Day 3: Thousands flee as Turkish troops push into Syria

* All times local (GMT +3)

Thousands of people fled Syria’s northeast border as Turkey pushed forward with a military operation against Kurdish militants.

The Turkish military and allied fighters have killed 277 members of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (PYD) since the ground and air incursion began on Wednesday, Turkey’s defence ministry said on Friday. The dead included 49 “neutralised” overnight, it said.

Turkey has launched the operation saying it will set up a safe zone stretching along its border inside Syria to rid the area of Kurdish fighters that it labels terrorists, and to resettle Syrian refugees. The offensive began after U.S. President Donald Trump gave Erdoğan permission in a phone call on Sunday.

Global leader have expressed concern that the military incursion endangers civilians and threatens regional stability.

The United States has provided weapons and financing to the SDF, of which the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are the main fighting force, in the battle against Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

01:19 - Ethnic cleansing in Syria by Turkey - U.S. Senator

Influential U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, in another series of tweets, accused Turkey of conducting ethnic cleansing by Turkish military operation in N.Syria.

We are witnessing ethnic cleansing in Syria by Turkey, the destruction of a reliable ally in the Kurds, and the reemergence of ISIS.

23:45 - U.S. forces deliberately hit by Turkish shelling in Kobani

The former U.S. Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk said Turkey was informed about U.S. bases in Syria and the incident was not a mistake.

When asked about the possibility of imposing sanctions on Turkey after the incident, Trump said the U.S. administration would examine the situation.

Trump has given the U.S. Treasury Department extensive authority to hit Turkey with sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a press briefing on Friday. Turkish Foreign Ministry said Ankara would respond within the framework of full reciprocity.

22:30 - Explosion near U.S. military outpost in SDF-controlled Kobani - U.S. official

An explosion occurred near a U.S. military outpost in northern Syria on Friday, but no U.S. personnel were injured, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

The official said the source of the explosion near Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-controlled Kobani was unclear but it came as Turkey wages an offensive in northeast Syria.

Newsweek was the first to report the incident. It said that U.S. troops in Kobani had been caught up in Turkey’s shelling.

21:00 - Erdoğan rebukes calls for end to Turkey's Syria offensive

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan late on Friday said several countries asked Turkey to stop its incursion into northeast Syria but the country was determined to continue to the end.

"Threats, asking for an end to the operation, coming from left to right. I told Mr Trump, and I told the others. If you can stop it, stop it. But they did not. We take matters into own hands," Erdoğan said in the Conference of Parliamentary Speakers held in Ankara.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

20:45 - Conservative Christians criticise Trump's approval of Turkey's Syria offensive

Evangelical Christians, devoted supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, have said his decision to give a green light to Turkey's offensive into northeast Syria was the biggest mistake of his presidency, the New York Times reported.

Some of the evangelicals worry that U.S. withdrawal threatens religious minorities, especially Syriacs, one of the oldest Christian communities living in Syria, NYT said.

20:15 - UN says 100,000 displaced amid Turkish offensive into northeast Syria

The United Nations said on Friday an estimated 100,000 people have been displaced three days into the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria.

20:00 - ISIS claims deadly car bomb attack in Syrian Kurdish-held city of Qamishli

The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed the car bomb attacked that killed three civilians in the Syrian Kurdish-controlled city of Qamishli on Friday, AFP reported.

19:30 - Senior Department of Defense officials say Turkey shows no signal of ending Syria offensive

The U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and the chairman of the Joint Staffs General Mark Milley said in a press briefing on Friday they got no indications that Turkey is willing to stop its incursion into northeast Syria.

The United States has not abandoned its Syrian Kurdish allies, and U.S. troops remain with them in other parts of Syria, Milley said when asked about their current relationship with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

19:15 - Syrian Kurds say five ISIS captives escape after Turkish shelling

AFP has reported that five ISIS prisoners escaped after Turkish shelling, citing reports by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The SDF which Turkey aims to clear from a “safe zone” it plans to establish up to 32 km south of its border, has been holding thousands of captives taken during the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).


19:00 - Netherlands to suspend arms exports to Turkey

The Netherlands will suspend new arms export licenses to Turkey, AFP reported on Friday, citing a statement by the Dutch foreign ministry.

The Dutch government has joined Norway and Finland that earlier announced they were suspending all news arms exports to Turkey.

18:45 - Amnesty International warns Turkey about humanitarian crisis

Amnesty International said the military offensive by Turkey in northeast Syria risked creating a devastating humanitarian catastrophe and could further destabilise the region.

