Turkish troops launch offensive into northern Syria, says Erdogan

Turkish troops launch offensive into northern Syria, says Erdogan

Turkey has launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters in north-eastern Syria after U.S. forces withdrew from the area.

Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria on Wednesday, with air strikes hitting the border town of Ras al Ain.

Donald Trump's abrupt policy change has been widely criticised in Washington as a betrayal of America's Kurdish allies who spearheaded the ground the bloody and hard-fought ground campaign against ISIS. "This attack will spill the blood of thousands of innocent civilians because our border areas are overcrowded", the group said in a statement. Cars raced to safety, although it was not clear if they were leaving the town or heading away from border areas. A Syrian war monitoring group, the United Kingdom -based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported Wednesday that people were fleeing the border town of Tal Abyad, which Turkey is expected to attack first.

AFP journalists witnessed the arrival of a large convoy of vehicles in the Turkish town of Akcakale in Sanliurfa province overnight.

"Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area", Erdogan added.

Erdogan, who dubbed the attack "Operation Peace Spring", says the offensive is necessary to curb the power of the SDF due to its ties with Kurdish insurgents inside Turkey. The sound of explosions could be heard in Turkey.

"Reports in some media outlets stating that the operation has begun do not reflect the reality".

It was hard to know what was hit in the first hours of the operation.

The Syrian Democratic Forces said the area was "on the edge of possible humanitarian catastrophe" because of the looming Turkish incursion.

There has been no public support from Turkey's Western allies for its plan to settle 2 million Syrians - more than half of the refugees it now hosts - in northeast Syria.

Turkish fighter jets on Wednesday bombed parts of north-eastern Syria at the start of an offensive which may kickstart a conflict between Ankara and Kurdish-led allies of the US.

All of this could unravel with Turkey's military advance. "Will lead effort in Congress to make Erdogan pay a heavy price", the senior Republican tweeted, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey says it wants to establish a "safe zone" on the Syrian side of the border where it could send back some of the 3.6 million refugees it hosts from the eight-year civil war.

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His call for ending US military involvement in the Middle East and bringing the troops home was a feature of his presidential campaign, but it flies in the face of many decades of bipartisan American policy, even as the Trump administration and its immediate predecessor have tried to give additional attention to what they see as long-term security threats elsewhere, including from China and Russian Federation.

Kurdish forces have dug trenches and tunnels in both areas, covering streets with metal canopies to block the cameras of Turkish drones.

Lavrov didn't directly address the issue of Turkey's anticipated invasion into northeastern Syria but said that Moscow is encouraging the Kurds and the Syrian government to settle their difference through talks.

In a statement on Wednesday, the SDF called on the global community and all countries in the worldwide coalition against ISIS to "carry out their responsibilities and avoid a possible impending humanitarian disaster".

Mustafa Bali of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the Turkish military build-up, together with information about further mobilisation of Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, indicated "an attack is imminent". Turkish howitzer fire then hit bases and ammunition depots of the Kurdish YPG militia. The operation is aimed at mostly-Kurdish forces partnered with the U.S.

The two operations were in line with the country's right to self-defense borne out of worldwide law, UN Security Council resolutions, especially no. 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014), and under the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter, while being respectful of Syria's territorial integrity.

He said the US will monitor the situation closely.

The area controlled by the PYD, known as Rojava, has established autonomy with networks of local councils and forums that aim to promote decentralised democracy - though the group has been accused of enforcing a one-party rule in the region.

The SDF, which is holding thousands of IS fighters in several detention facilities in northeastern Syria, has warned that a Turkish incursion might lead to the resurgence of the extremists.

The Observatory said the attack involved two IS fighters who engaged in a shootout before blowing themselves up.

IS claimed responsibility, saying one of its members killed or wounded 13 SDF members.

Turkey's military operation has faced open opposition from the USA military, which on Monday announced that Turkey had been cut off from access to the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC), depriving Turkey's air forces of surveillance intelligence.

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