Turkish forces and their proxies pushed deep into Syria yesterday, moving closer to completing their assault’s initial phase, while Washington announced it was pulling out 1,000 troops from the country’s north.
The Kurdish administration in northern Syria said that Turkish bombardment near a camp for the displaced led to nearly 800 relatives of Islamic State group (IS) members fleeing. Fighting raged but Turkish-backed forces made significant progress along the border on the fifth day of an offensive that has provoked an international outcry and left dozens of civilians and fighters dead.
In the face of the Turkish advances, state media in Damascus said the Syrian army was sending troops to “confront” the offensive on the country’s territory.
There were no immediate details but a Kurdish official said on condition of anonymity that negotiations were under way between the Kurds and the Damascus government. “All options are being examined,” the Kurdish official said.
Kurdish authorities and foreign powers have warned repeatedly that the hostilities could undermine the fight against the IS and allow jihadists to break out of captivity. Fighting has engulfed the area since Wednesday when Ankara launched a long-threatened offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who it considers “terrorists” linked to insurgents inside Turkey.
Meanwhile, United States Defence Secretary Mark Esper said yesterday that President Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of up to 1,000 troops from northern Syria. “I can’t give a timeline because it changes hourly. We want to make sure that we do so in a very safe, deliberate manner,” he told the CBS network.
“And at this point in time in the last 24 hours we learned that they (Turkey) likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned and to the west.”