“Hostilities will impact and restrict access to humanitarian aid, pushing the civilian population - which has already suffered years of violence and displacement - to the brink," said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

18:30 - Death toll rises to three in car bomb explosion in Syria's Kurdish-held city of Qamishli

Three civilians were killed after a car bomb went off outside a restaurant in the Syrian Kurdish-controlled city of Qamishli on Friday, AFP reported, citing a statement by Kurdish internal security services known as Asayish.

Sputnik reported earlier that five people had been injured in the blast. There is no up-to-date information on the total number of injuries.


18:15 - Many injured in mortar attack on Nusaybin

Multiple people have been injured in a mortar attack on Turkey's southeast border town of Nusaybin, including some in critical condition, BBC Turkish reported, citing Demirören News Agency. The mortar was fired from Qamishli, a town across the border controlled by Kurdish-led militias, BBC Turkish said.


17:20 - U.S. Defense Secretary calls on Turkey to discontinue offensive in northeast Syria

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Thursday strongly encouraged Turkey to discontinue actions in northeastern Syria to allow efforts to find a common ground and deescalate the situation, the Pentagon readout of the meeting said.

“Esper made it clear the U.S. opposes Turkey’s uncoordinated actions as they place at risk the progress made by the Defeat-ISIS Coalition,” it said.

Esper reaffirmed the value of Turkish-U.S. bilateral relations but said the Turkish incursion in Syria risked serous consequences, according to the readout.

“The Secretary also reiterated his strong concern that, despite U.S. force protection measures, Turkey’s actions could harm U.S. personnel in Syria,” it said.

“As part of the call, Secretary Esper strongly encouraged Turkey to discontinue actions in northeastern Syria in order to increase the possibility that the U.S., Turkey and our partners could find a common way to deescalate the situation before it becomes irreparable,” the readout said.

The Turkish Defence Ministry said on Thursday in its readout that Akar had informed Esper about the reasons and current state of the Turkish offensive in Syria.

17:00 - Car bomb explosion in Syrian Kurdish-held city of Qamishli

A car bomb went off outside a restaurant in the Syrian Kurdish-controlled city of Qamishli on Friday, Reuters reported, citing an official from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). One person was killed and five more injured in the blast, Sputnik said.

16:40 - Turkey slams UN official for equating Syria safe zone plans with Srebrenica genocide

Turkey strongly condemns and totally rejects a statement made by Panos Moumtzis, United Nations Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, in which he compares the safe zone the Turkish military is establishing in northeast Syria with the Srebrenica genocide, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a written statement.

“Our reaction to this irresponsible statement, in which the Regional Coordinator oversteps his limits, has already been conveyed to UN officials,” he said.

16:20 - Two Turkish soldiers wounded in mortar blast die in hospital

Two of the five soldiers wounded in a mortar attack on a base in Azzaz, a Turkish-controlled area in Aleppo Province, died in hospital in the southeastern town of Kilis in Şanlıurfa province, Demirören News Agency reported.

16:00 Two killed in Turkish border town Suruç

Two people were killed in the southeastern town of Suruç in Şanlıurfa province by mortar shelling coming from the Syrian town of Kobani, CNN Turk reported.

15:50 Turkey detains 121 people for insulting Operation Peace Spring - interior minister

Turkish authorities have identified 500 people who have insulted Turkey’s military offensive in Syria and have detained 121 of them, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said.

“Our friends have made the necessary identifications of 500 people who have insulted Operation Peace Spring and have detained 121 of them. We are continuing,” Soylu said.

“Those who call that a war are committing treason. Wars are made with states. This is only an act of eliminating terrorists. It is so simple,” he said.

Some Turkish accounts on Twitter have been using #SavaşaHayır (No to War) since the start of the week to criticise Turkish offensive in northern Syria.

15:40 Turkey says concerns about Turkish offensive in Syria are fabricated

Turkish Foreign Ministry said the military was taking all possible measures to prevent civilian casualties during its operation in Syria and concerns voiced by some countries over the humanitarian risks of the offensive were fabricated.

“All necessary measures are taken to prevent any harm to civilians and any damage to civilian infrastructure. Allegations that the operation would lead to a new humanitarian crisis and a mass migration flow are fabricated in order to discredit Turkey’s counter-terrorism efforts,” the ministry said in a statement.

Turkey has no plans whatsoever to modify the demographic structure in the operation area, it said, adding that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has oppressed and intimidated the local population, the Syrian Kurds in particular, and forcibly displaced them.

Countries that accuse Turkey of risking Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity are explicitly or implicitly supporting the separatist agenda of the YPG, it said.

