civilians killed in air raid despite truce announced by Ankara

Syrian fighters, supported by Turkey, in an armored vehicle near the Syrian border, Akcakale, in the province of Sanliurfa, southeast Turkey, Friday, October 18, 2019.
Syrian fighters, supported by Turkey, in an armored vehicle near the Syrian border, Akcakale, in the province of Sanliurfa, southeast Turkey, Friday, October 18, 2019. Emrah Gurel / AP

The cease-fire agreement, supposed to last five days, will not have lasted twenty-four hours. Turkey's air raids have killed civilians in northern Syria on Friday, October 18, according to an NGO, despite the truce however accepted by Ankara to suspend its deadly offensive against Kurdish forces.

The operation launched by Ankara since 9 October has opened a new front in Syria at war since 2011, when Western Kurdish partner forces in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group accused Washington of abandoning them.

Thursday night, after an intervention by the United States, Turkey agreed to suspend for five days the offensive that caused an international outcry, however, calling for a withdrawal of Kurdish forces from its border to put an end to it.

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But five civilians and four fighters of Kurdish forces perished Friday in an air strike by Ankara air force on the village of Bab al-Kheir, in northern Syria, reported the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights ( OSDH). The village lies to the east of the border town of Ras al-Ain, shaken by "Sporadic fighting", according to the OSDH.

A Agence France-Presse correspondent on the Turkish side of the border had heard early morning artillery strikes and explosions, while volutes of white smoke rose in the sky on the Syrian side. Reporting on air strikes and artillery shelling, Kurdish forces accused Turkey of "Violate" the ceasefire.

"Despite the agreement to stop fighting, air and artillery attacks continue to target fighter positions, civilian areas and the Ras al-Ain hospital", denounced, on his Twitter account, Mustafa Bali, a spokesman of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), coalition dominated by the Kurdish forces. The day before, the head of the SDS, Mazloum Abdi, had announced that his forces were ready to "Respect the ceasefire".

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  • Not a real "cease-fire"

The international community reacted to this new raid of Turkey. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk estimated Friday that the truce negotiated by the United States with Turkey was not a real 'Cease-fire'but a "Capitulation" asked the Kurds.

"The situation is pretty obvious. This so-called ceasefire is not what we expected. In fact, it's not a cease-fire, it's a capitulation for the Kurds "he said after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.

Following a European summit in Brussels, Emmanuel Macron announced a "Joint initiative" with Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson to meet "Soon" Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

  • Erdogan threatens to resume the offensive Tuesday night

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Friday that the offensive in northeastern Syria would resume as early as Tuesday night if Kurdish forces do not withdraw from the 32-kilometer sector, as stipulated in the truce. "If the promises are fulfilled by Tuesday night, the issue of the safe area will have been resolved. Otherwise, the operation "Source of peace" will resume as soon as the period of one hundred and twenty hours expires "said Erdogan at a press conference.

The agreement also provides for the establishment of a "Security zone" 32 km wide in Syrian territory. Erdogan reiterated on Friday that this area should "To extend in length on 444 km" and not only in areas where Turkish forces have already taken control in Syrian territory, ie 120 km between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.

He also said that some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey "Security zone". In order to host these refugees, "We plan to build 140 villages with 5,000 inhabitants for each village and 10 districts with a population of 30,000 for each district", he said

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  • More than 2,300 Syrians have fled to Iraq

The United Nations announced on Friday that more than 2,300 people, mostly women and children, had fled fighting in northeastern Syria to seek refuge in Iraq in recent days.

"For the fourth consecutive day, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (…) has welcomed hundreds of refugees who have crossed the border between northeastern Syria and Iraq"UN spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a news conference in Geneva.

He said that "More than 1,600 Syrian refugees had been transported from the border to the Bardarash refugee camp", about 150 kilometers east of Syria, and added that another group of 734 people had crossed the border at night.

In a statement released on Friday, Amnesty International accused "Turkish military forces" and rebels protested to have "Shows shameful contempt for civilian lives", evoking "Overwhelming evidence of war crimes".

From now on, the fighting is concentrated in Ras al-Ain, half-won by the Turkish forces, according to the OSDH, even if the FDS have delivered fierce resistance.

Kurdish authorities tried to send a medical team to Ras al-Ain on Friday to try to evacuate the wounded in recent days, said Hassan Amin, an official at the Tal Tamr hospital, a city further south. . "The situation of the wounded is critical and their number is high"said Amin, assuring that "The medical team was not allowed to enter" in the city, the OSDH accusing the protesters rebels.

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The Turkish operation killed 72 civilians and 235 FDS combatants, according to a latest report from the OSDH, which also indicates that 187 protested fighters have perished. About 300,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the OSDH.

Turkey reported the deaths of six Turkish soldiers in Syria and 20 civilians killed in border towns by Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Our selection of articles on the Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria

  • On Wednesday, October 9, 2019, Turkey launched an offensive against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, allied with Westerners in the anti-jihadist struggle.
  • It is the withdrawal of American troops from this sector and the contradictory statements of the White House that have paved the way for this offensive.
  • On the ground, the Kurds, reduced to solicit the reinforcement of Damascus, mourn the end of a world. Read our report.
  • After several days on the spot, our special envoys were forced to leave the north-east of Syria, on October 13, because of the intervention of Damascus. Here's why.
  • The presence of thousands of foreign jihadists in Kurdish jails, prey to disorganization, worries Western countries.


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