Turkish, Kurdish forces battle for key Syrian border town

US imposes sanctions on Turkey over Syria attack

16 October, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Turkish, Kurdish forces battle for key Syrian border town

The photo shows smoke rising from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, from the Turkish side of the border at Ceylanpinar district in Sanliurfa on Tuesday, on the first week of Turkey's military operation against Kurdish forces. —AFP PHOTO

CEYLANPINAR: Turkey defied growing condemnation from its NATO allies to press ahead with its invasion of northern Syria on Tuesday, shelling suspected Kurdish positions near the border amid reports that Syrian Kurds had retaken a key town, reports AP.

Targeting Turkey’s economy, US President Donald Trump on Monday announced sanctions aimed at restraining the Turks’ assault against Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria — an assault Turkey began after Trump announced he was moving US troops out of the way.

The United States also called on Turkey to stop the offensive and declare a cease-fire, while European Union countries moved to broaden an arms sale embargo against their easternmost ally. Now in its seventh day, Turkey’s offensive has sowed fear and chaos in an already war-weary region — and upended alliances amid Syria’s eight-year conflict.

An Associated Press journalist reported heavy bombardment of targets in the countryside of Ras al-Ayn early on Tuesday, days after Turkey announced that it had captured the border town. Turkish jets also carried out at least one airstrike.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, reported that Syrian Kurdish fighters had retaken the town.

Turkish media reports said Turkey’s military was responding to attempts by the Kurdish fighters to infiltrate Ras al-Ayn.

The renewed battle for the border town follows the deployment of Syria’s army near the Turkish border, after Syrian Kurdish forces — saying they had been abandoned by their U.S. ally — reached a deal with President Bashar Assad’s government to help them fend off Turkey’s invasion.

Assad’s return to the region his troops abandoned in 2012 at the height of the Syrian civil war is a turning point in the conflict, giving yet another major boost to his government and its Russian backers and is like to endanger, if not altogether crush, the brief experiment in self-rule set up by Syria’s Kurds since the conflict began.

Washington said Trump was sending Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser Robert O’Brien to Ankara as soon as possible in an attempt to begin negotiations over a stop to the fighting. Pence said Trump spoke directly to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who promised not to attack the border town of Kobani, which in 2015 witnessed the Islamic State group’s first defeat in a battle by US-backed Kurdish fighters.

A Turkish military official, meanwhile denied reports that Turkey had begun an assault on the Kurdish-held town of Manbij, without giving further detail.

The Manbij region is home to U.S. outposts that were set up in 2017 to patrol the tense frontiers between Turkish-controlled areas and the Kurdish-held side of northern Syria. A U.S. official said troops are still in the town, preparing to leave.