update4: Late into the night local time, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced a full ground operation has commenced. Turkish armored vehicles and tanks were seen crossing into Syria alongside Turkish-backed Syrian 'rebel' forces, advancing into towns just south of the border frontier area.
And following this in a late afternoon White House press briefing Trump issued a statement reiterating he's prepared to "wipe out" Turkey's economy if America's Kurdish partners are hurt, after earlier in the day calling the operation "a bad idea".
President Trump says he will "wipe out" Turkey's economy if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tries to take out the Kurds in northern Syria: "I hope that he will act rationally" https://t.co/1ftZN3y51Y pic.twitter.com/OAkuAlsYc4— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 9, 2019
The president told reporters Turkey will pay a "big economic price" if the Syria operation done is done "unfairly". Reuters reports of the new statements:
Asked by a reporter if he was concerned Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will wipe out the Kurds, Trump replied: “I will wipe out his economy if that happens.”
I am pleased to have reached a bipartisan agreement with Senator @ChrisVanHollen on severe sanctions against Turkey for their invasion of Syria.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 9, 2019
While the Administration refuses to act against Turkey, I expect strong bipartisan support. pic.twitter.com/Ph5fIVt7k3
The president also for the first time indicated he's ready to support Sen. Lindsey Graham's call for economic sanctions on Turkey, adding he would support something "tougher" than sanctions should Erdogan not abide by all prior commitments.
Local monitors have reported 8 civilians are among nearly a dozen total dead in the Turkish assault on Syria, however, the death toll is expected to be much higher and is likely rising rapidly.
Syrian Kurdish media reports show local hospitals filling up with dead and wounded, as SDF chief Mazloum Abdi implored President Trump in a letter on Wednesday:
“We still hope that you will prevent the coming catastrophe against the Kurdish people and other peoples in the region as a result of the Turkish invasion.”
#Breaking— NORTH PRESS AGENCY (@NPA_SY) October 9, 2019
A civilian killed (Kurdish), two injured (Christian civilians) in al-Basheriyah, in the Turkish indiscriminate bombardment on civilian neighborhoods of the city of #Qamishli.
Northeastern #Syria pic.twitter.com/hZLN0vF60Q
Currently a mass exodus of civilians and possibly even Kurdish fighters are reportedly pouring out of Kobani and other towns near Syria's northern border.
1/ #BREAK I just spoke to my source in Kobani, NSyria, which is under fire by Turkish army. He told me something incredible:— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) October 9, 2019
Acc to him, 1000s of Kurds from Kobani are right now fleeing to a US military base near Lafarge cement factory, to seek US soldiers' protection.@akhbar
Meanwhile, certainly the most bizarre statement from President Trump on the fast developing situation:
Here's the full quote. The President evidently read something today about the Kurds, and that's where the WWII and D-Day stuff came from. pic.twitter.com/mMyfhF8cyv— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) October 9, 2019
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update3: In his first full statement since the start of Turkish military operations Wednesday morning, which has now witnessed ground forces cross into northeast Syria supported by Turkish F-16 fighter jets, President Trump has slammed the operation as a "bad idea" — but stopped short of calling for a halt to the incursion.
Further, after the SDF announced "the suspension of all operations against ISIS" given the Kurdish-led group is busy fighting off the Turkish onslaught, the president underscored that "Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form."
Notably the president reaffirmed that he's keeping American forces out of the conflict now engulfing the northeast border area where US bases were once located.
A new video from Qamishlo where homes in residential neighborhood of Bashiria was hit. This is where Kurds and Syriac Christians live together pic.twitter.com/m284freqSQ— Mutlu Civiroglu (@mutludc) October 9, 2019
Here is Trump's full statement:
This morning, Turkey, a NATO member, invaded Syria. The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea. There are no American soldiers in the area. From the first day I entered the political arena, I made it clear that I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars—especially those that don’t benefit the United States. Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment. In addition, Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form. We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely.
Meanwhile, CNN reports "The United Nations Security Council will meet privately Thursday morning to discuss the situation in Syria," after European powers urged an emergency session.
