Syrian Rebels siege border town’s centre

Turkish forces stepped up their bombardment of Ras al-Ain after US troops came under artillery fire from Turkish positions.

Istanbul: Turkish-backed Syrian rebels seized control of the centre of the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain town on Saturday, a senior Turkish security official said, as Turkey’s offensive against a Kurdish militia in the region entered its fourth day.

“The (Syrian rebel) national army took control of the town centre this morning. Inspections are being conducted in residential areas,” the official told Reuters.

Turkish forces had overnight stepped up their bombardment of Ras al-Ain in their incursion, after US troops in the region came under artillery fire from Turkish positions.

The United States has ramped up its efforts to persuade Ankara to halt the offensive against the US-backed Kurdish YPG forces, saying Ankara was causing “great harm” to ties and could face sanctions.

Turkey launched its incursion after US President Trump spoke with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and withdrew US troops who had been fighting alongside Kurdish forces.

There has been fierce international criticism of the assault and concern about its humanitarian consequences. The Syrian Kurdish-led administration said nearly 200,000 people have been displaced as a result of the offensive.

Erdogan dismissed the mounting criticism of the operation and said on Friday evening that Turkey “will not stop it, no matter what anyone says”.

Thick plumes of smoke rose around Ras al Ain, one of two Syrian border towns targeted in the offensive, on Saturday as Turkish artillery pounded the area.

Intense gunfire also resounded from within Ras al Ain while warplanes could be heard flying overhead. It was quieter at Tel Abyad, the operation’s other main target some 120 km (75 miles) to the west, with only occasional shelling heard in the area, a reporter said.

Turkey won’t stop Syria op despite threats

Istanbul: Turkey will not stop its operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, dismissing what he called “threats” from other countries.

“Whatever some may say, we will not stop this step that we have taken,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul. “Now there are threats coming from left and right, telling us to stop this,” he added.

“We will not step back… We will continue this fight until all the terrorists go south of the 32-kilometre limit from our border that Mr Trump himself mentioned.”

Turkey launched an operation on Wednesday against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria that it considers a “terrorist” off-shoot of Kurdish insurgents in its own territory.

Pakistan supports Turkey’s Syria offensive

Islamabad: Pakistan has offered rare backing to Turkey in its offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expected to visit Islamabad later this month.

Turkey on Wednesday launched an offensive in northern Syria targeting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, a key US ally in the five-year battle to crush the Islamic State group. The SDF lost 11,000 fighters in the US-led campaign.

It is Turkey’s third such operation since the start of the war in Syria and has been met with international condemnation.

PM Imran Khan, however, called Erdogan on Friday to “convey Pakistan’s support and solidarity,” his office said.