The Latest: US Syria outpost vacated after coming under fire
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria in a military operation against Syrian Kurdish fighters there (all times local):
U.S. officials say an American outpost in northeastern Syria has been vacated after coming under fire from Turkish artillery.
The officials say a number of U.S. troops left their post on a hill outside the town of Kobane after it came under fire. The officials say a large base in the town has not been affected by the shelling.
Turkey says it didn’t target the U.S. outpost but was responding to fire from Kurdish groups nearby.
The officials say they expect the evacuation to be temporary.
— Sarah El Deeb and Lolita C. Baldor
The Pentagon says U.S. troops in Syria came under artillery fire from the Turks on Friday, in an area where Turkey knows Americans are present.
Navy Capt. Brook DeWalt, a Pentagon spokesman, says the artillery explosion came within a few hundred meters of the area where U.S. troops were.
He says no troops were injured and U.S. forces have not withdrawn from Kobani.
Turkey says the U.S. was not the target.
DeWalt warns that Turkey must avoid actions that could result in immediate defensive action by the U.S.
This is the first time a coalition base has been in the line of fire since Turkey’s offensive into Syria began Wednesday.
Turkey’s foreign ministry says the Turkish military operation in Syria will proceed “with determination,” despite U.S. warnings of possible sanctions.
In a statement late Friday, ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Turkey had informed the U.S. at all levels of its operation against Syrian Kurdish fighters.
“Turkey is fighting terrorist organizations that are a threat to its national security and this fight will be continued with determination,” Aksoy said.
Responding to the threat of U.S. sanctions, Aksoy said: “No one should doubt that we will respond in kind against each step to the full extent of reciprocity.”
At the White House, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin put Turkey on notice that it could face “powerful sanctions” for its military incursion, and that the U.S. will “shut down the Turkish economy” if Ankara goes too far.
The Syrian Kurdish forces have been Washington’s partner on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State, but are considered terrorists by Ankara due to their links to a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.
U.N. diplomats say Russia and China have blocked the Security Council from adopting a U.S.-drafted statement calling on Turkey to go through diplomatic channels rather than take military action against the Kurds in northeast Syria.
The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations were private, say Moscow and Beijing raised objections to the statement before a deadline Friday afternoon.
The objection by Syrian ally Russia, backed by its close ally China, was not surprising.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters after a closed Security Council meeting Thursday that any council statement needs to take into account other aspects of the Syrian crisis, not just the Turkish operation — and should demand the immediate termination of “the illegal military presence” in the country.
The Security Council’s failure to react to Turkey’s offensive reflects the deep divisions in the U.N.’s most powerful body on the more than eight-year Syrian conflict, which has claimed over 400,000 lives.
— By Edith M. Lederer
Turkey’s defense ministry says it did not open fire at a U.S. observation post in northern Syria.
The statement late Friday says Turkish forces struck a position of the Kurdish-led forces in the town of Kobani after an attack with machine guns and mortars on one of Turkey’s border posts. The statement said the Turkish border posts were targeted from a Syrian Kurdish position about 1,000 meters (0.6 miles) southwest of a U.S. observation post.
A U.S. official said earlier no one was hurt by an explosion near an outpost where U.S. troops are located. U.S. President Donald Trump had pulled troops back from the border this week ahead of the offensive, which began Wednesday.
The Turkish defense ministry says the Turkish army took every precaution to ensure no damage to the U.S. post. It says it stopped striking the Kurdish target after communicating with the U.S.
A U.S. official and a Syria war monitor say there has been an explosion near an outpost where U.S. troops are located in northern Syria amid intense shelling during the Turkish offensive in the area.
The official said a projectile landed near the outpost but it wasn’t clear who fired it and that no American troops were hurt. The explosion marked the first time a coalition base has come in the line of fire since Turkey launched its offensive into Syria on Wednesday.
Syrian Observatory Director Rami Abdurrahman said there was intense Turkish shelling of the Kurdish-held town of Kobani Friday. He said projectiles landed near the coalition base on a hill at the edge of town.
