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World News Turkey’s military operation in Syria: All the latest updates

World News Turkey’s military operation in Syria: All the latest updates


WORLD

World News Turkey’s military operation in Syria: All the latest updates

Turkey and the United States agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Ankara’s offensive in northeast Syria to allow Kurdish fighters withdraw from a planned so-called “safe zone”. Thursday’s announcement came after talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence in the Turkish capital, Ankara. Turkey launched the cross-border operation on October 9 after repeatedly threatening to clear the border area…

World News Turkey’s military operation in Syria: All the latest updates

World News

Turkey and the United States agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Ankara’s offensive in northeast Syria to allow Kurdish fighters withdraw from a planned so-called “safe zone”.

Thursday’s announcement came after talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Turkey launched the cross-border operation on October 9 after repeatedly threatening to clear the border area of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters, which it considers a “terrorist” group. Ankara said the campaign, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, would also allow the repatriation of some of the 3.6million Syrian refugees Turkey hosts on its soil.

More:

The ceasefire grants the Kurdish-led forces, who were Washington’s main Syrian ally in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS), five days to withdraw from the region.

Here are the latest updates:

World News Friday, October 18

US ground troops will not enforce Syria safe-zone, says Esper 

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said no US troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northeast Syria and that Washington “is continuing our deliberate withdrawal from northeastern Syria”.

Speaking to reporters, Esper said he spoke with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and reminded him of Ankara’s responsibility for maintaining the security of ISIL prisoners in areas affected by Turkey’s offensive. 

Erdogan ‘satisfied’ with steps to strengthen US-Turkey ties 

In a Twitter post, the Turkish leader said he spoke with US President Donald Trump on the phone and expressed his “satisfaction with the mutual steps we have taken to strengthen Turkish-American relations”.

Trump: Erdogan, Kurds want ceasefire to work

Following a phone call with Erdogan, Trump said both the Turkish leader and Kurdish fighters want the ceasefire in northeast Syria to work. 

Trump also announced European countries were willing to take back suspected ISIL fighters “that came from their nations” and currently being held in prisons in northeast Syria. 

Just spoke to President @RTErdogan of Turkey. He told me there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated. He very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work. Likewise, the Kurds want it, and the ultimate solution, to happen. Too bad there wasn’t…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2019

…..this thinking years ago. Instead, it was always held together with very weak bandaids, & in an artificial manner. There is good will on both sides & a really good chance for success. The U.S. has secured the Oil, & the ISIS Fighters are double secured by Kurds & Turkey….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2019

….I have just been notified that some European Nations are now willing, for the first time, to take the ISIS Fighters that came from their nations. This is good news, but should have been done after WE captured them. Anyway, big progress being made!!!!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2019

Erdogan: US should ensure YPG withdrawal from north Syria

Erdogan said it was US’s responsibility to ensure YPG fighters withdraw from northeast Syria within the ceasefire period, adding that Turkey aims to establish 12 observation posts in its planned “safe zone”. 

The region would be 32 kilometers (20 miles) deep and 444 kilometers (275 miles) wide, stretching from the city of Manbij to the Iraqi border. “The safe zone we have expressed is not just between Ain Al-Arab (Kobane) and Tal Abyad,” he said.

Speaking to the foreign press, Erdogan said two million refugees can be settled in the “safe zone” if it also includes the cities of Deir Az Zor and Raqqa. 

He added that Turkey will respond if the Syrian government, which has moved into some areas that Kurdish fighters has already left, “makes a mistake”. 

Turkey’s Erdogan gives briefing on Syria ceasefire deal (20:25)

Macron calls Turkey’s Syria operation ‘madness’

French President Emmanuel Macron said Turkey’s military operation in Syria is “madness,” adding that he considers what happened over past days in Syria is a grave fault of NATO and the West.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Macron also called on European Union members to rebuild an autonomous military capacity in the Middle East.

