2019 Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria

The 2019 Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria, codenamed by Turkey as Operation Peace Spring (Turkish: Barış Pınarı Harekâtı), is an ongoing military operation[50] conducted by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Syrian National Army (SNA) against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Army in northeastern Syria.

Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria
Part of the Rojava conflict, Turkish involvement in the Syrian Civil War, and the Kurdish–Turkish conflict (2015–present)

Ras al-Ayn bombing on 10 October 2019
Date9 October 2019 – ongoing
(2 weeks)
Northern parts of Aleppo, Hasakah, and Raqqa Governorates, Syria


Syrian National Army[16][17][18]

Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria[19][20]

 Syria (since 13 Oct.)[21][22]
Commanders and leaders
Hulusi Akar
(Minister of Defence)
Gen. Yaşar Güler
(Chief of the General Staff)[23]
Brig. Gen. İdris Acartürk[24]
(7th Commando Brigade Commander)
Hakan Fidan[25]
(MİT Chief)
Brig. Gen. Salim Idris
(Minister of Defence)
Sayf Abu Bakr
(Hamza Division Commander)[26]
Mazlum Abdi
Riad Khamis al-Khalaf
(Tal Abyad Military Council Commander)[27]
Imad Meno
(Serekaniye Military Council Commander)[28]
Muhammad Mustafa Ali "Abu Abdul"
(Manbij Military Council Commander)[29]
Ali Abdullah Ayyoub
(Minister of Defence)
Units involved
See order of battle See order of battle
40,000-60,000 [33]
Casualties and losses

Per SOHR:[34]
196 killed
10 killed

Per Turkey:
84 killed[35]
6 killed (1 Non-combat)[a][36][37]

Per SOHR:[34]
275 killed
5 killed

Per SDF:
117+ killed[38][39][40]

Per Turkey:
765 killed, wounded or captured[41]
120 civilians killed in Syria by TAF and SNA[42] and 1 civilian killed in Syria by SDF (per SOHR)[43]
20 civilians killed in Turkey by SDF shelling (per Turkey)[44][45][46]
300,000+ civilians displaced (per SOHR)[47][48]
a Two additional Turkish soldiers were killed in the area of Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria,[49] which are counted in the toll provided by SOHR.[1]

President Erdoğan called United States President Trump to inform him that Turkey is preparing an imminent invasion of Syria to create a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria, which will enable Erdoğan to expel the 3 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey. He warned Trump that the United States soldiers in that area would be in jeopardy by the attack.[citation needed]

Shortly after on 6 October 2019, the Trump administration ordered American troops to withdraw from northeastern Syria, where the United States had been supporting its Kurdish allies.[51] The military operation began on 9 October 2019 when the Turkish Air Force launched airstrikes on border towns.[52] The conflict resulted in the displacement of over 130,000 people and has caused the death of more than 70 civilians in Syria and 20 civilians in Turkey.[53][54][43] Human Rights violations have also been reported. Amnesty International stated that it had gathered evidence of war crimes and other violations committed by Turkish and Turkey-backed Syrian forces who are said to "have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians".[55]

According to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the operation is intended to expel the SDF—viewed as a terrorist organization by Turkey due to its ties with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), but considered an ally against ISIL by the United States and its allies—from the border region as well as to create a 30 km-deep (20 mi) "safe zone" in Northern Syria where some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would resettle.[31] As the proposed settlement zone is heavily Kurdish demographically, this intention has been criticized as an attempt to force drastic demographic change,[56][57][58] a criticism denied by Turkey by saying that it only intended to "correct" the demographics that Turkish officials asserted were changed by the SDF.[58][59][60]

As a result of the offensive, SDF sources reported that over 750 ISIL affiliates were able to escape due to Turkish bombing near the Ayn Issa prison compound.[61] In contrast, Turkish sources asserted that the SDF released ISIS prisoners at the Tell Abyad prison before the arrival of Turkish forces.[62] This view was supported by U.S. President Donald Trump, but opposed by senior U.S. officials who stated that Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces were the ones freeing ISIL prisoners.[63][64]

The Turkish operation was condemned by the European Union, the Arab League, Iran, Israel, India[65] and the United Kingdom as an assault on the territory of a sovereign and Arab state and an irresponsible destabilizing action with "potentially terrible" humanitarian consequences.[66] On the other hand, the 5 states of the Turkic Council plus observers Hungary and Turkmenistan as well as Pakistan declared their support for the operation and the settlement of refugees in Northern Syria.[67][68][69] While originally acknowledging Turkey's "right to defend itself", on 15 October, Russia hardened its position against the operation and deployed troops.[70][71] Various EU states imposed arms embargoes on Turkey, and European Union nations collectively agreed to stop selling arms to Turkey, while the U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkish ministries and senior government officials in response to the offensive in Syria.[72] Donald Trump also announced his intention to level economic sanctions.[73][74] Likewise, Trump's sudden pullout of US forces in Syria was also widely condemned as a serious betrayal to the Kurds as well as a catastrophic blow to US credibility as an ally and Washington's standing on the world stage, with some stating that this is one of the worst US foreign policy disasters since the Iraq War.[75][76][77][78]

The Syrian government initially blamed the Kurdish forces for the Turkish offensive, for their separatism and not reconciling with the government, while at the same time also condemning the foreign invasion in Syrian territory.[79] However, a few days later, the SDF reached an agreement with the Syrian government, in which it would allow the Syrian Army to enter the SDF-held towns of Manbij and Kobanî in an attempt to protect the towns from the Turkish offensive.[80][81][82] Shortly thereafter, Syrian state broadcaster SANA announced that Syrian Army troops had started to deploy to the country's north.[83] Turkey and the SNA launched an offensive to capture Manbij on the same day.[84]

On 17 October 2019, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced that the U.S. and Turkey agreed on a deal in which Turkey will agree to a ceasefire in Syria for 5 days in return for a complete withdrawal by the SDF from a safe zone south of the Syria-Turkey border.[85][86] On 22 October 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reached a deal to extend the ceasefire by 150 additional hours for SDF to move 30 kilometers away from the border area as well as from Tal Rifaat and Manbij. The terms of the deal also included joint Russian-Turkish patrols 10 kilometers into Syria from the border except in the city of Qamishli. The new ceasefire is set to start 12pm local time on 23 October.[87][88]


Deep motives

Deaths toll for Turkey border regions north of Syria
Jan. 2018 – Sep. 2019, before 9 Oct. 2019 offensive.[89]
RegionNorth ofT. ForcesCiviliansPKK-related
ŞırnakSyria 30%
Iraq 70%
It is not known if PKK-related individuals are affiliated to Turkey PKK or Syria SDF/YPG.

