Day 5: Erdoğan says arms embargo will not stop Syria offensive as Assad forces continue to move north

* All times local (GMT +3)

After announcing the seizure of Ras al Ayn on Saturday, the Turkish military has intensified its campaign in Tel Abyad on the fifth day of its offensive in northern Syria aiming to remove the Syrian Kurdish forces from territories along the Turkish border.

The Defence Ministry said on Sunday that the Turkish forces and allied Syrian fighters had killed or captured 480 members of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its main fighting force, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Turkey has been facing severe international pressure, with repeated calls to Ankara from its Western allies and Arab countries to halt the offensive in northeast Syria.

The international community is also concerned that Turkey’s incursion can lead to the revival of the Islamic State (ISIS), as the SDF is the key partner of the U.S.-led coalition forces fighting against the jihadi group and has been controlling camps scattered in northeast Syria that host detained ISIS members and their families.

While a series of bipartisan bills in the U.S. Congress seek to impose sanctions on Turkey over the Syria incursion, Germany and France on Saturday announced that they had suspended weapons sales to Turkey.

The Arab League, representing 22 Arab countries, denounced the Turkish “invasion” on Saturday, announcing that it was considering financial and diplomatic measures against Ankara.

Turkey’s offensive, which aims to establish a 30-kilometre deep safe zone stretching along its border inside Syria, started on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump paved the way for Ankara’s operation by pulling out American forces in northeast Syria.


01:05: Killing of Kurdish politician 'extremely troubling' - U.S. State Dept

The United States is looking into reports that a Kurdish politician and captured Kurdish fighters were killed in northeastern Syria amid Turkey's offensive, a State Department spokesman told Reuters on Sunday.

Turkey-backed fighters accused of killing a Kurdish politician Hervin Khalaf, secretary general of the Future Syria Party. in an ambush on a road in northern Syria on Saturday, 

According to Reuters, U.S. State Department added that Washington found the reports disturbing.

Asked about the accusation that Turkey-backed groups had killed Khalaf, the spokesman for the Turkey-backed National Army, which groups Syrian rebel factions, on Saturday said they had not made it as far as that area.

"We condemn in the strongest of terms any mistreatment and extrajudicial execution of civilians or prisoners, and are looking further into these circumstances," the U.S. State Department spokesman said.


00:15- Graham says reckoning day close 

Outspoken U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, in two tweet messages on Sunday evening, warned Turkey once again, this time by the "the most crippling sanctions since the Iran sanctions." Graham also labeled the Turkish operation as "misadventure" and  said it is "detriment of the U.S. and our allies." 


23: 20-  U.S. observation point in Aleppo's Ayn Al-Arab evacuated - AA

A U.S. observation point in the Ayn Al-Arab district of Syria’s northern province of Aleppo has been evacuated, state-run Anadolu news agency reported citing Turkish security sources.

The report follows an order by U.S. President Donald Trump earlier Sunday for U.S. troops to leave northern Syria, where Turkey has launched an offensive targeting Kurdish forces.


23: 05 - Syrian army to deploy along Turkish border in deal with SDF - Reuters

The Syrian army will deploy along the length of the border with Turkey in line with an agreement reached on Sunday with the Kurdish-led SDF administration in northern Syria, Reuters said citing the Kurdish-led administration.

Assad forces will effectively support the Kurdish-led SDF forces in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered” the statement said, referring to Turkey's military offensive in northeast Syria.


22: 51 - Turkish pres. advisor warns of potential clash between Syrian army, Turkish forces 

Turkish forces could clash with the Syrian army if the latter enters northeast Syria, a Turkish presidential advisor told Sputnik Arabic.

The Turkish army would respond to Assad forces if they enter Manbij, where Turkey is conducting a military operation targeting Kurdish forces, Yasin Aktay, said in an exclusive interview with the network.

The statement arrives amid reports of the Syrian army advancing towards the region.


22: 35 - Sanctions threats, arms embargoes won’t stop Turkey’s incursion - Erdoğan

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said threats of sanctions and arms embargoes by Western powers would not stop Turkey's military offensive against Kurdish militants in northeast Syria.

"After we launched our operation, we have faced threats like economic sanctions and embargoes on weapons sales. Those who think they can make Turkey turn back with these threats are gravely mistaken," CNN Türk quoted the Turkish president said in a televised speech.

France and Germany on Saturday that they were suspending arms exports to Turkey over its offensive in Syria targeting the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Italy followed suit on Sunday, saying it is preparing to stop the sales of weapons to Turkey and will push for an EU-wide halt.


22: 05 - Damascus, Kurdish-led SDF reach agreement on Syria troop deployment near Turkish border

The Syrian government and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have reached an agreement over the protection of areas in northeastern Syria threatened by the Turkish offensive, Agence France-Press reported.

The SDF has released a statement on day five of the Turkish incursion, calling on the Syrian army to protect the country’s borders and preserve Syrian sovereignty,  Erbil-based freelance journalist and Ahval contributor Wladimir van Wilgenberg said on Twitter.

The Kurdish umbrella organisation in the statement has asked for support in repelling Turkish aggression and liberating areas occupied by “Turkish army and its hired mercenaries,” Wilgenberg said.


21: 45 - Syrian Kurds agree to allow Assad troops into Kobani

The Syrian Army is advancing towards the Kurdish enclave of Kobani, pro-Kurdish Rudaw english quoted the head of Kobani's Defense Authority as saying. 

“Tonight, the Syrian army will return to Kobani. Per the agreement with Russia, tonight the Syrian Army will return to Kobani,” Ismat Sheikh Hassan said. 

Syrian state media Sana confirmed the deal in a tweet on Sunday evening, citing a reporter.

"Units of the Syrian Arab Army are moving towards the north to counter the Turkish aggression," a Sana reporter said.


21: 00 - Kurdish-led SDF, Damascus held talks at Russian airbase - report

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian government have been holding negotiations at a Russian airbase in Syria, a senior member of the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party in Syria told Reuters.

The talks were being held at Russia's Hmeimim airbase in Latakia, Ahmed Suleiman told the agency. 

Head of the SDF media office Mustafa Bali responded to Reuters with "no comment" on the report while Syrian government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.


20: 31 - France’s Macron says Turkey’s incursion risks humanitarian crisis

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said Turkey's offensive in northeast Syria risks creating "unbearable" humanitarian situation, AFP reported.

Some 130,000 people have been displaced from rural areas around border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn since Turkey launched its offensive in northeast Syria on Wednesday against Kurdish militants, Reuters reported on Sunday.

The French president is set to hold an emergency defence cabinet meeting to discuss options regarding the Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria, the French presidency said in a statement on Sunday.


20: 20-  Number of "neutralised" Kurdish militia climbs to 525 - defence ministry

The Turkish Defence Ministry on Sunday that a total of 525 Kurdish fighters had been "neutralised" on day five of the Turkish incursion in northeast Syria. Turkey uses the term “neutralised” to refer to enemy fighters who surrendered, were captured or killed in fighting.

The figure is up from 490 as announced by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier on Sunday.


20: 00 - Syrian army forces moving north to confront Turkish troops - Sana

The Syrian army is moving north to land controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is being targeted by Turkey in an offensive that began on Wednesday.

The report by Syria’s state-run news agency Sana follows that of Lebanese broadcaster al-Mayadeen, which earlier today said the Syrian army would deploy within 48 hours to the Kurdish enclave of  Kobani and nearby town of Manbij.


19: 44 - U.S forces risk confrontation with Turkish proxies in northeast Syria - Fox news

Extremist Turkish proxies are wearing Kurish-controlled SDF uniforms and killing civilians in northeast Syria, where the situation is “rapidly deteriorating,’’ wrote Fox news correspondent, Benjamin Hall citing a U.S. official.

U.S. forces are at risk of being isolated with increasing likelihood of a confrontation between Turkish proxies and US troops, he wrote on Twitter.


