Late in the night of day three of the Turkish operation ‘Spring of Peace’ in northeastern Syria, a US-led coalition base was attacked amid reports of deaths and injuries of foreign soldiers including French servicemen, at the base as ambulances were videotaped transporting victims of the Turkish raid to nearby hospitals, despite the quick denial by the Turkish army that it had targeted the coalition post in Ain Arab- Kurds refer to as Kobani- near the Syrian borders with Turkey. The Turkish attack on the US post appears to have been in retaliation for Kurdish shelling of army posts south of the city of Suruc located right across the Syrian borders opposite Ain Arab. In a statement released by its defense ministry, Ankara maintained that it had taken all measures to ensure that no US base was damaged while it responded to harassing fire coming from an area in the proximity of the US military post in Syria. “There was no firing on the US observation post in the retaliatory fire which ceased as a result of the issue being relayed to us by the US.” American warplanes flew over the base immediately after the incident.
For more embarrassment that add ed fuel to an already raging fire against the Turkish offensive, at least two ISIS terrorists were filmed on board Turkish military vehicles crossing into Syria, waving their famous ‘finger gesture’ nonchalantly talking to the camera (with a strong Libyan accent) and threatening to override Kurdish resistance and reoccupy the whole Syrian northeast. No comment has been issued by Ankara following the release of the videos on social media outlets and some news channels. Later, ISIS issued a statement on its news agency, Aamaq, claiming responsibility for the car bomb attack yesterday in the city of Qamishli which it said killed 3 local policemen in a residential neighborhood of the city.
Ankara confirms death of its first soldier in action
As fierce battles raged in the border zone between Kurdish fighters and the invading Turkish army units, Ankara admitted one of its soldiers was killed in the ongoing operation in Syria and eight Turks died in cross-border shelling by Kurdish militants in response to the Turkish attack. Turkey’s Defence Ministry claimed that some 393 Kurdish militants had been ‘neutralized’ in the course of operation ‘Spring of Peace’ in northeastern Syria. Widespread heavy bombardment and air strikes – the most intensive so far- have marked the third day of the military campaign against Kurdish groups in the region.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Friday that his army will not stop the offensive nor step back before the so-called ‘safe zone’ mission was completed, regardless of mounting appeals and international condemnation of Ankara’s aggression which has so far displaced some 70000 civilians who fled the border areas turned a veracious war zone over the past few days.
“Whatever some may say, we will not stop the step that we have taken,” Erdogan defiantly reiterated in a speech in Istanbul. “Now there are threats coming from left and right, telling us to stop this…We will not step back… We will continue this fight until all the terrorists go south of the 32 km limit, away from our border as Mr. Trump himself had mentioned,” he added.
Chasing the carrot, Erdogan might face the stick of sanctions
With mounting bipartisan pressure on president Trump to take some tough action against Turkey amid conflicting tweets and statements by the US administration from the president down, more calls and announcements regarding ready-to-fire strong US sanctions in Erdogan’s face. New comer who joined the chorus in Washington was US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who said that President Donald Trump had authorized US officials to draft “very significant new sanctions” to target Turkey after the launch of the offensive but added that they were not “activating” the measures at this time. “These are very powerful sanctions. We hope we don’t have to use them, but we can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.
European Council President Donald Tusk has condemned as attempted “blackmail” on Friday a threat by the Turkish president to allow millions of refugees to head to Europe if the bloc criticizes Ankara’s offensive in Syria. “Turkey must understand that our main concern is that their actions may lead to another humanitarian catastrophe, which would be unacceptable…Nor will we ever accept that refugees are weaponized and used to blackmail us. That is why I consider yesterday’s threats made by President Erdogan totally out of place,” he added
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrived in Turkey Friday, and held talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, as many EU official, furious with Turkey, had called on Ankara to stop the offensive. T heir plea was coupled with strongly-worded condemnations and threats of punitive economic as well as political sanctions against Turkey should the current offensive continue. Many EU countries summoned Turkish ambassadors or heads of mission in protest, with some nations putting a freeze on arms exports to Ankara as a result of its military aggression against Syrian Kurds. How deep is Erdogan going to drag Turkey into the Syrian quagmire remains, for the time being at least, an open question.