Turkey pounds Syrian border towns, sparking exodus

Turkish Army vehicles drive towards the Syrian border

Despite withering criticism, Mr Trump has framed it as fulfilling a campaign promise to extricate the United States from a Middle East quagmire it should never have been involved in to begin with.

Kurdish authorities said the bomb killed three civilians and wounded nine.

"The foreigner annex of al-Hol has been steadily violent much of the year, partly because it seems to hold a small core of organized and extremely militant women who plot and prey upon others, but also because conditions inside are so deplorable and tense", said Moaveni, who is also the author of a book about young women who travelled to the region to join IS.

Gunfire could also be heard inside the town, said a journalist for the Reuters news agency in Ceylanpinar, on the Turkish side of the border. Some made victory signs, shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) and waving Syrian rebel flags as they advanced towards Ras al Ain.

But Russia's United Nations ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told reporters afterward that any Security Council statement needs to take into account other aspects of the Syrian crisis, not just the Turkish operation, and should demand the immediate termination of "the illegal military presence" in the country.

"We are deeply concerned by the Turkish military operation in northeast Syria", the countries - France, Germany, Britain, Belgium and Poland - said in a joint statement after an emergency meeting. It says it has killed 277 militants in total.

Donald Trump's decision to pull back troops from the Syrian border region has been widely criticized as a tacit "green light" for a Turkish offensive that intensified on Friday, with air and artillery strikes on Kurdish militia.

Esper insisted the Kurds remain a viable partner.

At least 32 fighters with the SDF and 34 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have been killed in fighting, while 10 civilians have been killed, the Observatory said.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters to be terrorists linked to a Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey and says the offensive is a counterterrorism operation necessary for its own national security.

"We really want to keep those lines open, so we don't face a shortage of food and other supplies", he says.

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The SDF have been the main allies of USA forces on the ground in the battle against ISIL since 2014. As the situation unfolds, it may become hard to keep them from unintentionally winding up back in harm's way, squeezed between the Turkish offensive and the civil war.

A facility in Tal Abyad, the only public hospital in the region, was forced to shut after most of its staff fled from bombings over the past 24 hours, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement on Friday.

The Pentagon had said before the operation began that the US military would not support it, but it had not openly criticized the invasion.

The assistant secretary general of the Arab League, Hossam Zaki, said the Turkish campaign "constitutes an unacceptable attack on the sovereignty of an Arab member state of the League".

Trump told reporters Thursday at the White House that he hoped the U.S., Turkey and the Syrian Kurds could mediate the situation. He said U.S. policy is to continue with a counter-Isis campaign except in one area of the incursion.

United States officials confirmed the president had ordered the military to not get involved in the Turkish strikes, which have killed seven civilians since Wednesday.

That included eight civilians killed in a Turkish border town late Friday in what the local governor's office said was a Kurdish mortar attack.

The Observatory said Turkish forces had seized two villages near Ras al-Ain and five near Tal Abyad.

Milley said leaders of the Kurdish force have told some of their fighters to move north to defend what they consider to be their territory.

Trump has faced rare criticism from senior figures in his Republican Party who accuse him of deserting USA allies. The source would not say how many Americans were at the bombed location, beyond that they were small in number - somewhere between 15 and 100. He unveiled a framework for sanctions on Turkey with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen.

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