Some people are clearly happy about the five-day pause in fighting in northeastern Syria that Turkey and the U.S. negotiated Thursday — Turkey refuses to call it a ceasefire — giving America's Kurdish former allies a chance to retreat from a "safe zone" Turkey plans to carve out inside Syria.
President Trump called the deal "a great day for civilization," while Turkish officials and pro-government media hailed it as a "great victory" in which "Turkey got everything it wanted." The chaos in northeast Syria is also "proving to be a propaganda windfall" for the Islamic State, which is "racing to capitalize on the deteriorating security situation," The Washington Post reports.
But fighting continued Friday morning, with shelling and gunfire in the border towns of Ras al-Ayn and Ceylanpinar, The Associated Press and Reuters report, suggesting the truce hasn't gone into effect everywhere. Kurdish commanders, who had no part in Thursday's negotiations, suggested they would try to abide by the ceasefire unless attacked. An aide to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called Turkey's pause "ambiguous" and said Syria and its Russian allies might not sign on, BBC News reports.
The Kurds are also accusing Turkish-backed forces of using white phosphorous and possibly napalm against civilians in Ras al-Ayn. Turkey denies using the banned chemicals to burn and maim people, but photos of burned children from the area lend credence to the allegations, Foreign Policy reports. A senior U.S. administration official and an aid organization both confirmed that civilians have turned up with wounds consistent with white phosphorous, and the U.S. official told Foreign Policy that "Turkey will be held accountable by the international community for the crimes they commit against the Kurds."
At a rally in Dallas on Thursday night, Trump compared the battle between the Kurds and Turkey to "two kids in a lot," adding, "you've got to let them fight and then you pull them apart." He said the ceasefire never would have happened without the "tough love" he showed Turkey. Peter Weber