19: 20 - Erdoğan dismisses reports of ISIS detainees fleeing

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dismisses reports earlier on Sunday of ISIS detainees fleeing camps in Syria as Turkey pushes through with an incursion into the northeast of the country targeting Kurdish forces.

“Reports of Daesh prisoners escaping is disinformation. By doing so, [People's Protection Units - YPG] wants to provoke the US, and the West in general," pro-government Sabah newspaper quoted Erdoğan as saying late Sunday during a meeting with members of the press in Istanbul.

Erdoğan also said that he discussed any problems during the incursion with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin within 24 hours.

“We take the necessary steps together," the Turkish president added.

Erdoğan reiterated that the operation was aimed at clearing the region from terrorist groups and Turkey was not interested in Syrian land.


19: 00 -  Syrian army set to deploy to Kobani, Manbij - Al-Mayadeen

The Syrian army would deploy within two-days to the Kurdish enclave of  Kobani, as well as the nearby town of Manbij, Reuters reported citing Lebanese broadcaster al-Mayadeen.

Both Kobani and Manbij  fall within swathes of land controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is being targeted by Turkey in an offensive that began on Wednesday.


17: 30 - Trump poised to impose ‘powerful sanctions’ on Turkey

U.S. President Donald Trump says he is in talks with members of congress to impose “powerful sanctions’’ on Turkey as it continues attacks on Kurdish militia in northern Syria.

Trump said he was dealing with “many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey,’’ on Twitter.

The U.S. president said the Treasury was ready and additional legislation may be sought on the matter.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been a fierce critic of the Turkish incursion, congratulated Trump over his decision to “work with Congress to impose crippling sanctions against Turkeys outrageous aggression/war crimes in Syria.’’


17: 30 - Foreign ministry calls on EU countries to increase security amid protests over incursion

Turkish Foreign Ministry calls on EU countries to increase security measures against possible moves targeting Turkish citizens or embassies during Turkey’s military incursion in northeast Syria.

"With the start of the Operation Peace Spring, we observe an increase in the violent demonstrations and actions of PKK elements, especially in European countries," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"We expect from the relevant countries to increase the measures in order to protect the security of life and property of our diplomatic missions, citizens, personnel and Turkish interests abroad and to show maximum sensitivity in this regard," the statement said.


15: 20 - Italy to stop weapons sales to Turkey - foreign affairs minister

Italy is set to stop the sales of weapons to Turkey and push for a comprehensive EU-wide stop, the Italian minister of foreign affairs said.

Italy follows Germany and France, which have already announced a curb to arms sales to Turkey over its Syria operation.


15:00 - Merkel calls for end to incursion in phone call with Erdoğan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for an immediate end to Turkey’s incursion in northeast Syria during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Reuters reported. 

The call took place on the request of Erdoğan, it said. 

The incursion risks displacing a large part of the local population, destabilising the region and leading to a resurgence of Islamic State, german government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer quoted  Merkel as saying.  

Answering questions from the Turkish press about the call, Erdoğan said he asked the German Chancellor whether Germany was on the side of terrorists or Turkey.

‘’I said have you accepted a terrorist organisation into NATO (in a move) that we are not aware of ?’’ Erdoğan said. 


14:35 - U.S. troops in northern Syria ordered to move south

U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered all U.S. troops in northern Syria to move south, but not leave the country, AP quoted the country’s Defence Minister Mark Esper as saying.

The conflict between Turkish forces and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters had become “untenable” for the U.S. military, Esper told CBS news.


14:24 - City centre of Tel Abyad district cleared of Kurdish militia  - AA

The city centre of Syria’s Tel Abyad district has been cleared from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on day five of Turkey’s incursion in northeast Syria, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkey has seized control of the strategic M4 highway, some 30-35 km (19-22 miles) deep into in northern Syria on day five of Operation Peace Spring, the country's Defence Ministry announced on Sunday.


