Associated Press

Turkish forces say they've captured key Syrian border town

Associated Press logoAssociated Press 13/10/2019 1:25:00 MEHMET GUZEL

Relatives of Halil Yagmur, 64, who was killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, mourn over his grave at the cemetery in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkish forces entered Saturday the center of the Syrian border town of Ras Al-Ayn under heavy bombardment, the Turkish military and a Syrian war monitor said, as Turkey's offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters pressed into its fourth day with little sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) © Provided by The Associated PressRelatives of Halil Yagmur, 64, who was killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, mourn over his grave at the cemetery in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkish forces entered Saturday the center of the Syrian border town of Ras Al-Ayn under heavy bombardment, the Turkish military and a Syrian war monitor said, as Turkey's offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters pressed into its fourth day with little sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) Turkey's military said it captured a key Syrian border town under heavy bombardment Saturday in its most significant gain since an offensive against Kurdish fighters began four days ago, with no sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism.

Turkish troops entered central Ras al-Ayn, according to Turkey's Defense Ministry and a war monitor group. The ministry tweeted: "Ras al-Ayn's residential center has been taken under control through the successful operations in the east of Euphrates" River. It marked the biggest gain made by Turkey since the invasion began Wednesday.

Syrians bury Syrian Democratic Forces fighters killed fighting Turkish advance in the Syrian town of Qamishli, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, Turkey's military says it has captured a key Syrian border town Ras al-Ayn under heavy bombardment in its most significant gain as its offensive against Kurdish fighters presses into its fourth day. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad) © Provided by The Associated PressSyrians bury Syrian Democratic Forces fighters killed fighting Turkish advance in the Syrian town of Qamishli, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, Turkey's military says it has captured a key Syrian border town Ras al-Ayn under heavy bombardment in its most significant gain as its offensive against Kurdish fighters presses into its fourth day. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad)

The continued push by Turkey into Syria comes days after President Donald Trump cleared the way for Turkey's air and ground offensive, pulling back U.S. forces and saying he wanted to stop getting involved with "endless wars." Trump's decision drew swift bipartisan criticism that he was endangering regional stability and risking the lives of Syrian Kurdish allies who brought down the Islamic State group in Syria. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces was the main U.S. ally in the fight and lost 11,000 fighters in the nearly five-year battle against IS.

A local resident uses his mobile to take photos of the damages on a house, caused by a mortar fired from inside Syria, on the Turkish town of Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.Nobody got hurt by the attack.The owners of the house weren't home at the time of the attack. Turkey says its military offensive has taken central Ras al-Ayn, a key border town in northeastern Syria, and its most significant gain since its cross-border operation began against Syrian Kurdish fighters began. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) © Provided by The Associated PressA local resident uses his mobile to take photos of the damages on a house, caused by a mortar fired from inside Syria, on the Turkish town of Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.Nobody got hurt by the attack.The owners of the house weren't home at the time of the attack. Turkey says its military offensive has taken central Ras al-Ayn, a key border town in northeastern Syria, and its most significant gain since its cross-border operation began against Syrian Kurdish fighters began. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkish troops and allied Syrian opposition fighters have made gains recently capturing several northern villages in fighting and bombardment that left dozens of people killed or wounded. The invasion also has forced nearly 100,000 people to flee their homes amid concerns that IS might take advantage of the chaos and try to rise again after its defeat in Syria earlier this year.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, called on the United States to carry out its "moral responsibilities" and close northern Syrian airspace to Turkish warplanes.

"We don't want them to send their soldiers to the front lines and put their lives in danger," the statement said. "What we want is for them" to close the airspace for Turkish warplanes.

During a meeting Saturday in Cairo, the 22-member Arab League condemned what it described as "Turkey's aggression against Syria" and warned that Ankara will be responsible for the spread of terrorism following its invasion. The league said Arab states might take some measures against Ankara. It called on the U.N. Security Council to force Turkey to stop the offensive.

Local residents applaud as a convoy of Turkish forces trucks transporting tanks is driven in Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey says its military offensive has taken central Ras al-Ayn, a key border town in northeastern Syria, and its most significant gain since its cross-border operation began against Syrian Kurdish fighters began. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) © Provided by The Associated PressLocal residents applaud as a convoy of Turkish forces trucks transporting tanks is driven in Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey says its military offensive has taken central Ras al-Ayn, a key border town in northeastern Syria, and its most significant gain since its cross-border operation began against Syrian Kurdish fighters began. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

The Turkish offensive was widely criticized by Syria and some Western countries, which called on Turkey to cease its military operations.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced Saturday that Germany would curtail its arms exports to Turkey. Maas told the weekly Bild am Sonntag that "against the background of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the government will not issue any new permissions for any weapons that can be used by Turkey in Syria."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey won't stop until the Syrian Kurdish forces withdraw below a 32 kilometer (20 mile) deep line from the border.

