Turkish soldiers looked set to launch an assault on the Kurdish-held city of Afrin in northern Syria this week.
Thousands of civilians are trapped in the city, which has been under siege by Turkish forces since last week.
The fighting will pitch Turkey—part of the Nato military alliance and a US ally—and some Syrian rebel groups against Kurdish forces which are also backed by the US.
It’s the awful conclusion of complex political games played with the lives of people in the Middle East. The Syrian regime’s campaign to crush a popular uprising in 2011 plunged the country into civil war. Competing powers—including Britain—dived in on different sides, turning the war into a struggle for control of the Middle East.
The US-backed Kurdish forces in the north seized large areas of land from Isis. But this put the US at odds with Turkey, which is fighting Kurdish separatists in neighbouring Turkish areas.
Meanwhile the Syrian regime is trying to crush Syrian rebel groups in eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.
More than 1,000 civilians are said to have been killed in the fighting there since the regime’s assault began.