Turkey has pounded Kurdish SDF Forces in northeast Syria for a second day killing at least dozens of people in a cross-border assault. Tens of thousands of people have also fled.
The offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by Kurdish YPG militia, began days after Trump pulled U.S. troops out of harms way. Following a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. This now opens one of the biggest new fronts in years in an eight-year-old civil war that has drawn in global powers.
“We have one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily; hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions; or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!” Trump said in a Twitter post on Thursday.
“I hope we can mediate,” Trump said when asked about the options by reporters at the White House.
The SDF have been the main allies of U.S. forces on the ground in the battle against Islamic State since 2014. They have been holding thousands of captured IS fighters in prisons and tens of thousands of their relatives in detention.
Islamic State Captives Held by SDF Forces
SDF forces were still in control of all prisons with Islamic State captives, a senior U.S. State Department official said. According to a briefing with reporters on Thursday.
The United States has received a high-level commitment from Turkey on taking responsibility for Islamic State captives. However officials said they have yet to have detailed discussions, the official said.
U.S. lawmakers and media have said Trump essentially gave Erdogan the green light for Turkey’s military to go into northeast Syria but the official disputed that. “We gave them a very clear red light, I’ve been involved in those red lights and I know the President did that on Sunday,” the official said.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry said 228 militants had been killed so far in the offensive. Kurds said they were resisting the assault. At least 23 fighters with the SDF and six fighters with a Turkish-backed Syrian rebel group had been killed, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war.
The SDF said Turkish air strikes and shelling had also killed nine civilians. In an apparent retaliation by Kurdish-led forces, six people including a 9-month-old baby were killed by mortar and rocket fire into Turkish border towns, officials in southeastern Turkey said.
The International Rescue Committee said 64,000 people in Syria have fled since the campaign began. The towns of Ras al-Ain and Darbasiya, some 60 km to the east, have become largely deserted.
The Observatory said Turkish forces had seized two villages near Ras al-Ain and five near the town of Tel Abyad.
According to a senior Turkish security official, the armed forces struck weapons and ammunition depots, gun and sniper positions, tunnels and military bases.