Battles raged Friday as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to press an assault against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, dismissing “threats” from other countries while the US warned Ankara of fresh sanctions.
President Donald Trump, whose order to pull back US troops from the border this week effectively triggered the intervention, said Washington would now seek to broker a truce.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper “strongly encouraged” Turkey to halt its offensive as a prelude to such negotiations, warning otherwise of “serious consequences”.
But Erdogan vowed the assault “will not stop”.
“Now there are threats coming from left and right, telling us to stop this,” he said. “We will not step back.”
His pledge to carry on with the push, which the UN says has displaced more than 100,000, came as US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump was planning to activate “very powerful” sanctions on Ankara.
“We hope we don’t have to use them but we can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to,” he said.
Battlefield and Casualties
As the offensive went into its third day, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces were fending for themselves, trying to repulse multiple ground attacks along a roughly 120 kilometer (75 mile) long segment of the border.
“There is heavy fighting between the SDF and the Turks on different fronts, mostly from Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ain,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Britain-based war monitor said the Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies — mostly Sunni Arab ex-rebels — were launching air strikes, heavy artillery and rocket fire.
The monitor said four civilians were killed in Tal Abyad when an air strike hit the car in which they were fleeing the fighting, while another three were shot dead by snipers around the border town.
That brings the civilian death toll to 17 on the Syrian side, while 17 have also been killed in Turkey.
According to the Observatory, 54 SDF fighters have also been killed while Turkey has reported the deaths of four soldiers.