15:25 Italian PM says EU cannot accept Turkish blackmail

The European Union must not accept Turkey’s threats to send millions of Syrian refugees to Europe over the Turkish offensive in Syria, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Friday, adding that Ankara should stop its operation at once.
“The EU cannot accept this blackmail. Turkish efforts to welcome in Syrian refugees cannot then become a tool of blackmail for a military initiative that we cannot accept and which must immediately stop,” Reuters quoted Conte as saying to reporters.

14:55 Turkish Defence Ministry denies any military operation in Qamishli and Derik

Turkish Defence Ministry denied reports by Kurdish militia that accused the Turkish Armed Forces of targeting civilians in the Syria city of Qamishli and in Derik district in the Turkish southeastern province of Mardin. The ministry said on Twitter that the Turkish military had not been carrying out operations in those towns.

14:50 Turkish-backed Syrian fighters announce capturing border village Tel Halef

Turkish-backed Syrian National Army announced on Twitter that it had captured Tel Halef village, at the western entrance of Ras al Ayn.

14:25 Tusk condemns Erdoğan threat to send refugees to Europe

European Council President Donald Tusk chastised Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday for threatening to send millions of Syrian refugees to Europe and condemned the Turkish operation in northern Syria as destabilising for the region, Reuters reported.

Tusk, who spoke after meeting Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, said Turkey’s unilateral military operation was of grave concern and should halt while Turkey’s security concerns should be addressed through political and diplomatic means, Reuters said.

“Turkey must understand that our main concern is that their actions may lead to another humanitarian catastrophe, which would be unacceptable,” Tusk said.

“Nor will we ever accept that refugees are weaponised and used to blackmail us. That is why I consider yesterday’s threats made by President Erdoğan totally out of place,” he said.


13:55 Turkish lira slides after Syria incursion sparks volatility

Turkey’s lira fell against the dollar on Friday, nearing the end of a volatile week in which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sanctioned a military incursion into northern Syria.

The lira dropped by 0.7 percent to 5.88 per dollar, taking losses since Monday to almost 3 percent. The currency, pummelled by a currency crisis in 2018, is down 10 percent this year.

13: 50 Sweden to push for EU weapons embargo against Turkey

The Swedish parliament decided on Friday to push for a European Union weapons embargo against Turkey at an EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday, Reuters reported citing Swedish state radio.

13:15 Kurds plan to move Mabrouka camp between Ras al Ayn and Tel Abyad

Officials of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) said two camps hosting displaced Syrians would be moved to other places due to shelling, BBC Turkish reported citing Reuters.

The Mabrouka camp, 12 km away from the Turkish border between Ras al Ayn and Tel Abyad, will be moved to Hasakah. The camp currently hosts around 7,000 people according to PYD, while UN figures from Sept. 29 show 3,170 people are staying in the camp, BBC Turkish said.

The PYD also plans to move some 13,000 people staying in Ayn Isa camp in Tel Abyad. The camp also hosts 785 people who are family members of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters.


12:50 Putin unsure whether Turkey could control situation if ISIS detainees scatter to other territories

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he was not sure Turkey would be able to take control of the situation if captured fighters of  Islamic State (ISIS) scattered to other territories due to Turkish military operation in northern Syria.

“In the north of Syria, there are areas where Daesh (ISIS) militants are concentrated. They are still guarded by Kurdish military units. Now the Turkish army enters there, the Kurds are dropping these camps. They just can scatter,” Sputnik quoted Putin as saying at a CIS summit in Ashgabat. “I’m not sure if the Turkish army can quickly take control of it,” he said.

12:45 Turkey says it ‘neutralised’ 342 terrorists

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday the Turkish offensive in northern Syria was continuing as planned and some 342 terrorists had been neutralised. The Turkish military uses the term “neutralised” to refer to those killed or captured.

12:35 MSF closes hospital in northeast Syria border town of Tel Abyad

Human Rights Organisation (MSF) closed a hospital in the northeast Syrian border town of Tel Abyad on Thursday after its staff fled bombings, Al Arabiya reported.

12:30 – NATO chief concerned operation could destabilise region

Speaking after meeting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey expected solidarity from its NATO allies in its operation in northeast Syria, where he said Turkey was combating a terror threat on NATO’s southeastern border.

Çavuşoğlu said the Kurdish-led groups Ankara is fighting in Syria had attacked Christians in the area and then blamed it on Turkey in a black propaganda campaign.

“We are determined, and we are targeting terrorists. We will do what is necessary until the end to clear (the area) of these terrorists. But we are equally sensitive on humanitarian issues,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Stoltenberg said he appreciated the security challenges faced by Turkey but expressed concerns that the operation could destabilise the region.

