Live: Day 6 of Turkey's Syria operation

* All times local (GMT +3)

As Turkish forces and their allies continued their steady advance into areas of northeast Syria over the weekend, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced that Washington was pulling out its 1,000 troops from the region “as safely and quickly as possible.”

No longer under U.S. protection, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) turned to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The deal struck will see Syrian government forces deploy along the length of the border to repel Turkey’s attack on lands the SDF and its allies had autonomously governed throughout the eight-year conflict.

Ankara sees the SDF as a terrorist group due to its links to outlawed Kurdish militant groups in Turkey, and said it aimed to drive the Kurdish-led groups 30 km south of its border when it launched Operation Peace Spring last Wednesday. The Turkish Defence Ministry announced on Monday afternoon it had killed or captured 560 SDF fighters in its offensive so far.


01: 15: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo releases a statement to sanction senior Turkish officials

The statement released by the U.S. State Department on behalf of Secretary Pompeo said "Three senior Turkish officials, the Ministry of Energy, and the Ministry of Defense have been designated for sanctions under these authorities, concurrent with the signing of the Executive Order."

The statement also called on Turkey stop immediately its military incursion in northeast Syria, " To avoid suffering further sanctions imposed under this new Executive Order Turkey must immediately cease its unilateral offensive in northeast Syria and return to a dialogue with the United States on security in northeast Syria."

00: 45 Pres Trump directs Vice Pres Pence and National Security Adviser (NSA) Robert O'Brien to lead delegation to Turkey

The U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in front of the White House that he and NSA Robert O'Brien will be visiting Turkey. Pence said Turkish President Erdogan gave firm commitment not to attack city of Kobane. 

23;55 - Sec of Defense Esper to seek NATO measures against "egregious" Turkish actions

In a new statement, Pentagon chief Mark Esper blamed Turkey for release of "many dangerous ISIS detainees" and said Turkish action in Syria has "undermined" mission to defeat ISIS. Pentagon's harsh statement came shortly after President Trump's own statement informing that he will be soon issuing new sanctions against Turkish officials, and said Turkey's "unilateral invasion of northern Syria" which was ordered by Turkish President Erdogan "resulted in widespread causalities, refugees, destruction, insecurity, and growing threat of U.S. military forces."

Esper called Turkish operation as "unnecessary and impulsive" and said Erdogan "bears full responsibility for its consequences, to include potential ISIS resurgence, possible war crimes, and growing humanitarian crisis.”

Esper finished his statement saying he will be pressing "other NATO allies to take collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures in response to these egregious Turkish actions." in Brussels next week.

22:58 - Trump to sanction Turkish officials

U.S. President Donald Trump said he is preparing to impose sanctions against current and former Turkish officials contributing to the offensive in southeast Turkey.

The U.S. president said he would "soon" issue an order sanctioning Turkish officials, hike tariffs on Turkish steel up to 50 percent and "immediately" halt trade negotiations with the country.

Washington would also impose "powerful additional sanctions’’ on those who may be involved in human rights abuses’’ in Syria, a statement he issued on Twitter said.

Trump’s statement arrives on day six of Turkey’s offensive in northeast Syria targeting Kurdish forces which have spearheaded the U.S.-led war on ISIS in the region.


 22:35 -Erdoğan, Macron discuss Syria in phone call

 Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron on the phone, explaining the aims of Turkey’s offensive in northeastern Syria, Reuters reported.

The operation would contribute to regional and global peace and stability, it quoted Erdoğan as telling his French counterpart.  

The call arrives following a decision earlier on Monday by European Union countries to limit arms exports to Turkey over its offensive in northern Syria targeting Kurdish forces.


22:00 - 9 members of pro-Kurdish HDP arrested over anti-incursion protest

A Turkish court has ordered the arrest of nine members of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including an Istanbul district co-chair, after participating in a protest against Turkey’s offensive in Syria.

HDP members are accused of “conducting terrorist propaganda,’’ independent news site Diken reported.

The HDP is only party in Turkish parliament which did not vote in favour of the offensive targeting Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.


21:55 - Hamas says Turkey has right to remove threats, defend itself

Islamist group Hamas said Turkey has a right to defend itself and remove threats, in an apparent reference to Turkey’s ongoing offensive targeting Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, state-run Anadolu news agency said. 


 21:30 - Mercy Corps suspending operations, evacuating foreign staff from northeast Syria

International aid agency Mercy Corps has announced it is suspending operations and evacuating foreign staff from northeast Syria day six of Turkey’s offensive.