Relatives mourn during a funeral of a Syrian Democratic Forces fighter in the Syrian town of Qamishli, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, Turkey's military says it has captured a key Syrian border town Ras al-Ayn under heavy bombardment in its most significant gain as its offensive against Kurdish fighters presses into its fourth day. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad) © Provided by The Associated PressRelatives mourn during a funeral of a Syrian Democratic Forces fighter in the Syrian town of Qamishli, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, Turkey's military says it has captured a key Syrian border town Ras al-Ayn under heavy bombardment in its most significant gain as its offensive against Kurdish fighters presses into its fourth day. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad)

During the capture of Ras al-Ayn's residential center, an Associated Press journalist across the border heard sporadic clashes as Turkish howitzers struck the town and Turkish jets screeched overhead. Syrian Kurdish forces appeared to be holding out in some areas of the town.

The SDF released two videos said to be from inside Ras al-Ayn, showing fighters saying that it was Saturday and they were still there.

The fighting was ongoing as the Kurdish fighters sought to reverse the Turkish advance into the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A local resident looks out from a hole on a house that was damaged by a mortar fire from inside Syria, on the Turkish town of Akcakale, southeaster, Turkey, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.Nobody got hurt by the attack.The owners of the house weren't home at the time of the attack. Turkey's military said it captured a key Syrian border town under heavy bombardment Saturday as its offensive against Kurdish fighters pressed into its fourth day with little sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) © Provided by The Associated PressA local resident looks out from a hole on a house that was damaged by a mortar fire from inside Syria, on the Turkish town of Akcakale, southeaster, Turkey, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.Nobody got hurt by the attack.The owners of the house weren't home at the time of the attack. Turkey's military said it captured a key Syrian border town under heavy bombardment Saturday as its offensive against Kurdish fighters pressed into its fourth day with little sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Ras al-Ayn is one of the biggest towns along the border and is in the middle of the area where Turkey plans to set up its safe zone. The ethnically and religiously mixed town with a population of Arabs, Kurds, Armenians and Syriac Christians had been under the control of Kurdish fighters since 2013. IS members tried to enter Ras al-Ayn following their rise in Syria and Iraq in 2014 but failed.

Local residents look on as a convoy of Turkish forces' trucks transporting tanks is driven on a road towards the border with Syria in Sanliurfa province, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey's military said it captured a key Syrian border town under heavy bombardment Saturday as its offensive against Kurdish fighters pressed into its fourth day with little sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) © Provided by The Associated PressLocal residents look on as a convoy of Turkish forces' trucks transporting tanks is driven on a road towards the border with Syria in Sanliurfa province, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey's military said it captured a key Syrian border town under heavy bombardment Saturday as its offensive against Kurdish fighters pressed into its fourth day with little sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Most of the town's residents have fled in recent days for fear of the invasion.

Earlier Saturday, Turkish troops moved to seize control of key highways in northeastern Syria, the Turkish military and the Syrian Observatory said. Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said that Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces had taken control of the M-4 highway that connects the towns of Manbij and Qamishli. The SDF said that Turkish troops and their Syrian allies reached the highway briefly before being pushed back again.

Mourners carry the coffin of Halil Yagmur, 64, killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, during a funeral procession in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey's military said it captured a key Syrian border town under heavy bombardment Saturday as its offensive against Kurdish fighters pressed into its fourth day with little sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) © Provided by The Associated PressMourners carry the coffin of Halil Yagmur, 64, killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, during a funeral procession in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey's military said it captured a key Syrian border town under heavy bombardment Saturday as its offensive against Kurdish fighters pressed into its fourth day with little sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Kurdish news agencies including Hawar and Rudaw said that Hevreen Khalaf, secretary general of the Future Syria Party, was killed Saturday as she was driving on the M-4 highway. Rudaw's correspondent blamed Turkish forces for targeting Khalaf's car, and Hawar blamed "Turkey's mercenaries."

The Observatory said six people, including Khalaf, were killed by Turkey-backed opposition fighters on the road that they briefly cut before withdrawing.

