International pressure mounts on Turkey to stop assault on Kurdish forces

Casualties in areas of northern Syria have increased after Turkey’s cross-border offensive on Kurdish-held lands.

At least 11 civilians died and scores of fighters from the Kurdish-led SDF and pro-Turkish factions were killed. The first death reported was of a Turkish soldier was also confirmed by Turkey’s military.

However, activists from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 29 deaths among the SDF and 17 from among pro-Turkish Syrian rebels, the Free Syrian Army, as more than 10 villages fell into Turkish hands.

Thousands of people who fled their homes in the area called on the international community halt the attacks.

Turkey moved into northern Syria on Wednesday after the U.S. President pulled U.S. troops out of the conflict zone.

Critics say the US withdrawal gave Turkey the green light to begin its cross-border assault. Turkey has defended the offensive as a bid to create a “safe zone” free of Kurdish militias which could also house Syrian refugees.

Turkey regards the Kurdish forces as “terrorists” who support an anti-Turkish insurgency.

The SDF have been key allies of the United States in the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group.

One major concern for the international community is the fate of thousands of suspected IS prisoners, including many foreign nationals, being guarded by Kurdish-led forces in the region.

Turkey wants to create a “safe zone” running for 480km (300 miles) along the Syrian side of the border but says it will not advance deeper than a planned 32 km limit.

Monitoring groups expect more than 450,000 new refugees if Turkey did not stop advancing. There are already tens of thousands of civilians in camps currently.

UK, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland asked Turkey to halt its military offensive.  UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his “deep concern” at the rising violence.

The Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives announced plans to introduce sanctions bill against Turkey, and President Donald Trump has offered to mediate.

Source : Various