14:15 - Turkey "neutralised" 490 Kurdish militia - Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday that a total of 490 Kurdish fighters were "neutralised". Turkey uses the term “neutralised” to refer to enemy fighters who surrendered, were captured or killed in fighting.

He said 440 Kurdish militia were killed and 26 were captured while another 24 surrendered. 

Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels have taken control in Ras al Ayn and 17 villages around Tel Abyad, according to Erdoğan.

A total 18 civilians, mostly children, have been killed in attacks by the YPG on Turkey's border regions, the Turkish president said. 


13:40 Turkish bombardment kills 14 Syrian civilians - monitor

Some 14 people have been killed on Sunday in northeast Syria where Turkey is carrying out an offensive against Kurdish forces, AFP reported citing a war monitor.
The dead included five people who were killed when pro-Turkey rebels opened fire on their car near Ayn Isa, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


12:15 - Over 130,000 people displaced by Turkish incursion in northeast Syria

Some 130,000 people have been displaced from rural areas around border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn since Turkey launched its offensive in northeast Syria on Wednesday against Kurdish militants, Reuters reported on Sunday, citing a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA and several humanitarian agencies estimate up to 400,000 civilians in northeast Syria may be affected by the ongoing incursion.


11:45 - ISIS families flee camp at Ain Issa after Turkish shelling

Some families of Islamic State (ISIS) militants on Sunday have fled after Turkish shelling near a camp at Ain Issa for displaced people in northern Syria holding thousands of members of ISIS families, Reuters reported, citing a statement by Kurdish officials.

An estimated 785 people affiliated with ISIS have fled, it said citing Kurdish officials.

The shelling of the camp represented a "support for the revival" of ISIS, the Kurdish-led administration for northern and eastern Syria said.


11:00 - Fights continue in Ras al Ayn as Syrian Kurdish forces trying to retake control - monitor

Clashes continue in Ras al Ayn between Turkish-backed Syrian forces and the yrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday after Turkish forces and allied Syrian militia seized town centre on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

17 members of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army were killed in the attack, SOHR said


10:30 -  One injured in mortar attack on Akçakale

One civilian has been injured in a mortar attack on Turkey's southeast border town of Akçakale, including some in critical condition, NTV reported in a live broadcast. The mortar was fired from Tel Abyad, a town across the border controlled by Kurdish-led militias, NTV said.


10:00 - Turkey says Saluq district of Tel Abyad has been taken under control

State-run Anadolu Agency on Sunday said the centre of Saluq district had been cleared off Kurdish forces and Turkish-backed Syrian militia took control in the district. Following the capture of Ras al Ayn on Saturday, Turkish forces have intensified operations into Tel Abyad.


09:45 - UAE calls on Turkey to withdraw from Syria

The United Arab Emirates has called upon Turkey and all other foreign forces to withdraw from Syria and to seek a political solution following an emergency meeting of the Arab League.

The Arab League on Saturday condemned Ankara's incursion in Syria, saying it was considering aking diplomatic, economic, investment and tourism measures against Turkey.


01:10 - U.S. forces say Turkey deliberately launched artillery rounds near American troops in Syria
According to Washington Post reporting

Turkish forces who launched multiple artillery rounds near a U.S. Special Operations outpost in northeastern Syria on Friday have known for months that Americans were there, according to four current and former U.S. officials, raising questions whether Turkey is trying to push American troops farther from the border.

Washington Post's Dan Lamothe reports that the first reported by Newsweek, the situation was more serious than characterized Friday, several officials told WP.

“That’s an area weapon,” the officer said, noting its explosive effects. “That’s not something we ever would have done to a partner force.” WP said.


00:20 -  UEFA to launch investigation over Turkish national team’s military salute

UEFA Communications Director Philip Townsend has said the organisation is set to launch an investigation after the Turkish national soccer team struck a military salute during a game against Albania, pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper reported.


00:10 - Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kazakhstan support Turkey’s Syria incursion

A total of four countries - Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kazakhstan- have come out in support of Turkey’s military operation into northeast Syria targeting Kurdish forces, Turkish military news site TSK Map reported.


See Saturday's live blog.