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Tens of Thousands Flee Syrian Border Towns as Turkey Bombards Country Following Trump's Green Light

"If the offensive continues it's possible a total of 300,000 people could be displaced to already overstretched camps and towns still recovering from the fight against ISIS."

Syrian Arab and Kurdish civilians arrive to Hassakeh city after fleeing following Turkish bombardment on Syria's northeastern towns along the Turkish border on October 10, 2019. (Photo: Delil Souleiman/ AFP via Getty Images)

Human rights workers said Friday that 64,000 civilians have fled Syria since Turkey on Wednesday began with President Donald Trump's tacit approval an airstrike and shelling offensive in the northeastern region of the country.

"If the offensive continues it's possible a total of 300,000 people could be displaced to already overstretched camps and towns still recovering from the fight against ISIS," Misty Buswell of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) told the BBC.

"Hostilities will impact and restrict access to humanitarian aid pushing the civilian population, which has already suffered years of violence and displacement, to the brink."
—Marie Struthers, Amnesty International
Amnesty International decried the effects of the offensive on the region in just three days. A hospital in Tel Abyad was forced to close after most of its staff fled the violence, and 4,000 displaced Syrians who had sought refuge in a camp being forced to evacuate once again.

"Hostilities will impact and restrict access to humanitarian aid pushing the civilian population, which has already suffered years of violence and displacement, to the brink," said Marie Struthers, director of Amnesty's Europe program. "Turkey must ensure civilians fleeing the conflict can access safer areas including by crossing the border into Turkey to seek international protection."

The humanitarian group Kurdish Red Crescent reported Thursday night that at least 11 people have been killed in Turkey's bombing campaign so far, including an 11-year-old boy in the border city of Qamishli.

The Trump administration on Friday gave the Treasury Department broad power to sanction Turkey if its attacks reach a threshold that Trump disapproves of, but the president did not go as far as imposing sanctions.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Friday that the country would risk "serious consequences" if it did not end its attacks, but the warning provoked no sign that Turkey would end the offensive, which has killed at least 277 Kurdish fighters so far, according to The Guardian.

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Trump announced on Sunday that he would withdraw U.S. forces from the northeast of Syria. The soldiers were stationed along the border to support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes many Kurdish soldiers and fought ISIS alongside the U.S. for years.

Kurdish fighters were guarding 11,000 captured ISIS fighters when Trump made his announcement. The Turkish offensive sparked fears that the group could quickly have a resurgence in the area. Amid the shelling of cities including Tel Agyad and Ra al-Ayn, a car bomb exploded Friday afternoon in the border town of Qamishli, killing at least one person. No group has taken responsibility for the bombing, according to The Guardian.

In a column for Common Dreams on Friday, contributor Brett Wilkins lamented that even as the onslaught against the Syrian Kurds is condemned as a foreign policy disaster orchestrated by the Trump administration, too few critical voices in the U.S. media are making the connection between this latest betrayal of Syrians and the insidious and destructive role the U.S. military has played in the Middle East for decades—directly causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

"As the Turkey escalates its attack on America's (yet again) abandoned Kurdish allies," wrote Wilkins, "you can expect to see heart-rending images and reports about the innocent men, women and children killed and maimed in the campaign. The same goes for the next time Syrian or Russian forces go on the offensive. However, if coverage of civilian casualties caused by U.S. action is what you're after, you'll have to look to foreign or alternative media sources. After all, as U.S. General Tommy Franks flippantly declared before the invasion of Iraq, 'We don't do body counts.'"

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