On the ninth day of the Turkish offensive, the situation becomes more and more confused in the north of Syria. As fighting continues Thursday, October 17, the number of displaced continues to rise and belligerents accuse each other of committing serious abuses.
Medical convoys, target of "systematic" bombing
The Kurds on Thursday demanded the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians and wounded from the border town of Ras Al-Ain, half-controlled by Turkish forces. A reporter from Agence France-Presse (AFP) on the spot saw columns of smoke rising from the city as the crushing thunder of Turkish artillery filled the air. In order to blind the planes of Ankara, the Kurdish fighters burned tires. "We are ready to fight to the end" said a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) official, the main Kurdish-dominated coalition.
Thursday morning, the Ras Al-Ain hospital was damaged by bombing. "The medical staff is circled in the establishment"The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH) reported that half of the city is under the control of the Turkish army and its deputies. For the Kurdish authorities, "Many civilians are encircled in the city" and the "Medical convoys are the target of systematic bombing".
The Kurdish call for a humanitarian corridor is for the international coalition led by Washington, a partner of the Kurdish forces in the fight against the Islamic State group (IS), but also for Russia, ally of the regime of Bashar Al- Assad, the main winner of the regional diplomatic game.
Thursday, the OSDH estimated more than 300,000 the number of displaced people caused by the Turkish operation. The human toll, according to the same organization, is at least 72 dead among civilians in Syria and 203 among pro-Kurdish fighters.
ISIS says it "liberated" jihadist women
In this context of great confusion, the IS announced Thursday to have "Released a number" women detained by Kurdish forces in the area, according to a statement posted on the Jihadist organization's Telegram channels.
While, since the beginning of the offensive, the Kurds have reported the escape of hundreds of relatives of the IS from an IDP camp and the escape of five jihadists from a prison, the propaganda of the jihadist group indicates that "Soldiers of the caliphate" Wednesday attacked a headquarters of Kurdish forces near the town of Rakka, "Freeing Muslim women abducted" by Kurdish fighters.
The fear of a mass liberation of jihadists and a reconstruction of the terrorist group worries Western states at the highest level. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian traveled to Baghdad on Thursday to discuss the possible transfer and trial in Iraq of foreign jihadists, including 60 French nationals.
Kurds and Turks accuse each other of using unconventional weapons
On Thursday, semi-autonomous authorities in northeastern Syria accused the Turkish army of "Internationally prohibited weapons, such as phosphorus or napalm". Ankara immediately denied that "Everyone knows that there are no chemical weapons in the arsenal of the Turkish armed forces".
AFP could not confirm Kurdish accusations, but OSDH says it has "Identified burn patients who arrived at the Tell Tamer Hospital (near Ras al-Ain) in the last two days", but without identifying the origin. Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar on Thursday accused Kurdish forces in Ankara "To use themselves" chemical weapons in order to accuse Ankara.
Kurdish officials have posted on a social network a video showing children suffering from burns that, according to a doctor from Hassaké province, can corroborate the use of chemical weapons, such as phosphorus, used since 2011 in the Syrian conflict .
"We call on international organizations to send their teams to examine injuries", said a spokesman for the SDS. "Medical facilities in northeastern Syria no longer have experts after NGO withdrawal caused by Turkish invasion"he regretted.
Americans in Turkey to negotiate a ceasefire
US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Ankara on Thursday to meet the Turkish President. The two top executives of the Trump administration will seek to convince Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop his offensive in northeastern Syria. Yet it was the American president who left the field open to such an operation by withdrawing his troops from the Turkish-Syrian border ten days ago.
Donald Trump has nevertheless blurred the signals by stating Wednesday, before the departure of MM. Pence and Pompeo, that "If Turkey goes to Syria, it's a case between Turkey and Syria, it's not our problem". "Kurds are not angels", he added.
The Turkish President has already ruled out "Sit at the table of terrorists", speaking of the People's Protection Units (armed Kurdish autonomist movement), and argued that for the offensive to end, the Kurdish forces would have to disarm and move away from the Turkish border.