Turkey’s President Erdogan threatened that the US has just 120 hours to get the Kurds out of his ‘safe zone’ or attacks on Syrian border towns will resume.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said two million Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey during the brutal civil war could be moved into the area along the border once Kurdish fighters were expelled.
He also claimed Kurdish forces had released 750 ISIS fighters being held in camps during the week-long Turkish military operations in northeastern Syria, which were instigated by a US troop pullout earlier this month.
It comes as French President Emmanuel Macron described Turkey’s invasion as ‘madness’ and said Ankara would be to blame if there was an ISIS resurgence in the region.
European Council president Donald Tusk said Turkey’s US-brokered truce was not serious and demanded Ankara halt its offensive against Kurdish forces.
Tusk said the peace deal agreed by Ergogan and Vice President Mike Pence yesterday was ‘not a ceasefire’ and is in fact a ‘demand of capitulation for the Kurds’.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greeting people as he leaves from a mosque after the Friday prayers in Istanbul today
Turkish soldiers prepare the tanks before army vehicles start moving towards the Syrian border today in Ceylanpinar, Turkey
Turkish soldiers in the border town of Tal Abyad in northern Syria today. The US and Turkey reached a deal to suspend a Turkish military offensive in northern Syria for 120 hours, demanding Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated ‘safe zone’ on the northern border
Smoke rising over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, as seen from the Turkish border town in Ceylanpinar, Turkey, today
Speaking today in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey will resume its offensive in northeast Syria ‘in a more determined way’ if Syrian Kurdish fighters do not pull out from area at the end of the five-day cease-fire.
Erdogan reiterated that Turkey would have no problem with Syrian government forces controlling some areas along Turkey’s border, as long as these areas are cleared of Syrian Kurdish fighters, that Turkey considers as terrorists due to their links to outlawed Kurdish militants in Turkey.
He said: ‘If the United States is able to keep the promises it gave us by Tuesday night, at the end of the 120-hour period, the issue of a safe zone will have been resolved.
But if this promise is not kept, without exception, the minute the 120 hours end, our Operation Peace Spring will resume from where it left off in an even more determined way.’
- Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan today denied there were any ongoing clashes in northeastern Syria
- Kurdish forces claimed border towns were still being shelled by Turkish troops
- Five civilians were reportedly killed today, despite yesterday’s ceasefire
- United Nations said today that more than 2,300 people, mostly women and children, fled fighting in northeastern Syria and crossed into Iraq in recent days
- French President Emmanuel Macron described Turkey’s military operation in Syria as ‘madness’ and said any resurgence of ISIS was the fault of Ankara
- EU Council president Donald Tusk said Turkey’s US-brokered truce was not serious and demanded Ankara halt its offensive against Kurdish forces
- Czech President Milos Zeman accused fellow NATO member Turkey of teaming up with terrorists during its offensive in Syria
Erdogan said Turkey’s nine-day long offensive has resulted in the death of four soldiers and 74 Turkish-backed Syrian fighters. He claimed that the Turkish forces had ‘neutralised’ around 750 Syrian Kurdish fighters.
The Turkish leader said Turkey and allied Syrian opposition forces captured some 65 settlements, including the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al Ayn.
Erdogan added his country ‘cannot forget’ the harshly worded letter from President Donald Trump about the Turkish military offensive into Syria.
But he said the mutual ‘love and respect’ between the two leaders prevents him from keeping it on Turkey’s agenda.
These are Erdogan’s first comments concerning the October 9 letter from Trump, in which among other things he warned Erdogan not to be a ‘tough guy’.
Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey would ‘do what’s necessary’ concerning the letter ‘when the time comes’. He did not elaborate.
He said: ‘President Trump’s letter, which did not go hand in hand with political and diplomatic courtesy, has appeared in the media. Of course we haven’t forgotten it. It would not be right for us to forget it.’
Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters deploying near the town of Ras al-Ayn, Syria, today
The Turkish president claimed Syrian Kurdish fighters are withdrawing from parts of northeast Syria. That follows a cease-fire agreement reached between Turkey and the United States a day earlier.
He said his country’s defence minister confirmed that the Kurdish fighters had begun withdrawing. However, Erdogan added that Turkish troops will remain in northeast Syria to monitor whether ‘this terror organisation [is] truly leaving the area’.
Last night a rally in Dallas Trump said he allowed Turkish and Kurdish forces to clash in deadly battles because the two sides were like children who needed to fight each other.
But despite the five-day peace deal agreed yesterday, the ceasefire was already broken by this morning when fighting continued in a Syrian border town.
A Turkish air strike on a village near the battleground border town of Ras al-Ain killed five civilians today, a war monitor said.
The military action comes as images of burned children emerged yesterday, allegedly showing weapons such as napalm and white phosphorus being used on civilians.