“Europe can no longer be a junior partner in the Middle East,” he said.

Erdogan vows to restart Syria offensive if Kurdish fighters fail to pull back

Turkey’s president warned Ankara would restart its operation against Kurdish forces in Syria on Tuesday evening if they do not withdraw from a “safe zone”.

“If the promises are kept until Tuesday evening, the safe zone issue will be resolved. If it fails, the operation… will start the minute 120 hours are over,” Erdogan told reporters during a briefing in Istanbul. 

He added that Ankara had no intention of staying in areas under its control in northern Syria. 

Erdogan says no ongoing clashes in northeast Syria

Erdogan said there were no ongoing clashes in northeast Syria on Friday following an agreement between Ankara and Washington to halt the Turkish assault.

He told reporters US and Turkish officials would be in constant contact to implement the agreement together.

World News Turkey Ras al Ain

In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ain, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019 [Lefteris Pitarakis/ AP]

SDF: Turkish bombardment violating truce

Turkey is violating an hours-old ceasefire in northeast Syria and still targeting civilians with air strikes and artillery fire, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said. 

“Despite the agreement to halt the fighting, air and artillery attacks continue to target the positions of fighters, civilian settlements and the hospital” in the battleground border town of Ras al-Ain, said Mustafa Bali. 

Despite the agreement to halt the fighting, air and artillery attacks continue to target the positions of fighters, civilian settlements and the hospital in Serêkaniyê/Ras al-Ayn. Turkey is violating the ceasefire agreement by continuing to attack the town since last night.

— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) October 18, 2019

Pompeo seeks to assure Israel after US pullout from Syria

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo underscored US-Israeli efforts to counter Iran in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an apparent attempt to ease concerns in Israel that Tehran could exploit a US military pullback in Syria.

Pompeo and Netanyahu met in Jerusalem hours after Turkey agreed to pause its offensive on Kurdish forces in Syria.

Israel sees Syria’s Kurds, once US allies, as a counterweight to armed groups in northern Syria. It also worries that its arch-foe Iran or local allies could fill the vacuum left by a disengaged US.

Pompeo said he and Netanyahu discussed “all the efforts we’ve made to push back against the threat not only to Israel but to the region and the world from the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

“We shared our ideas about how we can ensure Middle East stability together, and how we would further our efforts to jointly combat all the challenges that the world confronts here in the Middle East,” Pompeo told reporters with Netanyahu by his side.

Kurdish-led forces reaffirm committment to ceasefire deal

In a statement, the SDF reiterated their commitment to the Turkey-US ceasefire deal, along the stretch between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad. 

US, Turkey agree on Turkish ceasefire with Syrian Kurds

Turkey opposition party hails Syria deal

The leader of Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) welcomed the deal between the US and Turkey on halting Ankara’s push in northern Syria. 

In a statement, Devlet Bahceli said: “The Nationalist Movement Party finds the deal made between Turkey and the US delegation valuable.”

Bahceli praised Erdogan for “reiterating Turkey’s legitimate position to the world and for not making concessions on his dedication” to Turkey’s operation in Syria.

Pompeo discusses Trump’s Syria policy with Netanyahu

Pompeo met Netanyahu in Jerusalem amid concern among Israelis over Trump’s Syria policy. 

Israel has long-standing concerns over whether its arch-enemy, Iran, will move to fill any vacuum in neighbouring Syria, where Tehran has been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in an eight-year-old civil war.

Russia wants information from Turkey on Syria deal with US

The Kremlin said it expected to receive information from Turkey after it agreed to a deal with the US to halt its offensive in Syria for five days, the RIA news agency reported.

Erdogan is due to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about Syria on Tuesday next week in southern Russia.

World News U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits Turkey

US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at news conference in Ankara [Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters]

Shelling heard around Syrian border town after ceasefire deal

Shelling and gunfire resounded around the northeast Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, a day after Turkey agreed to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to let Kurdish forces withdraw.

