Thousands flee, dozens reported killed as Turkey pushes Syria assault

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to his ruling party officials in Ankara Turkey on Thursday

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to his ruling party officials in Ankara Turkey on Thursday

Norway's foreign minister said Thursday that the country will suspend arms sales to Turkey over that country's military operations in northern Syria against USA -backed Kurdish forces who helped fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), The Hill reports.

Separately, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged Ankara to exercise restraint in its incursion though he acknowledged what he said was Turkey's legitimate security concern about the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The Turkish military, supported by Syrian proxies, launched an offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, despite widespread worldwide warnings.

The territory on the Syrian side of the border is now controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara considers to be affiliated with the PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation in Turkey.

The invasion came after President Donald Trump opened the way by pulling American troops from their positions near the border and abandoning US -allied Syrian Kurdish fighters.

He added: "I don't think the American people want to see us go back into that area with out military or go back into that area again".

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She told reporters the president has emphasized to Turkey's government that it bears "full responsibility" for protecting Kurds and religious minorities, and for ensuring that IS fighters remain in prison and the extremist group doesn't reconstitute itself. It drew swift criticism from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, along with many national defense experts who say it's endangered not only the Syrian Kurds and regional stability but US credibility as well. "I am watching closely".

As the shells rained down, those few civilians who hadn't already fled for safer ground joined an exodus tens of thousands strong, leaving entire border towns virtually deserted.

Trump initially defended his move saying he had been elected on "getting out of these ridiculous endless wars" and that "Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out".

The Ankara-based Anadolu news agency released footage of Turkish armored vehicles crossing the border into northeast Syria late last night, in what was said to be 'the direction of SDF-held territories.' The mobilization prompted local Syrian civilians to flee their towns this morning.

One major concern for the global community is the fate of thousands of suspected IS prisoners, including many foreign nationals, being guarded by Kurdish-led forces in the region.

The SDF said Turkish airstrikes and shelling had also killed nine civilians.

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The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet later today.

He threatened to permit Syrian refugees in Turkey to move to Europe if European Union countries described his forces' move as an occupation.

Cavusoglu reiterated the proposal later Thursday.

"We have one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily, hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!" he added.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen on Wednesday announced a framework for sanctions against Turkey for its ongoing military campaign in northeast Syria.

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