BEIRUT,— Turkish troops and their Syrian Arab rebel allies, who are considered as mercenary fighters for Turkey, entered Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) in northeast Syria on Wednesday night, the Turkish defense ministry said, starting a land offensive against Kurdish militia fighters.
Earlier on Wednesday Turkish warplanes and artillery pounded Kurdish YPG targets with air strikes and artillery barrages in a cross-border military operation just days after U.S.
troops pulled back from the area.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces SDF on Wednesday said they repelled a Turkish ground offensive on Syria’s northern border, shortly after Ankara announced the land phase of its operation against Kurdish forces had commenced.
“Ground attack by Turkish forces has been repelled by SDF fighters in (Tel Abyad town) [Gire Spi]…No advance as of now,” Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, said on Twitter.
Thousands of civilians have fled Turkish bombardment on Syria’s northern border, a war monitor said Wednesday.
“Thousands have fled the Ras al-Ain area … and Tel Abyad’s countryside,” to areas that have not yet been hit by Ankara’s warplanes, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
8 civilians among 15 dead in Turkish assault on Syrian Kurdistan: monitor
Turkish bombardment on Kurdish region in northeastern Syria killed at least 15 people on Wednesday, eight of them civilians, a monitoring group said in an updated toll.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least two of the civilian victims were killed in artillery strikes on the city of Qamishli.
Turkey launched its threatened offensive hours earlier, with a limited number of air strikes and mostly artillery fire across most of the width of its long border with Kurdish regions of Syria.
The Britain-based Observatory, which has a vast network of sources across Syria, said more than 40 people had also been wounded in the early phase of the attack.
The Kurds have vowed to resist any ground offensive and called on the population to mobilise.
The flat and open terrain favours Turkey’s vastly superior military however and the Kurdish forces have limited means to resist without the support of their US allies.
The offensive, which was widely condemned, comes three days after US President Donald Trump announced a US troop pullback from the border, effectively green-lighting a Turkish invasion.
US President Donald Trump said Wednesday he hoped that his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan would “act rationally” as his military launched a broad assault on Kurdish-controlled areas in northeast Syria.
Trump says he hopes Turkey’s Erdogan ‘will act rationally’ in Syria
The intense bombing is expected to pave the way for a ground offensive made possible by Trump’s decision to pull back US troops in the area — a move roundly criticized in Washington, even by some of Trump’s own Republicans.
“I hope that he will act rationally,” Trump said of Erdogan at the White House.
Earlier, Trump said Turkey’s incursion was a “bad idea.”
The US leader added that if the Turkish operation is not conducted “in as humane a way as possible… I’ll wipe out his economy.”
“If he does it unfairly, he is going to pay a big economic price,” Trump warned.
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