"We just cannot effectively operate with the heavy shelling, roads closing, and the various and constantly changing armed actors in the areas where we are working," Reuters quoted Mercy Corps' deputy country director for Syria Made Ferguson as saying in a statement.


20:50 - Syrian army enters Manbij - Syrian state TV

The Syrian army has entered the Kurdish-held town of Manbij in northern Syria, Syrian state news agency Sana said.

Kurdish forces have maintained control of Manbij since 2012.

The reports follows that of pro-Kurdish Rudaw news agency, who earlier on Monday said Turkish-backed forces had begun storming the city.


20:40 - Turkey blasts EU over decision to ban arms exports

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it "entirely rejects and condemns’’ a decision on Monday by EU countries to ban the sale of arms to Turkey amid the country’s ongoing offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria. 

"This protective approach by the EU over terror elements is unacceptable,’’ Turkey’s state-run TRT-Haber quoted the ministry as saying.

The ministry echoed the sentiments regarding the EU Council’s decision for potential sanctions over Turkey's drilling activities in the east Mediterranean.


20:00 - Up 160,000 people displaced amid Turkey offensive - U.N.

The United Nations said up to 160,000 people had been displaced during Turkey's military offensive into northeast Syria. 

The figure follows warnings from aid agencies that nearly a half-million people are deemed to be at risk from ongoing fighting in Syria's border region with Turkey.


19:50 - 560 fighters from Kurdish-led groups 'neutralised' - Defence Ministry

Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence said in a tweet on Monday afternoon that 560 fighters from Kurdish-led groups had been “neutralised.” The term is used by the Turkish government to refer to combatants killed or captured by its forces.


19:05 - The Turkish Armed Forces chief, Russian counterpart hold phone call on offensive

The Turkish Armed Forces Chief Gen. Yaşar Güler and his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov held a phone call on Monday, discussing Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria.

The pair discussed the security situation in Syria and recent developments, state-run Anadolu news agency said citing a statement from the Turkish General Staff.


18: 13 - Bipartisan sanctions against Turkey get nod from House Speaker Pelosi

U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has expressed her support for bipartisan sanctions against Turkey’s incursion in northeast Syria, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said.

Pelosi believes the United States should ‘’show support for Kurdish allies and is concerned about the reemergence of ISIS,’’ Graham, an outspoken critic of Turkey’s incursion, said on Twitter.

"I will be working across party lines in a bicameral fashion to draft sanctions and move quickly, appreciating President Trump’s willingness to work with the Congress. The Speaker indicated to me that time was of the essence,’’ Graham wrote.


17:30 - Tel Abyad, Ras al-Ayn under Turkish control - Defence Ministry

Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that the north Syrian towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn are under Turkish control on day six of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring targeting Kurdish forces. 

"Our efforts regarding the safety in the region continue," state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Akar as telling reporters in capital Ankara.

"Our fight [on Operation Peace Spring] is not only against YPG, but against all terrorist organizations especially Daesh. Terrorists are our only target," Akar said.


17:19 - Turkish Cypriot leader defends statement on Syria offensive

The president of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus responded to criticism from Turkey over his criticism of the military offensive in northeast Syria.

"Since when is defending peace a crime? Who wins when this desire (for peace) is accused and defamed?" Mustafa Akıncı said in a post on his official Facebook account.

Akıncı on Sunday said that the Turkish offensive in Syria was causing bloodshed, igniting a spat with mainland Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the comments "completely measureless”.


17:00 - 18 Turkish civilians killed, 200 wounded since start of offensive

A total of 18 Turkish civilians have been killed and another 200 wounded since the start of the Turkish offensive on northeast Syria on Oct. 9, state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as saying.

The casualties are a result of more than 700 mortars fired from the Kurdish-controlled Syrian north hitting Turkish provinces along the border, the agency said.


16:40 - Turkey ridding Syria of YPG, ensuring its territorial integrity - Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated Turkey’ respect for Syria’s territorial integrity and said the country's ongoing Operation Peace Spring was aimed at the removal of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the war-torn country.

The Turkish president criticised Western nations for their condemnation of the offensive.

"Since when are terrorist groups being defended against a NATO member?’’ state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Erdoğan as asking during the 7th Summit of the Turkic Council in Baku.


16:36 - Turkish-backed forces enter Manbij - Rudaw

Turkish-backed forces have begun storming the Kurdish-held city of Manbij on day six of the Turkish military offensive in northeast Syria, pro-Kurdish Rudaw news agency reported.


16:35 – Turkish government investigates opposition MP for criticising operation

Police are investigating Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a member of parliament for Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) over a statement criticising Operation Peace Spring, BBC Turkish reported.

“The government should know this is an unjust war and a war against Kurds,” Tanrıkulu said in a tweet on Oct. 12.

Prosecutors are investigating the opposition lawmaker for the tweet and other statements he made about the operation in televised interviews, BBC Turkish said. Tanrıkulu has been accused of “publicly denigrating the Republic of Turkey.”

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16:00 – “Not too late” to sanction Turkey, U.S. Treasury Secretary says

It is “not too late” to hit Turkey with sanctions over its military operation in northeast Syria, and the issue will be discussed at a National Security Council meeting later on Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin told reporters outside the White House.

President Donald Trump will be briefed after the meeting, and sanctions are ready to be imposed as soon as he gives the order, the Treasury Secretary said in a televised statement to reporters.

On Sunday, Mnuchin said sanctions were “ready to go at a moments notice” and could start small or “they could be maximum pressure, which would destroy the Turkish economy."

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15:30 – EU to halt arms exports to Turkey, but stops short of arms embargo

The European Council has announced that arms exports to Turkey will be suspended, but stopped short of the EU-wide arms embargo sought by France and Germany.

“The EU condemns Turkey’s military action which seriously undermines the stability and the security of the whole region, resulting in more civilians suffering and further displacement and severely hindering access to humanitarian assistance,” the council said in a statement.

“It makes the prospects for the UN-led political process to achieve peace in Syria far more difficult. It also significantly undermines the progress achieved so far by the Global Coalition to defeat Da'esh, stressing that Da’esh remains a threat to European security as well as Turkey’s, regional and international security.”

In response to Turkey’s drilling near Cyprus, the council also agreed on “a framework regime of restrictive measures targeting natural and legal persons responsible for or involved in the illegal drilling activity of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean is put in place.”


 

14:55 Kremlin does not want to consider Turkey-Syria clash

Moscow “does not want to think of” the possibility of a clash between Turkey and the Russian-backed Syrian government, Reuters quoted Kremlin spolesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Monday.

The comments came after reports that Syrian government forces had agreed to deploy along areas of the Turkish-Syrian border in an agreement with the Kurdish-led forces that Turkey is attacking.


14:30 – Trump: Big sanctions coming for Turkey

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to place “big sanctions” on Turkey over its northeast Syria offensive, but rejected suggestions there could be a war with Washington’s NATO ally.

It was Trump’s promise to withdraw U.S. troops during a phone conversation with Erdoğan on Oct. 6 that led to the launch of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring on Wednesday last week.

The operation sparked outrage at the U.S. Congress and bipartisan agreement that sanctions should be placed on Ankara. The measures proposed include sanctions targeting Erdoğan and top cabinet members.


14:10 – Syrian government forces to take positions along Turkish border – Kurdish official

The Syrian government will deploy along the border under a deal with the SDF to check the Turkish incursion and will discuss politics later, Reuters quoted Aldar Xelil, an influential Kurdish politician, as saying.

The Rojava Information Centre, a social media account reporting news from the ground in northeast Syria, quoted Xelil as saying government forces would take positions on the border only from Derik to Ras al Ayn and from Tel Abyad to Qamishli.

Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn, which Turkey and allied rebel groups announced they had captured last weekend, are not included in the agreement, Xelil said.

The Kurdish politician said the Syrian government had agreed to leave internal security and political administration of the areas in the hands of the autonomous administrations that Kurdish-led forces set up in the region.

The situation of Islamic State detainees would not change under the deal, with the autonomous administrations still seeking repatriation of foreign fighters or their trial at international court.


13:50 – Turkish police block HDP from statement criticising military operation

Riot police in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakır blocked the entrance of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)’s provincial headquarters to prevent officials from the party from reading a statement on Operation Peace Spring, Turkish news agency ANKA reported.

The HDP was the only party in Turkey’s parliament that did not support the operation.


13:40 – NATO chief calls on international community to deal with captured foreign jihadists in Syria

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the alliance's 65th Annual Session in London that Turkey faced unique challenges and its military operation in northeast Syria addressed legitimate security concerns, but repeated his call for restraint.

It must now be a priority for the international community to ensure that captured Islamic State fighters do not escape, Stoltenberg said.