Trump triggered the week-long Turkish offensive against the Kurds by withdrawing US troops from northeast Syria, allowing Ankara’s offensive across the border.
He told a rally of die hard supporters in Texas last night: ‘It was unconventional what I did. I said they’re going to have to fight a little while.
‘Like two kids in a lot, you have got to let them fight and then you pull them apart.
‘They fought for a few days and it was pretty vicious.’
President Donald Trump speaking during a campaign rally last night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. He told the the audience of die hard fans that the Kurds and Turks were ‘like two kids in a lot, you have got to let them fight’
Sporadic clashes between Turkish forces and Kurdish groups were ongoing in a battleground Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain (pictured this morning), despite Ankara’s announcement of a five-day truce yesterday
As Turkish-backed Syrian fighters drive armoured vehicles from northern Syria for a military operation in Kurdish areas, a young boy holds a Syrian flag to greet the soldiers
More than 500 people have been killed including dozens of civilians, mostly on the Kurdish side, and 300,000 civilians have been displaced within Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) war monitor.
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the SOHR, confirmed: ‘Five civilians were killed in Turkish air strikes on the village of Bab al-Kheir, east of Ras al-Ain.’
Trump stressed at his rally last night that ‘not one drop of American blood’ was shed as he pledged to keep US troops out of ‘endless wars’ in the Middle East.
After talks with Vice President Mike Pence yesterday, Turkey agreed to suspend its offensive and to end the assault if Kurdish-led forces withdraw from a safe zone along the border.
‘We went there and we said we want a pause, and the Kurds have been terrific. They’re going to move back a little bit,’ Trump said.
‘We are going to keep ISIS nice and locked up. We are going to find more of them, and Turkey is all set.’
Yesterday Trump hailed the success of the peace agreement as a ‘great day for civilization’ despite Turkish officials down playing the outcome of the deal.
Pence announced the US and Turkey reached a deal to suspend Ankara’s operations in northern Syria for five days to allow Kurds time to withdraw to a ‘safe zone’.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) meeting Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) at the Presidential Complex in Ankara yesterday to broker a deal
Syrians poses with a Turkish flag while Turkish-backed Syrian fighters move by with armored vehicles from the north of the country for military operations
Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighters gesture as they stand at a back of a truck in the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria, yesterday
Turkish soldiers are seen in an undated image (above) in the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria, in this photo released yesterday
Along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Pence spent more than four hours meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials in Ankara in order to get a deal.
The ceasefire agreement requires the Kurdish fighters to vacate a swathe of territory in Syria along the Turkish border, largely solidifying Turkey’s position.
Turkish officials down played the agreement, saying they agreed to suspend operations to let the Kurds withdraw and emphasised it was ‘not a ceasefire’.
Reaction around the world to continued fighting in northern Syria
French President Emmanuel Macron branded Turkey’s military operation in Syria as ‘madness’.
Speaking in Brussels today after a meeting of the European Union, Macron said he wants France, Germany and Britain to organise a meeting ‘in the coming weeks’ with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Macron reaffirmed that foreign fighters from ISIS who might flee Syrian detention centres and go to Iraq should be arrested and sent to trial there.
For those who would try to go to France, ‘there’s no direct airline from the Syrian camps to Paris-Charles de Gaulle [airport]’, he said. Macron said French members of the ISIS group who might got to Turkey on their way to France would be arrested and sent to trial in France, according to a cooperation protocol between France and Turkey.
Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are expected to meet with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London in the coming weeks over Syria, the French President has said.
He told a press conference at the close of the EU summit in Brussels that members ‘expressed our joint position condemning Turkey’s incursion in the north-east of Syria’.
‘Together with Prime Minister Johnson and Chancellor Merkel we decided that we would be meeting President Erdogan probably in London in the coming weeks,’ Macron said.
‘It’s about bringing some more coherence within Nato, and let me remind each and every one that Turkey is a member of Nato, which should also bring about some form of solidarity.’
EU Council President Donald Tusk says the ‘so-called’ Syria cease-fire is ‘a demand of capitulation of the Kurds’ and called on Turkey to immediately halt its operation.
And within 13 hours of the announcement, shelling and smoke could be seen around the town of Ras al-Ayn this morning.
Smoke billowed over the buildings as gunfire and shelling could be heard inside the city, though it was unclear which side was firing, according to official observers.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported intermittent clashes in Ras al-Ayn but relative calm elsewhere since the ceasefire.
The city, also known as Sari Kani, has been the center of the majority of the fighting since Turkish President Erdogan invaded the country more than a week ago following Trump’s US troops withdraw.
However Erdogan claimed today that there were no ongoing clashes in northeastern Syria.
He added it will continue its offensive into Syria more rapidly than before if the agreement with the US to pause the operation and allow a Kurdish withdrawal is not fully implemented.
