As 200,000 Kurds Flee Syria's Afrin, Turkey Vows to Expand Syria Operation

'The people with cars are sleeping in the cars, the people without are sleeping under the trees with their children'

A kurdish boy holds his baby brother, as he walks with his family in Afrin, Syria March 18, 2018
REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that after victory in Syria’s Afrin region, his country will expand its military operations into other Kurdish-held areas in Syria as well as to Iraq’s Sinjar region.

Speaking at a ceremony for judicial appointments in Ankara, Erdogan said troops would target the Syrian city of Manbij, as well as Ayn al-Arab, also known as Kobani, and other towns along the border to the east of the Euphrates River. Those areas are controlled by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces and U.S. troops are stationed there.

Erdogan said Turkish troops could also cross into Iraq to drive out Kurdish militants from the region of Sinjar, if the Iraqi government is reluctant to oust militants from the area. Turkey says the region is becoming a headquarters for outlawed Kurdish rebels who have been fighting an insurgency in Turkey’s southeast since 1984.

Erdogan said “one night, we could suddenly enter Sinjar.”

He insisted Turkey had no intention of “invading” Syria, saying it was merely clearing the border area of terrorists.

More than 200,000 people who fled a Turkey-led offensive on the Kurdish town of Afrin are without shelter or access to food and water in nearby areas, a Syrian Kurdish official from Afrin told Reuters on Monday.

"The people with cars are sleeping in the cars, the people without are sleeping under the trees with their children," Hevi Mustafa, a top member of the Kurdish civil authority in the Afrin area, told Reuters by phone.

Turkish forces backed by Syrian rebel groups swept into Afrin town on Sunday, raising their flag in the town centre and declaring full control after an eight-week campaign to drive out Kurdish YPG fighters. Mustafa said civilians still in Afrin town were facing threats from the Turkey-backed groups.