Turkey pressed its military offensive against US-allied Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria Thursday, shelling towns and bombing targets from the air in an operation that has forced thousands of people to flee their homes. The Defense Ministry of Turkey said that its ground troops are continuing their advance against Kurdish fighters in the north-eastern region of Syria.
Turkey said that its jets and artillery struck as many as 181 targets on the eastern region of the Euphrates River since the incursion started.
Ankara’s ‘invasion’ began on Wednesday after US President Donald Trump announced his decision of withdrawing US troops from the area. The decision undertaken by the US paved way for Turkey to began their assault on the Syrian Kurdish forces, which for long has been an ally of Washington.
Defending its move, Turkey has maintained that its intention is to create a “safe zone”, pulling the Kurdish militia away from its border and eventually allowing repatriation to as many as two million.
‘109 terrorists killed’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an address to his party’s officials, claimed that as many as 109 ‘terrorists’ (a reference to Kurdish fighters) were killed since Ankara launched an attack.
Erdogan did not provide any elaborate details but defended Turkey’s action saying that it is only seeking to prevent the creation of a “terror state” along its border with Syria.
Erdogan also warned that if the European countries continue to label its military incursion in Syria as an occupation, Ankara will release the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in their country to Europe.
“We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way,” Erdogan said in his speech.
India says ‘deeply concerned’
India on Thursday said that it was “deeply concerned” about the ongoing military operation by Turkey on Kurdish forces in Syria.
“We are deeply concerned at the unilateral military offensive by Turkey in north-east Syria. Turkey’s actions can undermine stability in the region and the fight against terrorism,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
India also called upon Turkey to exercise restraint and respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The MEA in its statement said that Turkey’s action has the potential for causing humanitarian and civilian distress in the region, adding that the two should settle any issue peacefully through dialogue and discussion.
IS Jailbreak ‘catostrophe’
A senior Kurdish official warned that Turkey’s action along Syrian border could result in a break out of prisons guarding Islamic State (IS) detainees, news agency Reuters reported.
Badran Jia Kurd told the news agency that the number of security forces guarding the IS detainees would have to be reduced as the Turkish forces step up an offensive that got underway on Wednesday.
“This attack will definitely reduce and weaken the guarding system for those Daesh (Arabic acronym for IS)militants in the prisons. This could lead to their escape or to behaviours that may get out of the control of the security forces,” Kurd was quoted as saying by Reuters.
The Kurdish-led authority said a prison struck by Turkish shelling holds “the most dangerous criminals from more than 60 nationalities” and Turkey’s attacks on its prisons risked “a catastrophe”.
Turkey’s actions are being widely condemned across the globe. United States President Donald Trump has said that he hoped Turkey would “act rationally”. Warning of actions against Turkey’s economy, Trump said that he would consider moves tougher than sanctions if Ankara does not do the operations in northern Syria in as humane a way as possible.
The European Union says that Turkey’s action is setting back any hope for progress toward ending the conflict.
The offensive will worsen the refugee crisis and increase violence against innocent civilians, EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned Turkey’s action and cautioned about the possibility of ethnic cleansing. “Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people,” he wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Russia said that it was concerned by the situation but said that it sympathised with Ankara’s security concerns in the area, Reuters reported.
(Inputs from agencies)
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