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Tens of thousands of civilians flee Turkish offensive in Syria

Turkish troops have encircled the border towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad and aid agencies fear the exodus could reach hundreds of thousands. 

The International Rescue Committee aid organisation said that 64,000 people had already fled their homes. The UK-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, gave a similar figure.

The UN Secretary-General has expressed deep concern and called for a de-escalation of the spiralling violence in Syria. In a press conference at Copenhagen Antonio Guterres said any solution to the conflict must respect the sovereignty of the territory and the unity of Syria.

His remarks came as the five European members of the UN Security Council,  France, Germany, Britain, Belgium and Poland,  called on Ankara to halt its unilateral military operation against Syrian Kurdish forces.

A US official said yesterday Turkey’s assault on Syrian Kurdish forces has not breached a red line declared by President Donald Trump as he added that Washington wanted to broker a ceasefire.

Turkey says its operation is aimed at pushing back Syrian Kurdish forces, which it considers terrorists and establishing a safe zone for the return of Syrian refugees.

But the intervention has sparked international anger, raising fears of a new refugee crisis and concern that thousands of jihadists being held in Syrian Kurdish prisons could use the opportunity to escape.