Border residents flee Turks’ bombardment
Syria: Trump’ s decision leaves former allies vulnerable to attack
Turkey yesterday continued its assault against Kurdish forces in northern Syria for a second day, pounding the region with air strikes and an artillery bombardment that sent panicked civilians scrambling to get out of a border town.
Residents fled with their belongings loaded into cars, pick-up trucks and motorcycle rickshaws, while others escaped on foot.
The UN refugee agency said tens of thousands of people are on the move, and aid agencies have warned nearly half a million people near the border are at risk.
The Turkish air and ground assault was launched three days after US president Donald Trump opened the way by pulling American troops from their positions near the border, effectively abandoning their Kurdish allies who are regarded as terrorists by neighbouring Turkey.
That move drew swift criticism from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, along with many national defence experts, who say it has endangered not only the Kurds and regional stability but US credibility as well. The Syrian Kurdish militia was the only US ally in the campaign that brought down the Islamic State group in Syria. Mr Trump urged Turkey to be moderate in its approach and safeguard civilians.
But the opening barrage showed little sign of holding back. Last night the Turkish defence force said its jets and artillery have struck 181 targets so far.
Ankara said the Kurdish militia had fired dozens of mortars into Turkish border towns over the past two days, including Akcakale, killing at least six civilians including a nine-month-old boy.
On the Syrian side, seven civilians and eight Kurdish fighters have been killed since the operation began, according to activists.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 109 “terrorists” were killed in the offensive, a reference to the Syrian Kurdish fighters. But reports from the area did not indicate anything remotely close to such a large number of casualties.
Mr Erdogan also warned the EU not to call Ankara’s incursion into Syria an “invasion”, and renewed a threat to “open the gates” and let Syrian refugees flood into Europe.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the military intends to move 19 miles into northern Syria and that its operation will last until all “terrorists are neutralised”.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish forces have halted all operations against IS in order to focus on fighting Turkish troops.
“Erdogan said 109 ‘terrorists’ were killed in the offensive”