The Dutch Press
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has on Saturday, Oct. 19th threatened to “crush the heads” of Kurdish militia fighters unless they withdraw from north-eastern Syria before a temporary ceasefire brokered by the United States expires.
“If this (deal) can hold, it will. If not, we will resume [the offensive] by the minute the 120 hours come to an end,” Erdogan told supporters in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri. “Otherwise, we will continue to crush the heads of the terrorists,” Erdogan added, making a military-style salute to the cheering crowd.
This was Erdogan’s second warning that he intended to push ahead with the operation in less than two days. The five-day ceasefire is designed to allow Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a “safe zone” sought by Ankara.
Both sides have on Saturday accused each other of violating the ceasefire.
Turkey insists Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) leave a 444-kilometre-long and 32 kilometers deep safe zone along its frontier with Syria. Ankara considers the SDF as “terrorists” linked to insurgents at home.
Over the past week Russian and Syrian regime forces have entered some of the towns within Turkey’s stipulated safe zone.
Erdogan is going to Russia on October 22 to discuss the situation with President Vladimir Putin.
Turkey will “implement its own plans” if talks with Putin fail to reach a solution regarding regime forces, Erdogan added.
“Terrorists” have carried out 14 attacks using heavy weapons in the Syrian border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
The SDF said that the Turkish side had not allowed the agreed opening of a safe corridor to evacuate civilians and wounded who are besieged in Ras al-Ain.
The SDF added in a statement that US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who forged the deal with Turkey, should be responsible for making sure Ankara implements the ceasefire and opens the corridor.
Six people in Ras al-Ain have died of injuries they had sustained earlier due to military violence, as a war monitor reported Saturday.
The deaths happened after Turkish-allied rebels had prevented a medical convoy from entering the town to evacuate about 38 injured civilians and fighters there, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added.
Sporadic shelling by the Turkish-backed fighters continued to hit Ras al-Ain on Saturday, according to the watchdog.
The Kurdish Red Crescent reported that 20 civilians have been killed and 20 others injured in Ras al-Ain since the ceasefire deal was announced.
Turkey launched its offensive on October 9, drawing international criticism.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has on Saturday sharply criticized the deal between Ankara and Washington as “devastating in the long term”.
A German arms export ban for Turkey over the Syria offensive will apply only to weapons and other military goods that could be used in the conflict, Berlin clarified on Saturday.
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