Turkey has complained about the presence of PKK-related forces at its southern border since 2012, when the first YPG pockets appeared.[90] Following 2014's Siege of Kobanî and the expansion of YPG/SDF forces and administration, Erdoğan's government considered the force a national security threat.[90] The 2013–2015 peace process collapsed in July 2015, resulting in a full out war between PKK and Turkish forces. Like other regions in southeast Turkey, regions just north of the border with Syria have seen numerous PKK-related deaths. According to Crisis Group death toll analysis based upon Turkey government and Turkish media publications, the border regions north of SDF-controlled areas alone had 8 Turkey security forces and 5 civilians killed in PKK related violences for 2018 and 2019 before the offensive. The Şırnak region, north of both Syria and Iraq, had 26 security forces and 6 civilians deaths over the same period.[89] It is not known if this activity is or not related to Syria's YPG and SDF, or from Turkey or Iraqi PKK.

Other political motives have been advanced. Recent increase in jobless rate and electoral collaboration of opposition parties lead to significant AKP defeats in 2019 Istanbul mayoral elections, signaling difficulties for the leadership party.[91] Military operations are known to boost nationalism and Turkey executive's popularity.[91] It is also seen as an effective way to break apart opposition alliances, between pro-Kurdish and pro-peace representatives actively criminalized by the government, and other opposition parties who are faced with the dilemna to betray the informal political alliancw in order to showcast popular patriotism.[91][92] Moreover, the presence of millions Syrian refugees in Turkey has proven divisive, with mob attacks on Syrian refugees. Moving refugees back to Syria is widely popular among electors.[91] According to CrisisGroup analysis, this political strategy has cost AKP half of its conservative kurds' supports since 2015.[93]

Immediate context

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces remove fortifications that were identified as a concern to Turkey in support of the security mechanism zone in northeast Syria, 29 September 2019.

Turkey and the United States struck a deal in August 2019 after months of Turkish threats to unilaterally invade northern Syria. The United States viewed the Syrian Democratic Forces as one of its key allies in the military intervention against ISIL in Syria, while Turkey viewed the group as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist group. The agreement established the Northern Syria Buffer Zone, which aimed to dissipate tensions by addressing Turkey's security concerns with monitoring and joint patrols, while still allowing the NES to retain control over the areas that it had under its control at that time.[94][95] The agreement was received favorably by the US and SDF/NES, but Turkey was generally dissatisfied with it. Turkey's dissatisfaction led to numerous Turkish efforts to expand the area covered by the buffer zone, secure Turkish control over parts of it, or relocate millions of refugees into the zone, with all of these efforts failing in the face of firm SDF resistance and American ambivalence.[96]

Despite the official start of US-Turkish ground patrols, the dismantling of SDF fortifications, and the withdrawal of YPG units from parts of the buffer zone, tensions continued to rise as Turkey levied yet more demands on the SDF—all of which the SDF denied, as they felt they had accepted a harsh compromise by permitting Turkish troops to take part in joint patrols with their American counterparts in northern Syria.[97] Turkey's dissatisfaction with the status quo of the agreement grew into open hostility, with the Turkish president openly posing an ultimatum against the SDF.[98] The ultimatum was ignored by the group and Turkey declared its "deadline" to have expired at the start of October that same year.[99]


American soldiers greet Turkish troops for a joint patrol in Northern Syria on 4 October 2019.

Preparations for the offensive began in early October, starting with the withdrawal of American forces from positions near the Turkish border, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a phone call with United States President Donald Trump about plans for a military operation against SDF-held areas east of the Euphrates river.[100][101] While the United States government has stated it does not support the Turkish-led offensive, the White House also announced on 6 October 2019 that it would not interfere, and would withdraw all United States personnel in the area to avoid a potential US-Turkish standoff; US Secretary of State Pompeo denied that this amounted to giving the TAF a green light to attack the SDF while a spokesman for the SDF called the withdrawal a betrayal by the United States.[51] The US also reportedly cutoff aid to the SDF in order not to arm them against a NATO ally.[102]

On 8 October 2019, the Turkish military reportedly bombed a convoy of weapons vehicles heading from Iraq into Syria destined for the SDF. However the SDF did not retaliate for the attack, and no casualties were reported as a result of the air strike.[103] On the same day Russian special forces opened a crossing on the Euphrates river between areas held by the Syrian Government and SDF in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate.[104] While the SDF stated that the Syrian military was preparing to enter the city of Manbij in northeastern Aleppo, the Syrian government responded by saying the build up of the Syrian military near Manbij was being done in order to prevent the Turkish military from entering the city.[105] On the same day, Turkish forces shelled Ras al-Ayn and fired machine guns in the vicinity of the city.[106]

The deputy secretary of defense for the Middle East, Michael Mulroy said at the Council on Foreign Relations that the United States cannot carry out its strategy in Syria without partners such as the mostly Kurdish SDF, who "bore most of the burden in destroying the Islamic State's caliphate". He said that the United States must not leave before stabilizing the area. "And if we don't do that, we will be back there, for sure, doing this again," Mulroy said. "We owe it to the people that live there, who have beared unspeakable burdens, and we owe it to the men and women that are going to come after us at the State Department, at the Defense Department, that we don't just leave this undone." [107]


A daily map of the Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria (green is Turkish forces, red is Syrian, yellow is the SDF and orange is joint SDF/SAA). [108][109][110]

9 October 2019

The operation began on 9 October 2019, with Turkish airstrikes and howitzers targeting the SDF-held towns of Tell Abyad, Ras al-Ayn where thousands of people were reported to have fled the town,[111] Ayn Issa and Qamishli. The start of the incursion was symbolic, for it was the 21st anniversary of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's expulsion from Syria in 1998 by the government of Hafez al-Assad.[112][113]

In response to the cross-border shelling, SDF's spokesman stated that Turkey was targeting civilians.[114] Six rockets were later launched at the Turkish city of Nusaybin as a response by the YPG, and two reportedly hit the Turkish town Ceylanpınar.[115][116][117] The SDF also announced in response to the start of the Turkish operation they would be halting anti-ISIL operations,[118] and that two civilians had been killed.[119] In response to the airstrikes, the SDF has called upon the United States to establish a no-fly zone over northern Syria.[120]

During the day, under pressure from Congressmen and public opinion, Trump sent a letter to Erdoğan proposing to make a deal, otherwise he would destroy the Turkish economy. Erdoğan took great offense to the letter, reportedly throwing it in the trash.[121] The White House released the letter to the press on 16 October, receiving wide ridicule.[122][123]

Ground offensive

By the end of the day, the Turkish military announced that the ground phase of the operation had begun from three points including Tell Abyad.[124]

10 October 2019

Protest against Turkey's military offensive on 10 October 2019

Before dawn on the morning of 10 October 2019, the Turkish military officially began the ground offensive against the SDF; they also announced they had hit 181 targets in northern Syria, and 14,000 rebels backed by Turkey, including Ahrar al-Sharqiya rebel group,[32][125] Sultan Murad Division, and Hamza Division, are also taking part in the Turkish-led offensive.[32] The SDF said they repelled a Turkish advance into Tel Abyad.[112] Later during the day, clashes reportedly broke out between the SDF and Turkish-aligned forces near al-Bab.[126] Turkish-led forces made advances around the area of Tell Abyad and captured the villages of Tabatin and Al-Mushrifah.[127][dubious ] By nightfall Turkish Armed Forces declared control of 11 villages. As fighting went on around Tell Abyad, the Syrian National Army announced it captured the villages of Mishrifah, Al-Hawi, Barzan, Haj Ali and a farm east of the city.[128][dubious ][unreliable source?] During Turkish air strikes during the fighting, SDF stated that the Turkish air force hit a prison that was holding captured ISIL fighters.[129][130] Turkish media reported in the late evening that 174 SDF fighters were killed, wounded or captured.[131]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that day that 109 SDF fighters had been killed in the operation as well as an unspecified number of fighters wounded and captured. In a speech to lawmakers from Erdoğan's AKP, the Turkish president also threatened to flood Europe with 3.6 million refugees if European nations continued to criticize the military operation, in particular if they labelled it an invasion.[132][133]

70,000 people have fled from border towns in the SDF following Turkish bombardment.[134][135]

According to Turkey's Ministry of National Defence, one Turkish soldier was killed by the YPG.[136]

11 October 2019

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Senior Department of defense officials brief Pentagon reporters, 11 October 2019.
Joint press conference by NATO Secretary General and Turkish minister of foreign affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, 11 October 2019.

Two journalists were wounded in Nusaybin, when the building they were filming from came under fire from Qamishli across the border by SDF fighters. The incident was broadcast live on Turkish TV channels, according to Turkish sources.[137]

Three civilians were killed in Suruc by SDF shelling.[138][139] In response to the attack, Turkey shelled Kobane, a community across the border from Suruc.[140] Eight more civilians were killed later in the day in Nusaybin and 35 were injured by SDF mortar attack, raising the total civilians killed by SDF shelling in Turkey to 18, according to Turkish sources.[141][142][143]

Seven civilians were killed in Syria by Turkish forces in the Tal Abyad area including three killed by Turkish snipers according to SOHR.[144]

As reported on this day, according to the Turkish Ministry of National Defence, a total of 399 SDF fighters were killed, captured or wounded since the start of the Turkish military operation.[145]

The Syrian National Army stated to have taken the village of Halawa which is southeast of Tel Abyad.[146] TAF and SNA announced the capture of Tell Halaf later in the day and released a video from inside the town.[147]

In the city of Qamishli, a suspected ISIL car bomb killed five civilians, while an alleged Turkish artillery strike hit a nearby prison, and five suspected ISIL members, previously detained in SDF custody, escaped according to SDF.[148]

In the city of Kobanî, the area immediately around a U.S. special forces base experienced heavy shelling by Turkish artillery; the U.S. troops did not retaliate, but withdrew after the shelling ended. Turkey responded by denying that it targeted the U.S. base, instead asserting that it had fired upon SDF positions.[149] The Pentagon further raised concerns that the Turkish Army deliberately "bracketed" US Forces stationed in Kobanî with artillery fire.[150] According to Turkish Defense Minister, the mortar attack targeting the town of Suruç earlier in the day was deliberately launched 1000 meters from the US base in Kobanî by SDF to avoid Turkish retaliation and the attack was in response.[151]

On the same day, Jaysh al-Islam announced it would be joining the offensive on the side of Turkey from their bases in areas in Afrin and Northern Aleppo.[152]

The BBC reported that 100,000 people have fled their homes in northern Syria. The Kurdish Red Crescent (Heyva Sor) said there had been 11 confirmed civilian deaths so far. Turkey's military confirmed a soldier's death, and said three others had been wounded.[153]

