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Turkey launches incursion against Syrian Kurdish stronghold

Turkey launches incursion against Syrian Kurdish stronghold

Turkey's operation, announced Saturday, risks increasing tensions with the USA, which was supporting the YPG in the fight against Islamic State jihadists.

Turkey said it has taken necessary steps to avoid civilian casualties and the Turkish Red Crescent was setting up temporary housing facilities in Azaz. The Turkish army said there were casualties but insisted they were all members either of the YPG or the PKK.

Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a tweet Saturday that the operation isn't targeting civilians and "innocent Syrians" - just terrorists.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday his forces would crush the US -backed Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia, saying it could not rely on Washington's support to defeat Turkey.

"The allegations that we have carried out cross-border attacks are false and are an excuse for Turkey to bring its military and extremist opposition groups to Syrian territory", the SDF said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to expand the operation to other Kurdish regions.

The YPG said that after the first strikes on Saturday 10 people were killed, including seven civilians. "Allah is with us", Erdogan said: "Got willing, this operation will come to an end in a short time".

Following calls from some Turkish pro-Kurdish politicians for people to take to the streets, he warned that anyone protesting in Turkey against the operation would pay "a heavy price".

He said Turkish aircraft have continued to strike Afrin.

Earlier in the day, Turkish media reported four rockets fired from Syria had hit the Turkish southern border town of Kilis, wounding one person and causing damage to houses there.

The YPG also accused Russian Federation, which, according to the BBC, has evacuated its troops from Afrin province, of being as much responsible for the invasion as Turkey, adding that multiple civilians and YPG fighters have already been killed.

Turkey launches incursion against Syrian Kurdish stronghold

The incursion, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, is likely to sharpen tensions between Turkey and the United States, which supports and openly arms Kurdish militias fighting ISIS.

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 which has a USA military presence.

Yildirim told Turkish reporters in a briefing in Istanbul that the troops crossed into the YPG-controlled region in Syria at 0805 GMT from the Turkish village of Gulbaba.

Yildirim was quoted as saying that the Turkish forces aimed to create a security zone some 30km deep inside Syria.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly said the fighting "must stop" as it could deter YPG fighters helping the worldwide coalition against IS.

"France asks for an urgent meeting of the Security Council", Le Drian said on his Twitter feed.

The operation, for which Turkey has also rallied almost 10,000 Syrian opposition fighters, could spill into a wider Turkish-Kurdish confrontation inside Turkey.

Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the US -backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the Kurdish militia, said attempts to infiltrate Afrin have been repelled since Saturday.

'A full Turkish air and ground offensive will not take place without Moscow's blessing, ' said Anthony Skinner, Director MENA at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

"If Turkey decides to throw major resources at this battle, and Russian Federation and (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad stand aside, the balance of power does not look favourable to the Kurds", Lund said.


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