Erdogan also told journalists that it was not a problem for Turkey if Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, were to enter areas cleared of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, adding that Ankara had no intention to stay in areas under its control.
He also said he informed Trump about the offensive in a phone call three days before the operation started, adding that ‘what is necessary will be done when the time is right’ about a letter from Trump in which he told Erdogan to not be a ‘fool’ and ‘tough guy’.
The United Nations said today that more than 2,300 people, mostly women and children, had fled fighting in northeastern Syria and crossed into Iraq in recent days.
The fighting today came after the commander of Kurdish-led forces in Syria, Mazloum Abdi, told Kurdish TV late on Thursday: ‘We will do whatever we can for the success of the ceasefire agreement.’
But one Kurdish official, Razan Hiddo, declared that the Kurdish people would refuse to live under Turkish occupation.
Today a member of the Syrian Kurdish force said its fighters will not pull back from border towns, asserting that an agreement with Turkey to vacate those areas ‘will not work’.
A spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish forces said today the border town remains besieged and is being shelled by Turkey and its allied forces.
Mervan, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Friday his group’s militiamen are not withdrawing in accordance with the cease-fire deal reached overnight because the town of Ras al-Ayn remains besieged. He says Turkey and allied fighters continue to target the town.
Turkish-backed Syrian fighters riding in the back of a pick up truck in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad today
An injured man during the ongoing Turkish offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria receiving treatment at a hospital in Tal Tamr, near the Syrian Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain today
An armoured Turkish army vehicle is transported near the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, today
Smoke rising over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, as seen from the Turkish border town today in Ceylanpinar, Turkey
When asked about pulling fighters back to vacate border areas, Mervan said: ‘So far there is nothing.’
Mervan, who goes by this nickname in accordance with the group’s regulations, added: ‘It seems that under this deal they want to commit more massacres.’
The Kurdish Red Crescent said its vehicles can’t reach Ras al-Ayn to evacuate the wounded.
While the Kurds call it a cease-fire, Turkey refers to the agreement as a pause and the two sides disagree on the size of the cease-fire area.
Kurdish fighters have already been driven out of much – but not all – of a swathe of territory that stretches about 60 miles along the middle of the Syrian-Turkish border, between Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad.
Still entrenched in Ras al-Ayn, Kurdish forces were fiercely battling Turkish-backed Syrian fighters trying to take the town yesterday.
Turkey’s pro-government dominated media hailed the US-Turkish ceasefire deal as a victory for Turkey’s president.
Erdogan’s plan for a 20-mile deep ‘safe zone’, instigated by his so-called ‘Operation Peace Spring’, were scuppered last night when President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian forces rolled into the symbolic border stronghold of Kobane.
Turkish-backed Syrian fighters driving armored vehicles from northern Syria for a military operation in Kurdish areas near the border today
Turkish-backed Syrian fighters sitting in the middle of a roundabout in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad yesterday
Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town Ras al-Ayn (pictured above today) despite a US-brokered ceasefire that went into effect overnight
Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) fighters driving in Sanliurfa, Turkey, today as they head for the border to reach Tal Abyad in Syria
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greeting people as he leaves from a mosque after the Friday prayers in Istanbul today
Kurdish commanders begged the Syrian regime in Damascus to come to their aid after their US allies during the fierce battle to push back the so-called caliphate left them to the mercy of Turkish-backed forces.
Turkey says the ‘safe zone’ would make room to settle up to 2 million Syrian refugees it is currently hosting, and would push back the YPG militia which it deems a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey.
A Turkish official told Reuters that Ankara got ‘exactly what we wanted’ from the talks with the United States.
With the United States pulling its entire 1,000-strong contingent from northern Syria, the extent of Turkey’s ambitions is likely to be determined by Russia and Iran, filling the vacuum created by the US retreat.
The government of President Assad, backed by Moscow and Tehran, has already taken up positions in territory formerly protected by Washington, after an invitation by the Kurds.
Kurdish officials posted a video on social media showing children with burns, injuries that one doctor in Hasakeh province claimed were consistent with the use of banned weapons.
But the British-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said it could not confirm the allegation that napalm-like weapons were being used on the Kurds.
The war monitor did say it had seen a spike in burn wounds over the last two days from casualties, including civilians.
Amnesty International today said that Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies had committed ‘war crimes’, including summary executions and and ‘unlawful attacks’ during their offensive in northeast Syria, which began on October 9.
It also said Kurdish female politician Hevrin Khalaf and her bodyguard were summarily executed by members of the Syrian National Army, a Turkish-funded and trained group.
At least two more executions of Kurdish fighters were confirmed, while Turkey’s Syrian allies had kidnapped two employees of a local medical organisation, Amnesty added.
Speaking in Brussels after a meeting of the European Union, Macron said he wants France, Germany and Britain to organise a meeting ‘in the coming weeks’.