Multiple casualties are now being reported as Syrian civilians continue fleeing Turkish airstrikes. An SDF spokesman said Turkish warplanes have "started to carry out airstrikes on civilian areas," causing a "huge panic among people of the region."
Heavy clashes on all Northern Syria border-line, as the Turkish military is launching large scale attack amid SDF defensive positions from Derik, Qamishli, Derbasiya, Ras al-Ain, Tal-Abyad to Jarablus.— Coordination & Military Ops Center - SDF (@cmoc_sdf) October 9, 2019
The attacks also target the civilians to enforce them to leave their homes
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update2: The Kurdish-led and (formerly) US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have begun firing back on invading Turkish forces, which are being supported by F-16 jets, already bombarding densely packed civilian areas inside Syria near the border. Now busy defending themselves against Turkish air and ground forces, the SDF has announced "the suspension of all operations against ISIS."
Turkey's Anadolu Agency reports multiple rockets were launched from Kurdish positions in Syria's Qamishli, landing in the center of the Turkish border town of Nusaybin. Turkey will use the Kurdish response as justification for a more aggressive aerial response, with reports suggesting there could already be up to 200 Turkish warplanes in the air currently.
Turkish state media has claimed its invading forces have killed 6 SDF fighters, which it labeled "terrorists", and further cited sporadic shelling on its border towns from SDF positions.
Civilians are now fleeing en mass as Turkish airstrikes over Syria continue:
#Serê_Kaniyê/#Ras_al_Ain: Aftermath of an airstrike surrounding Serê Kaniyê, people are starting to flee in the direction of Hasake and Qamişlo.#Twitterkurds #Rojava #SDF #Turkey #TSK #Syria pic.twitter.com/XJ2OV72BXI— Rojava Network (@RojavaNetwork) October 9, 2019
It must be remembered that with US special forces withdrawn away from border areas ahead of the Turkish offensive, the SDF is without air power, and likely has not been given anti-aircraft weapons, though ironically al-Qaeda linked 'rebels' have been seen with American-issued MANPADS throughout the war.
Meanwhile, as the SDF has urged Washington to impose a No Fly Zone, Congressional members led by Sen. Lindsey Graham have vowed to make Erdogan "pay a heavy price" for the devastating military incursion, already said to be targeting civilians.
I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time by going back to the safe zone concept that was working.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 9, 2019
“I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time by going back to the safe zone concept that was working,” the Republican senator said immediately after the Turkish invasion commenced. The Trump ally said he'll lead an effort in Congress “to make Erdogan pay a heavy price.”
As to the economic toll on Erdogan's big gamble, S&P Global announced Wednesday the military operation “raises risks for Turkey’s currency and balance of payments,” per Bloomberg. “Nevertheless, we do not expect this to have any immediate impact on our sovereign ratings on Turkey,” the S&P Global statement continued. “Potential consequences of military operations in northeastern Syria could include, like in the past, retaliatory attacks in the region, including on Turkey’s tourism infrastructure.”
Waves of people in #Syria’s predominantly Kurdish northeastern town of Serekaniye have started to leave their homes as Turkish warplanes began shelling the area on Wednesday. #TwitterKurds— Kurdistan 24 English (@K24English) October 9, 2019
Read more: https://t.co/IU4uEnmFeH pic.twitter.com/P2eNKTja2b
And European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged "restraint" and for Turkey to halt its operations already underway. Juncker added that “if the Turkish plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don’t expect the European Union to pay for any of it.” France, Germany, Britain, Belgium, Poland and Kuwait have reportedly called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the developments.
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg is also urging Turkey not to “further destabilize the region” and to halt its incursion. Germany has also weighed in, saying via Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that “we condemn the Turkish offensive in the northeast of Syria in the strongest possible terms. ”
But big surprise: Syrian al-Qaeda chief Abu Mohammad al-Jolani has issued a statement supporting the Turkish operation, claiming the region "belongs to Sunni Arabs".
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update: Just as President Erdogan formally announced Wednesday that military operations have begun in Syria, Turkish F-16s began bombing targets in northeast Syria’s Ras al-Ayn and Sarekaniye minutes ago in what Ankara has dubbed 'Operation Peace Spring'.