A Turkish soldier watches as mourners carry the coffins of Halil Yagmur, 64 and Muslum Guzel, killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, during a funeral procession in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey's military said it captured a key Syrian border town under heavy bombardment Saturday as its offensive against Kurdish fighters pressed into its fourth day with little sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) © Provided by The Associated PressA Turkish soldier watches as mourners carry the coffins of Halil Yagmur, 64 and Muslum Guzel, killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, during a funeral procession in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey's military said it captured a key Syrian border town under heavy bombardment Saturday as its offensive against Kurdish fighters pressed into its fourth day with little sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The Turkish military aims to clear Syrian border towns of Kurdish fighters' presence, saying they are a national security threat. Since Wednesday, Turkish troops and Syrian opposition fighters backed by Ankara have been advancing under the cover of airstrikes and artillery shelling.

Turkey has said it aims to push back the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, which it considers terrorists for links to a decadeslong Kurdish insurgency within its own borders. The YPG is a main component of the SDF.

A mourner cries on the coffin of Halil Yagmur, 64, killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, during a funeral procession in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) © Provided by The Associated PressA mourner cries on the coffin of Halil Yagmur, 64, killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, during a funeral procession in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The U.N. estimated the number of displaced at 100,000 since Wednesday, saying that markets, schools and clinics also were closed. Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis, with nearly a half-million people at risk in northeastern Syria.

A civilian wounded in a mortar strike from Syria on Friday in the Turkish border town of Suruc died, Anadolu news agency reported Saturday, bringing the civilian death toll to 18 in Turkey. Turkey's interior minister said hundreds of mortars, fired from Syria, have landed in Turkish border towns.

Relatives of Halil Yagmur, 64, who was killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, mourn over his grave at the cemetery in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey says its military offensive has taken central Ras al-Ayn, a key border town in northeastern Syria, and its most significant gain since its cross-border operation began against Syrian Kurdish fighters began. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) © Provided by The Associated PressRelatives of Halil Yagmur, 64, who was killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, mourn over his grave at the cemetery in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey says its military offensive has taken central Ras al-Ayn, a key border town in northeastern Syria, and its most significant gain since its cross-border operation began against Syrian Kurdish fighters began. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The Observatory that keeps track of Syria's civil war said 74 Kurdish-led SDF fighters have been killed since Wednesday as well as 49 Syrian opposition fighters backed by Turkey. That's in addition to 38 civilians on the Syrian side. It added that Turkish troops now control 23 villages in northeastern Syria.

Turkey's defense ministry said it "neutralized" 459 Syrian Kurdish fighters. The number could not be independently verified. Four Turkish soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the offensive, including two who were killed in Syria's northwest.

Pictures: Tensions in Syria

France's leader warned Trump in a phone call that Turkey's military action in northern Syria could lead to a resurgence of IS activity. President Emmanuel Macron "reiterated the need to make the Turkish offensive stop immediately," his office said in a statement Saturday.

Mourners carry the coffin of Halil Yagmur, 64 killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, during a funeral procession in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey says its military offensive has taken central Ras al-Ayn, a key border town in northeastern Syria, and its most significant gain since its cross-border operation began against Syrian Kurdish fighters began. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) © Provided by The Associated PressMourners carry the coffin of Halil Yagmur, 64 killed Friday during mortar shelling from Syria, during a funeral procession in the town of Suruc, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Turkey says its military offensive has taken central Ras al-Ayn, a key border town in northeastern Syria, and its most significant gain since its cross-border operation began against Syrian Kurdish fighters began. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

A Kurdish police force in northern Syria said a car bomb exploded early Saturday outside a prison where IS members are being held in the northeastern city of Hassakeh. It was not immediately clear if there were any serious injuries or deaths.

Kurdish fighters are holding about 10,000 IS fighters, including some 2,000 foreigners.

In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Suruc, southeastern Turkey, a U.S forces outpost is seen on a hilltop outside Ayn Al Arab or Kobani, Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. 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 Kobani after it came under fire. Turkey says it didn't target the U.S. outpost but was responding to fire from Kurdish groups nearby. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Suruc, southeastern Turkey, a U.S forces outpost is seen on a hilltop outside Ayn Al Arab or Kobani, Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. 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 Kobani after it came under fire. Turkey says it didn't target the U.S. outpost but was responding to fire from Kurdish groups nearby. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
© Provided by The Associated Press

13. lokakuuta 2019 4:25:00 Categories: Associated Press Logotyp för TT Nyhetsbyrån

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