A civilian wounded by Turkish airstrikes receives treatment in a medical facility in the predominantly Kurdish city of Qamishli, Syria, October 9, 2019. (Photo: SDF Media Office/Mustafa Bali)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched “Operation Peace Spring” – aggression against the Kurdish people in northeastern Syria.

The Turkish attack was greenlighted by a U.S. announcement of withdrawal from northeast Syria after a phone call between Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) warned in a statement Wednesday that Turkey’s assault “will spill the blood of thousands of innocent civilians because our border areas are overcrowded.”

Media reports said:

On Wednesday, at least eight civilians died and 20 others wounded in the Turkish aggression on Qamishli, Dibasyah and al-Mishrafah in Ras al-Ayn in Hasaka countryside.

The military offensive also targeted service facilities and infrastructure, such as dams and electricity and water plants.

Thousands of civilians have already been displaced by the Turkish military operation.

Turkish aircraft and artillery began striking positions in Syria immediately after Erdogan’s announcement of the military operation.

A total of 181 targets were hit since the start of operation, the Turkish defense ministry said on Wednesday.

Later in the day, the Turkish military said it launched the land phase of the operation. Army units, and Turkey-backed militants began assault on the SDF positions.

Turkey has closed airspace along the border with Syria amid ongoing airstrikes.

The air and artillery strikes have been reportedly targeting the vicinity of the Syrian border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.

Syrian state media has released footage from Ras al-Ayn showing multiple warplanes in the skies and a thick plume of black smoke from a fire caused by the air strikes.

The SDF said the Syrian towns of Qamishli and Ain Issa were also targeted by Turkish warplanes.

The dead and wounded included the Muslim and Christian civilians.

Sources in Qamishli said an elderly Christian man was killed in an airstrike in the neighborhood of Bashiriye and many others were wounded and transferred to nearby hospitals in the city.

On the western outskirts of the town of Tal Abyad, a man and his wife were killed as artillery shells struck their house, which was totally destroyed. About nine other civilians were injured in the airstrikes and shelling of the town.

The offensive by the Turkish army started on Wednesday evening from the town of Serekaniye, also known as Ras Alain in Arabic, and then Tal Abyad, Ain Issa, and Qamishli followed.

Two hours of bombardment 

After two hours of bombardment, Turkish warplanes targeted the town of Derik, also known as Malikiya, in the far northeastern corner of Syria.

Local media and witnesses reported that airstrikes and shelling continued late into the night in towns and cities along the border with Turkey, and casualties were increasing amid the heavy bombardment.

Clashes

Clashes then erupted between Turkish soldiers and fighters of the SDF in the town of Derbesiye.

In the city of Manbij, west of Euphrates River, Turkish-backed Syrian armed groups launched ground attacks on Kurdish-led Manbij Military Council (MMC) force, an SDF ally.

MMC spokesperson Shervan Darwish said they killed four Turkish-backed militants in the clashes.

Shelling resumed

Turkish shelling restarted Thursday morning in northern Syria, as the Operation Peace Spring enters its second day.

Shelling recommenced in the Syria-Turkey border town of Ras al-Ain in the early hours of the morning, according to the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG)-affiliated Hawar News.

Jet bombardments and artillery strikes began on targets along the length of the Syria border at 4:00 pm local time on Tuesday, forcing civilians to flee in their thousands.

A ground offensive commenced at 10:30 pm, with Turkish ground forces moving in at several points along the border, according to the Turkish defense ministry.

Sixteen SDF fighters were killed in the early hours of the Turkish offensive.

Syrian state-run news agency SANA said: On Thursday, Turkey renewed its aggression against villages of Nadas, Allouk and Hamid, east of Ras al-Ayn, Hasaka countryside.

The Turkish army started to remove the wall near Tal Halaf village, north of Ras al-Ayn, indicating that the Turkish warplanes targeted the village of Tal Arqam in Ras al-Ayn.

Footage from the aggression zone scene shows large groups of civilians, primarily women and children, fleeing the Syrian border towns deeper into Kurdish-controlled territory.

Fighters with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which leads the SDF, told CNN that hundreds of civilians scrambled to escape northeastern Syria as Turkey began bombarding the area.

A humanitarian disaster

The SDF’s liaison with the International Coalition Against the Islamic State wrote an op-ed Thursday to The Washington Post calling the operation a  “vast humanitarian disaster” and condemning “international silence.”

“The United States has cast aside the Kurds and free people of Syria, leaving them to their fates at the hands of their mortal enemies. The international community is silent. This is yet another bitter defeat for the people of northeastern Syria.”

Countries condemn Turkish offensive

The UN Security Council is set to meet on today in response to the attack.

According to Amelie de Montchalin, the French Minister of European Affairs, Britain, France, and Germany called for the meeting shortly after the launch of the operation.

Several countries including Germany have condemned Turkey’s actions.

Christian organizations’ concern

Northeast Syria’s sizeable Syrian Christian community has expressed grave concern for its safety and even its continued existence in the area, with casualties incurred and damage to their villages.
Five Christian organizations in northeastern Syria released a joint statement calling the U.S. withdrawal from northeast Syria a “betrayal” and urging the implementation of safety measures for the community, including an international no-fly zone.

Interviewed yesterday by SDF-affiliated North Press Agency, prominent Christian community leader Elizabeth Kawriye said the Turkish operation “acts as a great danger to the existence of Christians in Syria.”

“The decision to ban the DAA (Democratic Autonomous Administration) and its forces (SDF) that fought alongside the international coalition to push back ISIS is a betrayal of the DAA and its people, which compromises not only Kurds but Christian and Arab tribes that fought together with the USA.”

Civilians are at serious risk, says Amnesty

Amnesty International (AI) warned on Wednesday that civilians are at serious risk from the cross-border attacks.

“It is imperative that all parties to this conflict respect international humanitarian law, including by refraining from carrying out attacks on civilians and civilian objects, as well as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” read a statement by the AI.

International Rescue Committee

Misty Buswell, Middle East policy director at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), expressed deep concern about the impact Turkey’s assault will have “on civilians, including our own staff members and their families, and the destabilizing effect this will have on a population that has already borne the brunt of the eight-year-long conflict in Syria.”

“Many of these people have already been displaced multiple times and suffered horribly under the brutal rule of ISIS,” said Buswell, “only to be facing yet another crisis.”

France owes a debt to the Kurds

Former French president Francois Hollande, who during his tenure sent troops to the region to fight ISIS, told Le Parisien, France “owes a debt to the Kurds.”
Hollande called for a re-establishment of a safe zone and a return of American soldiers in the interview published Wednesday night.

A chaos, says a former NATO commander

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour on CNN, retired General John Allen, a former NATO commander in Afghanistan, berated Trump’s lack of coordination with the U.S. government and security apparatus in the lead up to the Turkish operation, calling it “chaos.”

“We don’t do strategy, and we shouldn’t be doing foreign policy, by tweet. This is what you get when you have single phone calls between world leaders, and when you put the phone down, no coordination with the US government,” Allen said Wednesday night.

“Our national security mechanism in this country was largely surprised by that phone call and surprised by that tweet that called for withdrawal of American forces.”

90,000 mosque-wide prayer in Turkey

In a show of support for the operation, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs organized Thursday a 90,000 mosque-wide recitation of morning prayers for the Turkish army success, according to the Turkish state media.


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