Turkey’s military operation in Syria: All the latest updates

Five-day truce in northeast Syria largely holding despite accusations of violations from Kurdish forces and Turkey.

Turkish soldiers stand atop of a tank as army vehicles are moving on a road near the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar
Turkish soldiers stand atop of a tank as army vehicles move on a road near the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, October 18, 2019 [Stoyan Nenov/Reuters]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the offensive in northeast Syria will resume against Kurdish forces if they do not abide by the terms of a five-day ceasefire.

Scattered fighting flared in northern Syria on Friday despite the United States-brokered deal with Ankara, which requires Kurdish fighters to vacate a swathe of territory in Syria along the Turkish border.

The ceasefire agreement was reached in negotiations between Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.


Turkey launched its cross-border offensive on October 9, aiming to clear the region of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara considers “terrorists” linked to Kurdish separatists on its soil.

The campaign, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, would also allow the repatriation of Syrian refugees, according to Turkish officials.

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, October 19

Thousands protest Turkey offensive in German city

Several thousand people protested against Turkey’s military offensive into northeastern Syria in the German city of Cologne.

According to police, around 5,000 people started off in two marches toward the city centre, where a big rally was planned for the afternoon.

The marchers were carrying flags of the Kurdish YPG group and signposts denouncing cooperation with Turkey’s ruling AKP party.

Assad discusses Syria tensions with Russian officials 

A delegation of Russian officials discussed with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus the need to de-escalate the situation in northeast Syria, Russia’s foreign ministry said.

“The discussion focused on the current situation ‘on the ground’ in Syria in the light of rising tensions in the north-east of the country,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The need to take measures to de-escalate the situation and ensure security in these areas was noted.”

Syrian rebels trying to enforce SDF to leave Ras al-Ain

A representative of the Syrian rebel forces, who are allied with Turkey, has told Al Jazeera they are trying to convince the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to give up their weapons and leave the border town of Ras al-Ain in northeast Syria.

“There are talks going on between them [rebels] and the SDF,” said Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Akcakale at the Turkey-Syria border.

“They [rebels] are also saying that they are in fact, allowing civilians out. It’s a worrying situation there and  complicated, if indeed there are ongoing clashes.”

A Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighter takes a picture with with children on his mobile phone in the border town of Tal Abyad
A Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighter takes a picture with children on his mobile phone in the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria [Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]
A woman holds a child as she walks along a street in the border town of Tal Abyad
A woman holds a child as she walks along a street in the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria [Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]

Kurdish forces say Turkey violating Syria truce

Syrian Kurdish forces said Turkey is failing to abide by the terms of a US-brokered ceasefire, refusing to lift a siege it imposed on a key border town in northeastern Syria 30 hours after the truce went into effect.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said in a statement that the Turkish side had not allowed the agreed opening of a safe corridor to evacuate civilians and wounded who are besieged in the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain.

They called on Pence, who negotiated the deal with Erdogan, to take responsibility for enforcing the five-day ceasefire.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Turkey-backed Syrian fighters have prevented a medical convoy from reaching Ras al-Ain since Friday.

Turkey accuses Kurdish forces of violating ceasefire

Turkey accused Kurdish forces of violating an agreement to suspend its Syria offensive if they withdraw from a so-called “safe zone” along the border.

“The Turkish armed forces fully abides by the agreement” reached on Thursday with the United States, the defence ministry said in a statement. “Despite this, terrorists … carried out a total of 14 attacks in the last 36 hours.”

Erdogan warns Kurds as Syria ceasefire gets off to rocky start

Republican leader slams Trump’s Syria withdrawal

US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell attacked President Donald Trump‘s decision to pull troops from Syria as a “strategic nightmare”. 

“Withdrawing US forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake,” McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, wrote in the Washington Post.

“It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances.”

Friday, October 18

US ground troops will not enforce Syria safe-zone, says Esper 

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said no US troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northeast Syria and that Washington “is continuing our deliberate withdrawal from northeastern Syria”.

Speaking to reporters, Esper said he spoke with Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and reminded him of Ankara’s responsibility for maintaining the security of ISIL prisoners in areas affected by Turkey’s offensive. 

Erdogan ‘satisfied’ with steps to strengthen US-Turkey ties 

In a Twitter post, the Turkish leader said he spoke with US President Trump on the phone and expressed “satisfaction with the mutual steps we have taken to strengthen Turkish-American relations”.

Trump: Erdogan, Kurds want ceasefire to work

Following a phone call with Erdogan, Trump said the Turkish leader and Kurdish fighters want the ceasefire in northeast Syria to work. 

Trump also announced European countries were willing to take back suspected ISIL fighters “that came from their nations” and currently being held in prisons in northeast Syria. 

Erdogan: US should ensure YPG withdrawal from north Syria

Erdogan said it was US’s responsibility to ensure YPG fighters withdraw from northeast Syria within the ceasefire period, adding that Turkey aims to establish 12 observation posts in its planned “safe zone”. 

The region would be 32 kilometres (20 miles) deep and 443km (275 miles) wide, stretching from the city of Manbij to the Iraqi border. “The safe zone we have expressed is not just between Ain al-Arab (Kobane) and Tal Abyad,” he said.

Speaking to the foreign press, Erdogan said two million refugees can be settled in the “safe zone” if it also includes the cities of Deir Az Zor and Raqqa. 

He added that Turkey will respond if the Syrian government, which has moved into some areas that Kurdish fighters have already left, “makes a mistake”.

Read previous updates here

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies