United States warns of 'serious consequences' as Turkey continues offensive in north-eastern Syria


The five European members of the UN Security Council called Thursday for Turkey to halt its offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces.

Since Trump first announced plans to withdraw from Syria past year, experts have warned that a US departure could empower Islamic State militants.

Trump on Monday wrote on Twitter: "As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!)". But the barrages of the invasion so far showed little sign of being held back, and the operation drew widespread criticism.

In Akcakale, a Turkish town on the border with Syria, dozens of cars transporting civilians filed out of town Thursday, all but emptying the area as ambulances transporting wounded residents raced by.

Explosions were reported in the northern Syrian border towns of Ras al Ain and Tel Abyad Friday as the Turkish military offensive continued. The figure could not be independently verified.

On Thursday, Turkish jets carried out fresh strikes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a Kurdish military official said.

Seven civilians including a nine-month-old baby were killed in Turkish border towns in Sanliurfa and Mardin provinces.

U.S. officials confirmed the president had ordered the military to not get involved in the Turkish strikes, which have killed seven civilians since Wednesday. "They must be sanctioned for their attacks on our Kurdish allies". The Turkish government says it plans to enact this initiative with worldwide funding.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he's anxious the Turkish invasion in Syria could unleash Islamic State again. The SDF have been the main allies of U.S. forces on the ground in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) since 2014.

"We have to be aware of this and mobilize the resources of our intelligence to undercut this emerging tangible threat", Putin said.

The U.S. originally brokered a version of Turkey's safe zone in August and agreed to patrol it with Turkish troops, effectively separating Turkey from the Syrian Democratic Forces, which Turkey sees as the same as the PKK, a militant group that has been conducting attacks in Turkey for decades. They hold 11,000 Islamic State detainees, of which 2,000 are foreign fighters, the official said. It said the total number of Kurdish fighters killed in the incursion now numbers 277.

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"President Trump made clear that if Turkey crosses a line in Syria, he would "totally obliterate the economy of Turkey" - and this legislation gives the United States the tools to make good on that promise", Representative Jodey Arrington wrote. Iraq was coordinating with the United States, Russia, Turkey and the SDF, he said, "to protect our security" and to prevent a repeat of the Islamic State rampage through Iraq that began in the summer of 2014.

"I hope we can mediate", Trump told the press later when he was asked about the three options.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey meant to push 30 kilometers, or almost 19 miles, into Syrian territory, but no further.

One aim of Ankara's operation is to establish a "safe zone" in which at least one million Syrian refugees can be repatriated from Turkey.

The military source said he believes numerous captured Islamic State prisoners "will be free in the coming days and weeks".

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's communications director said that U.S. President Donald Trump, in a Sunday phone call which appeared to pave the way for Turkey's offensive, agreed "to transfer the leadership of the counter-Islamic State campaign to Turkey".

Meanwhile, a French official said Friday that sanctions against Turkey will be "on the table" at next week's European Union summit, over Ankara's incursion into Syria.

European diplomats in Brussels have responded cautiously to the idea of sanctions, even though Turkey's actions have been met with near-unanimous criticism. Now the Turkish army is going in, the Kurds are abandoning these camps.

UNHCR said after eight years of conflict, Syria remains the largest refugee crisis in the world, with 5.6 million Syrians living as refugees.

"President Erdogan and his regime must face serious consequences for mercilessly attacking our Kurdish allies in northern Syria", Republican Representative Liz Cheney, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, said in a statement.