Smoke rises after Turkish airstrikes on the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn on 11 October

Turkey's Ministry of National Defence announced that three more soldiers had been killed by the YPG, two of which were killed in a mortar attack on a Turkish military base in a Turkish-occupied part of Syria. This brought the total amount of Turkish soldiers killed in the operation to four.[136] The SOHR reported that the actual number of Turkish soldiers killed in the operation was six.[154] Later in the day, the SOHR reported that at least 12 Turkish border guards were either killed or wounded in a confrontation with the SDF in Kobanî.[155]

12 October 2019

Turkish Armed Forces and Syrian National Army said they reached the M4 highway, 32 km (20 mi) deep into Syrian territory and effectively cutting the supply line between Manbij and Qamishli.[156] SNA also said they captured 18 villages close to M4 highway in eastern Raqqah.[157]

Turkish interior minister Süleyman Soylu announced that nearly 300 mortar shells had been fired at Mardin Province by the SDF since the start of the operation.[158]

Around 12:00 (UTC+03:00), the TAF and SNA stated they had captured Ras al-Ayn,[159][160] but the SDF denied that Turkey had taken control of the city.[161][162]

Turkish-backed members of Islamist militia Ahrar al-Sharqiya executed Hevrin Khalaf, Secretary General of the Future Syria Party. Nine civilians, including Khalaf, were executed by the Ahrar al-Sharqiya fighters at a roadblock on the M4 highway south of Tal Abyad.[163][164] Turkish news source Yeni Safak reported that Khalaf was "neutralized" in a "successful operation" against a politician affiliated with a "terrorist" organization.[163][165] Her execution was widely described by Western sources as a war crime under international law.[166][167] A spokesman for Ahrar al-Sharqiya meanwhile announced that she was killed for being "an agent for U.S. intelligence."[168]

13 October 2019

Video from Voice of America Turkish service shows a residential building hit by a mortar shell in the southeastern Turkish city of Akcakale, near the Syria–Turkey border, 13 October

Turkish Armed Forces and Syrian National Army announced the capture of the town of Suluk, located in Tell Abyad District, in the early morning.[169] The SOHR confirmed that the Turkish forces and SNA had taken full control of Suluk, and clashes were nearing towards Ayn Issa. The SOHR also reported that pro-Turkish forces had targeted an ambulance in the Tel Abyad area which remains missing.[170][171]

The SOHR also reported that the SDF was able to regain almost all control over the contested city of Ras al-Ayn after a counterattack.[172]

Tall Abyad captured and M4 highway cut by Turkey and SNA

Turkish Armed Forces and Syrian National Army announced in the afternoon they had captured the center of Tell Abyad.[173] Turkish Armed Forces and Syrian National Army fully captured Tall Abyad late in the afternoon according to the SOHR.[174][175] Turkish Armed Forces and Syrian National Army also cut the M4 highway according to SOHR.[174][176] Turkish sources also reported that SDF shelling towards Jarablus had killed 2 Syrian civilians.[177]

In light of the pro-Turkish forces advance on Ayn Issa, the SDF stated that 785 ISIL-linked people had escaped from a detention camp in the area, SDF also stated the escapees received assistance of the pro-Turkish forces and Turkish airstrikes.[178] In contrast, Turkey stated that the SDF released ISIL prisoners at the Tell Abyad prison before the arrival of Turkish forces.[62] This statement[which?] was supported by U.S. President Donald Trump, but opposed by senior U.S. officials who stated that Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces were the ones freeing ISIL prisoners.[63][64]

United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that US was planning to evacuate all 1,000 remaining soldiers from northern Syria.[179] US also informed SDF of its intention to withdraw from military bases in Manbij and Kobanî and had already evacuated from Ayn Issa according to SOHR and the Washington Post.[180]

Syrian government–SDF deal

Shortly after the capture of Tall Abyad by Turkey and SNA, a deal between the Syrian government and SDF was reached whereby the Syrian Army would be allowed to enter the towns of Kobanî and Manbij in order to deter a possible Turkish military offensive in those areas.[81]

Later an advisor to Turkish President Erdoğan, Yasin Aktay, said there could be conflict between the two armies, if the Syrian government tries to enter northeastern Syria.[181]

SDF commander-in-chief Mazloum Abdi said he was willing to ally with the Syrian government for the sake of saving the Kurdish population in Northern Syria from what he called a genocide.[182]

14 October 2019

Russian and Syrian forces were reported to have been deployed at the front line between areas controlled by the Manbij Military Council and Euphrates Shield groups respectively, with further deployments to take place along the Syrian-Turkish border. In addition, the SOHR reported that the U.S. forces in the region were attempting to hinder the Russian and Syrian deployments in the region.[183]

The SOHR reported that violent clashes had continued in Ras Al-Ayn and its countryside at the border strip, where the Turkish forces were attempting to encircle the city completely and to cut off the road between Ras Al-Ayn and Tal Tamr, under a cover of artillery shelling and airstrikes with the purpose of taking control of the city by 15 October.[184][185][186] Turkish aerial and ground bombardment were reported to have occurred in the border town Al-Darbasiyyah targeting civilian houses which caused 4 reported injuries of medical personnel as per the SOHR.[187]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a press conference that Turkey had received a positive response from Russia on Kobani and that Turkey was at the execution phase of its Manbij decision.[188] Turkish Armed forces deployed additional troops to Manbij frontline as of the previous night according to Turkish sources.[189] Turkish minister of defence Hulusi Akar said that Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn were under Turkish control and that works were ongoing for the whole region.[190]

The Syrian Army reportedly deployed to the town of Al-Thawrah,[191] as well as Ayn Issa, Tell Tamer and as close as 6 km from the Syria–Turkey border.[7][192][8] It also took over the 93rd Brigade Headquarters just south of Ayn Issa, as well as Al-Jarniyah to the east of the Euphrates.[193][194] The Syrian Army further reported taking control of the Tabqa Dam. The Syrian flag was reportedly raised for the first time in years in several towns and villages in the Al-Hasakah Governorate, such as the city of Al-Yaarubiyah.[195][196]