The Kurdish news agency Hawar reported that it was an artillery shell. Both the Observatory and Hawar said U.S. warplanes flew over the base immediately after the incident.
U.S. President Donald Trump pulled troops back from the border this week, saying he wanted American forces out of harm’s way.
— By Lolita C. Baldor and Sarah El Deeb.
Syrian Kurdish officials say Turkish shelling has hit a prison holding Islamic State militants in northeastern Syria.
A video shared by the officials Friday shows a shell landing in the courtyard of what appears to be a prison facility in the city of Qamishli. Seconds later, a handful of men open doors and seem to be trying to leave.
An official with the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces says some of the men in the video are security guards seeking to contain the escape and regain control of the prisoners. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief the media.
It was not possible to verify the attempted escape. But chaos and the ongoing assault have raised fears that the Turkish offensive on Kurdish-held northeastern Syria may undermine the security of over two dozen facilities where 10,000 IS militants are held. There are 2,000 foreigners among them.
The Kurdish officials said Turkish shells fell near another prison facility on Friday and Wednesday in Qamishli, which is only 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the Turkish border.
— By Sarah El Deeb
Turkey’s president says his county “will not take a step back” from its offensive against Syrian Kurdish militants it sees as a national security threat, defying serious warnings from the United States and other Western nations.
Speaking on Friday on the third day of the operation, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he had given ample time to U.S. President Donald Trump to stop supporting and arming the Kurdish fighters, which form the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State group.
Turkey had been threatening an offensive for months, saying it would not allow a de facto state run by the Kurdish forces, which has links to an outlawed group considered a terror organization by Turkey and the United States.
Erdogan said Turkey “will continue this fight” until the Kurdish militants are pushed back 32 kilometers from the Turkish border.
Turkey wants a safe zone to push back the fighters and resettle refugees. Erdogan has for weeks said a joint effort to establish the safe zone with the United States was not satisfactory.
The White House is putting Turkey on notice that it could face new “powerful sanctions” and that the U.S. will “shut down the Turkish economy” if Ankara goes too far in its incursion against the Kurds in northern Syria.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the White House on Friday the U.S. hopes it will not have to use its new, expanded sanctions authority President Donald Trump has authorized.
Trump has been criticized for pulling back U.S. forces from northern Syria before Turkey’s offensive into Syria against Kurdish forces it sees as terrorists. The U.S. backed the Kurdish forces that fought against Islamic State fighters and has guarded thousands in detention centers.
Mnuchin said it’s important that Turkey not allow a “single” IS fighter to escape.
Turkish authorities say eight civilians have been killed in a Turkish border town following a mortar attack from Kurdish-held Syria, bringing the civilian death toll in Turkey since the beginning of its cross-border offensive to 17.
The governor’s office of Mardin Province said in a statement Friday that 35 others were wounded in the border town of Nusaybin.
Nusaybin is across the border from Ras al-Ayn, which is part of northeastern Syria controlled by the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. Turkey launched an offensive against the group, which it says is linked to an outlawed Kurdish insurgency at home, saying it will not allow any territorial area near its border to be run by Kurdish forces.
Dozens of mortar shells from YPG territory have landed in Turkey since Wednesday, when the offensive began. More than 100 people have been wounded.
The United Nations says an estimated 100,000 people have been displaced three days into the Turkish military offensive on northeastern Syria, while markets, schools and clinics have been closed.
In a statement Friday, the U.N. said most of the displaced have stayed with relatives or in host communities, but an increasing number have sought shelter in areas to the south of the military offensive.
The U.N. says the violence has also put a water station servicing al-Hassakeh city out of commission, denying around 400,000 people of a water source. Repair has not been possible because of ongoing fighting and efforts to negotiate a “humanitarian pause” are ongoing, the U.N. said.
Only one national hospital is still operating.
The U.N Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria expressed deep concern about the unfolding events.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry says two more soldiers have been killed in Syria, bringing the death toll to four troops in the three days since it began a military offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters.
The ministry said in a statement Friday the soldiers died following a mortar attack on a Turkish base by Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG.