Machine-gun fire and shelling could be heard from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar across the border from Ras al-Ain, and smoke rose from one part of the Syrian town. It was unclear whether there was any damage from the shelling heard on Friday.

Amnesty accuses Turkey of ‘war crimes’ in Syria

Turkish forces and Syrian rebel allies committed “war crimes”, including summary executions, during their operation in northeast Syria, Amnesty International said.

The rights group accused Ankara’s forces of “serious violations and war crimes, summary killings and unlawful attacks”, saying they “have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life”.

There was no immediate response from Ankara. 

Australia: Too dangerous to repatriate ISIL captives

Australia ruled out retrieving dozens of Australian women and children from refugee camps during the ceasefire in Syria, with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton saying the situation remained too dangerous to send troops or officials into the war-torn nation.

About 46 Australian women and children, who fled the territory held by ISIL, are being held at the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria near the area of the Turkish operation.

Eight Australian offspring of two slain ISIL fighters were removed from Syria in June, Australia’s only organised repatriation from the conflict zone. 

World News Thursday, October 17

UN chief welcomes Syria de-escalation efforts

Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, welcomed efforts to de-escalate hostilities in northeast Syria and protect civilians, according to a spokesman. 

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In a brief statement, the UN said: “The secretary-general recognises that there is still a long way to go for an effective solution to the crisis in Syria.”

Kurdish forces willing to abide by ceasefire

Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told Kurdish media his forces would abide by Ankara’s ceasefire agreement.

The extent of the ceasefire stretched 100km along the Syria-Turkey border from the town of Tel Abyad to Ras al-Ain, he told Ronahi TV. “We have not discussed the fate of other areas,” he said, referring to other parts of northeast Syria where Turkey wants to create what it calls a “safe zone”.

“We will do whatever we can for the success of the ceasefire agreement,” Abdi said, describing it as a “tentative agreement”.

UNSC presidency happy with ceasefire move

The president of the UN Security Council said that Thursday’s ceasefire would be “a great thing if it happens”.

South Africa’s UN ambassador, Jerry Matjila, this month’s president, told reporters that members were waiting for details. “If it does happen, I think it’s a step in the good direction,” he said.

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WORLD

World News Turkey’s military operation in Syria: All the latest updates

Heavy fighting continues as Turkey presses ahead with its military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, now in its fifth day. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the offensive aims to remove the Kurdish-led forces from the border area and create a “safe zone” to which millions of Syrian refugees can be returned. More: In Pictures: Turkey’s military offensive…

World News Turkey’s military operation in Syria: All the latest updates

World News

Heavy fighting continues as Turkey presses ahead with its military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, now in its fifth day.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the offensive aims to remove the Kurdish-led forces from the border area and create a “safe zone” to which millions of Syrian refugees can be returned.

More:

The move came after the United States announced it was withdrawing its troops from the area, leaving the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), its main ally in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group, without US military support.

Turkey’s defence ministry confirmed the first death among Turkey’s soldiers on Friday, while heavy clashes between Turkish forces and the SDF are under way in Syrian border towns.

Here are the latest updates:

World News Monday, October 14

France says securing military in Syria as US begins withdrawal

France said on Monday it was taking measures to ensure the safety of its military and civilians in northeastern Syria as the United States begins to withdraw forces from the area.

France has been one of the main allies in the US-led coalition fighting ISIL.

“Measures will be taken in the coming hours to ensure the safety of French military and civilian personnel present in the zone as part of the international coalition fighting Islamic State and humanitarian action,” the French presidency said in a statement after an emergency defence cabinet meeting. It did not provide further details.

A regional diplomatic source told Reuters on Thursday that Paris was preparing to pull out its several hundred special forces. They are operating closely with Kurdish-led forces, who are now the target of Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria. French aid workers are also in the zone.

World News Sunday, October 13

Kurds announce deal with Damascus on Syria troop deployment near Turkish border

The Kurdish administration in northern Syria announced a deal with the Damascus government on a Syrian troop deployment near the border with Turkey to confront Ankara’s offensive.

“In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government… so that the Syrian army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” the Kurdish administration said in a statement on its Facebook page.

In their statement the Kurds said that the agreement struck with the Damascus government “paves the way to liberate the rest of the Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin”, a majority Kurdish enclave in the northwest.

Syrian Kurds ‘agree to allow Assad troops into Kobane’

General Ismet Sheikh Hasan, an official in Kurdish-controlled Kobane, told the Russian news agency RT that Syrian Kurds have reached an agreement with Russia to allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops into Kobane. 

Hassan, the minister of defense of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, also known as Rojava, said Russian and Syrian government troops could enter Kobane and Manbij by Sunday night to help secure the cities from a Turkish-led offensive in northern Syria.

“We agreed with the Russians and the [Assad] regime to enter Kobane tonight,” Hassan told RT.

World News Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighters are seen on military vehicles in the town of Tal Abyad

Turkish media reported that Syrian opposition forces took control of the border town of Tel Abyad on Sunday [Khalil Ashawi/ Reuters]

“We did everything we could,” he said. “We have called upon the West [and] the Arab League but no one is coming to help, so we have no one other than ourselves to defend [Kobane]. 

“We agreed with the regime and the Russians to come to Kobane,” he added.

Neither the SDF nor Russia have confirmed such an agreement exists.

World News Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria

The Syrian government and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have held negotiations at a Russian airbase in Syria, according to a Kurdish source [Anadolu]

Erdogan dismisses reports of escaped ISIL prisoners as ‘disinformation’

Turkey’s president dismissed reports that ISIL prisoners in northeastern Syria had escaped as a result of Turkey’s offensive in the region, saying the reports were “disinformation” aimed at provoking the West.

Damascus, Kurdish-led forces ‘hold talks at Russian airbase’

A Syrian Kurdish politician told Reuters news agency that the SDF has been holding negotiations with the Syrian government at a Russian airbase in Syria.

Ahmed Suleiman, a senior member of the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party in Syria, said the talks were being held at Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in Latakia. He did not say if he or his party – which is independent from the SDF – had a role in the negotiations.

Suleiman said he hoped for an agreement between the sides that would “halt the ongoing war and especially its catastrophic and dangerous consequences”.

The head of the SDF media office Mustafa Bali said “no comment” about the report.

“We have confirmed from the start of the (Turkish) invasion that we will study all options that could spare our people ethnic cleansing,” he told Reuters.

Syria troops ‘moving north to confront Turkish offensive’, says state media

Syrian state television said government troops are moving to the north to confront the ongoing Turkish offensive in northern Syria. The report gave no further details about the operation. 

Macron, Merkel call for end to Turkish offensive in Syria

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, at a joint news conference with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the Turkish offensive – over which both countries have decided to suspend arms exports to Ankara – risked creating an “unbearable humanitarian situation”.

Macron told reporters that he and Merkel had spoken separately with Trump and Erdogan to deliver a single, clear message: “Our common wish is that the offensive must cease”.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, one of Ankara’s main arms suppliers, said he would press for an EU ban on arms sales to Turkey.

Turkey-backed Syrian forces ‘sieze Tel Abyad city centre’

Anadolu news agency said Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces have taken control of Tel Abyad’s city center and cleared it of Kurdish fighters.

Tel Abyad is one of the two key border towns at the focus of the ongoing Turkish offensive. 

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said that the Turkey-backed forces had “near full control” of the town.

World News Syrian rebel soldiers leave their base near Tal Abyad

Turkey-backed Syrian rebel soldiers took over city centre of Tel Abyad according to Turkish Anadolu agency [Reuters]

Kurdish journalist killed in attack on Ras al-Ain convoy

Kurdish news agency Hawar said that one of its reporters, Saad Ahmed, was killed in an attack by Turkish airstrikes on a convoy in northern Syria. Another reporter, Mohammad Akanji, was wounded in the attack.

