|Date: Oct 17, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Kurds accuse Turkey of using banned incendiary weapons|
|Turkey assault in NE Syria displaced 300,000: monitor|
|Agence France Presse|
BEIRUT: The embattled Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria accused Turkey Thursday of resorting to banned weapons such as napalm and white phosphorus munitions.
The use of such weapons since the start of the cross-border assault by Turkey and its Syrian proxies could not immediately be confirmed independently.
In a statement issued eight days into the deadly offensive, the Kurdish administration said Turkey had resorted to their use because of unexpectedly stiff resistance by Kurdish fighters in the key border town of Ras al-Ain.
"The Turkish aggression is using all available weapons against Ras al-Ain," the Kurdish statement said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has so far ignored international pressure to halt the offensive, which has killed dozens of civilians and displaced more than 300,000 people.
"Faced with the obvious failure of his plan, Erdogan is resorting to weapons that are globally banned such as phosphorus and napalm," the statement added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group with a wide network of sources on the ground, could not confirm the use of napalm or white phosphorus.
But Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said there had been a spike in burn wounds over the past two days, mostly casualties brought in from the Ras al-Ain area.
Kurdish officials posted a video on social media showing children with burns one doctor in Hasakeh province argues are consistent with the use of banned weapons.
Made notorious by their widespread use by US forces in the Vietnam War, napalm and related chemicals are mixtures of a gelling agent and a volatile petrochemical used in incendiary bombs.
White phosphorus can be used to create a smoke screen or as a battlefield marker, but it can also be deployed as a deadly incendiary weapon, a use prohibited under international law.
A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces - the autonomous Kurdish region's de facto army - called on international organisations to send in experts.
"We urge international organisations to send their teams to investigate some wounds sustained in attacks," Mustefa Bali said on social media.
"The medical facilities in NE Syria lack expert teams," he added.
Pence to urge Turkey to halt Syria offensive as threat of further sanctions loom
ANKARA: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will urge Turkey Thursday to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, a day after President Donald Trump threatened heavy sanctions over the operation.
Turkey's week-long assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 160,000 civilians taking flight, a security alert over thousands of Islamic State fighters abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.
Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish fighters, who were Washington's main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing troops from the border as Turkey launched its offensive on Oct. 9.
Trump defended his move Wednesday and called it "strategically brilliant".
Following a phone call with Erdogan, who has rejected calls for ceasefire or mediation, Trump dispatched top aides including Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara for emergency talks to try to persuade Turkey to halt the offensive.
Pence will meet Erdogan around 1130 GMT, while Pompeo and other officials are expected to hold talks with counterparts. A top aide to Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, met National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien Wednesday and said he conveyed Turkey's position.
On Wednesday, Trump said he thought Pence and Erdogan would have a "successful meeting", but warned of sanctions and tariffs that "will be devastating to Turkey's economy" otherwise. Kalin said that Turkey's foreign ministry was preparing to retaliate to the U.S. sanctions.
Trump's critics say the U.S. sanctions so far, including a hike to steel tariffs, a pause in trade talks, and sanctions on the defence and energy ministries, were too soft.
On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said they could be broadened, while Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives also indicated a sanctions legislation.
Erdogan has dismissed the sanctions and rejected a global chorus of calls to halt the offensive, which Turkey says will create a "safe zone" extending 20 miles (32 km) into northeast Syria to ensure the return of millions of Syrian refugees and clear the area of Kurdish fighters Ankara views as terrorists.
Erdogan said Turkey would end its operation when Kurdish forces withdraw from the "safe zone", adding that "no power" can deter Ankara's operation until it reaches its goals.
Turkey assault in NE Syria displaced 300,000: monitor
Agence France Presse
BEIRUT: Turkey's week-old offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas of northeastern Syria has displaced more than 300,000 people, a war monitor said Thursday.
The Kurdish-led administration in the region also announced Thursday that the Turkish offensive has killed 218 civilians, including 18 children since it started a week ago.
The fighting has also wounded more than 650 people, according to a statement from its health authority.
"More than 300,000 civilians have been displaced since the start of the offensive," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
He said the jump in the number of people forced to flee was due to a fresh wave of displacement over the past few days from areas around Tal Abyad and Kobane and in Hasakeh province.
Most displaced people tried to move in with relatives in safer areas, some were sleeping rough in orchards and others in some of the 40 schools that have been turned into emergency shelters, Abdel Rahman said.
Turkey and its Syrian proxies launched a broad assault on Kurdish-controlled areas on October 9, after US troops pulled back from the border and started withdrawing from the northeast altogether.
Dozens of civilians - mostly on the Kurdish side - have been killed since the start of the offensive, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to halt despite mounting international pressure.