Moving closer to completing their assault’s initial phase, Turkish forces and their proxies pushed deep into Syria on Sunday. The Kurdish administration in northern Syria said that Turkish bombardment near a camp for the displaced led to nearly 800 relatives of Islamic State group (IS) members fleeing. This came amid Washington’s announcement it was pulling out 1,000 troops from the Northern Syria.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that President Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of up to 1,000 troops from northern Syria. “I can’t give a timeline because it changes hourly. We want to make sure that we do so in a very safe, deliberate manner,” he told the CBS network. “And at this point in time in the last 24 hours we learned that they (Turkey) likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned and to the west.”
Kurdish authorities and foreign powers have warned repeatedly that the hostilities could undermine the fight against the IS and allow jihadists to break out of captivity.
On Friday, the UN had said some 100,000 people had been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of Turkey’s military incursion on Wednesday, after US President Donald Trump ordered American troops to pull back from the border.
But by Sunday it warned of further displacements from rural areas around Tell Abiad and Ras al-Ain with latest estimates “surpassing 130,000 people”.
“Exact numbers cannot yet be ascertained,” the agency said in a updated assessment document.
Most of the displaced had reached relatives or host communities, but growing numbers were arriving at collective shelters, including in schools.
The UN warned of the impact of any further escalation of Turkey’s offensive or of sudden shifts in control over territory.
“Concerns remain grave around the risks facing thousands of vulnerable displaced persons, including women and children in various (displacement) camps,” it said, pointing to Al-Hol, a camp holding relatives of IS suspects that lies outside the area targeted by Turkey.
The UN said that there were many other humanitarian consequences to the military assault, which is being conducted on multiple fronts along the border.