Picture from Syria’s Ras al-ayn following Turkish airstrikes, broadcasted on Turkish TV pic.twitter.com/GjBY989C7D— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) October 9, 2019
And immediately the Turkish Lira began sliding near a daily low as troops began crossing into Syria, as limited groups of Turkish forward deployments are now seeking to move US-allied Kurdish forces away from its border, as Bloomberg reported this morning.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Army is reportedly moving toward Manbij, which could squeeze YPG/SDF forces between the two powers — though by week's end we could see the Syrian Kurdish militias make a deal with Assad, after both sides signaled openness to such amid the Turkish invasion.
Turkish fighter jets are now flying over Syrian Kurdish positions.
Meanwhile the SDF has made another desperate appeal to Washington as the attack is unfolding, requesting a US-imposed 'No Fly Zone' to stop the air assault.
Turkish fighter jets fly over Serekanîye ( Tal Abyad) now pic.twitter.com/eYNLeyqr2k— Mutlu Civiroglu (@mutludc) October 9, 2019
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Just like the Kurds warned, Turkish troops have started crossing into northeastern Syria as the country begins a military offensive that President Erdogan has insisted is vital for Turkey's security. As of early Wednesday morning in New York, a small group of Turkish forces had already entered the country, and reinforcements of troops and artillery were preparing to take up positions, Bloomberg reports.
One video that has been circulating on Twitter showed Turkish troops crossing the border, as journalists warned that "a new phase of this bloody regional war could be about to begin."
🎥 The latest from the #Turkey / #Syria border as Turkish troops and artillery take up positions. Despite international calls for Turkey to hold back, a new phase of this bloody regional war could be about to begin. @SkyNews pic.twitter.com/w9kf6JDdC2— Mark Stone (@Stone_SkyNews) October 8, 2019
Even BBG is reporting that the goal of the Turkish operation is to "force back Kurdish militants controlling the border area." Turkish troops entered Syria at two points along the border near the Syrian towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.
Bloomberg said there was "no immediate comment from Kurdish-led forces" though it noted that the YPG had earlier vowed to defend themselves against any Turkish attack.
Turkish markets were treading water on Wednesday after President Trump insisted that the US wouldn't stand in Turkey's way, but that Ankara had promised him that Washington's allies in the area - i.e. the Kurds - would be safe, with Trump threatening to "obliterate" the Turkish economy if Turkish forces attack the wrong people.
In what has been described as a "dramatic" reversal in US foreign policy, Trump signaled earlier in the week that the US would turn over thousands of ISIS members to Turkey (after their home countries overwhelmingly refused to take them back), and allow the Turkish military to cross into northeastern Syria as the US pulls out. However, Trump's move is in line with his insistence that other NATO members shoulder more of the responsibility for their defense. Turkey is a NATO member.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told state-run TRT TV that "deployments and work is still underway regarding the operation," indicating that more Turkish forces will move across the border.
If they want to prevent a resurgence of ISIS, they better hurry up. YPG forces have warned about mass jailbreaks of ISIS prisoners during a Turkish invasion.
Turkey wants to eliminate the YPG because of its ties to the separatist PKK, a Kurdish party inside Turkey that has been battling against Ankara for decades to try and achieve sovereignty for the country's Kurds. Ironically, though it was Washington's closest ally on the ground in Syria, the YPG is considered a terrorist organization.
In a statement, Turkey's chief of communications warned that Kurds have two options: "They can defect, or we will stop them from disrupting our counter-ISIS efforts."
We imagine the Kurds will find that very convincing.
As for where Turkey goes from here, one journalist has a breakdown:
How will Turkey conduct the operation in Syria?— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) October 8, 2019
• First phase: 120km area between Tal Abyad/Rasulayn, where US troops withdrew
• Airforce, drones/jets and howitzers will pound YPG targets
• Then Turkish Special Forces and Syrian National Army will enter
— Turkish reports pic.twitter.com/KhLqKZEEby