The base is located near northwestern Afrin province, which was captured from the YPG in Turkey’s 2018 cross-border operation. The official Anadolu news agency said three others were wounded.
The ministry announced earlier that one Turkish soldier was killed Thursday and another Friday in northeastern Syria following clashes with the YPG, which has been linked by Turkey to a Kurdish insurgency at home.
Activists and Syrian Kurdish officials are reporting explosions in the city of Qamishli in a Kurdish area in northeastern Syria outside a popular fast food restaurant.
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosions Friday during intensive shelling by the Turkish military in the city and other areas.
The explosions came amid fears that Islamic State sleeper cells could exploit the Turkish offensive in the area to expand their operations.
The Rojava Information Center, a media collective in the Kurdish-held areas, said one person was killed when two cars laden with explosives detonated, including one with a suicide bomber inside. The Kurdish Hawar News agency also reported one killed.
The attack occurred outside a popular falafel area in Qamishli, the main urban center in Kurdish-held areas. The loud explosions were followed by plumes of smoke and fires.
Rojava Information Center said vehicles of Kurdish fighters with munitions were parked outside the restaurant, which could explain the multiple explosions.
Turkey’s vice president says Turkish troops and their allied Syrian opposition forces have advanced up to 8 kilometers (5 miles) deep into Syrian territory.
Fuat Oktay told TRT World television in an interview aired Friday that the Turkish forces entered northeast Syria from the Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn regions. They advanced 8 kilometers (5 miles) deep into Tal Abyad and 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) into Ras al-Ayn, he said.
Turkish jets have flown 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep, he added.
Oktay repeated that the aim of the Turkish offensive was to prevent “a corridor of terror” along the Turkish-Syrian border and to create a “safe area” for the return of Syrian refugees.
Turkey launched its offensive Oct. 9 to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters that are linked to an outlawed Kurdish militant group in Turkey.
U.S. troops in Syria have conducted a military patrol in northeastern Syria a few kilometers (miles) from the town of Tal Abyad where Turkey is carrying out airstrikes as part of a military operation in Syria.
U.S. troops had pulled out from the border area near Tal Abyad earlier this week ahead of the Turkish invasion.
The patrol Friday was their first visible deployment since the Turkish operation began on Wednesday. U.S. President Donald Trump has said the estimated 1,000 troops in Syria were not in harm’s way.
Video images showed five armored personnel carriers moving from the western countryside of Ein Issa in the direction of Tal Abyad on Friday.
A U.S. official said the patrols never stopped but that they avoid areas that have active combat operations.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to brief reporters, the official said the patrols were not in support of operations by the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish forces against Turkey.
— By Sarah El Deeb.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry says a second soldier has been killed in clashes with Syrian Kurdish fighters during the country’s cross-border operation.
The ministry said in the statement the soldier was “martyred” Friday. That brings the death toll of Turkish soldiers in the offensive to two.
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said four Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters died Thursday in an ambush near Tal Abyad.
Turkey is fighting the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which Turkey considers to be an extension of a Kurdish insurgency at home. The YPG forms the backbone of U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against the Islamic State group.
Turkey says the operation against the group, which it considers terrorists, is necessary for national survival.
Doctors Without Borders say it has shut down one of the hospitals it supports in northeastern Syria, which served more than 200,000 people, because of violence caused by the Turkish offensive on Kurdish-held areas.
The aid organization, also known as MSF, said Friday the hospital in the border town of Tal Abyad is the only public one and served patients farther afield. MSF said the violence forced the vast majority of the town’s residents to leave, including the medical staff and their family.
MSF said its staff have relocated to provide services in other parts of the region.
MSF said aid groups had to suspend or limit their operations in the crowded al-Hol camp, home to more than 70,000 women and children, as well as Ain Eissa camp.
Turkey’s state-run news agency says two more civilians have been killed in a mortar attack on a Turkish border town while another person died of wounds from a similar attack a day earlier.
Anadolu Agency said the latest assault targeted the town of Suruc on Friday, while officials said a child in the town of Ceylanpinar died of his wounds late Thursday. The fatalities increased the death toll of civilians killed in mortar attacks on Turkish border towns to nine.
