10-09-2019 CBN News Emily Jones, Chris Mitchell
JERUSALEM, Israel – A military assault by Turkey is underway against America’s Kurdish allies in Syria. Turkish ground forces crossed the border into northern Syria Wednesday night after first targeting the Kurds with airstrikes during the day.
Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement on Wednesday that his invasion into northeast Syria has begun. A spokesman for the Kurdish fighters said Turkish warplanes began attacking the region with airstrikes as deep as 31 miles from the border. So far, 16 Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions were targeted.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that at least one Kurdish fighter was killed and six others were wounded. And one war monitor group says at least 7 civilians have been killed by Turkish strikes.Related
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali says the airstrikes have caused “a huge panic among people of the region” and Erdogan is targeting civilians areas.
Warning of a possible “humanitarian catastrophe”, US-allied Kurdish forces in northeast Syria are flocking to the Turkish border to face the onslaught from Ankara.
The Kurdish-led civilian administration, known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, says: “We call upon our people, of all ethnic groups, to move toward areas close to the border with Turkey to carry out acts of resistance during this sensitive historical time.”
It also urged the international community to not stand by as “a humanitarian catastrophe might befall our people” in northeastern Syria.
The White House is condemning the invasion. “The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea. There are no American soldiers in the area,” Trump said. “Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment.”
NEW: White House Statement after Turkey launched Syria offensive after President Trump pulled back troops.
The long-planned offensive was seemingly emboldened by President Trump’s recent surprise decision to remove US troops from the region. That decision shocked much of the world this week leading to a sharp backlash from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.
One of the president’s most vocal supports, Sen. Lindsey Graham, today said the withdrawal could mark the “biggest mistake” of Trump’s presidency. It’s also causing members of the evangelical community to speak out against US forces leaving Syria.
Turkey has been amassing troops on the border for weeks. Erdogan planned the Syria invasion to wipe out the Kurds and establish a “safe zone” where he will relocate 2 million Syrian refugees.
Turkey considers the Kurdish forces who operate inside northeast Syria to be terrorists due to their ties with Kurdish separatists who challenge Erdogan’s power in his country. However, the Syrian Kurds are US allies who fought alongside American soldiers in the years-long fight against ISIS.
The invasion comes after President Donald Trump said on Sunday that US troops will step aside and not intervene to save its Kurdish allies, a major shift in US policy that drew bipartisan backlash.
Trump defended his decision to pull US troops out of northeast Syria on Twitter Wednesday, saying it was time for the US to disengage from the Middle East’s “stupid endless wars.”
“Fighting between various groups that has been going on for hundreds of years,” he said. “USA should never have been in Middle East. Moved our 50 soldiers out. Turkey MUST take over captured ISIS fighters that Europe refused to have returned. The stupid endless wars, for us, are ending!” he said
Fighting between various groups that has been going on for hundreds of years. USA should never have been in Middle East. Moved our 50 soldiers out. Turkey MUST take over captured ISIS fighters that Europe refused to have returned. The stupid endless wars, for us, are ending! https://twitter.com/twittermoments/status/1181053382850514947 …Twitter Moments✔@TwitterMomentsThe White House said Turkey will be “moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria” and will be responsible for all ISIS fighters captured in the area. https://twitter.com/i/events/1181041653827588096 …55.6K7:36 AM – Oct 9, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy27.7K people are talking about this
But Trump also has threatened to “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if the Turkish invasion into Syria went too far.
Several countries have condemned Erdogan’s assault.
Speaking to EU lawmakers Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I call on Turkey as well as on the other actors to act with restraint and to stop operations already, as we are speaking, underway.”
While acknowledging that Turkey has security concerns on its border with Syria, Juncker said the EU will not pay for the creation “of a so-called safe zone” in northeast Syria.
The secretary-general of NATO is also urging Turkey not to “further destabilize the region” through its military action in northern Syria.
Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said Turkey’s invasion could lead to “a further humanitarian catastrophe and further displacement of persons.” He said Turkey could “further destabilize the region and strengthen IS,” referring to the Islamic State.
The Kurds felt the effects of the invasion before it began. ISIS terrorists carried out a “large-scale” attack against Kurdish forces in northern Syria early Wednesday morning while they were preparing for their showdown with Turkey.
The attack targeted SDF positions in Raqqa, which was once the terror group’s de facto capital. Kurdish fighters say the assault involved three suicide attacks against them but did not give details about casualties.
“At the same time of Turkish threats to invade NE Syria, Daesh (ISIS) sleeper cells launched a large-scale attack on SDF security bases inside al-Raqqa,” said SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali.
The Kurds signaled that if ISIS captures part of Raqqa, they will be unable to fight the terror group effectively while also simultaneously fighting Turkey in northeast Syria.
“The Daesh (ISIS) attack is large-scale and is not a hit and run operation. Now who is volunteering to fight them in case they capture parts of the city now that the SDF is busy manning borderline?” Kurdish fighter Bahtiyar Umut said on Twitter Wednesday.
While Trump shows no signs of coming to the defense of US-allies in northeast Syria, evangelist Franklin Graham is urging believers to pray.
“TODAY I ask that you join me in praying for the lives affected by the White House decision to pull US troops out of northern Syria. Both Democrat & Republican leaders are deeply concerned bc this would be, in essence, abandoning our closest allies there—the Kurdish people,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The Kurds are the ones who have been leading the fight against ISIS in Syria. Also pray for the Christians who the Kurds have been protecting. They could be annihilated. Would you pray w/me that Pres. Trump will reconsider? Thousands of lives hang in the balance.”