Turkey launches ground operation across Syria border
Sheetal Sukhija - Monday 22nd January, 2018
The Turkish military has been conducting airstrikes in the region for days now
On Sunday, Turkish troops entered the Afrin region in northern Syria
The move is likely to raise tensions with the United States
AFRIN, Syrin - After days of pounding the border into northern Syria with airstrikes, on Sunday, Turkey announced that it is military had launched a ground operation in Afrin region.
Turkish officials said that jets had pounded targets in the Afrin region in an attempt to drive U.S.-allied Kurdish militia from the area and subsequently, its troops entered the region to launch the ground operation.
Turkey said its operation was called ‘Olive Branch’ and was launched on Saturday to target "terrorist
organizations" including YPG forces.
Late on Saturday, the Syrian Democratic Forces General Command said that Turkish jets had targeted the U.S.-backed Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia in the area, killing at least eight people and leaving 13 others injured.
The Turkish armed forces said in a statement on Sunday, “Operation Olive Branch is ongoing as planned and the ground operation has started.”
Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter that the operation isn't targeting civilians and innocent Syrians, but only terrorists.
During the operation, the Turkish military said its air force destroyed 108 targets in seven regions, including weapons depots and barracks belonging to Kurdish militias and ISIS.
The ground operation, which is now likely to raise tensions with the United States, which has openly armed Kurdish militias fighting ISIS.
In a public address in the city of Bursa on Sunday, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the operation would be completed "in a very short time.”
On Sunday, the Anadolu news agency also said that the land operation comes as rockets from Syria hit the Turkish border city of Kilis.
According to the local governor, Mehmet Tekinarslan, one person was injured and buildings were damaged in the attack.
For long now, Turkey has fought Kurdish unrest in parts of Syria and is determined to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state across the border.
However, the YPG has issued a statement on a pro-PKK news outlet, calling the Turkish attack "barbaric."
YPG said in the statement, "We have no choice but to resist. 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."
On Sunday, Washington called on Ankara to refrain from launching a military incursion in Syria.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said last week, “The focus needs to be on ISIS.”
Meanwhile, Russia's foreign ministry said it is concerned by news of the offensive, and is urging restraint.
The ministry added that "measures to take aimed at securing stability in the north of the country" had been discussed by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his American counterpart Rex Tillerson.
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