Turkish officials say the Kurdish militia has fired dozens of mortars into Turkish border towns since the start of Turkey’s military offensive in northeast Syria on Oct. 9. The victims include a 9-month-old boy and four children aged 15 or less.
Turkey’s interior minister says Friday that 121 people have been detained for social media posts critical of Turkey’s military offensive into Kurdish-held northeastern Syria.
Suleyman Soylu said nearly 500 people were investigated for posts characterizing Turkey as an “invading” force and “insulting” the operation —dubbed Peace Spring— which is in its third day.
Turkey is fighting the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which it considers to be an extension of a Kurdish insurgency within the country.
Turkey’s police force has previously said the investigations were under the charge of “terror propaganda.” Similar measures were taken during Turkey’s 2018 cross-border operation in Afrin in northwestern Syria, which was previously controlled by the YPG.
Turkey’s anti-terror laws are broad. Pro-Kurdish lawmakers and journalists have been convicted and imprisoned for terror propaganda.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has rejected warnings that Turkey’s cross-border military offensive in northeast Syrian would lead to a humanitarian crisis and mass displacement.
A ministry statement Friday dismissed such claims as allegations “fabricated in order to discredit Turkey’s counter-terrorism efforts,” adding that only Syrian Kurdish fighters’ hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons, vehicles and equipment were being targeted.
The statement also dismissed warnings from Western nations that Turkey’s assault on the U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters would put the fight against the Islamic State group at risk.
“Those who even refrain from repatriating their own citizens who are foreign terrorist fighters in the ranks of (IS), do not have the right to lecture Turkey on the fight against (IS),” the statement read.
Syrian Kurdish officials say their security agencies have contained an apparent escape attempt at a sprawling camp in northeastern Syria, home to thousands of family members of Islamic State militants.
Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Friday that dozens of camp residents attacked the exit gate of al-Hol camp, home to over 70,000 women and children. He said the situation was brought under control but described it as “critical.”
Video from a closed-circuit camera show security members chasing women covered in black dress, as they flee away, down the main road that runs in the center of the camp.
The already restive camp is dominated by radical wives of IS members, who have tried to recreate the rules of the militant group. The Kurdish-led authorities have already struggled with securing and providing humanitarian aid to the sprawling camp.
An official who deals with the camp said residents there are taking advantage of the Kurdish-led fighters’ focus on fending off a Turkish invasion that began Wednesday, to riot.
Turkey’s official news agency says two more Kurdish-held villages have been captured on the third day of the cross-border offensive.
Anadolu news agency said Friday Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters and the Turkish military captured the villages of Tal Hafer and Asfar Nejjar near Ras al-Ayn.
Thirteen villages around Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn in northeastern Syria were captured in the last two days.
Turkey says it intends to go 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep into northern Syria to push back Kurdish forces and set up a so-called “safe zone.” It is shelling, conducting airstrikes and using ground forces in the operation.
Pakistan’s prime minister has offered rare backing for Turkey’s invasion of Syria, a deadly cross-border incursion that started this week and has already displaced tens of thousands.
Friday’s government statement says Prime Minister Imran Khan called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express “support and solidarity.”
It says Khan told Erdogan that “Pakistan fully understands Turkey’s concerns relating to terrorism” and the “threats and challenges being faced by Turkey” as it has lost 40,000 people in acts of terrorism in recent years.
Khan said he is praying that “Turkey’s efforts for enhanced security, regional stability and peaceful resolution of the Syrian situation are fully successful.”
Erdogan is due to visit Pakistan later this month.
Syrian Kurdish officials say they are evacuating people from a camp for the displaced near the border with Turkey amid Ankara’s invasion in northeastern Syria.
The local Kurdish-led administration says Turkish artillery shells have landed in the vicinity of the Mabrouka camp, west of the town of Ras al-Ayn, prompting the evacuation.
It was not immediately clear if there were any injuries on Friday. The camp is 12 kilometers, or 7 miles, from the border.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say intense clashes are underway between Syrian Kurdish fighters and Turkey-backed groups on the outskirts of Ras al-Ayn.
