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Human cost of Trump’s retreat: LARISA BROWN on the raw horror in Turkey-Syria clash

Over the sound of machine gun fire, a Turkish mother shouts: ‘Inshallah [God willing], they will suffer the same pain we have.’

The town of Akcakale on the border with Syria has been reduced to a ghost town thanks to the war around her.

Wearing a blue headscarf draped over her sequin dress, Naime, 47, has already sent her ten children away for their safety.

Casualties continued to soar on both sides of the Turkey-Syria border yesterday. Pictured: Twisted wreckage smoulders after a car bomb in the Kurdish city of Qamishli

Now she is forced to follow them and abandon their home. Her anger is directed at Kurdish-controlled northern Syria, the lands her country has invaded. 

Naime and her husband, Ahmet Ayhan, a shopkeeper, are two of the last to leave their neighbourhood, yards from the front line.

A bombed-out school, blood-splattered pavements and the drumbeat of artillery has forced out thousands who usually inhabit Akcakale. The roads are eerily quiet, playgrounds empty and the shops shuttered.

Mr Ayhan, 52, said he blamed the US for the fighting which began when Donald Trump withdrew his troops from the border last week, opening up a pathway through which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered his soldiers.

Casualties continued to soar on both sides of the border yesterday, day three of Erdogan’s Operation Peace Spring to clear the area of Syrian-Kurd ‘terrorists’.

Mr Ayhan said: ‘I am leaving the place, we are evacuating because of the PKK [Kurdish] terrorists on the other side of the border.

His wife butted in: ‘They are not human across the border.’

Turkey has said it intends to go 19 miles into Syria to push back Kurdish forces. Pictured: Mourners at funeral of a boy killed in Akcakale, Turkey

Turkey has said it intends to go 19 miles into Syria to push back Kurdish forces. Pictured: Mourners at funeral of a boy killed in Akcakale, Turkey

She said she was angry that Turkey had been forced to deal with an influx of Syrian refugees from the war-ravaged country, adding: ‘I’m not angry with the Syrian people, as we opened the gates to them. I’m angry that the Europeans don’t accept the Syrian people.’

That anger was palpable among those gathered for the funerals of a nine-month-old baby, Mohammed Omar, and a civil servant, Cihan Gunes, after Friday prayers.

The baby’s coffin, wrapped in a Turkish flag, was held high by locals in a ceremony attended by hundreds at the Sanayi camii mosque. 

‘My son is all I have, I have no one else. I’d been waiting for a boy for 14 years,’ his devastated Syrian mother, who did not want to be named, said.

…as Donald says: I want peace 

After he removed US troops, effectively clearing the way for Turkey to invade northern Syria, Donald Trump now wants to mediate peace in the region.

But the US President also admitted considering sending his military back.

As Turkey’s incursion into Syria continued, he said the US could levy sanctions on Ankara, deploy troops to end fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces, or broker a peace deal.

He said Turkey knew he did not back its invasion, but claimed Americans did not want US troops to fight. 

Mr Trump tweeted: ‘We defeated 100% of the ISIS Caliphate and no longer have any troops in the area under attack by Turkey, in Syria.

‘We did our job perfectly! Now Turkey is attacking the Kurds, who have been fighting each other for 200 years.

‘We have three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily, hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!’ 

Last night he said: ‘I hope we can mediate.’

Education officer Sait Gultekin, 38, was working in the Suleyman Sah Ilkokulu school when he was one of the lucky ones to survive. 

He said he had been sitting in the window of an upstairs room on Thursday when he heard a bomb hit a building down the road.

‘As I was heading downstairs, the room I had been sitting in got hit. The first bomb saved my life. God protected me.’

He said he would never leave the town, but had sent his children to safety. ‘We are soldiers of this country without the weapons. I will stay here until the end,’ he added.

Just over two miles away is the Syrian town of Tel Abyad. 

The Kurdish-led militia that once defeated Islamic State are now battling the might of the Turkish state, which has one of the world’s best-equipped armies. 

The previous day, rocket launchers and howitzer shells hit more than 180 targets in Tal Abyad and the town of Ras al-Ayn also on the border.

Turkey considers the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – the ‘boots on the ground’ for US and UK jets in the war against IS – to be terrorists who support an anti-Turkish insurgency.

In the campaign’s first three days, Turkish defence officials claimed their forces have killed 277 Kurdish militants. An estimated 100,000 people have fled.

There are fears the chaos could lead to a resurgent Islamic State, with a SDF official yesterday saying that five IS militants broke out of a prison in Qamishli, north-east Syria, after Turkish shelling.

Turkey has said it intends to go 19 miles deep into northern Syria to push back Kurdish forces and set up a so-called ‘safe zone’.

If President Erdogan gets his wish, some two million Syrian refugees in Turkey will be sent to the Kurdish areas in what has been described as ‘ethnic cleansing’. 

He has warned the EU he would send ‘millions’ of refugees to Europe if they criticise his invasion. 


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