Turkish ground forces invaded northeastern Syria
Several journalists in the region report on Twitter that thousands of residents at the border are currently fleeing to an American base, where they hope to get protection from a number of US soldiers left behind.
Turkish forces have entered the region together with Arab and Turkmen militias, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced Wednesday. The raid takes place after the United States withdrew their troops from the area last weekend. According to the first reports, strong fighting is taking place with Kurdish troops.
“Our goal is to destroy the terror corridor that people are trying to establish on our southern border and bring peace to the region,” said Erdogan. “We will clear the area from terror.”
This is Turkey’s first military offensive in the area since the country, together with the US, made plans to establish a “safe zone” there. In the long term, Turkey wants to secure a strip of about 225 kilometers long and 32 kilometers wide along the Turkish-Syrian border as a buffer zone against ‘terrorism’. Wednesday’s raid counts as a step in that direction.
Ankara also wants to use the intended ‘safe zone’ to have some two million Syrian refugees return to their home country.
International community does not support raid
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok writes in a statement that the Netherlands condemns the Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria and calls on the country to stop it. Blok has summoned the Turkish ambassador to come and give text and explanation.
France, the United Kingdom and Germany will request an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the Turkish offensive in Syria, the French government announced. Diplomats reported to AFP on Wednesday that that meeting would take place on Thursday.
Turkish invasion ‘a bad idea’
The White House said in a response on Wednesday that it did not support the Turkish invasion and called it a “bad idea”. “Turkey has promised to protect civilians and religious minorities, including Christians, and has said they guarantee that there will be no humanitarian crisis – and we hold them to that,” the US government said.
The American president Donald Trump was not really enthusiastic about the Kurds, of which the Syrian Democratic Armed Forces (SDF) were the most important founding army in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). “They did not help us in World War II or in Normandy,” he referred to D-Day. “That said, we like the Kurds.”
Trump is also not worried about escaping IS fighters, who are mainly detained by the Kurds. “Well, they are going to escape to Europe. They want to go there. They want to go back home.” Earlier, the American president complained that European countries did not want to accept IS prisoners.
Kurds ask for no-fly zone
A spokesperson for the SDF, the Kurdish-led coalition in charge of the area, reported that the attack began on Wednesday with a bombing by Turkish fighter planes in the Syrian border towns of Ras al Ain, Tal Abyad, Qamishli and Ain Issa. The first citizens started fleeing the area on Wednesday evening.
The SDF has asked the US and other powers to set up a no-fly zone above the area, but Trump has forbidden its troops in the region to help the Kurds.
The unofficial Kurdish civilian government in northeastern Syria called for a “general mobilization” of its forces on Tuesday when it became clear that Turkish troops on the border were making the final preparations for the operation to begin.