IS members escape as Turkish forces approach key Syrian town
Turkish forces approached a key Kurdish-held town in northern Syria on Sunday, setting off clashes that allowed hundreds of Islamic State supporters to escape from a camp for displaced people and prompted U.S. soldiers to withdraw from a nearby base.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish warplanes struck villages near the camp on Sunday. It said camp residents fled as clashes broke out between Turkey-backed Syrian fighters and Kurdish forces, without providing an exact number.
NATO member Turkey views the Kurdish fighters as terrorists because of their links to the insurgency in its southeast and has vowed to carve out a “safe zone” along the border. It launched the operation earlier this week after President Donald Trump moved U.S. forces aside, saying he was committed to getting out of America’s “endless” wars. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday ruled out any mediation between Ankara and the “terror group.”
Heavy fighting was also underway Sunday in the town of Suluk, northeast of Ein Eissa. Turkey’s official news agency said Syrian fighters allied with Ankara had captured the town, while Kurdish officials said they were still battling to hold onto it. The Anadolu news agency said Turkey-backed forces had cleared the town center of Suluk, which is located at a strategic crossroads about 10 kilometers (six miles) south of the border.
Turkey says 440 Kurdish fighters have been killed since the operation began Wednesday. The SDF says 56 of its fighters have been killed. Turkey says four of its soldiers and 16 allied Syrian fighters have been killed since the operation began.
El Deeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed.