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Turkish troops and Syrian rebels encircle two SDF-held towns: rebel spokesman

Local | 2019-10-10 20:37:34
Turkish troops and Syrian rebels encircle two SDF-held towns: rebel spokesman
Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels have now encircled two border towns in northeast Syria held by the U.S.-backed SDF forces after a ground offensive that seized several villages around them, a spokesman for the rebels said Thursday.

Major Youssef Hamoud said the two towns of Ras al Ain and Tel Abyad were now encircled after the Turkish army aided by fighters of the Syrian opposition group known as the National Army seized several villages around them.

The two towns where Arab tribes are the majority of its inhabitants are a main goal of the Turkish military campaign to oust Kurdish-led fighters who control its area and where Ankara says it wants to set up a so-called safe zone

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that Turkey's incursion will not go further than 30 km into northeast Syria, as Turkish forces pressed on against Kurdish fighters in the second day of the operation.

Speaking to broadcaster CNN Turk, Cavusoglu said that the security threat which Turkey says it faces from the presence of Kurdish fighters on its border would be eliminated if the area was cleared of militants.

"When we go 30 km deep in the safe zone, terror there will be removed," he said.

Cavusoglu also said Turkey had the right to use air space over Syria as part of its campaign. "We have the right to use that air space," he said. "That air space does not belong to the United States. It has no right to control that air space."

The Turkish foreign minister claimed Thursday that Turkey will take responsibility for Islamic State prisoners in a "safe zone" it aims to form in Syria after its military incursion there, responding to fears the militants could escape in the chaos.

"If Daesh (Islamic State) camps or prisons are in the safe zone, we are responsible," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a rare briefing with international media.

Turkey would ask the home countries of foreign Islamic State prisoners in its zone to take them back. If the foreign countries refuse - as many have - "it is our responsibility that they (the Islamic State prisoners) are held accountable and not released," he said.

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