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Under U.S. Deal, Turkish Occupation of Northern Syria Continues; Ethnic Cleansing Feared

HeadlineOct 18, 2019

Shelling is continuing in northern Syria, one day after Turkey agreed to a U.S. plan to halt its assault on Kurdish-controlled areas for five days. Turkey invaded the region after President Trump withdrew U.S. support for the Kurds. Vice President Mike Pence announced the deal after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.

Vice President Mike Pence: “The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours. All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal.”

Turkey has refused to call the deal a ceasefire. On Thursday, a Kurdish commander said they would accept the deal but only along part of the border. The New York Times reports the deal “amounts to a near-total victory for Turkey’s president” because it would allow Turkey to keep occupying parts of northern Syria. In addition, the U.S. would lift its sanctions on Turkey. It remains unclear what will happen to Kurds who live near the Turkish border. Former Obama official Colin Kahl told The Guardian, “If they really think they’re going to push the Kurds all the way back to behind the M4 highway, that’s a huge population transfer. It would involve massive ethnic cleansing essentially.” Meanwhile, Amnesty International is accusing Turkey of committing war crimes by carrying out summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians in northern Syria. Kurdish authorities report at least 218 civilians have been killed in the Turkish offensive, including 18 children.

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