Civilians flee as Syria Kurds battle Turkish invasion
Syria’s Kurds battled to hold off a Turkish invasion on Thursday as thousands of civilians fled air strikes and shelling that deepened fears of a humanitarian crisis.
US President Donald Trump tried to justify the de facto green light he gave his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for an assault seen as a blatant betrayal of Washington’s erstwhile Kurdish allies.
Later Trump suggested that Washington could mediate between Turkey and Kurdish groups and a US official said Trump has asked American diplomats to broker a ceasefire.
But international condemnation of the Turkish assault was overwhelming and the response to the operation was discussed in an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed “deep concern” over the violence, while the council’s five European members urged Turkey “to cease the unilateral military action”.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for an emergency meeting of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group.
Syrian Kurdish forces lost 11,000 personnel and played a major role in the years-long battle to eliminate the “caliphate” IS had set up in the region.
In scenes all too familiar since the start of Syria’s war in March 2011, civilians were seen abandoning their homes Thursday, in vehicles or on foot with their belongings on their backs.
The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Thursday estimated that 70,000 people have been newly displaced since Ankara launched its operation.
“We’re heading to the countryside because we’re scared of renewed bombing and intensified clashes,” said Rizan Mohammad, 33, who fled the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli with his family.
After launching the assault with air strikes and intense artillery fire on Wednesday, the Turkish army and its Syrian proxies crossed the border into Kurdish-controlled areas.
– Renewed clashes –