“An imminent concern is that captured terrorists must not be allowed to escape. The international community must find a coordinated and sustainable solution to deal with foreign fighters held in Syria,” he said.

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13:05 – Syrian government forces enter crucial town of Ain Issa

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have entered Ain Issa, a strategically important town on the M4 highway around 30 km south of Tel Abyad, the BBC reported citing a Syrian state news channel.


12:55 – “Unacceptable” to call Turkish military operation a war – justice minister

Turkey will never accept description of its ongoing military operation in northeast Syria as a war, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül told reporters.

Turkish government officials have been sensitive about the language used to describe Operation Peace Spring, with Erdoğan last week threatening to allow the passage of millions of migrants to Europe if the European Union called the offensive an invasion.

Over 100 people have faced legal action for social media posts “insulting” the operation, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said last week.


12:30 – Turkish-backed Syrian fighters fly FSA flag in Tel Abyad

Turkish-backed Arab rebels have removed flags of the Kurdish-led administration in Tel Abyad, a town bordering Turkey’s Akçakale, and replaced them with the three-starred flag of the Syrian uprising, a video shared by ITV correspondent Emma Murphy showed.


12:20 - Turkish lira declines after Trump threatens sanctions for invasion

Turkey’s lira and stocks dropped on Monday as investors fretted over possible U.S. economic sanctions over Ankara’s military incursion.The lira fell 0.5 percent to 5.91 per dollar at midday local time in Istanbul, heading for the lowest level since May and extending losses this year to almost 12 percent. The main BIST 100 index of shares declined 2.5 percent to 96,596.36 points.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday that President Donald Trump had authorised "very powerful" sanctions against Turkey. On Sunday, Trump said he was working with Congress on the matter.


12:00 – Arab fighters, not Turkish military to enter Manbij – Erdoğan

Erdoğan said Manbij was being “emptied”, likely referring to the withdrawal of U.S. and SDF troops.

Once the town was emptied its “true owners”, Arab tribes, would enter in place of Turkish forces, he said. “Our stance is for them to enter and for us to ensure their safety.


11:35 – Erdoğan condemns international media reports on military operation

The Turkish president accused international media outlets of publishing manipulative reports on Turkey’s military operation.
“It’s always their tactic, and they’re using the same one now. They’ll do what they’re good at and spread falsehoods, but we’ll continue telling the truth,” he said.

Erdoğan also criticised his country’s allies for siding with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) over Turkey, a NATO member.

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11:25 – Erdoğan: Russia positive on Turkish operation in Kobani
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed Operation Peace Spring at a news conference at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport:

“At the moment, it seems Russia’s stance is positive so there won’t be a problem in Kobani. As for Manbij, right now we’re at the stage of taking the steps that we’d decided on.”


11:10 – Turkish armed forces prepare for assault on Manbij – local news

 Turkish Army and allied rebel fighters are set to launch an attack on Manbij, a northern Syrian town west of the River Euphrates, Turkey’s İhlas News Agency reported on Monday morning.

Manbij had been protected by the presence of U.S. soldiers during previous Turkish military operations, and was the subject of a U.S.-Turkish “roadmap” agreement after Turkey captured nearby territories last year.


10:40 – “No stopping” military operation – Turkish president’s spokesman
Turkish Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said there would be no stopping Operation Peace Spring until it reached its goals, despite international opposition.

Those who had remained silent as cities and lives were destroyed in the eight-year Syrian conflict “are now calling for a stop to Operation Peace Spring in a state of panic and threatening sanctions on Turkey. There’s no stopping until we achieve our objectives,” Kalın tweeted.


10:25 – Syrian government forces reach Tal Tamer, state media reports

The Syrian Arab Army has entered Tal Tamer, a district of Hasakah province roughly 32 km south of Turkey’s border crossing at Ceylanpınar, Syria’s state news agency reported on Monday morning.


09:45 – Foreign journalists evacuate ahead of Syrian government advance

Dozens of foreign journalists have been leaving northeast Syria as Assad’s forces move towards the border, BBC Arabic special correspondent Feras Kilani has said.


09:30 – Turkish Defence Ministry announces 550 “neutralised” in operation

Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence said in a tweet on Monday morning that Operation Peace Spring was proceeding as planned, and 550 fighters from Kurdish-led groups had been “neutralised.” The term is used by the Turkish government to refer to combatants killed or captured by its forces.


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.