Civilians killed in attack on convoy near Ras al-Ain

A war monitor and SDF officials said several civilians were killed after Turkish airstrikes targeted a convoy in northern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which put the civilian death toll at nine, said the convoy was hit when it arrived in Ras al-Ain, a border town that advancing Turkish-allied forces have seized.

The British-based war monitor said the convoy, which included protesters against the Turkey-led offensive, was guarded by armed men, and accompanied by journalists.

A spokesman for the Kurdish forces told Associated Press that at least 11 people were killed and 74 were wounded, but it was not clear how many were civilians. The SDF said in a statement that tens of civilians were killed and wounded without specifying their numbers. 

Images of the attack shared by Kurdish media showed the airstrike shatter an otherwise quiet street. 

Bodies and severed limbs were strewn in the street. Some of those killed appeared to be carrying guns. Activists said the gunmen were guarding the convoy.

جثث الضحايا الذين تعرضوا لقصف تركي أثناء توجههم من #تل_تمر إلى #رأس_العين والحصيلة الأولية تشير إلى أن 10 أشخاص فقدوا حياتهم، فضلاً عن إصابة 100 أخرين pic.twitter.com/iJ7mskLQkV

— Rudaw عربية (@rudaw_arabic) October 13, 2019

Turkey ‘seizes major highway in northern Syria’

Turkey’s Defence Ministry said its troops seized control of Syria’s M4 highway, which lies 30 to 35 km deep in Syrian territory. The road, which runs east and west through northern Syria, is seen as a vital transport link for SDF. 

As a result of the successful conduct of Operation Peace Spring, a depth of 30-35 km has been reached and M-4 highway has been taken under control.??

— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) October 13, 2019

Meanwhile, an anonymous SDF official told Reuters news agency the Kurdish-led forces were clashing with Turkish soldiers and their Syrian allies on the highway.

World News Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria

Turkey’s Defence Ministry said its troops seized control of Syria’s M4 highway [Anadolu]

Germany’s Merkel calls for immediate halt to Syria offensive

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Erdogan in a phone call to bring to an immediate halt Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria, according to a spokeswoman for the German government.

“The Chancellor advocated an immediate end to the military operation,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

Hundreds of ISIL supporters escape Ain Issa camp

The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria issued a statement saying 950 ISIL supporters escaped from a camp in Ain Issa after attacking guards and storming the gates, according to The Associated Press news agency. 

Jelal Ayaf, a senior official at the camp, told local media that 859 people successfully escaped from the section housing foreigners. He said a few were recaptured but that supporters inside the other section of the camp also escaped and were carrying out attacks.

He described the situation as “very volatile”. 

The numbers could not be verified immediately. 

The camp, located some 35km south of the Turkey-Syria border, is home to some 12,000 people, including 1,000 wives and children of suspected ISIL fighters. 

Ain Isa camp. Almost all suspected ISIS militants fled the camp. pic.twitter.com/sT2Cf4PWtI

— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) October 13, 2019

Two US defence officials told Reuters a small number of US troops left an outpost in Ain Issa because of concerns they could be caught in the middle of the Turkish offensive. 

Up to 1,000 US troops to withdraw from northern Syria

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said President Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of up to 1,000 troops from northern Syria.

“I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria,” Esper told CBS’s Face the Nation.

“We find ourselves as we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation,” he added.

Esper told Fox News that the number of troops being pulled back totaled “less than a thousand”.

“I can’t give a timeline because it changes hourly. We want to make sure that we do so in a very safe, deliberate manner, that we deconflict things as we go with those folks on the ground and immediate area.”

US says reports of killing of Kurdish politician ‘extremely troubling’

The US has seen reports of the killing of a Kurdish politician and captured Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria and finds these reports “extremely troubling,” a spokesman for the State Department told Reuters news agency.

