As tensions mount in Syria, Turkish forces faced fierce resistance from US-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters on the third day. Estimates put the number of those who fled the violence at 100,000. Turkey said it captured more Kurdish-held villages in the border region, while a hospital in a Syrian town was abandoned and a camp of 4,000 displaced residents about 12 kilometres (7 miles) from the frontier was evacuated after artillery shells landed nearby.
US President Donald Trump cleared the way for Turkey's air and ground invasion after he pulled American troops from their positions near the border, drawing swift bipartisan criticism that he was endangering regional stability and putting at risk the lives of Syrian Kurdish allies who brought down the Islamic State group in Syria. US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said Washington is "greatly disappointed" by the offensive, which has badly damaged already frayed relations with NATO-ally Turkey.
In a strong statement of support for the Kurds, Esper insisted that "we are not abandoning our Kurdish partner forces, and U.S. troops remain with them in other parts of Syria." Milley emphasized that US forces are still working with Kurdish forces.
On Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will not stop its operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria. "It doesn't matter what certain people say, we will not stop," Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul. Asked to define what actions would violate Trump’s vague warning, the US official said they would include “ethnic cleansing... indiscriminate artillery, air and other fires directed at civilian populations.”
“That is what we’re looking at right now. We have not seen significant examples of that so far, but we’re very early,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The Turkish operation would ignite new fighting in Syria's 8-year-old war, potentially displacing hundreds of thousands of people, and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights reported that people had begun fleeing the border town of Tal Abyad.
Earlier, Trump had said the US does not endorse Turkey’s military offensive in Syria, describing it as a bad idea, but defended his efforts to pull American forces out of the region.