­cerned could pave the way for the resur­gence of ISIS.

AUS­TRALIAN Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son is ex­tremely fear­ful Turkey’s deadly ground and air as­sault into north­ern Syria will lead to the resur­gence of Is­lamic State.

Turk­ish troops hit more than 181 mil­i­tant tar­gets yes­ter­day af­ter launch­ing a deadly ground and air blitz against Kur­dish forces.

At least eight civil­ians and seven Kur­dish fight­ers were killed as hun­dreds of peo­ple fled the area.

Mr Mor­ri­son was in contact with both the Turk­ish and US gov­ern­ments yes­ter­day morn­ing to ex­press his very “deep con­cern” about the ac­tions.

Asked whether mil­i­tary strikes against the Kurds could lead to Is­lamic State re­claim­ing ter­ri­tory it was driven from seven months ago, he said that was his main fear.

“And that is a con­cern that has been ex­pressed by Aus­tralia and by many oth­ers,” he said.

“That is what we have ex­pressed di­rectly to our part­ners, our al­lies and cer­tainly to the Turk­ish Gov­ern­ment.”

“We’re con­cerned about what this could mean for the po­ten­tial for the resur­gence of Daesh,” he added, us­ing the Ara­bic acro­nym for the Is­lamic State group.

Mr Mor­ri­son was also wor­ried about the safety of peo­ple in the area and what the in­va­sion could mean for the Kur­dish peo­ple.

But US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has hit back at claims he had aban­doned a long­time US ally, say­ing the Kurds “didn’t help” in World War II and that they were only will­ing to help with “their land”.

“With all of that be­ing said, we like the Kurds,” said Mr Trump, who played down con­cerns over a new ISIS threat.

Of­fi­cials re­vealed two Bri­tish ISIS fight­ers from a cell dubbed “The Bea­tles” had been taken into US cus­tody and moved out of Syria.

Lon­don-born Alexanda Kotey, 35, and Bri­tish na­tional El Shafee El­sheikh, 31, are set to be ex­tra­dited to the US and face the death penalty.

Mr Trump dubbed “The Bea­tles” ter­ror cell, which was linked to a series of hostage be­head­ings, as the “worst of the worst”.

“In case the Kurds or Turkey lose con­trol, the United States has al­ready taken the two ISIS mil­i­tants tied to be­head­ings in Syria,” Trump tweeted.

Kur­dish com­man­ders have warned of a “hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter” if ground troops at­tack its po­si­tions and the blood of thou­sands of in­no­cent civil­ians will be spilt.

The with­drawal of US troops again drew crit­i­cism from US Democrats and a re­buke from some of Mr Trump’s fel­low Repub­li­cans in Congress, in­clud­ing Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell.

The Ken­tucky Repub­li­can says it would also make it eas­ier for ISIS to re­build.

Kur­dish forces con­trol pris­ons where at least 12,000 Is­lamic State fight­ers are held.

There are fears the in­cur­sion could put Aus­tralian women and chil­dren stranded in the Al-Hawl refugee camp at risk. Aus­tralia’s Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton said the Gov­ern­ment would not rush to ex­tract the Aus­tralians. It comes in the wake of the Gov­ern­ment strip­ping three dual na­tion­als in Syria of their Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship.

They re­port­edly in­clude Zehra Du­man, who fled Aus­tralia as a teenager to marry an IS mil­i­tant.

“The ad­vice in re­la­tion to some of these women is, far from be­ing dragged there by their hus­band or boyfriend, they’ve gone will­ingly and/or they’re as hard­core as some of the male ter­ror­ists that they’ve seen in Syria and Iraq,” Dut­ton said. In 2014, Aus­tralia joined the US-led coali­tion and of­fered mil­i­tary and fi­nan­cial sup­port to fight IS.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil was due to meet to dis­cuss the cri­sis that opens a new front in the bloody civil war that has en­gulfed Syria.

An emer­gency meet­ing of Arab League coun­tries will take place to­mor­row, as Turkey’s lone-wolf ac­tion lights a fire un­der al­ready bub­bling ten­sions in the re­gion.

Bri­tain’s Foreign Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab said he had se­ri­ous con­cerns about Turkey’s mil­i­tary ac­tion.

“This risks desta­bil­is­ing the re­gion, ex­ac­er­bat­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian suf­fer­ing and un­der­min­ing the progress made against Daesh which should be our col­lec­tive fo­cus,” he said yes­ter­day.

Pic­ture: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP

Pic­tures: DELIL SOULIEMAN/AFP, BURAK KARA/GETTY IM­AGES

DAN­GER ZONE: Smoke bil­lows fol­low­ing Turk­ish bom­bard­ment on Syria’s north­east­ern town of Ras al-Ain along the Turk­ish bor­der; above left, peo­ple wave Turk­ish flags as Turk­ish sol­diers pre­pare to en­ter into Syria, and; be­low left, civil­ians flee dur­ing Turk­ish bom­bard­ment.

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