European Council president Donald Tusk said today after a meeting of EU leaders that Turkey’s US-brokered truce was not serious and demanded Ankara halt its offensive against Kurdish forces.
‘The situation is quite obvious. This so-called ‘ceasefire’ is not what we expected. In fact it’s not a ceasefire, it’s a demand of capitulation for the Kurds,’ he told reporters.
Turkish President Erdogan wanted to install an 20-mile ‘safe zone’ along the Syrian side of the border as part of his ‘Operation Peace Spring’. Despite a ceasefire agreed yesterday with the US, fighting was still seen in the border town of Ras al-Ain
A girl who was injured in the ongoing Turkish offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas of northeastern Syria lying at a hospital in Tal Tamr, near the Syrian Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain on Tuesday (the above image was released by Kurdish news channel RUDAW today)
President Donald Trump speaking during a ‘Keep America Great’ Campaign Rally at American Airlines Center in Dallas Texas last night
Turkish soldiers are seen in the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria, before the fragile peace agreement was made yesterday
Trump has already faced accusations even from usually loyal supporters in Washington that his withdrawal of 1,000 US troops betrayed Kurdish militants who bore the brunt of the fight against Islamic State in recent years.
Brett McGurk, former presidential special envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, described Trump’s remarks about ‘two kids’ fighting as ‘obscene and ignorant.’
He said on Twitter: ‘200k innocent people displaced. Hundreds dead. Credible reports of war crimes. ISIS prisoners escaping. US evacuating and bombing its own positions or handing them to Russia. Two kids in a lot?’
After the peace deal was announced the White House repeatedly touted the fragile five-day ceasefire.
Trump told the crowd at the campaign rally, the deal was the product of ‘a gentleman’ – Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan – seeing his own self-interest after ‘a little tough love’ in the form of a week of armed conflict.
‘American combat troops should not be at the center of ancient sectarian conflict all over the world,’ he said. ‘Bring our soldiers back home.’
He then described the American death toll from what he called ‘stupid, senseless, endless wars’.
A man who was injured in the ongoing Turkish offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas yesterday. The image (above) was released today by Kurdish media
People being carried in the trunk of a truck as residents continue returning home to Tal Abyad after fighting stopped in the city center
Smoke rising in the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain during the Turkish offensive against Kurdish groups in northeastern Syria yesterday
Military vehicles transporting Syrian regime troops and rolled up mattresses are stationed on the outskirts of the northern Syrian border town of Kobane on Wednesday
Trump infuriated members of both political parties – including some of his strongest Republican allies – when he announced earlier this month he was withdrawing US troops from northern Syria.
He was accused of abandoning the Kurds, who are US allies in the region, and ceding control of the area to Russia, whose military vehicles were seen patrolling the war-torn region on behalf of President Assad.
A week of criticism from Capitol Hill compounded on Wednesday into a White House meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers where Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of having a ‘serious meltdown’ when talking about the issue.
But the president gloried in the agreement on Thursday, calling Erdogan a ‘hell of a leader’.
Ankara’s operation, which Erdogan claims was to spread peace in the region, aims to remove the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from areas near its border in northern Syria.
The offensive has so far killed at least 72 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Syrian ceasefire broken 13 hours after it was agreed
A Syrian ceasefire brokered by Vice President Mike Pence in Turkey on Thursday had already been broken by Friday morning as gunfire and shelling was heard in the border city of Ras al-Ayn.
The city, also known as Sari Kani, has been the centre of the majority of the fighting since Turkish President Erdogan invaded the country more than a week ago after President Trump ordered US troops to withdraw.
Amid outcry at home and abroad, Trump dispatched Pence to Ankara to end to the bloodshed – before a deal was announced that would see Turkey stop its attack while Kurdish forces withdraw from the border.
While Kurdish leadership agreed to the deal it was far from clear that individual armed militias – who fought and died to claim the territory from ISIS – would willingly hand it over to Erdogan.
On Friday smoke rose over Ras al-Ayn as gunfire and shelling could be heard – though it was unclear who was firing at whom.
The ceasefire had earlier been praised by U.S. President Donald Trump, who said it would save ‘millions of lives,’ while Turkey cast it as a complete victory.
If implemented, the deal would achieve all the main objectives Turkey announced when it launched its assault on Oct. 9: control of a strip of Syria more than 30 km (20 miles) deep, with the SDF forces – once U.S. allies in the years long fight against Islamic State – obliged to pull out.
Republican and Democratic senators accused Trump of having betrayed the Kurdish allies who were vital in fighting Islamic State militants, of brushing aside the humanitarian costs of Turkey’s invasion and of being outwitted by Ankara.
It was unclear what if any damage came from the shelling heard on Friday.
It was also unclear whether the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would fully comply with the agreement, which would leave Turkish forces in charge of a swathe of territory that the Kurds once held with U.S. military support.