Ankara-Backed Militants Start Operation to Capture Damascus-Controled Manbij

TEHRAN (FNA)- Ankara-backed militants have launched an operation to capture Manbij, as Syrian government forces have entered the strategic city after Kurds announced that an agreement has been reached with Damascus for the Syrian Army troops to be deployed along the border with Turkey.

Youssef Hammoud, the spokesman for the Turkey-backed militants, stated that militants would continue to advance toward Manbij, after Syrian government forces had entered the strategic city.

Following an announcement that Damascus troops would head North toward the Syria-Turkey border, Ankara sent reinforcements to Northern Syria as its military operation continues.

The Turkish Defense Ministry announced that as many as 595 Kurdish fighters have been killed as a result of Turkey’s offensive in Northern Syria.

While the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were attempting to clear the main towns of Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad from Ankara-backed militias, Turkish airstrikes and artillery shelling intensified its bombardment on the towns, local sources told Kurdistan 24.

The Turkish assault has so far killed at least 78 civilians and injured 300, according to the hospital in Tal Tamir town.

The governor’s office in the Turkish province of Mardin also announced that two people were killed and 12 were wounded on Tuesday after the Kurdish militias launched a mortar attack on Turkey’s border town of Kiziltepe.

Last week, eight people were killed and 35 wounded after a similar attack by Kurdish militants on the border town of Nusaybin in Mardin. Separately, a mortar attack last week on the border town of Suruc, in the Sanliurfa province, killed three others.

On Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said more than 700 mortar attacks had hit Turkey since the launch of the incursion, adding that there were “18 martyrs and nearly 200 wounded”, but did not say whether those figures referred to soldiers or civilians.

The United Nations announced up to 160,000 people had been displaced amid Turkey’s military push against Kurdish militias in neighboring Syria.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that the Turkish aggression on Syrian territories has forced nearly 160,000 civilians to leave home, but Kurds claimed that more than 275,000 people have been displaced because of Ankara’s offensive.

Guterres also appealed for an “immediate de-escalation” in the Turkish offensive.

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric noted that Guterres also raised “serious concern” about the consequences of the possible unintended release of suspected ISIL (also known as ISIS or Daesh) fighters amid the ongoing operation.

Aid agencies had earlier warned that nearly a half-million people are deemed to be at risk from ongoing fighting in the border region.

International Aid Agency Mercy Corps also announced it was suspending operations and evacuating foreign staff from Northeast Syria, as the Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants have continued their military operation on Syrian territory for the 7th consecutive day.

“This is our nightmare scenario. There are tens of thousands of people on the run and we have no way of getting to them. We’ve had to pull our international staff out of Northeast Syria,” Made Ferguson, Mercy Corps’ deputy country director for Syria said in a statement.

“We just cannot effectively operate with the heavy shelling, roads closing, and the various and constantly changing armed actors in the areas where we are working,” Ferguson added.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement ongoing fighting amid Turkey’s offensive could result in the displacement of up to 300,000 people in the Syrian provinces of Hassaka and Raqqa.

Water shortages are also a major concern, ICRC added, with several dams and water stations deemed to be at risk.

“The ongoing hostilities are having a devastating impact on the civilian population,” the organisation stressed.

Later, the Kurds claimed that the week-old Turkish operation has forced all international humanitarian organizations to leave the area.

Meanwhile, European Union countries committed to suspending arms exports to Turkey, but stopped short of the EU-wide arms embargo that France and Germany had sought.

The European Council, the grouping of the EU’s 28 governments, said in a statement that Turkey’s military action had “dramatic consequences” and noted that some EU countries had halted arms exports.

“Member states commit to strong national positions regarding their arms export policy to Turkey,” EU foreign ministers added after a meeting in Luxembourg.

In response, Turkey accused the EU of protecting “terrorists” by criticising its military offensive against Kurdish fighters.

“It is unacceptable for the EU to display an approach that protects terror elements,” the Turkish foreign ministry announced in a statement, shortly after the bloc condemned Turkey’s operation.

Meantime, Czech Republic joined Germany, France, Netherlands and Norway to cease all weapons sales to Turkey which is currently conducting a military operation against Kurdish militias in Syria that has triggered widespread condemnation.

Italia also announced that Rome will ban arms export to Turkey, stressing that “the solution to the Syria crisis must be diplomatic not military”.

Later, the UK said London is to halt new arms export licences to Ankara as a result of concern over its military operation in Northeast Syria.

“No further export licences to Turkey for items that might be used in military operations in Syria will be granted while we conduct that review,” Foreign Minister Dominic Raab stated.

China has also joined several other countries across Europe and the Middle East sounding the alarm over the impact on the Syrian peace process. Beijing urged Ankara on Tuesday to stop military action in Syria and “come back to the right track”.

Erdogan reiterated that Turkey will not back down from its offensive against Kurdish fighters in Northeastern Syria “no matter what anyone says”, adding that the battle would continue until “ultimate victory” is achieved.

“We are determined to continue the operation until the end, without paying attention to threats. We will absolutely finish the job we started. Our battle will continue until ultimate victory is achieved,” Erdogan said during a speech in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.

The offensive by the Turkish Army and affiliated Syrian militants kicked off on Wednesday with massive air and artillery strikes, followed by a land invasion dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring’.