Jarabulus Military Council was reportedly to have targeted a vehicle south of Jarabulus by a guided missile leaving 2 persons dead in conjunction with an assassination that targeted members of Turkey-loyal factions south of Azaz.[197]

Turkish Armed Forces and Syrian National Army launched a military operation to capture Manbij in the late afternoon.[198] Turkish Armed Forces and Syrian National Army captured 3 villages in the Manbij countryside shortly after the launch of the operation according to Turkish sources.[199] At the same time, Syrian state media stated that the Syrian Army had started entering the town.[200]

Anouncement of total U.S. withdrawal from northeastern Syria

Later in the day, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that all U.S. personnel would withdraw from Syria except those in Al-Tanf base.[201]

15 October 2019

A girl from the Syrian city of Qamishli who lost her leg during the fighting

The SOHR reported that a counterattack was carried out by the SDF in the outskirts and western countryside of Ras al-Ayn city, and managed to achieve an advancement in the area recovering 3 areas lost previously.[202]

2 civilians were killed and 12 were wounded in Kızıltepe, Turkey after an SDF mortar attack according to Turkish sources.[46]

Turkish President Erdoğan, speaking at the Turkic Council in Baku, said: "We are now announcing the establishment of a safe area 444km from west to east and 32km from north to south, to which the refugees in our country will return."[203] President Erdoğan also said a total of 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) had been captured by TAF and SNA since the start of the operation.[204] President Erdoğan also said a Turkish soldier was killed in Manbij by Syrian Army artillery fire and that there was an intense retaliatory fire for the attack which made the regime pay a heavy price.[205]

Syrian Army forces started entering the town of Manbij according to SOHR,[5] but were blocked by US troops when trying to enter Kobani according to SOHR, which resulted in the convoy's return to Manbij.[206] Syrian Army forces also entered Al-Thawrah according to Syrian government media.[6] Later, Erdoğan told that Syrian Government troops entering Manbij is "not negative" and adding "as long as terrorists in the area are cleaned".[207]

16 October 2019

Villages around the M4 in Jazira province were reportedly shelled by the TAF at dawn while shelling and clashes had caused power outages and a water shortage in the city of Al-Hasakah, the latter of which returned after 5 days since it had been cut off, as per a SOHR report.[208] The SOHR also reported that clashes continued to the west of Ayn Issa as the SDF attempted to launch a counterattack where they were able to successfully regain 2 locations.[209][210] Clashes had also broken out within the SDF-controlled camp in Ayn Issa between families of ISIL members and displaced civilians which resulted in 2 deaths, as per the SOHR report.[210]

Heavy shelling and airstrikes by the TAF were reported in Ras al-Ayn with heavy fighting on the ground according to SOHR.[211] The SOHR further reported that Turkish forces and allied factions had launched a wide scale offensive and managed to advance into parts of the Ras al-Ayn city.[212] Turkish President Erdoğan announced that Turkey controlled over 1200 square kilometers area since start of the operation.[213]

The Russian military deployed near Kobani on 16 October in the afternoon after crossing Qara Cossack bridge from Manbij to the east of Euphrates according to SOHR.[214] The SOHR also reported that the Syrian Army had completed its deployment in Ayn Issa, north of Raqqa.[210] The Syrian Army also reportedly entered the city of Kobanî at nightfall.[215] This was precipitated by the sudden advance of the Turkish-backed proxy forces towards the Kurdish-held border city.[216]

U.S. withdraws from and destroys Syria headquarters

U.S. forces, after withdrawing from their air base near Kharab Ashk south of Kobanî, bombed and destroyed it with airstrikes on the morning of 16 October.[217] The airbase was the largest U.S. base in Syria, capable of landing C-130 as well as C-17 heavy transport planes.[218] OIR spokesman announced later in the day that U.S. forces had withdrawn from the Lafarge base reportedly destroyed earlier in the day, as well as from Raqqa and Al-Thawrah.[219] OIR spokesman also confirmed the destruction of the base later in the day saying "On Oct. 16, after all Coalition personnel and essential tactical equipment departed, two Coalition F-15Es successfully conducted a pre-planned precision airstrike at the Lafarge Cement Factory to destroy an ammunition cache and reduce the facility’s military usefulness."[220]

17 October 2019

TAF and SNA forces completely besieged and captured half of Ras al-Ayn after getting around the town and cutting off the roads leading to it amid heavy clashes according to SOHR.[221]

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu stated that over 980 mortar shells and rockets were launched at Turkey by SDF since the start of the operation killing 20 civilians.[222]

120-hour ceasefire
Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a joint press conference in Ankara on 17 October 2019

On 17 October 2019, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reached a deal to implement a 120-hour cease-fire for Turkey's operation in northern Syria to allow SDF to withdraw from a designated safe zone,[85][86][13][223] spanning from the Turkey-Syria border to 20 miles (32 km) south.[223] Mike Pence stated that once the military operation completely stops all sanctions imposed on Turkey by the United States would be lifted and there would be no further sanctions.[86] According to a US statement, the safe zone would be "primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces".[224] This ceasefire deal was described as another US betrayal of the Kurds[225][226][227] and a Kurdish surrender to Turkey[225][227][228] by several US commentators and officials.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that it is not a ceasefire but a temporary pause to allow SDF to withdraw from the designated safe zone, after which if completed the operation would end and if not completed the operation would continue.[229][230] SDF commander Mazlum Kobane said that they accepted the ceasefire agreement only in the area between Tall Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.[13]

The Syrian Kurdish political leader Salih Muslim stated that "Our people did not want this war. We welcome the ceasefire, but we will defend ourselves in the event of any attack … Ceasefire is one thing and surrender is another thing, and we are ready to defend ourselves. We will not accept the occupation of northern Syria."[224]

