Syrians suffered horrific burns after an explosion in a town near the Turkish border yesterday – despite Ankara’s claims that it has paused its military onslaught.
Patients were seen with horrendous wounds on their faces and bodies while a distressed young girl was carried with a badly injured leg after the blast in Ras al-Ain.
Turkey said there was ‘no need’ to resume its operations when a five-day ceasefire ended last night, but the Kurds claim the attack is continuing.
Russia today warned the Kurds that they would be ‘mauled’ if they do not withdraw from the border zone in Syria as the Kremlin savaged Washington for ‘betraying’ the Kurdish people.
Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said the ‘Turkish military machine’ would overpower any remaining Kurds and warned that Russian military police could not help them if they stayed in the border zone.
Under a deal struck between Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday, Russian forces will work with Syrian border guards to patrol the area.
A Syrian man sits in hospital with horrific burns on his face after badly wounded by an explosion in a border town yesterday
Medics wipe a man’s face after he was injured in the blast in Ras al-Ain – which took place despite Turkey’s claims that it has stopped its military offensive
Turkey said there was ‘no need’ to resume its military onslaught when a five-day ceasefire ended last night – but Syrians were injured by a blast in the border area
The Kurds claim that Turkish operations are continuing and a mystery explosion in the border town of Ras al-Ayn caused injuries yesterday
The Putin-Erdogan agreement, reached after marathon talks in Sochi yesterday, establishes Russia and Turkey as the main players in Syria after the U.S. pulled out.
From noon today, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will ‘facilitate the removal’ of Kurdish fighters and their weapons from within 18 miles of the border.
This withdrawal must be finalised within 150 hours, according to a text of the agreement released after the talks.
Russian and Turkish forces will then begin joint patrols along the Turkish-controlled zone.
The two countries are also said to be in talks about extra deliveries of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems to Ankara.
In the early hours of Wednesday, Turkey said it had been informed by the U.S. that their withdrawal from the border areas had been ‘completed’.
‘At this stage, there is no further need to carry out a new operation,’ the defence ministry said in a statement.
A top U.S. diplomat said yesterday that the U.S. was counting on both Turkey and the Kurds to help fight ISIS in the region.
‘If they are not forced to face off against each other, we can rely on both of them against ISIS,’ said James Jeffrey, a special envoy for Syria.
‘We’ve done a pretty good job of bringing this attack to a halt,’ Jeffrey said. ‘Turkey has not really gained all that much from this.’
A young girl is carried away with an injured leg after an explosion in the border area in Syria
Patients were seen with horrific burns on their faces and bodies at the hospital in Tal Tamr
A patient receives medical treatment at a hospital in Tal Tamr near the border tow of Ras al-Ain
Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were key to defeating ISIS in Syria earlier this year.
However, Turkey regards many of the Kurdish fighters as terrorists and wants a buffer zone against them on its southern border.
President Trump abruptly pulled out U.S. forces earlier this month, clearing the way for the long-planned Turkish offensive.
His decision has been widely seen as a betrayal and Trump invited ridicule by declaring that the Kurds ‘didn’t help us with Normandy’.
Since the Turkish offensive began on October 9, at least 114 civilians have been killed and some 300,000 people have been displaced.
Vladimir Putin’s presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, joined in that criticism today.
‘The United States was the closest ally of the Kurds over the past few years. But in the end, the US abandoned the Kurds, actually betraying them,’ he said.
‘The US opted to abandon the Kurds on the border, almost forcing them to fight against the Turks.’
A former head of the U.S. military made the same point. Retired Admiral Mike Mullen said Erdogan ‘would not send those troops across that border if the Americans were there.’
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the area of the ‘safe zone’ was calm late on Tuesday.
Erdogan had earlier threatened to resume Ankara’s military offensive if the Kurds did not withdraw.
The Turkish operation ‘is ending, and everything will depend now on the implementation of these agreements,’ Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Vladmir Putin meet in the resort of Sochi for a summit to discuss the future of Syria
Angry Kurds have blocked US troops in the streets as they cross from Syria into Iraq in a display of hostility after Washington pulled the plug on their support
Russian forces moved in last week to support the Syrian army, whose help against Turkey was requested by the Kurds.
Moscow is a key ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who yesterday branded Erdogan a ‘thief’ for his incursion into Syria.
Assad called the Turkish President a ‘thief who robbed factories, wheat and fuel and is today stealing territory’, according to state media.
Erdogan said last week he was not bothered by the Damascus regime’s return.
Ankara has also said that some of the 3.6million Syrian refugees in Turkey can be rehoused inside the safe zone.
Yesterday German leader Angela Merkel threw her support behind a proposal for an internationally enforced safe zone, possibly even involving German troops.
Merkel told conservative MPs that the idea was ‘very promising, even if there are many questions’, sources in the parliamentary party said.
‘We cannot just stand by and watch and not do anything,’ Berlin’s defence minister told German television.
U.S. troops leaving Syria and heading to Iraq yesterday in a withdrawal which has opened the way for a Turkish invasion and thrust Syria back into the international spotlight
But Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s plan has already met with resistance from Merkel’s coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD).
In addition, the use of military force remains a highly sensitive subject in Germany because of the legacy of World War II.
The U.S. has indicated that some of its withdrawn troops may stay in western Iraq to continue the fight against ISIS.
But Iraq appeared to throw those plans into disarray yesterday by saying the Americans had no permission to stay there.
Angry Kurds have blocked U.S. troops in the streets as they cross from Syria into Iraq after Washington pulled the plug on their support.
American troops were even pelted with potatoes as they passed through a Syrian town on their way to Iraq on Monday.
The Pentagon is now considering keeping a small U.S. force in north-eastern Syria to protect oilfields.
The United States currently has 5,200 troops posted in Iraq, deployed as part of a Washington-led coalition against the ISIS jihadists.
The U.S. presence at several bases across Iraq is already controversial, with numerous political groups and pro-Iran Shiite armed groups demanding their expulsion.