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Turkey's offensive into Syria: More casualties, displacement

Turkey's offensive into Syria: More casualties, displacement

Turkey's military confirmed a soldier's death, and said three others had been wounded.

"Have you ever kept any promise you gave us so far? No!"

Turkey has reported its first military fatality three days into its incursion into Syria.

Turkey Wednesday began an air and ground offensive supporting Syrian rebels against the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.

Ankara has long opposed USA support for the YPG in the fight against the militant Islamic State (IS) group, arguing the militia is a "terrorist" offshoot of Kurdish insurgents inside Turkey.

The SDF says at least nine civilians have been killed by Turkish airstrikes, while Turkey says mortar fire from Kurdish forces has killed six people, including a baby, in Turkish border towns. Almost 70 were injured.

Cavusoglu said it was not clear how many Islamic State militants were in the zone targeted by Turkey's incursion, estimating around 1,000 were held in prisons "and they say there are another thousand in camps", he said without elaborating.

France called for a meeting of the anti-IS coalition to discuss growing fears that the militant organisation could regroup if Turkey's invasion creates a security vacuum. Reuters journalists heard gunfire there from across the frontier in the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar.

In scenes all too familiar since the start of Syria's war in March 2011, civilians were seen abandoning their homes on Thursday, in vehicles or on foot with their belongings on their backs.

"The worldwide coalition should meet because we are in a new situation and because the fight against Daesh [the Arabic name for IS] risks reigniting as Daesh was waiting for this opportunity", Le Drian said on the France 2 television channel.

"We're heading to the countryside because we're scared of renewed bombing and intensified clashes", said Rizan Mohammad, 33, who fled the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli with his family. How many of our people have to die over there, for something that's not our cause?

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Turkey believes more than 1,000 Islamic State fighters are being held in the swathe of northeast Syria its troops are set on capturing, a lot of them foreign jihadists from Europe and the United States, two Turkish security officials said.

The IRC's Misty Buswell said: "If the offensive continues it's possible a total of 300,000 people could be displaced to already overstretched camps and towns still recovering from the fight against IS".

On Friday morning, plumes of black smoke billowed from the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad as Turkey continued bombarding the area. ISIS have been nearly completely forced out of Syria thanks to efforts on the ground by US-backed Kurdish forces, as well as Russian intervention in the form of devastating airstrikes which have killed around 5000 ISIS fighters as well as 14,000 other casualties including civilians.

AFP correspondents saw fighters crossing into Syria in dozens of vehicles.

Outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk has sharply criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's threat of "opening the gates" and "sending 3.6 million refugees your way" if the EU labels Turkey's incursion into Syria as an "invasion".

However, the Russian President is now anxious that his work to help drive the death-cult out of Syria has been undone by Erdogan's assault in northeast Syria. "The Syrians themselves presumably want to go back to their region of origin - not to a zone in the north occupied by the Turkish military - and I would hope that Europe speaks out strongly on this issue".

Trump has called the Turkish assault against the US -aligned Kurdish a "bad idea" and has reiterated that he did not endorse it.

Turkey wants to create a "safe zone" running for 480km (300 miles) along the Syrian side of the border but says it will not advance deeper than a planned 32km limit.

Meanwhile, five IS militants broke out of a prison after Turkish shelling nearby, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) official said.

Turkey moved into northern Syria on Wednesday after the president pulled U.S. troops out of the area.

The European Union has urged Turkey to halt its offensive while the prime minister of neighboring Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has accused Ankara of trying to impose "a violent transformation of the demographic makeup of the region".


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