18 October 2019

Cautious calm prevailed at the east of Euphrates on 18 October according to SOHR with minor clashes in besieged Ras al-Ayn.[231] The SDF accused Turkey of violating the ceasefire and of shelling civilian areas of Ras al-Ayn.[232] An unnamed US official said the following day that Turkish backed forces had violated the ceasefire, and the SDF had stopped fighting.[233]

Turkey announced it aimed to establish 12 "observation posts" in its safe zone, with President Erdoğan stating that Turkey will respond if the Syrian government "makes a mistake".[234]

19 October 2019

SDF-controlled territory (green) and Turkish-controlled territory (red) in October 2019

SDF had not withdrawn from any positions east of Euphrates despite the passage of 37 hours of the US-Turkish agreement to suspend the Turkish military operation for 120 hours according to SOHR. SOHR also reported that since the start of the operation, Turkish Armed Forces and allies had captured an area of 2,419 square kilometres (934 sq mi).[235] Both sides accused each other of violating the ceasefire, SDF stated that Turkish forces prevented medical aid from reaching Ras al-Ain, the claim was backed by SOHR. [236] Unnamed US officials said the “ceasefire is not holding”. In the afternoon the SDF said an aid convoy had been let through, after having been prevented from entering the town since Thursday.[233]

20 October 2019

SDF withdraws from Ras al-Ayn

A Turkish soldier was killed by a mortar attack near Tal Abyad due to violations of YPG according to Turkish Defense Ministry,[237] whilst the SDF claimed that 16 fighters had been killed by Turkish forces.[238] SDF fully withdrew from Ras al-Ayn alongside the aid convoy per SOHR.[239][3] Both sides have continued to accuse the other of ceasefire violations.[238]

Continued US evacuations

US forces withdrew from their airbase near Sarrin as well as their airbase near Tell Beydar and destroyed it per SOHR.[240][12] US forces have completely withdrew from the countrysides of Aleppo and Raqqa per SDC.[10] In the largest ground move to date, a United States convoy of almost 500 personnel is moving eastward through northern Syria towards the border of Iraq.[241] As they withdrew, locals threw rotten produce and shouted insults at them, demonstrating a sense of betrayal among the populace.[242][243]

US President Donald Trump favored leaving a contingent of 200-300 US troops in Deir ez-Zur countryside of eastern Syria where majority of the country's oil fields are located per NYT and WSJ.[244][245] The SDF, however, stated that "The fields have stayed in our hands. We have an agreement with the [Syrian] regime to give them some of our positions along the Turkish border, but we have not negotiated with them on the oil fields yet. There will probably be a version of joint control and revenue sharing with the regime from these fields. I don’t know if Trump understands this."[246]

21 October 2019

The SOHR reported continued ceasefire violations despite the withdrawal of the SDF from Ras al-Ayn. Per SOHR, Turkish drone strikes had targeted a vehicle carrying 4 members of the SDF near Ain Issa, resulting in the death of all fighters. The Abu Rasin area, east of Ras al-Ayn also experienced heavy clashes and shelling by Turkey as per SOHR.[247]

On the aftermath of the SDF withdrawal from the Ras al-Ayn, there were widespread accounts of looting, theft, burning of houses and kidnappings by the pro-Turkish forces with documented examples of members of the Hamza Division per to the SOHR.[247]

The SOHR reported a US withdrawal from northern Syria with a military convoy passing through Simalka border into Iraq at midnight.[247]

22 October

Russian–Turkish memorandum

On 22 October 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reached a deal to extend the ceasefire by 150 additional hours for SDF to move 30 kilometers away from the border area as well as from Tal Rifaat and Manbij. The terms of the deal also included joint Russian–Turkish patrols 10 kilometers into Syria from the border except in the city of Qamishli. The new ceasefire was set to start 12pm local time 23 October.[87][88]

US senator Mitch McConnell introduced a resolution to counter President Trump's withdrawal from Syria.[248]

Humanitarian impact

Alleged human rights violations

Syrian Kurdish authorities and doctors have reported about a number of patients with severe burns seemingly caused by a chemical weapon,[249][250] accusing Turkey of employing the chemical white phosphorus to target people.[249][250] Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of the UK's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear regiment, said of wounds he had been shown pictures of: "The most likely culprit is white phosphorus."[250][251] Syrian Kurdish authorities also accused Turkey of using napalm.[252][253]

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has stated that they are aware of the situation and are collecting information over the alleged use of chemical weapons but cautioned that they have not yet determined the credibility of the allegations.[249][250] The SOHR stated they could not confirm the use of napalm or white phosphorus.[252]

Turkey denied all accusations. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, in response to the allegations, stated that terrorists tend use chemical weapons to throw the blame on the Turkish armed forces and stated that it was widely known that the Turkish armed forces did not have any chemical weapons in their inventory.[250][254]

Amnesty International stated that it had gathered evidence of war crimes and other violations committed by Turkish and Turkey-backed Syrian forces who are said to "have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians".[55]

Members of the pro-Turkish Levant Front also evicted Christians from their homes in Tell Abyad, though left the local Kurds mostly alone.[255] [unreliable source?]

