Islamic State strikes Kurds amid intense Turkish offensive in Syria

Islamic State strikes Kurds amid intense Turkish offensive in Syria
Islamic State militants struck Kurdish militias on Friday, amid an ongoing Turkish offensive targeting the forces in Syria.
3 min read
12 October, 2019
The attack came amid an intense Turkish military offensive in Syria [Getty]
The Islamic State militant group targeted Kurdish militia in a car bomb attack in northeast Syria on Friday, where a Turkish military operations intensified despite concerns by much of the world.

The deadly car bomb in Qamishli, the largest city in the Kurdish-held area, struck amid intense Turkish shelling.

Meanwhile, five members of the Islamic State militant group fled imprisonment while foreign women belonging to the group torched tents and attacked guards with sticks and stones at a camp where they are being held.

The IS attack comes amid a heavy offensive which sees Turkey targeting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a key US ally in the five-year battle to crush the Islamic State group. The SDF lost 11,000 fighters in the US-led campaign.

US President Donald Trump has come under heavy criticism at home, even among usually steadfast Republican supporters, who say he abandoned US-allied Kurdish fighters who led the fight against the Islamic State group.

Turkey’s new assault on Kurdish forces has been condemned by a number of Ankara's NATO allies, who have expressed concern about civilians in the area.

The Turkish military offensive has left dozens of fighters and civilians dead and sent 100,000 people fleeing their homes, according to a UN estimate.

Read more: Thousands flee, dozens killed as Turkish assault on Syrian Kurds continues

France’s Europe minister said on Friday that EU sanctions against Turkey are "on the table", while Norway suspended the sale of arms to Ankara. Italy, France and the Netherlands have summoned their respective Turkish ambassadors to express their concern.

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier urged Turkey to end its operation as quickly as possible, saying the assault was putting "millions of people at humanitarian risk".

He added that the SDF is "responsible in front of the international community for helping [the Islamic State group] in build its Caliphate”.

Also on Friday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump is ready to authorise wide-ranging sanctions on Turkey aimed at dissuading Ankara from further military action in north-eastern Syria.

Addressing reporters at the White House, Mnuchin said Trump was poised to sign an executive order approving "very significant new sanctions authorities" - but that the United States was not yet "activating" the measures.

"These are very powerful sanctions. We hope we don't have to use them but we can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to," Mnuchin said.

The punitive measures, Mnuchin said, can be targeted at any person associated with the Turkish government.

The sanctions announcement came hours after the Pentagon blasted Turkey for its three-day old assault on Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria, warning of "serious consequences" for Ankara in the strongest US statement yet against an assault that Trump had initially appeared to green light.

Turkish President Erdogan meanwhile warned Europe not to call Turkey’s actions an “invasion”, threatening to “flood Europe” with 3 million refugees.

"Hey EU, wake up. I say it again: if you try to frame our operation there as an invasion, our task is simple, we will open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants to you," Erdogan said in a speech to his party.

In scenes all too familiar since the start of Syria's war in March 2011, civilians were seen abandoning their homes on Thursday, in vehicles or on foot with their belongings on their backs.

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