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Turkey opens ground assault on Syria's Kurds
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Turkey opens ground assault on Syria's Kurds; U.S. Republicans turn on Trump

AKCAKALE, Turkey, October 10 ------ Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies attacked Kurdish militia in northeast Syria on Wednesday, pounding them with air strikes and artillery before starting a cross-border ground operation that could transform an eight-year-old war. The assault began days after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled American troops out of the way, prompting denunciations from senior members of his own Republican Party who say he abandoned the Syrian Kurds, loyal allies of Washington.

“The Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian National Army have launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river as part of the Operation Peace Spring,” the Turkish defense ministry tweeted after nightfall, following a day of pounding the area from the air. Turkish media reported troops entering Syria at four points, two of them close to the Syrian town of Tel Abyad and two close to Ras al Ain further east. Turkey told the United Nations Security Council in a letter seen by Reuters that its military operation would be “proportionate, measured and responsible.” The 15-member body will meet on Thursday to discuss Syria at the request of the five European members, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland.

Thousands of people fled Ras al Ain toward Hasaka province, held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Turkish air strikes killed at least five civilians and three fighters from the SDF and wounded dozens of civilians, the SDF said. Reuters journalists at Akcakale on the Turkish side of the frontier watched as explosions struck Tel Abyad. After dark, the red flare of rockets could be seen fired across the border into Tel Abyad, and flames burned near the town. Explosions from Tel Abyad could be heard eight hours into the bombardment. A witness reached by telephone said civilians were fleeing en masse. SDF fighters repelled a ground attack by Turkish troops in Tel Abyad, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Twitter.

The assault on the Kurds - for years Washington’s main allies on the ground in Syria - is potentially one of the biggest shifts in years in the Syrian war that has drawn in global and regional powers. The Kurds played a leading role in capturing territory from Islamic State, and now hold the largest swathe of Syria outside of the hands of President Bashar al-Assad. Russia, Assad’s strongest foreign ally, urged dialogue between Damascus and Syria’s Kurds. Trump’s decision to pull forces out of the way was denounced by some Kurds as a “stab in the back”.

Source: reuters.com