“We find these reports to be extremely troubling, reflecting the overall destabilisation of northeast Syria since the commencement of hostilities on Tuesday,” the spokesman said in emailed comments, adding that Washington condemned any mistreatment and extrajudicial execution of civilians or prisoners, and was looking further into these circumstances.

Arms embargoes won’t stop Turkey’s Syria operation: Erdogan

Turkey’s president said threats of sanctions and arms embargoes by Western powers would not stop Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria.

“After we launched our operation, we have faced threats like economic sanctions and embargoes on weapons sales. Those who think they can make Turkey turn back with these threats are gravely mistaken,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.

France and Germany said on Saturday that they were suspending arms exports to Turkey over its offensive in Syria against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey to advance 30-35km into Syrian territory 

Erdogan told a news conference that Turkey’s military operation will extend 30 to 35km into Syrian territory.

World News Smoke rises from the northeastern Syrian town of Tal Abyad  [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

Smoke rises from the northeastern Syrian town of Tal Abyad [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] [Al Jazeera]

Erdogan said the Turkish-led forces had also besieged the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad, adding that two Turkish soldiers and 16 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels had been killed in the operation. 

Turkey assault could displace 400,000 in Syria: UN

Turkey’s assault has forced 130,000 people to flee their homes, the UN said, adding it was preparing for that figure to more than triple.

“We have moved into a planning scenario where up to 400,000 people could be displaced within and across the affected areas,” Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA told AFP news agency, adding that these people would be “in need of assistance and protection”.

The UN had on Friday estimated that 100,000 people had fled their homes since the beginning of Turkey’s operation but by Sunday, it warned of displacements from rural areas around Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain and updated its estimates to figures “surpassing 130,000 people”, although an exact figure was hard to determine.

Most of the displaced had reached relatives or host communities, but growing numbers were arriving at collective shelters.

Turkish forces, allies seize parts of Syrian town Suluk

Turkish forces and their Syrian allies seized large parts of the northern Syrian town of Suluk in a new advance against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Suluk is located approximately 10km (six miles) from the Syrian-Turkish border, to the southeast of Tal Abyad.

Turkish-led forces pursue assault around Syrian border towns

Turkish forces targeted areas around two Syrian border towns with fresh shelling, pressing on with their offensive against Kurdish forces for a fifth day.

Gunfire resounded early on Sunday around Ras al-Ain, one of two Syrian towns that are the focus of the attack, while Turkish artillery continued to target the area.

Smoke over Ras al-Ain as Turkey assault goes on

Smoke was seen rising from Ras al-Ain in northeastern Syria after Turkey’s military said it had taken the key border town; Turkey’s most significant gain since its cross-border operation began.

The Turkish Defence Ministry tweeted on Friday: “Ras al-Ain’s residential centre has been taken under control through the successful operations in the east of the Euphrates (River).”

The Syrian Observatory confirmed that Turkish troops have entered the town, adding that fighting is still ongoing.

Trump says he’s an ‘island of one’ on Syria

President Donald Trump has said he is an “island of one” for removing US forces from northeastern Syria.

Trump said the US cannot fight “endless wars.”

“We have to bring our great heroes, our great soldiers, we have to bring them home. It’s time. It’s time,” Trump said in a lengthy and wide-ranging address to the Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of social conservative activists.

He portrayed the Middle East as a hopeless cause, despite years of American military involvement and financial investment.

“It’s less safe now. It’s less secure, less stable and they fight,” he said. “That’s what they do. They fight.”

Trump announced that he had directed $50 million in emergency aid for Syria to support Christians and other religious minorities there.

World News Saturday, October 12

France suspends Turkey weapons sales

France said it suspended arms exports to Turkey amid the latter’s ongoing military push into northeastern Syria, which it said threatened European security.

“In expectation of the end of this offensive, France has decided to suspend all plans to export to Turkey weapons that could be used in this offensive. This decision is with immediate effect,” a joint statement from the foreign and defence ministries said.

