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Kurdish forces call up civilians to 'defend frontlines' against feared Turkish assault

The US has long ensured some protection for the Kurds from Turkish forces [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 October, 2019

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The Syrian Kurdish leadership has urged all civilians to 'head to the border with Turkey... to resist during this delicate historical moment', as the offensive risks turning into a bloodbath.
Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria have called on civilians to take to the frontlines to defend the enclave against a looming Turkish assault, which some reports saying the offensive has already begun.

"We announce three days of general mobilisation in northern and eastern Syria," said the Kurdish statement, urging all civilians to "head to the border with Turkey... to resist during this delicate historical moment".

It also called on Kurds in Syria and abroad to protest against Ankara's planned offensive, which many fear will turn into a bloodbath for both Kurdish fighters and civilians.

The announcement comes a day after reports Kurdish civilians in northeast Syria are heading to the border with Turkey to stage open-ended sit-ins, which some activists described as "human shields" against the feared assault.

Kurdish news organisations tweeted videos purporting to show hundreds of civilians marching towards the border to protest the invasion, however The New Arab could not verify the footage. 

Turkey said on Tuesday it would "shortly" begin an offensive into northern Syria, as it sent more armoured vehicles to the border.

The Turkish intervention will be launched over several months, taking three stages, sources exclusively revealed to The New Arab on Tuesday.

Turkey’s long-anticipated assault aims to bring scores of Kurdish and Arab towns and villages in northeastern Syria under direct Turkish control.

Turkey's communications director, Fahrettin Altun, wrote in The Washington Post that Kurdish forces can either "defect" or Turkey will "have no choice but to stop them from disrupting our counter-Islamic State efforts".

US President Donald Trump has blown hot and cold since a surprise announcement on Sunday that Washington was pulling back 50 to 100 "special operators" from Syria's border with Turkey.

In a bizarre Twitter tirade on Monday, Trump threatened to "obliterate" Turkey's economy if it went too far, despite having earlier seemed to have given a green light to the Turkish invasion.

He also insisted the United States had not abandoned its Kurdish allies by pulling forces out of the area.

On Wednesday, the Kurdish administration said it would hold its US ally and the whole international community responsible for any "humanitarian catastrophe" that unfolds in the territory under its control. 

Kurdish forces took heavy losses in the US-backed campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria which they spearheaded.

In March, they declared the territorial defeat of IS after overrunning the militants' last stronghold in the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria.

Ankara strongly opposed Washington's support for Kurdish forces in Syria citing their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has fought a deadly insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

Turkey has already carried out two cross-border offensives into Syria, including one in 2018 that saw it and allied Syria rebels overrun the majority-Kurdish Afrin enclave in the northwest.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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