U.N. and aid officials had no immediate comment amid an increasingly fluid military situation. Mabrouka is home to 7,000 displaced people, many of whom had fled advances of the Islamic State group in eastern Syria years before.
The local Kurdish administration says it’s evacuating the residents to another camp to the south.
European Union Council chief Donald Tusk says Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria is of “grave concern” and urged Ankara to stop its military incursion before it triggers another “humanitarian catastrophe.”
Tusk spoke to reporters after talks with the Cypriot president on Friday.
He says Turkey’s security concerns should be dealt with through diplomatic and political means and that military action only exacerbates civilian suffering, causes further displacement of people and threatens progress that has been achieved so far in battling the Islamic State group.
Tusk said Syrian Kurdish forces have been “crucial” in fighting IS and abandoning them “is not only a bad idea” but raises many “questions both of a strategic and moral nature.”
The EU official strongly criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for suggesting Thursday he would send 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey to Europe unless the 28-member bloc stops calling Turkey’s action an “invasion.”
Tusk said Erdogan’s remarks were “totally out of place,” adding that the EU will never accept “that refugees are weaponized and used to blackmail us.”
Several unidentified people have attacked protesters outside the Turkish Embassy in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv who were rallying against Turkey’s invasion in northeastern Syria.
The attackers came out of the embassy.
Footage posted by activists on Friday morning shows several men, some in suits and ties, come out of the embassy and charge the protesters.
The attackers threw some of the protesters on the ground and tore some of the signs they were holding. The men were later seen going back into the embassy compound.
Police in Kyiv had no immediate comment on the incident.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is worried that the Turkish invasion in Syria could pose a threat of a terrorist revival in the region.
The Russian leader spoke during a visit to Turkmenistan on Friday.
Putin says that he doubts that the Turkish army has enough resources to promptly take control of the IS prison camps, saying that he fears that the captured IS fighters “could just run away.”
He said in comments on Russian news agencies: “I’m not sure that the Turkish army could take this under their control this fast.”
Putin said that Russia is concerned about this threat: “We have to be aware of this and mobilize the resources of our intelligence to undercut this emerging tangible threat.”
NATO’s secretary-general is urging Ankara to exercise restraint in its incursion into northeast Syria though he acknowledges what he says is Turkey’s legitimate security concern about the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Jens Stoltenberg also expressed hos worry that Turkey’s offensive launched earlier this week may “jeopardize” gains made against the Islamic State group in the war in Syria.
Stoltenberg spoke a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday in Istanbul, where he arrived as part of a regional visit that also took him to Rome and Athens.
The NATO chief told reporters that “an imminent concern is that captured Daesh terrorists must not be able to escape,” referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic name.
Cavusoglu said Turkey expected solidarity from its allies and added that “it is not enough to say you understand Turkey’s legitimate concerns, we want to see this solidarity in a clear way.”
A French official says sanctions against Turkey will be “on the table” at next week’s European Union summit, after the country’s incursion into Syria.
Amélie de Montchalin, the French secretary for European affairs, told France Inter radio on Friday that Europe rejected any idea that it was powerless to respond to what she described as a shocking situation against civilians and Europe’s Kurdish allies against the Islamic State group.
European diplomats in Brussels have responded cautiously to the idea of sanctions on Ankara.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that he will send millions of refugees into Europe if there is any backlash against his military cross-border operation in Syria.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry says a Turkish soldier has been killed during action in Syria — Turkey’s first military fatality in Ankara’s cross-border offensive, now into its third day.
The ministry said Friday that three soldiers were wounded. It didn’t provide details.
Separately, the ministry said 49 more “terrorists” were “neutralized” in the incursion, in reference to Syrian Kurdish fighters. It said the total number of Kurdish fighters killed in the incursion now numbers 277.
Those numbers could not be independently verified.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters terrorists linked to a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey and has launched an invasion into northeastern Syria this week.
Ankara says the offensive is necessary for national security.
There have been civilian casualties on both sides: six civilians in Turkey and seven in Syria.