“Turkey is at the forefront of a very volatile region. No other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks. No other NATO ally is more exposed to the instability, violence and turmoil from the Middle East. And no other NATO ally hosts so many refugees as Turkey does, many of them from Syria,” the Stoltenberg said.

“Cavusoglu and I also discussed Turkey’s ongoing operation in northern Syria. I shared with him my serious concerns about the operation and the risk of further destabilising the region, escalating tensions and even more human suffering,” he said. “While Turkey has legitimate security concerns, I expect Turkey to act with restrain.”


12:05 Italy notifies Turkey that it will withdraw its air defence systems from Turkey

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Italy had notified Turkey that it would withdraw its air defence system SAMP/T deployed in the eastern Mediterranean province of Kahramanmaraş by Nov. 15. Spain, the only other European country that has been giving Turkey air defence support, previously announced that it had been planning to withdraw its Patriot batteries in İncirlik airbase in southern province of Adana. The current agreement between Turkey and Spain will end in December.

11: 55 Turkish jets and artillery strike near Ras al Ayn

Turkish jets and artillery struck around Syria’s Ras al Ayn, one of two border towns that have been the focus of Turkey's offensive, a Reuters journalist in Ceylanpınar, on the Turkish side of the border reported. He said a convoy of 20 armoured vehicles carrying Syrian rebels entered Syria from Ceylanpınar on Friday.

11:40 Kurdish forces regain control of one village near Tel Abyad

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) regained control of al Yabisah village near the town of Tel Abyad after the Turkish forces captured it, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday.

11: 35 70,000 people displaced, 10 civilians and 46 SDF fighters killed in the first 30 hours of Turkish offensive - Observatory

Some 70,000 have been displaced and the Syrian towns of Darbasiyah and Ras al Ayn have been almost emptied in the first 30 hours of the Turkish offensive in northern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Some 10 civilians and 46 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been killed, it said. 

11: 20 Kurdish forces launch counter attack near Ras al Ayn, kill 19, Kurdish agency says

Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a counter attack against the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army, killing at least 19 SNA fighters, near the border village of Ras al Ayn, the Kurdish Rojava Network reported, citing local sources.

11:15 – 11 people detained over social media criticism of military operation

Police have detained 11 people in Izmir, western Turkey, over social media posts criticising the military operation launched this week against Kurdish-led groups in northeast Syria, Islamist daily Yeni Şafak said.

10:50 EU to discuss sanctions on Turkey next week - French minister

French Secretary of State for European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin said the European Union would discuss sanctions to be imposed on Turkey in the EU summit scheduled for next week, BBC Turkish reported.

“We cannot wait helplessly when we are facing a shocking situation for civilians, free Syrian forces and the stability of the region,” de Montchalin said in a radio programme when asked about Turkish offensive in northern Syria. “The issue of sanctions will be discussed in the European Council. Plainly speaking, sanctions are on the table,” BBC Turkish quoted the minister as saying.

10:45 Washington says Trump gave red light to Turkey’s Syria incursion

U.S. President Donald Trump made it very clear that he opposed a Turkish military operation in Syria during a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday, State Department officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

“This is something that somebody has invented because we gave them a very clear red light,” one official said. “I have been involved in those red lights and I know the president did that on Sunday.”

10:30 – Turkish casualties, one killed

One Turkish infantryman, Ahmet Topçu, was killed during clashes with the SDF on Thursday, the Turkish Defence Ministry said.

Turkish media reports said five soldiers were wounded in a mortar attack on a base in Azzaz, a Turkish-controlled area in Aleppo Province.

10:15 – SDF casualties reach 277, Turkish Defence Ministry says

Turkey’s Defence Ministry tweeted on Friday that a further 49 SDF fighters had been killed in the operation, bringing the total number killed so far to 277. The SDF has not confirmed these numbers.

In another tweet, the ministry said the operation was proceeding as planned with air strikes continuing overnight.

10:10 – NATO Chief arrives in Istanbul

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrived in Istanbul for what will be crucial talks on Operation Peace Spring, Demirören News Agency reports.

Stoltenberg expressed sympathy for Turkey’s “legitimate security concern” this week, but urged the country “to act with restraint and ensure that any action it may take in northern Syria is proportionate and measured.”

00:18 Turkish state news agency reports Turkey killed 228 Syrian Kurdish fighters so far

Total of 228 terrorists neutralized so far since Turkey started Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, AA reported

See Thursday's live blog.