Hevrin Khalaf, a Syrian Kurdish political leader, and other people have been summarily executed by the Turkish-backed armed faction Ahrar al-Sharqiya.[256][257] UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville stated that "Turkey could be deemed responsible as a State for violations committed by their affiliated armed groups, as long as Turkey exercises effective control over these groups, or the operations in the course of which those violations occurred. [...] we urge the Turkish authorities to immediately launch an impartial, transparent and independent investigation into both incidents, and to apprehend those responsible, some of whom should be easily identifiable from the video footage they themselves shared on social media."[258][256]

Population displacement

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the number of displaced people exceeds 300,000 amid the humanitarian crisis and conflict.[47]

Ibrahim Kalin, a Turkish presidential spokesman, has stated that they do not want Syrian government or Kurdish forces in the Syrian border areas but intend Turkey to oversee the region.[259][260] He further said that Turkey intends to resettle up to 2 million Syrian refugees, currently in Turkey, who will not go back if these areas are under the control of either of these forces.[259][260]

In response to European criticism, Turkish President Erdoğan warned that Turkey will "open the gates" for 3.6 million refugees who are currently in Turkey to go to Europe if its military operation is called an invasion.[261][262] This comes under the context that Europe has employed foreign countries such as Turkey to serve as border guards, in a policy of border externalization.[261]

There are fears of ethnic cleansing of the Kurds from the region.[263][264][265]

ISIL prisoners

There are concerns about a possible resurgence of the Islamic State (ISIL) in the region, as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—who conducted counter-terrorism operations against ISIL and held the ISIL captives in the region—fight against the Turkish-led offensive and thus could lose control over the detainees.[266][267] There are at least 10,000 ISIL prisoners and more than 100,000 ISIL family members and other displaced persons in several camps across northeastern Syria.[268][269] A number of the ISIL detainees are foreign fighters, but their status have become increasingly uncertain due to the Turkish offensive as their own countries refuse to take them.[270] When asked about the situation after the withdrawal of US forces in northeastern Syria, US President Donald Trump dismissed the threat of ISIL, remarking that "they're going to be escaping to Europe".[271][272]

Îlham Ehmed, a Syrian Kurdish official, stated that the SDF felt betrayed by their American allies for "exposing us to an invasion by Turkish troops who aim to destroy us", remarking that they do not have the resources to both defend against the Turkish attacks and maintain security over the ISIL captives.[273]

According to Turkish sources, the SDF freed ISIL prisoners from a prison in Tal Abyad before Turkish forces could arrive. This assertion was supported by U.S. President Donald Trump, who stated on Twitter that "Kurds may be releasing some ISIS fighters to get the United States involved".[62][274] Other US officials, however, refuted the accusations, which they called baseless and false.[275][276] They stated that the SDF are still defending their bases and are relocating ISIL detainees to facilities further south.[275] They also reported that the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army is purposefully releasing ISIL prisoners, previously held by the SDF before their territory was captured.[277][278]

At least 750 ISIL affiliates were reported by the SDF to have escaped from a displacement camp in Ayn Issa after Turkish bombing on 13 October 2019.[61]

A group calling itself "Free the Female Prisoners", which was established in January 2019 with the stated goal of freeing females associated with ISIL held at camps by the Syrian Democratic Forces, said it had a role in freeing prisoners from Ayn Issa, the group itself claims to be an independent group not affiliated with any faction, however it has been speculated to be either directly associated with ISIL or with al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, the Guardians of Religion Organization, the group itself says it would accept help from any faction or party as long as they supported their cause of releasing female ISIL prisoners.[279][original research?]


International reactions to Turkey's 2019 operation in northern Syria at a glance. See Reactions to the 2019 Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria for citations or more information.[needs update]

Domestic Turkish reaction

The Turkish offensive initially enjoyed wide support across the political spectrum, with the support of all major opposition parties except the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).[280] Opposition newsrooms and opposition parties were largely supportive of the operation.[90] However, as time progressed, the Turkish opposition began criticizing the governmental strategy. Opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu blamed the government's "adventurous foreign policy", stating that "If I do not respect the territorial integrity of another government, I will make enemies. Today we have made all the world as our enemies."[281] Meanwhile, opposition İyi Party leader Meral Akşener urged the government to dialogue with Assad in order to make peace while criticizing President Erdoğan for his silence on U.S. sanctions [282]

Arrests in Turkey

Turkish police detained more than 120 online critics of the Turkish operation for spreading "terrorist propaganda".[283][284] Turkish prosecutor opened an investigation into "terrorist propaganda" against MPs Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan, co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish HDP party.[285] Turkey arrested at least 151 members of the HDP, including district officials, and at least 4 HDP mayors for alleged links to the PKK, which Turkey considers to be a terrorist group.[286] Turkish authorities have also detained web editor of opposition BirGün newspaper (who was later released) and managing editor of the online news portal Diken.[287]

Controversy in North Cyprus

On 12 October[288] President of Northern Cyprus Mustafa Akinci made "anti-war" remarks on Facebook in response to the operation, in which, although defending the right of Turkey to defend itself, said that in all wars there will be much bloodshed. Erdoğan[289] as well as Turkish Vice President Oktay condemned Akinci's comment,[290] while North Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar's National Unity Party attempted to get a resolution through the legistlature that condemned Akinci, and called for his resignation for the comments.[291] Akinci also received a slew of death threats, and filed a complaint on 17 October to the police.[288]

Sanctions and suspension of arms sales

European Union

On 10 October, a large majority of Dutch MPs backed the introduction of sanctions against Turkey.[292][293] France, Germany,[294] Sweden,[293] Finland,[295] and Norway[296] implemented export restrictions on arms exports to Turkey[294] and France[297] as well as Sweden[293] expressed their intention to back an EU-wide weapons embargo on the nation,[297] with discussions in the European Union on possible union-wide sanctions on Turkey beginning on the 13th.[297] Italy, formerly Turkey's largest arms supplier, later joined the arms embargo against Turkey.[298][299]

On 14 October, all EU countries agreed to stop selling arms to Turkey, but stopped short of an official union-wide arms embargo.[300] The EU also issued a press release condemning "...Turkeyʼs unilateral military action in North East Syria which causes unacceptable human suffering, undermines the fight against Daʼesh and threatens heavily European security."[301]

United States
Letter dated 9 October from Donald Trump to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leaked to US media on the 16th.[122] On 18 October, Erdoğan told reporters that the language of the letter was a big insult, they weren't going to forget it, and they would have some sort of redress when the time comes.[302]

