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Key developments in Turkey’s offensive in Syria

Key developments in Turkey’s offensive in Syria
AFP

Beirut: Here are the key developments in Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, the third such operation since 2016:

– ‘Operation Peace Spring’ –

On October 9, 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launches Operation Peace Spring against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.

He says the offensive targets the “terrorists” of the YPG and Islamic State group.

Erdogan also wants to establish a “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the border where Turkey could send back some of the 3.6 million refugees it hosts from the eight-year-old civil war.

The border towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal-Abyad both come under heavy Turkish air bombardment. The ground offensive begins that evening.

– International outcry –

US President Donald Trump calls the Turkish incursion a “bad idea”. He says he hopes Erdogan will act “rationally”, and that the operation should be “humane”.

Yet it is Washington’s withdrawal two days earlier of US troops in northern Syria near the Turkish border that clears the way for the offensive.

Several countries including many in Europe express concern for civilians in the targeted areas and that the jihadists captured by the Kurds could escape.

On October 10, Erdogan threatens to allow millions of refugees to head to Europe if the bloc criticises Ankara’s offensive in Syria.

– Jihadists –

The next day Turkish forces escalate their bombardment as the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fight to halt their advance.

Kurdish officials say five IS prisoners have escaped from a facility in the border city of Qamishli housing mostly foreign jihadists after shelling nearby.

The Kurdish administration says some 12,000 men are held in seven detention centres across Kurdish-controlled areas.

– Kurds plead with Washington –

The Pentagon says US troops near the northern Syrian border have come under artillery fire from Turkish positions. Turkey denies targeting American troops.

On October 12, the Kurdish forces urge Washington to close the air space to Turkish warplanes. They accuse the US of abandoning them by withdrawing their troops from the border.

– Turkish advance –

The next day Kurdish authorities say nearly 800 relatives of foreign members of the IS group have escaped from a displacement camp at Ain Issa.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor says Turkish forces and their proxies have seized Tal Abyad, so far the largest town they have captured in their offensive.

– Damascus sends in troops –

The Pentagon says Trump has ordered the withdrawal of up to 1,000 troops from northern Syria.

The Kurdish administration announces a deal with the Damascus government on a Syrian troop deployment near the border with Turkey. On October 14, the Syrian regime sends troops towards the Turkish border.

State news agency SANA says regime troops have entered the key city of Manbij.

Turkey accuses Kurdish forces of deliberately releasing IS prisoners held at a prison at the border “in an attempt to fuel chaos in the area”.

A US official says the Pentagon has begun removing all its troops in northern Syria.

– Kurdish counterattack –

Washington slaps sanctions on Turkey, with Trump pointing to Turkey’s “dangerous and destructive path.”

On October 15, Kurdish forces launch a large counterattack near Ras al-Ain, according to the Observatory.

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