Turkey invades Syria

This item appears on page 20 of the December 2019 issue.

The Turkish military pushed into northwestern Syria on Oct. 9, attacking towns and military positions held by Kurdish fighters. As of press time, in clashes between the two groups, at least 259 Kurdish fighters, 196 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels and seven Turkish soldiers had been killed, along with 120 civilians. Human rights groups accused Turkey of using banned chemical weapons, including white phosphorus and napalm, during their military incursion.

For years, the border between Turkey and Syria has largely been controlled by Kurdish militias, which held it against attacks by members of the militant Islamist group Daesh (ISIL) or had taken it from Daesh control. The US had stationed support troops in the area to assist the Kurdish militias but removed them on Oct. 8.

On Oct. 17, Turkey agreed to a 120-hour cease-fire to allow Kurds to evacuate the border area. The UN estimates that during that time, at least 176,000 people were displaced. Turkey was accused of multiple violations of that cease-fire.

In response to Turkey’s operation in Syria, Kurdish military groups have allied themselves with Syrian president Assad al-Bashir to bolster their positions and repel the Turkish advance. Turkish president Reccip Tayyip Erdo─čan and Russian president Vladimir Putin agreed on Oct. 22 on a plan that would split military presence in the Kurdish region of Syria between the two countries.