The statement added that European Union foreign ministers would coordinate their position on Monday at a meeting in Luxembourg.

World News Kurds living in Greece shout slogans while burning a poster depicting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a demonstration against Turkey's military action in northeastern Syria, in Athens

Kurds living in Greece shout slogans while burning a poster depicting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a demonstration against Turkey’s military action in northeastern Syria, in Athens, Greece [Alkis Konstantinidis/ Reuters]

Turkish foreign minister rejects US mediation offer

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed an offer by US President Trump to mediate between Ankara and Kurdish YPG forces to halt Turkey’s incursion in Syria, according to the transcript of an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

“We don’t mediate, negotiate with terrorists. The only thing to be done is for these terrorists to lay down arms,” Cavusoglu said. “We tried the political solution in Turkey in the past and we saw what happened.”

Arab League urges UN action

The Arab League called for the United Nations Security Council to take measures to force Turkey to halt its military offensive and “immediately” withdraw its forces from Syria.

A communique issued after Saturday’s meeting of Arab foreign ministers also urged the world body to suspend military and intelligence support that could help Turkey’s operation.

The communique said Arab countries reject Turkey’s attempts to impose “demographic changes” in Syria by a so-called “safe zone”. Arab countries should consider taking “diplomatic, economic, investment, cultural measures … to confront the Turkish aggression,” it added.

Two member countries, Qatar and Somalia, expressed reservations about the communique.

World News Flags of Kurdistan are pictured as Kurdish protesters attends a demonstration against Turkey's military action in northeastern Syria, in Paris, France, October 12, 2019

Kurdish protesters attend a demonstration against Turkey’s military action in northeastern Syria, in Paris, France [Regis Duvignau/Reuters]

Thousands protest in Europe against Turkey’s Syria offensive

Thousands of people demonstrated in France, Germany, Greece and Cyprus, denouncing the Turkish military operation in Syria.

In the French capital, Paris, some warned the offensive could allow ISIL’s resurgence while others criticised Erdogan as well as Trump for his decision to withdraw US forces from Syria.

Turkey’s military action in Syria ‘has revived ISIL’

The SDF warned Turkey’s offensive has revived ISIL and urged allied states that helped fight the armed group to close off airspace to Turkish warplanes.

“The Turkish invasion is no longer threatening the revival of Daesh [ISIL], rather it has revived it and activated its cells in Qamishli and Hassakeh and all the other areas,” SDF official Redur Xelil said in a televised statement, noting car bomb attacks in each of the two cities.

“We are now fighting on two fronts: one front against the Turkish invasion and a front against Daesh,” he said, urging “allies” to carry out their “moral responsibilities” and impose a no-fly zone in northern Syria. 

Thousands protest in Iraq’s Erbil

Thousands of people took to the streets in the city of Erbil in Iraq to protest against the Turkish offensive.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Erbil, said there was “little love lost” between the Kurds in the region and the Turkish authorities, adding there was also a “real feeling of betrayal by the Americans” among those demonstrating.

Speaking to Smith, one protester said: “It is a chance for Turkey to dominate us and kill the Kurdish people, the American government has always promised our protection, but now we see no protection.”

Putin calls for ‘illegal’ foreign forces to leave Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin said foreign military forces “present illegally” inside Syrian territory should leave the country.

Speaking to Al Arabiya, Sky News Arabia and RT Arabic prior to his visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Putin said the Russian army would withdraw from Syria if its government decides so.

“If a future legitimate Syrian government says that they won’t need the presence of the Russian army anymore, it will apply for the Russian Federation as well,” he added.

Russia is one of two main military backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, alongside Iran.

World News Turkish army vehicles and military personnel are stationed near the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 12, 2019

Turkish army vehicles and military personnel are stationed near the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province [Murad Sezer/Reuters]

Car bombing outside ISIL prison, Kurdish police force says

Asayish, the Kurdish police force in northern Syria, said a car bomb exploded outside a prison where suspected ISIL members were being held. 

