U.N. calls for protecting civilians in northeast Syria

Civilians must be spared in any Turkish military operation in northeast Syria, where the United Nations hopes that displacement and atrocities can be prevented, a senior U.N. aid official said on Monday.

The United States said it was pulling troops from northeast Syria, in a major shift which clears the way for a Turkish military offensive against Kurdish-led forces and hands Turkey responsibility for thousands of Islamic State captives.

Panos Moumtzis, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, speaking hours later, told reporters in Geneva that had drawn up contingency plans to provide aid. "We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst," he said, adding that the U.N. had seen a "bitter history" of safe zones in places like Srebrenica.