A Turkish airstrike has reportedly killed five civilians hours after President Donald Trump hailed a ceasefire agreement negotiated by his vice president, Mike Pence. The deal, which Trump declared would save “millions of lives,” was supposed to help the Kurds, who fought ISIS alongside U.S. forces. Instead, the U.S. appears to have given Turkey an opening to advance on the Kurdish forces, which they appear to have done despite promises to the U.S. and without regard for civilian lives.
European Council president Donald Tusk dismissed the U.S.-brokered deal on Friday as the fighting in Northern Syria raged on. “The situation is quite obvious. This so-called ‘ceasefire’ is not what we expected. In fact it’s not a ceasefire, it’s a demand of capitulation for the Kurds,” Tusk told reporters after a EU summit in Brussels. “And I think that we have to be very consistent here and we have to reiterate our call for Turkey to put a permanent end to its military action here.”
The leaders of France, German and the U.K. announced Friday announced Friday they would meet with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a NATO summit in London in December to discuss his actions.
In the meantime, the fighting between the Turkish military and its Syrian allies and the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria has not stopped. “There are sporadic artillery strikes and you can hear shooting in the town of Ras al-Ain,” Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Agence France-Presse hours after the agreement was reached. Reporters from both AFP and the Associated Press report columns of smoke continue to rise from the town of Ras al-Ain. Capturing it has, according to AFP, been a central of goal of the Turkey’s since its forces invaded Syria on October 9.
On Thursday afternoon, Pence, who had flown with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Anakara to negotiate the deal, announced 120-hour ceasefire. Under the terms of the agreement, Kurdish forces would have been allowed to withdraw from an approximately 20-mile “safe zone” along the border. (The creation of such a zone has been a longtime goal of Turkey’s.)
Trump — who agreed to withdraw U.S. forces from Northern Syria after a phone call from Turkey’s president — hailed the agreement on Twitter. “This is a great day for civilization. I am proud of the United States for sticking by me in following a necessary, but somewhat unconventional, path. People have been trying to make this ‘Deal’ for many years. Millions of lives will be saved. Congratulations to ALL!”
The short-lived ceasefire was agreed to shortly before Amnesty International reported its teams on the ground had documented “damning evidence of war crimes and other violations” by Turkish forces and their allies. According to Amnesty, witnesses described indiscriminate attacks by Turkey in residential areas and on school. The report also details “a summary killing in cold blood” of a prominent Syrian-Kurdish female politician, Hevrin Khalaf, by members a Turkish-supported Syrian group.
According to Kurdish health authority, at least 218 civilians, including 18 children, have been killed since Turkish forces began their onslaught. (The Turkish government offers a dramatically lower estimate: 18 civilian casualties, and 150 injuries.)