Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) denied that Turkish-backed forces had taken control of the centre of Ras al Ain on Saturday after a senior Turkish security official said the town centre had been seized.
Marvan Qamishlo, an SDF military media official, said Turkish-backed forces had entered one neighbourhood of Ras al Ain, the industrial district, following hours of heavy Turkish shelling that had forced a “tactical retreat” from that area.
“Now the SDF’s attack has started and there are very fierce clashes now,” he told Reuters. “The clashes are continuing in the industrial district,” he said, saying this was the part of Ras al Ain closest to the Turkish border.
The civilian death toll resulting from Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria has risen to 30, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.
More than 100,000 people displaced
More than 100,000 people from the towns of Ras Al-Ayn and Tal Abyad have been displaced by the escalation of violence in Syria, the U.N. World Food Programme said on Saturday.
The World Food Programme and its partners will still support people in the northeast despite a deterioration in the security situation, it said. About 580,000 of the people it feeds in the region are currently living in Kurdish-controlled areas.
Syria must be freed from foreign military presence – Putin
Syria must be freed from foreign military presence, Russian President Vladimir Putin according to Russian news agencies.
“Everyone who is illegitimately on the territory of any state, in this case Syria, must leave this territory. This applies to all states,” Putin told RT, Arabik Sky News and Al Arabiya in an interview, excerpts from which were quoted by the Russian agencies.
Putin also said Russian forces in Syria were also ready to leave the country as soon as new legitimate Syrian government tells Moscow it no longer needs its help.
Iran offers to mediate between Syrian Kurds, Turkey
Iran offered on Saturday to engage Syrian Kurds, Syria’s government and Turkey in talks to establish security along the Turkish-Syrian border following Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria to fight Kurdish forces.
In making the mediation offer, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif referred to a 21-year-old security accord that required Damascus to stop harbouring Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants waged an insurgency against the Turkish state. Turkey has said that pact was never implemented.
“The Adana Agreement between Turkey and Syria – still valid – can be the better path to achiev(ing) security,” Zarif said. “Iran can help bring together the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian Govt and Turkey so that the Syrian Army together with Turkey can guard the border,” he said in a tweet which carried part of an interview he did with Turkish public broadcaster TRT World.
Iran’s call came on the fourth day of Turkey’s offensive against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara regards as a terrorist group with links to the PKK.
The United States has ramped up its efforts to persuade Ankara to halt the incursion, saying Ankara was causing “great harm” to ties and could face sanctions.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday the 1998 accord could only be implemented if there was a political settlement to Syria’s eight-year-old war. He also said implementing the Adana pact would require the Syrian government to be in control of northeastern Syria – which it is not.
Iran, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has regularly urged Turkey to respect Syria’s territorial integrity and avoid military action in northeastern Syria.
Damascus has said it is committed to the Adana accord.
Turkey’s Syria offensive “invasion” of Arab land – Arab League secretary general
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Saturday called Turkey’s military operation in northeast Syria an “invasion of an Arab state’s land and an aggression on its sovereignty”.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, president of the current Arab League session, also condemned Turkey’s offensive into Syria during an emergency meeting for the body, called by Egypt. He called on the League to reinstate Syria’s membership in the body.
Monitor: 74 Kurdish-led fighters killed in Turkish offensive
The death toll among Syrian Kurdish-led fighters battling a Turkish offensive has risen to 74, most of whom have been killed in the Tel Abyad area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.
Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman also said 49 fighters with Turkish backed Syrian rebel groups had been killed since the assault began on Wednesday.
The death toll among civilians in Syria had climbed to 30 after two people died in the city of Qamishli, he said. Most of the civilian deaths were also in Tel Abyad, a border town that is one of the focal points of the operation.