“We Will Not Stop”: Erdogan Continues Syrian Assault Despite Protests

  • Erdogan has ignored US threats to impose severe sanctions on his country and insisted on continuing his military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria.
  • US President Donald Trump threatened to destroy the Turkish economy if it crossed any red lines.
  • According to the United Nations news announced on Friday, "nearly 100,000 people" fled their homes.

Despite the deaths of dozens, including civilians, and the displacement of about 100,000 people from border towns in northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists on continuing his military campaign, “Operation Spring Peace,” against Kurdish fighters. Erdogan said he would continue this “battle until all terrorists go south 32 kilometers away from our border.”

The Syrian Democratic Forces, commonly abbreviated to SDF, HSD, and QSD, is an alliance in the Syrian Civil War composed primarily of Kurdish, Arab, and Assyrian/Syriac militias, as well as some smaller Armenian, Turkmen and Chechen forces. The SDF is militarily led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a mostly Kurdish militia.

Erdogan has ignored US threats to impose severe sanctions on his country and insisted on continuing his military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria. Since Turkey began its offensive, some 100,000 people have been displaced, according to UN estimates. Washington pulled dozens of its soldiers from border areas in Northern Syria on Monday, which many interpreted as a green light for Turkey.

After harsh criticism, accusing him of abandoning the Kurds and bringing about the return of the Islamic State, US President Donald Trump threatened to destroy the Turkish economy if it crossed any red lines. He also commissioned diplomats to broker a “ceasefire” between his two allies— his main partners in the fight against jihadists and his NATO ally.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday that his country could “paralyze” the Turkish economy. Trump plans to sign a decree to deter Turkey from continuing its military offensive. However, the Turkish President seemed determined to do so.

“Whatever some may say, we will not stop this step that we have taken,”  he said in a speech in Istanbul on Friday. “Now there are threats coming from left and right, telling us to stop this,” he added. “We will not step back… We will continue this fight until all the terrorists go south of the 32-kilometer [20 mile] limit from our border that Mr. Trump himself mentioned.”

Turkey, which classifies the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a “terrorist” group, aims to set up a buffer zone to transfer a large part of its 3.6 million Syrian refugees. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Friday that during a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, he “strongly encouraged Turkey to stop” the attack, warning that it “could have serious consequences”.

The Turkish army and its allied factions took control of 11 border villages, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Turkish Defense Ministry said the operation was “proceeding as planned.” Since the morning, clashes have been taking place with the Syrian Democratic Forces trying to stop Turkish forces and their pro-Syrian factions, which launch attacks on several points on the border.

Hulusi Akar is the current Turkish Minister of Defense and a former four-star Turkish Armed Forces general who served as the 29th Chief of the General Staff. Akar also served as a brigade commander in various NATO engagements including ISAF, Operation Deliberate Force during the Bosnian War and the Kosovo Force during the Kosovo War.

The fighting, centered between Ras al-Ain (Hasakeh) and Tall Abyad (Raqqa), coincides with Turkish artillery and aerial bombardment, according to the Observatory, which noted that the SDF is using “tunnels and fortifications built near the border to launch counter-attacks. “Turkish forces are trying to attack from several axes to break our defense lines, but our forces are confronting them,” a source from the town of Ras al-Ain told AFP by telephone. The area extending from Ras al-Ain to Tall Abyad, more than 100 kilometers, is predominantly Arab, unlike other Kurdish-dominated border areas.

The Observatory counted the killing of seven civilians and nine members of the Syrian Democratic Forces by Turkish fire on Friday, bringing the death toll since Wednesday to 17 civilians and 54 fighters in those forces. On the other side of the border, 10 civilians were killed on Friday in shells which authorities accused Kurdish fighters of launching, bringing the death toll of civilians in Turkey to 17.

According to the United Nations news announced on Friday, “nearly 100,000 people” fled their homes. Although most have been accommodated in host communities, an increasing number are still arriving in collective shelters.  As a result of the escalation, entire border towns have become almost empty. International organizations have warned of a new humanitarian disaster in Syria.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site. 

 


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