Families of Islamic State group members have escaped a displacement camp in northern Syria where a Turkish offensive against Kurdish forces has sparked fierce fighting.
The Kurdish-led administration said 785 foreigners affiliated with ISIS escaped Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, where they were being held following Turkish shelling today.
In an apparent reference to Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, the administration said in a statement ‘mercenaries’ had attacked the camp where ‘Daesh elements’ – a reference to Islamic State – in turn attacked camp guards and opened the gates.
It is believed the ISIS ‘matchmaker’ Tooba Gondal, 25, from Walthamstow, who reportedly lured Shamima Begum to Syria, was in the camp with her two children after she was caught trying to get to Turkey following the fall of Baghuz.
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The Kurdish-led administration said 785 foreigners affiliated with ISIS escaped Ain Issa (pictured), north of Raqqa, where they were being held following Turkish shelling today
As clashes approach the camp, forces reportedly abandoned the task of protecting the camp to join the fighting (pictured on Sunday)
More than 130,000 people have been displaced from rural areas around the northeast Syrian border towns of Tel Abyad (pictured today) and Ras al Ain as a result of fighting between Turkish-led forces and Kurdish militia
Turkish army vehicles and military personnel are stationed near the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, today
In an apparent reference to Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, the administration said in a statement ‘mercenaries’ had attacked the camp where ‘Daesh elements’ – a reference to Islamic State – in turn attacked camp guards and opened the gates
A picture taken today from Turkish territory shows smoke rising from targets inside Syria during a bombardment by Turkish forces at Ras al-Ein, seen from Ceylanpinar, in Sanliurfa, Turkey
It is believed the ISIS ‘matchmaker’ Tooba Gondal (pictured), 25, from Walthamstow, who reportedly lured Shamima Begum to Syria, was in the camp with her two children after she was caught trying to get to Turkey following the fall of Baghuz
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor confirmed ‘around 100’ foreign women and children from families of IS members escaped the camp (file photo of a volunteer caretaker inside the camp), without specifying their nationalities
A Turkish-backed Syrian fighter fires during clashes in the town of Ras al-Ain on Sunday as Turkey and its allies continue their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria
An elderly man is evacuated from a building in Akcakale, a town near the Turkish border with Syria today after it was hit by a rocket reported to be fired from within Syria
Turkish forces launched a fresh wave of shelling on Kurdish militia in northern Syria today during the fifth day of ‘Operation Peace Spring’.
The death toll among Kurdish-led fighters has climbed to 104, with 45 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces killed.
More than 130,000 people have been displaced from rural areas around the northeast Syrian border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain as a result of the fighting.
In a statement, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said OCHA and other relief agencies estimated up to 400,000 civilians in the Syrian conflict zone may require aid and protection in the coming period.
Turkish forces today targeted the two Syrian border towns with fresh shelling, pressing on with their offensive against Kurdish militia for a fifth day.
But the country is facing threats of possible sanctions from the US unless it calls off the incursion, while the Arab League has denounced the operation and NATO allies Germany and France said they were halting weapons exports to Turkey.
Ankara launched the cross-border assault against the YPG militia after US President Donald Trump withdrew some troops from the border region.
Ankara launched the cross-border assault against the YPG militia after US President Donald Trump withdrew some troops from the border region. Pictured: Map shows Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain (Sari Kani) near Raqqa
Turkish forces have targeted the two Syrian border towns (pictured, a Ras-al-Ein today) with fresh shelling today, pressing on with their offensive against Kurdish militia for a fifth day in the face of fierce international opposition
The shelling of the camp at Ain Issa north of Raqqa represented ‘support for the revival of the Daesh organisation once again’, the Kurdish-led administration for northern and eastern Syria said, referring to Islamic State militants. Pictured: A house in Akcakale, Turkey, damaged by mortar fire from Syria today
Ankara launched the cross-border assault against the YPG militia after US President Donald Trump withdrew some troops from the border region. Pictured: An elderly woman is evacuated from a building in Akcakale
Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish militants in Turkey.
