SDF SUSPENDS FIGHT AGAINST DAESH
WASHINGTON/BEIRUT, Oct 9, (Agencies): US-backed Kurdish fighters have halted operations against Islamic State in Syria as Turkey launches a military offensive in Syria’s northeast, two US officials and a Kurdish military source said on Wednesday.
“The SDF stopped the anti- ISIS operations because it’s impossible to carry out any operation while you are being threatened by a large army right on the northern border,” the Kurdish military source said. One of the US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the suspension also impacted US training of stabilization forces in Syria. Turkey launched a military operation Wednesday against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria after US forces pulled back from the area, with a series of airstrikes hitting a town on Syria’s northern border.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the campaign, which followed an abrupt decision Sunday by US President Donald Trump that American troops would step aside to allow for the operation. Trump’s move represented a shift in US policy that essentially abandoned the Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been America’s only allies on the ground in Syria. They were longtime US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group. After Turkey’s offensive began, there was sign of panic in the streets of Ras al-Ayn- one of the towns under attack with residential areas close to the borders.
Cars raced to safety, although it was not clear if they were leaving the town or heading away from border areas. Near the town of Qamishli, plumes of smoke were seen rising from an area close to the border after activists reported sounds of explosion nearby. The Kurdish forces have warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” that could potentially unfold because of the Turkish military operation. “Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” Erdogan said in a tweet.
He added that Turkish Armed Forces, together with Turkishbacked Syrian fighters known as the Syrian National Army, had begun what they called “Operation Peace Spring” against Kurdish fighters to eradicate what Erdogan said was “the threat of terror” against Turkey.
Minutes before Erdogan’s announcement, Turkish jets began pounding suspected positions of Syrian Kurdish forces in the town of Ras al Ayn, according to Turkish media and Syrian activists. The sound of explosions could be heard in Turkey. A photograph released to Turkish media showed Erdogan at his desk, reportedly giving orders for the start of the operation. It was difficult to know what was hit in the first hours of the operation. Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Turkish warplanes were targeting “civilian areas” in northern Syria, causing “a huge panic” in the region.
Before Turkey’s attack, Syrian Kurdish forces that are allied with the United States issued a general mobilization call, warning of a “humanitarian catastrophe.” The Turkish operation meant to create a so-called “safe zone” carries potential gains and risk for Turkey by getting even more deeply involved in the Syria war. It also would ignite new fighting in Syria’s 8-year-old war, potentially displacing hundreds of thousands.
Turkey has long threatened to attack the Kurdish fighters whom Ankara considers terrorists allied with a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. Associated Press journalists on the Turkish side of the border overlooking Tal Abyad saw Turkish forces crossing into Syria in military vehicles Wednesday.