Trump said he was working with congressional leaders, including the Democratic opposition, to impose "powerful" economic sanctions against Turkey for its cross-border attacks in north-eastern Syria.[303] Senator Lindsey Graham warned that he would "introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria". He said he would also "call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the United States in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate".[304] Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the Senate to sanction Turkey,[305] as well as in the House of Representatives.[306]

On 14 October, the U.S. government declared sanctions against the Turkish ministries of defense, interior and energy.[72] The U.S. statement delivered by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Vice President Mike Pence denounced the Turkish government for "endangering innocent civilians, and destabilizing the region, including undermining the campaign to defeat ISIS", said that the U.S. had not given a "green light" to a full-on Turkish invasion, and warned that sanctions would continue and worsen "until Turkey embraces an immediate ceasefire".[72] On the same day, U.S. President Donald Trump demanded a ceasefire from Turkey in a conversation with Turkish President Erdoğan, froze negotiations on a $100bn US-Turkey trade deal, and imposed sanctions on Turkish government officials.[307]

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confronts Donald Trump about U.S. withdrawal at a meeting in the White House on 16 October 2019.

On 16 October, the United States House of Representatives, in a rare bipartisan vote of 354 to 60, "condemned" President Trump's withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, for, in the view of both parties, "abandoning U.S. allies, undermining the struggle against ISIS, and spurring a humanitarian catastrophe".[308]

On 17 October, after reaching a ceasefire agreement with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, US Vice President Mike Pence announced that all sanctions imposed on Turkey by the United States would be lifted and there would be no further sanctions once a permanent ceasefire was reached in the operation.[309]

Geopolitical developments

In response to the Turkish offensive, Russia arranged for negotiations between the Syrian government in Damascus and the Kurdish-led forces.[310][311] Mazlum Abdi, a Syrian Kurdish commander-in-chief, announced that they are ready to partner with Vladimir Putin (Russia) and Bashar al-Assad (Syria), stating that "We know that we would have to make painful compromises with Moscow and Bashar al-Assad if we go down the road of working with them. But if we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people."[312] The details of the agreement is unknown, but there are reports that suggest that the SDF will be incorporated into the Syrian Armed Forces and that northeastern Syria will come under direct rule of the Syrian government in Damascus.[313] According to Syrian Kurdish officials, the deal allows Syrian government forces to take over security in some border areas, but their own administration would maintain control of local institutions.[314]

The prospects for Kurdish autonomy in the region is severely diminished, because the Kurds were exposed to the Turkish-led offensive by the US withdrawal and the Syrian government forces under Assad—whose commonality is enmity towards Turkey and Sunni rebel militias—regained their foothold in northeast Syria after the Kurds had to seek their help.[315] In regards to the United States and the situation, Mazlum Abdi stated that "We are disappointed and frustrated by the current crisis. Our people are under attack, and their safety is our paramount concern. Two questions remain: How can we best protect our people? And is the United States still our ally?"[312] A deep sense of betrayal by their once American allies has come to be felt among the Syrian Kurdish populace.[316][317][318]

As announced by Russia's Ministry of Defense on 15 October, Russian forces have started to patrol the region along the line of contact between Turkish and Syrian forces,[311][314] indicating that Russia is filling the security vacuum from the sudden US withdrawal.[314][319] Video footage shows Russian soldiers and journalists touring a base that the US left behind.[314][320] Alexander Lavrentiev, Russia's special envoy on Syria, warned that the Turkish offensive into Syria is unacceptable and stated that Russia is seeking to prevent conflict between Turkish and Syrian troops.[321]

Several US lawmakers have criticized the abandonment of their Kurdish allies, remarking that it undermines US credibility as an ally while benefiting Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime of Assad.[322] Meanwhile, several observers in Moscow have stated that the situation is not in the immediate Russian interests, as the Turkish intervention in Syria clashes with Russia's backing of the Syrian government in the region, but it may provide opportunities for Russia as mediator as the US withdraws from Syria.[323] Commentators have remarked that, since the US withdrawal, Russia has cemented its status as the power broker in the Middle East.[320][324][325]

Due to the situation in Syria, there are signs of a schism between Turkey and other NATO members, in which NATO is seen as effectively "powerless" to manage the situation and the Turkish government is aware that NATO does not hold much leverage.[326] Furthermore, US President Trump, as well as US military and diplomatic officials, has cited the NATO membership of Turkey as a key reason that the United States can not be involved in the conflict between the Turkish and Syrian Kurdish forces.[327]

The U.S. is reviewing the potential withdrawal of its nuclear weapons from Incirlik airbase under NATO's nuclear sharing as a result of the Turkish offensive per NYT.[328][329] Republican senator Lindsay Graham[330][331] and Democratic representative Eric Swalwell[332] have called for possibly suspending Turkey's membership in NATO.

Media coverage

In Turkey, authorities such as the Chief Prosecutor's Office of Istanbul have been accused of censoring critical reports of the Turkish offensive into Syria through detaining or harassing journalists in an attempt to "intimidate the media into silence".[333] Furthermore, Turkish President Erdoğan has written op-eds about the Turkish offensive, which has been characterized as propagandist in nature.[334]

Much of western media's coverage and commentary of the U.S.'s role in the conflict have emphasized President Donald Trump's "strategic blunder" that led to the Turkish offensive,[334] particularly his upending of the U.S.'s general alliance with the Syrian Kurds, the withdrawal process of U.S. ground forces, and the greater geopolitical and humanitarian impact of the offensive.

ABC News was criticized for incorrectly portraying footage from a Kentucky gun range as footage of Turkish forces bombing Syrian territory in early October.[335][336][337] This portrayal of the incident in the video was quickly debunked.[338][339] The news network has since issued an apology for their mistake.[340][341]

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