Turkish military enters Syrian territory for ground operation

Lester Mason
January 22, 2018

Major Yasser Abdul Rahim, who is also the commander of Failaq al Sham, a main FSA rebel group in the operations room of the campaign, said the rebels did not seek to enter the mainly Kurdish city of Afrin but encircle it and expel the YPG.

Turkey's military said it had hit 45 targets on Sunday, as part of its air and ground campaign dubbed "Olive Branch".

"The operation in Afrin has effectively started and will be followed by Manbij", Mr Erdogan said, referring to another Kurdish stronghold on the western bank of the Euphrates River where some U.S. troops are deployed alongside Kurdish forces.

He criticized the United States for working with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Syrians in the northwest are fleeing the renewed violence amid a new government offensive in neighbouring Idlib, converging on the Turkish border and igniting fears of a new wave of migration. He says Turkish artillery returned fire.

The Syrian government has warned that any incursion into Afrin by Turkish forces would be considered an act of aggression.

Turkish ground forces, including tanks and artillery, crossed into Syria with the fighters to establish a zone flanked by Afrin and Manbij that now serves as hub for Turkish operations inside the war-torn country.

Afrin is controlled by a Syrian Kurdish militia that Turkey views as part of the Kurdish insurgency in its southeast.

Afrin is an enclave of YPG control, cut off from the longer strip of northern Syria that the group controls to the east extending to the Iraqi border.

Four rockets fired from Syria hit a Turkish border town on Sunday as Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters pushed forward with an offensive to drive Syrian Kurdish forces from an enclave in northern Syria, the state-run news agency reported.

"So far, 153 targets, which were used as shelters, hideouts and ammunition depots by terrorist organizations PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh, have been targeted", said Turkish General Staff in a fresh statement.

The YPG issued a statement on a pro-PKK news outlet, ANF, calling the Turkish attack "barbaric".

The YPG said it had repulsed the Turkish forces. "We call upon all of our young people to meet in the ranks of resistance, taking the resistance spirit of our sacrificial martyrs as an example".

The operation was being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on worldwide law, UN Security Council's decisions, self-defense rights under the UN charter and respect to Syria's territorial integrity, the military added.

Differences over Syria policy have further complicated Turkey's already hard relationship with the USA, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member.

Turkey's military plans seem to have been accelerated by an announcement from the United States that it will help the SDF alliance build a new "border security force" to prevent the return of IS.

Turkish security forces retaliated in kind, the reports said.

The mainly Arab rebels accuse the Syrian Kurdish militia of forcibly displacing Arabs from the villages in what they say is a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing.

A US State Department official on Friday said military intervention by Turkey in Syria would undermine regional stability and would not help protect Turkey's border security.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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