Syrian sources claim Turkey attacked in Iraq, not Syria

The attacks come after the US announced that it would withdraw from Syria as Turkey prepares for a military operation to create a "safe zone" in northern Syria.

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October 8, 2019 12:14
4 minute read.
Turkish soldiers walk together during a joint U.S.-Turkey patrol, near Tel Abyad, Syria

Turkish soldiers walk together during a joint U.S.-Turkey patrol, near Tel Abyad, Syria. (photo credit: REUTERS/RODI SAID)

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights denied a report by Syrian state news agency SANA earlier on Monday evening claiming that Turkey had conducted airstrikes in Syria against the Syrian Democratic Forces. According to the SOHR, the airstrikes hit targets in Iraq.

A White House official stated later on Monday night that the US has not seen any signs of a Turkish operation in Syria yet, according to Steve Herman, a reporter from Voice of America news.

"It appears the Turks are intent on some sort of military operation, possibly combined with an effort to resettle refugees," said the White House official.

There are only 50 to 100 "special operators" in the region who the US does not want endangered if the Turks come over the border to engage with the Kurds. "This does not constitute a withdrawal from Syria," said the official to Herman, adding that the US does not endorse any Turkish operation in Syria.

The US is just protecting its troops and is definitely not giving a "green light" to Turkey to kill Kurds, according to the official who stressed that US President Donald Trump is prepared to "obliterate the economy of Turkey if they do."

"As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!)," tweeted Trump on Monday.


The official added that no one that needed to know could have been blindsided by the move to withdraw troops, as Trump discussed the move with senior advisors.


The commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Gen. Mazloum Kobane, told NBC news that they didn't expect the withdrawal at all. He received a call at 3 a.m. on Monday informing him of the decision.

American forces stationed in northeastern Syria received an urgent, unexpected message on Monday telling them "We're departing the field," according to NBC.

Trump warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call on Sunday that the US would completely withdraw from Syria if Turkey launched a large-scale operation.

Last December, Trump announced that the US would completely withdraw from Syria, but US officials convinced him to reverse the decision.

Turkish forces carried out attacks against Kurdish forces and the anti-Assad Syrian Democratic Forces militia near the Turkish border on Monday evening.

Turkish forces attacked SDF positions in the city of al-Malikiyah in the Hasakah area in northern Syria, reported SANA on Monday evening.

The SDF includes Kurds and others in eastern Syria which the US has helped train, assist and advise during the war on ISIS.

The Turkish Air Force "neutralized" three PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) members in northern Iraq on Monday, according to the Turkish National Defense Ministry, reported the Turkish Anadolu Agency.

The attacks were carried out in the Gara region near the Turkey-Iraq border.

Earlier on Monday, the United States announced that it would be withdrawing from Syria.

Turkey will move forward with its long-planned military operation to create what it calls a "safe zone" in northern Syria and U.S. forces will not support or be involved in it, the White House press secretary announced early Monday morning.

"The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area," said the White House press secretary on Monday morning.

The SDF withdrew from an oil field in the Deir ez-Zor area and headed towards the Turkish border on Monday, according to the SOHR. The SDF lead protests against Iranian-backed militias in the Deir ez-Zor area in September.

The SOHR recorded a high alert level among the SDF in the Hasakah area due to concerns about a possible imminent Turkish invasion.

"Turkey’s unprovoked attack on our areas will have a negative impact on our fight against ISIS and the stability and peace we have created in the region in the recent years," said the SDF in a press statement. "As the Syrian Democratic Forces, we are determined to defend our land at all costs."

Iran's foreign minister on Monday backed Syrian sovereignty and opposed military action in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, state media said, after a U.S. pull-back of troops in northeast Syria appeared to open the way to a Turkish attack.

"(Mohammad Javad) Zarif, opposed military action and emphasized respect for Syria's territorial integrity and national sovereignty and the need to fight terrorism and bring stability and security to Syria," state broadcaster IRIB said, about the phone call with Turkey's Mevlut Cavusoglu.

In a phone call on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu assured Zarif that the planned operation in Syria was only a "temporary measure," according to Sputnik news.

Seth J. Frantzman and Reuters contributed to this report.


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