There was no word on casualties and no one claimed responsibility for the incident in the northeastern city of Hassakeh.

Kurdish fighters brought reinforcements to prevent prisoners from escaping following the blast, the SOHR said.

Germany bans some arms exports to Turkey

In response to Turkey’s operation in Syria, Germany has banned some arms exports to Turkey, according to the German weekly Bild Am Sonntag.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in north-eastern Syria, the Federal Government will not issue any new permits for all military equipment that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was quoted as saying. 

Germany exported arms worth 243 million euros ($268m) to Turkey in 2018, accounting for almost one-third of all German weapons exports, according to the paper.

World News Iran offers to mediate 

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offered Tehran’s help in engaging Syria’s government, Syrian Kurds and Turkey in talks to establish security along the Turkey-Syria border.

Zarif referred to a 21-year-old security accord that required Damascus to stop harbouring Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels. The PKK has waged a decades-long armed campaign for autonomy in Turkey.

Turkey has said that the decades-old pact was never implemented.

“The Adana Agreement between Turkey and Syria – still valid – can be the better path to achieve security,” Zarif said in a post on Twitter. “Iran can help bring together the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian Govt and Turkey so that the Syrian Army together with Turkey can guard the border,” he added.

The Adana Agreement between Turkey and Syria—still valid—can be the better path to achieve security. #Iran can help bring together the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian Govt, and Turkey so that the Syrian Army together with Turkey can guard the border.

From my interview with @trtworld: pic.twitter.com/q05OFnlpaN

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) October 12, 2019

Arab League calls Turkey’s offensive ‘invasion’

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, called Turkey’s military operation an “invasion of an Arab state’s land and an aggression on its sovereignty”.

Aboul Gheit said the offensive had resulted in a new wave of displacement and jeopardises “achievements” made in fighting ISIL.

Syria’s membership in the 22-member body was suspended in 2011 after the Syrian government’s military crackdown on protesters calling for reforms.

World News An explosion is seen over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 12, 2019.

An explosion is seen over the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain [Stoyan Nenov/Reuters]

Turkey claims control of Ras al-Ain

The Turkish defence ministry said its forces seized control of Ras al-Ain, one of the two key border towns at the focus of Ankara’s military offensive in Syria. 

“As part of the successful operations being conducted in the framework of Operation Peace Spring, the town of Rasulayn, located east of the Euphrates, has been brought under control,” the ministry said in a post on Twitter.

As part of the successful operations being conducted in the framework of Operation Peace Spring, the town of Rasulayn, located east of the Euphrates, has been brought under control.

— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) October 12, 2019

However, the SDF denied the report. 

Marvan Qamishlo, an SDF military media official, said Turkish-backed forces had entered a neighbourhood in Ras al-Ain‘s industrial district following hours of heavy Turkish shelling that had forced a “tactical retreat” from that area.

World News Turkish troops seize 14 Syrian villages

Turkey’s military said 14 Syrian villages were “liberated” from “terrorists” as part of its offensive against Kurdish fighters. 

The military added that 73 fighters from the People’s Protection Group (YPG) had been “neutralised” in the last eight hours. Meanwhile, Turkey’s ministry of defence said 399 YPG fighters had been “neutralised” since the operation began on Wednesday. 

Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralised” to imply that fighters either surrendered or were killed or captured. The Kurds disputed the number, saying only 29 of their fighters were dead.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s ministry of defence also said three of its soldiers were killed, while three others were wounded.

France’s Macron calls for end to Turkish assault in Syria

France and the United States agreed to remain in close contact over Turkey’s escalating campaign, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said, adding that he had stressed the need to try to end the offensive in a phone call with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, late on Friday.

“France and the United States, which share common concerns, will coordinate closely in the coming days,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

Read more updates here.

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