Press TV – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country’s military forces and the Turkish-backed militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) have launched a long-threatened offensive in northeastern Syria against Kurdish militants from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to push them away from border areas.
“Operation Peace Spring will neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes.
“We will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists,” Erdogan wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page on Wednesday.
Syria’s state-run television reported that the Turkish army launched an operation in the country’s north by carrying out an airstrike on the city of Ras al-Ayn in the northeastern province of al-Hasakah.
The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an anti-Damascus alliance of predominantly Kurdish militants where YPG forms the backbone, stated that Turkish warplanes are pounding the area, causing “huge panic among people.”
Ankara views the YPG as the Syria branch of the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
Two fighter jets took off from Diyarbakir air base in southeastern Turkey as Ankara launched a military operation into northeastern Syria, AFP news agency reported.
Turkish-language CNN Turk television news network reported that several large explosions rocked Ras al-Ayn, and that the sound of planes could be heard flying overhead.
The report added that smoke could be seen rising from buildings in the city.
SDF says it’s ‘ready to face any attack’
“Turkey is trying through these attacks to open new lands for the mercenaries of Daesh (Takfiri terrorist group) and is trying to lengthen the life of these groups. We do not agree with any attacks by Turkey and the people supporting it.
“The world knows the reason behind the attack on northeast of Syria, therefore we call on human rights organizations and the democratic countries, European Union and United Nations to take a stance against the Turkish attack. Anyone that is not moving against the Turkish attack is considered a supporter for it,” SDF Spokesman Ahmad Mousa said.
“We send a message to the whole world again: We will not target Turkey but if they insist in attacking us and occupying our lands we will trigger our right in defending our project (ourselves) until last blood. We are ready to face any kind of attack,” Mousa pointed out.
Turkey summons US envoy for Syria offensive briefing
Meanwhile, Turkish-language CNN Turk television news network reported that Turkey’s Foreign Ministry had called in US Ambassador to Ankara David M. Satterfield to brief him on the country’s military offensive into northeastern Syria.
Syria vows to confront Turkish operation
Earlier, the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates had condemned the Turkish planned military offensive on Kurdish positions in northeastern Syria, stressing the Damascus government’s determination to confront the “Turkish aggression by all means.”
The ministry said in a statement released on Wednesday that the Syrian government condemns the “aggressive intentions of the Turkish regime” as well as the Turkish military build-up near the Syrian border, which it said constitutes a “blatant violation to the international law.”
This “aggressive behavior” exposes the “expansive ambitions” of Turkey in Syria, noting that the anticipated Turkish offensive cannot be justified under any pretext, the statement pointed out.
The Syrian foreign ministry also blamed Kurdish-led SDF militants for the current situation in northeastern Syria, saying they had been warned not to bet on the US support to them and not to be a tool that serves the US
The ministry underlined that the Syrian government is determined to confront the Turkish aggression by all means, stressing that the door is left ajar for Kurdish forces who want to “return to their senses” and reach deals with the Syrian government.
Arab League voices concerns over Turkey’s operation in Syria
Also on Wednesday, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had expressed “deep concerns and worries” over Turkish military operation in the Syrian territories.
The pan-Arab organization, in a statement, described Turkish planned offensive as “a blatant violation against Syrian sovereignty and a serious threat to Syria’s territorial integrity.”
“The Turkish plans will also open the door for more deterioration of the humanitarian and the security conditions in Syria,” it added.
The organization also warned that the “Turkish military incursion would incite more conflicts in Syria and may allow Daesh terrorist group to restore some of its forces in the war-hit Arab country.”
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement on Sunday that Washington had begun withdrawing US troops from Syria’s border with Turkey, adding that the American forces “will not support or be involved in the (Turkish) operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area.”
US President Donald Trump on Monday defended the decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria, saying it was too costly to keep supporting its allies.
“The Kurds fought with us but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades,” he said in a series of tweets.
Turkish bombing kills 8 civilians, wounds dozens
Moreover, the SDF said Turkish bombardment of the border region in northeast Syria has claimed the lives of at least eight civilians and left dozens more injured.
The Kurdish-led force went on to say that three of its members had also been killed in the aerial assaults.
The SDF noted that thousands of people had fled the northeastern Syrian city of Ras al-Ayn towards Hasaka province.
UN Security Council to discuss Syria on Thursday
Additionally, the United Nations Security Council will convene a behind closed-doors meeting on Syria on Thursday, after Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish militants in the northeastern part of the war-ravaged country.
Diplomats, requesting not to be named, said the discussion of the situation in Syria by the 15-member Security Council was requested by the five European members, namely Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland.
SDF urges “no fly zone” to stop Turkish attacks
The SDF also appealed to the United States and its allies on Wednesday for a “no fly zone” to protect it from Turkish attacks in northeast Syria.
“The SDF showed good faith to the security mechanism agreement between the US and Turkey. This left our people defenseless,” it said.