Gunfire resounded early on Sunday around Ras al Ain, one of two Syrian towns which are the focus of the attack, while Turkish artillery continued to target the area, a reporter across the border in the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar said.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels advanced into Ras al Ain on Saturday. Turkey has said it took control of the town centre, while Kurdish-led forces denied that and said they were counter-attacking.
At Tel Abyad, the operation’s other main target some 75 miles to the west, Turkish howitzers shelled outlying districts, a witness in the neighbouring Turkish town of Akcakale said.
The assault has raised international alarm over its mass displacement of civilians and the possibility of Islamic State militants escaping from Kurdish prisons.
In the latest criticism, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed ‘grave concern’ about the offensive to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, saying it may worsen the humanitarian situation and undermine progress against Islamic State.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels (pictured today) advanced into Ras al Ain on Saturday. Turkey has said it took control of the town centre, while Kurdish-led forces denied that and said they were counter-attacking
A woman is taken out of a building after it was hit by mortar shells fired from Syria, in the Turkish border town of Akcakale in Sanliurfa province
‘He urged the President to end the operation and enter into dialogue,’ a spokesman for Johnson said after the telephone call between the two leaders on Saturday evening.
This morning it was also reported that SAS soldiers are launching ‘kill or capture’ raids to stop British ISIS jihadis escaping from Syrian jails.
The Special Air Service are monitoring prisons in northern Syria holding ISIS militants.
If a mass prison break is imminent, armed troops in groups of eight using helicopters and vehicles will be deployed, The Daily Star reported.
Turkey’s Defence Ministry said on Sunday that 480 YPG militants had been ‘neutralised’ since the operation began, a term that commonly means killed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organisation which reports on the war, said 74 Kurdish-led fighters, 49 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels and 30 civilians have been killed in the fighting.
In Turkey, 18 civilians have been killed in cross-border bombardment, Turkish media and officials say.
But yesterday President Trump defended his decision to withdraw troops from the Syrian border region, telling conservative Christian activists that the United States should prioritise protecting its own borders.
Smoke rises from targets inside Syria during the bombardment by Turkish forces at Ras al-Ain on Saturday
Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels gather outside the border town of Ras al-Ain during their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria on Saturday
‘Let them have their borders, but I don’t think our soldiers should be there for the next 50 years guarding a border between Turkey and Syria when we can’t guard our own borders at home,’ Trump said in a speech in Washington.
‘Don’t forget: they are fighting for their land. They haven’t help us fight for our land,’ Trump said. ‘They’re fighting for their land and that’s good, but we’ve helped them.’
The Kurdish-led administration in Syria’s northeast has said nearly 200,000 people had been uprooted so far by the fighting, while the U.N. World Food Programme said more than 100,000 had left Ras al Ain and Tel Abyad.
Turkey’s stated objective is to set up a ‘safe zone’ inside Syria to resettle many of the 3.6million Syrian war refugees it has been hosting. Erdogan has threatened to send them to Europe if the EU does not back his assault.
An explosion over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province on Saturday
Relatives mourn in front of the grave of Halil Yagmur who was killed in a mortar attack a day earlier in Suruc near northern Syria border, during funeral ceremony. Ten Turkish civilians were killed in cross-border shelling on Friday, while four of Turkey’s soldiers died as Ankara pressed on with its offensive against Kurdish militants in Syria
He has also dismissed the growing condemnation of the operation, saying that Turkey ‘will not stop it, no matter what anyone says’.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in which the YPG comprises the main fighting element, holds most of the northern Syrian territory that once made up Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ in the country.
The SDF has been keeping thousands of fighters from the jihadist group in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a car bomb on Friday in Qamishli, the largest city in the Kurdish-held area, where some IS militants fled from a jail.
The SDF accused Turkey-backed rebel fighters of killing a Kurdish politician in a road ambush on Saturday. The rebel force denied it, saying it had not advanced that far.
The Syrian Observatory said Turkey-backed groups had killed nine civilians on the road, including Hervin Khalaf, co-chair of the secular Future Syria Party.