Airstrikes pound Syria’s Afrin as Turkey launches ‘Operation Olive Branch’

HASSA, Turkey/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Turkey opened A New entrance in Syria’s conflict on Saturday, launching airstrikes against a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Afrin province that carry the prospect of deeper strains between Ankara and NATO ally Washington.

The operation, which the Turks dubbed “Operation Olive Department”, sees Ankara confronting Kurdish warring parties allied to the U.S. at a time when members of the family between Turkey and Washington – both individuals of the coalition against Islamic State – appear dangerously close to a verge of collapse.

The assaults might additionally complicate Turkey’s push to toughen ties with Russia. Moscow will demand in the United Nations that Turkey halt the militia operation, RIA information stated, citing a member of the Russian parliament’s safety committee.

“We’re carrying out this operation from land and air,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu instructed broadcaster NTV. He mentioned the assaults had been being performed to focus on the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia and that no civilians had been harm.

A Turkey-backed insurrection group in Syria, the Free Syrian Army, Was additionally offering help to the Turkish defense force’s operation in Afrin, a senior Turkish legit said.

The YPG said quite a lot of folks had been wounded in the air strikes.

“The aerial bombardment continues to be ongoing now. There are accidents. It’s nonetheless unclear how many individuals,” mentioned Rojhat Roj, a YPG media legitimate in Afrin.

He stated the warplanes pounded parts of Afrin city and villages round it, whereas there were skirmishes with Turkish forces and their revolt allies on the edge of Afrin.

Hevi Mustafa, a prime member of the civilian administration that governs Afrin, said people were holed up in shelters and houses and a few wounded folks had arrived in hospitals.

Reuters cameramen in Hassa, near the border with Syria, heard the sound of heavy bombardment and saw thick plumes of smoke rising from the Syrian facet of the border. The warplanes appeared to be hanging from the Turkish aspect of the border, some of the cameramen mentioned.

Smoke rises from the Syria’s Afrin region, as it is pictured from near the Turkish town of Hassa, on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

The assaults practice weeks of warnings towards the YPG in Syria from President Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers. Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Staff Birthday Party (PKK), which has performed a deadly, three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

Turkish officials have said the operation is prone to continue towards Manbij.


The YPG’s rising potential throughout a swath of northern Syria has alarmed Ankara, which fears the introduction of an impartial Kurdish state on its southern border. Syrian Kurdish leaders say they are looking for autonomy as part of Syria, not secession.

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The Turkish militia mentioned its operation in Afrin Was Once to supply security for Turkey’s border and to “get rid of terrorists… and shop PALS and brothers, the people of the area, from their cruelty.”

“We Will Be Able To wreck the phobia corridor steadily as we did in Jarabulus and Al-Bab operations, starting from the west,” Turkey’s Erdogan mentioned, relating to earlier operations in northern Syria designed to push out Islamic State and check the YPG’s increase.

Previous on Saturday, the armed forces said it hit shelters and hideouts used by the YPG and OTHER Kurdish warring parties, saying Kurdish militants had fired on Turkish positions within Turkey.

However The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces – which the YPG spearheads – accused Turkey on Saturday of using cross-border shelling as a false pretext to launch an offensive in Syria.

Differences over Syria policy have further complicated Turkey’s already troublesome relationship with NATO ally the us. Washington has backed the YPG, seeing it as an efficient accomplice within the fight against Islamic State.

A U.S. State Division authentic on Friday stated militia intervention via Turkey in Syria would undermine regional steadiness and would now not assist offer protection to Turkey’s border safety.

As An Alternative, the U.S. has called on Turkey to focus on the fight against Islamic State. Ankara accuses Washington of the use of one terrorist crew to battle every other in Syria.

Extra reporting by using Osman Orsal in Hassa; Orhan Coskun, Tulay Karadeniz, Gulsen Solaker and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Omer Berberoglu, Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul; Writing via David Dolan, Modifying by means of William Maclean

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