On the third day of an offensive that caused the exodus of civilians, Turkish forces and their allies intensified their deadly bombing of Kurdish targets in northern Syria on Friday (October 11th), seeking to seize frontier areas.
Launched on Wednesday, the Turkish operation, involving air and ground forces, targets areas of Syria held by Syria's main Kurdish militia, the People's Protection Units (YPG). Considered a terrorist by Ankara, it is supported by the West, because it is the spearhead of the fight against the jihadists of the Islamic State group (IS).
The military operation provoked an international outcry, with several countries concerned about the fate of civilians, but also the many jihadists detained by Kurdish forces who could flee.
Nearly 100,000 displaced, according to the UN
On the ground, fierce fighting between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters, with Turkish troops and their Syrian counterparts in northeastern Syria. Several cities on the border – Ras Al-Ain, Tall Abyad or Tall Tamr – have been almost deserted by their inhabitants, causing a great wave of displacement, as noted by our special envoy.
At the entrance of Tel Tamr, endless flow of civil vehicles fleeing the #turkey sh shells and Islamist milit … https://t.co/XqM54QVOn8
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported in a statement that he had been forced to close a hospital that the NGO was supporting in Tal Abyad, adding that the bombings forced patients to flee, as did the medical staff. According to the United Nations, 100,000 people have fled the fighting, heading further east, to Hassaké, a city spared at this stage.
According to a latest assessment of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (OSDH), 41 Kurdish fighters and 17 civilians have been killed by Turkish forces since Wednesday. For its part, Ankara announced that 10 civilians were killed on Friday by shells fired from Syria by a Kurdish militia on Turkish border towns, and that four Turkish soldiers were killed in Syria.
US troops under fire from Turkish positions
Turkish air raids continued on Friday night mainly on the town of Kobane, in the Kurdish autonomous region established in the Syrian conflict, reported an NGO, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).
"Intense fighting mainly from Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ain", border cities, oppose Turkish troops and their local allies to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) whose YPG, backed by the West, are the backbone, according to the NGO. Using tunnels and trenches, the FDS are trying to curb the advance of Turkish troops that took Thursday eleven villages, two of which have since been taken over by the Kurds, according to the OSDH.
The Pentagon reported that US soldiers near Kobane had been under fire by Turkish artillery, but none had been wounded.
Five ISIS jihadists detained by Kurdish forces escaped from prison on Friday Navkur, near Qamichli, a Kurdish majority town in northeastern Syria, after Turkish air raids targeting its environs, according to an official of the SDS, spearhead of the anti-jihadist struggle.
Some 12,000 IS fighters – Syrians, Iraqis, but also 2,500 to 3,000 foreigners from 54 countries – are being held in Kurdish prisons, according to a senior official in their administration, Abdel Karim Omar. The Kurdish authorities are managing a total of seven prisons under high security, according to a Kurdish source. They also detain thousands of family members in camps across northeastern Syria, including Al-Hol, where a riot broke out on Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday warned of the threat of a resurgence of ISIS in the region. "I'm not sure that the Turkish army can control the situation or do it quickly"Putin said at a summit of former Soviet countries in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. According to him, "Kurds leave camps where IS fighters are held" and these "Are able to run away". He promised to "Mobilize the resources of the special services to counter the emergence of this new threat".
For his part, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday called for a "Emergency meeting" of the international anti-jihadist coalition led by Washington, saying that " the fight against Daesh (Arabic acronym for IS) risk of resuming ".
IS claims to attack car bomb
On Friday, a car bomb exploded in Qamichli, killing six people, including civilians, according to a local Kurdish force. The attack occurred in a lively area of this mostly Kurdish city, near a popular restaurant "When civilians, including journalists who came to cover the offensive, were inside," said the Kurdish local police, the Assayech.
#Breaking A heavy explosion inside the city of Qamishli, northeastern Syria Our reporter. #NPA # Turkish_attacks … https://t.co/2d4u0ovOjJ
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack: in a statement posted on a telegram channel of the jihadist group, he claimed that jihadists "Blew up a parked car bomb" near a Kurdish military position in the city.
The United States urges Ankara to stop this operation
The green light given de facto by the United States to the Turkish operation – by announcing the withdrawal of US soldiers stationed Syrian side of the border – was perceived as a betrayal by the Kurds. "They sold us to Erdogan, denounces Agid, interviewed by the Special Envoy of World Allan Kaval in Talel Tamr, in northeastern Syria. I fought against IS in Rakka and here's how they thank us. "
President Donald Trump, however, instructed US diplomacy to try to arrange a ceasefire between the belligerents. US Defense Minister Mark Esper has "Strongly encouraged" Ankara to "Interrupt" his military operation in Syria, claiming that it could have "Serious consequences for Turkey". A little later, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the United States is ready to activate "Very strong penalties". "We hope we will not have to use them but we can neutralize the Turkish economy if necessary," he warned during a press conference.
During a telephone conversation with Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a halt to the Turkish offensive. " as quickly as possible ". he "Stressed the need first and foremost to prevent any resurgence of Daesh in the region, to support those who fought on the ground with us against the terrorists and to protect the civilian population", said the Elysee. " France and the United States, which share common concerns, will remain closely coordinated in the coming days. "added the French presidency.
"No matter what some say, we will not stop" this operation, replied the Turkish president during a speech in Istanbul. With this offensive, Turkey is seeking to establish a "Security zone" 32 kilometers deep along its border to separate it from the territories controlled by the Kurdish militia. "We will continue our fight until all the terrorists have descended south of 32 kilometers," insisted Erdogan.
Towards sanctions against Turkey?
In New York, after an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the five European countries sitting on it (France, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Poland) demanded a halt to this "Unilateral military action". Denouncing a situation "Absolutely shocking" for civilians, France announced that the Europeans would examine " next week " the possibility of sanctions against Turkey. On their side, the Netherlands said on Friday that they were suspending any new arms exports to Turkey.
In response to European criticism, President Erdogan on Thursday threatened to send millions of migrants to Turkey to Turkey after fleeing the war in Syria. "We will never accept that refugees are used as a weapon and to make us sing", said Friday the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk.
At the UN, talks were held Friday on a US draft Security Council statement calling on Turkey to stop its military offensive in northern Syria, but Russia has halted its adoption procedure. The draft, which in its first version only asked Ankara to return to diplomacy rather than military means, had been hardened after several observations by member states.