Turkish troops enter Syria's Kurdish-held Afrin region: PM

22 January, 2018, 02:45 | Author: Charlene Valdez
  • Turkish troops enter Syria's Kurdish-held Afrin region: PM

Turkey's air strikes in Syria's Afrin province open a new front in the country's almost 7-year-old war.

On Saturday, Hasakeh told AFP that Turkish bombardment had killed 10 people, including seven civilians.

Turkey could also face blowback from the Kurdish insurgency within its own borders.

Under what Ankara has called "Operation Olive Branch", Turkish air strikes on Saturday pounded YPG positions in Afrin.

Turkish warplanes struck positions of a US -backed Kurdish militia in Syria's Afrin province on Saturday, a senior Turkish official said, in a move likely to drive a deeper wedge between Ankara and the United States.

The operation also includes airstrikes on the district, threatening to create another humanitarian disaster in the region.

But the Kurdish YPG militia says it has repelled Turkish troops in Afrin. Seventy-two planes taking part in the operation returned to base safely, it said. Softening the field with artillery is still being carried out.

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Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says a Turkish ground offensive could begin yesterday. Turkish artillery units retaliated to the attack.

It was the second Turkish town to come under attack. A statement by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also asked Turkey to be "scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties", adding that all parties involved in Syria should focus on defeating the Islamic State group.

Turkey has been particularly outraged by an announcement that the USA planned to train 30,000 personnel in parts of northeast Syria under the control of the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces. "This will be an act of aggression against us, our people and Syria". Tillerson then telephoned Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who said that Damascus was informed about the operation.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France was calling the UN Security Council meeting as it was deeply anxious by the "brutal degradation of the situation" in flashpoints like Afrin. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to expand the operation to other Kurdish regions.

The operation is carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on worldwide law, the UN Security Council's decisions and self-defense rights under the UN charter, said the military.

Instead, the United States called on Turkey to focus on the fight against ISIS.

Russian Federation pulled back troops that had been deployed near Afrin after it was briefed on the operation by Turkey.

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Tehran "hopes that the operation would be immediately terminated so as to prevent the deepening of the crisis in northern Syria", it said.

Crucial is the attitude of Russian Federation, which has a military presence in the area and is also working with Turkey on a drive to end the civil war. "In keeping with past practice, both have agreed to keep the details of their conversations private".

The militia forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main USA ally against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Meanwhile, pro-Turkish Free Syrian Army factions were seen on Saturday advancing towards the city of Afrin.

"The Olive Branch Operation is going on as planned, and the ground operation has started", the Turkish army, NATO's second-largest, said. "We will crush whoever opposes us in this national fight and go on". Turkish-backed rebels and United States forces have been trading fire there, USA defense officials said.

But the risks are huge - the offensive pits Turkey against its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally the U.S., which backs the Kurdish militia against IS, infuriating Ankara.

According to Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as to protect the Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists. He said Turkey has always supported "terrorists" in Syria.

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The PYD/PKK is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK group, which has been designated a terror organization by Turkey, the USA and the EU. The European Union and United States have both named the PKK as a terrorist outfit. Erdogan said. "We will eradicate all of them".

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