Turkey Announces Start Of Operation
In Northeast Syria
October 09, 2019
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that a Turkish offensive
into northeast Syria has started, as several large explosions were
reported in the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, on the border with Turkey.
Turkey's offensive comes days after President Donald Trump announced he
was withdrawing U.S. forces from the area.
"The Turkish armed forces and Syrian National Army [a rebel group backed
by Ankara] just launched Operation Peace Spring in the north of Syria,"
Erdogan wrote on Twitter.
Erdogan said the offensive targeted Kurdish militants and the Islamic
State (IS) group in northern Syria. Turkey had long threatened an attack
on the Kurdish fighters whom Ankara considers terrorists.
"Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our
southern border, and to bring peace to the area," he wrote.
Earlier, Turkish television reports said Turkish warplanes had bombed
Syrian Kurdish positions across the border.
CNN Turk reported that several large explosions rocked Ras al-Ain, on
the border across from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar, adding that
planes could he heard above.
A CNN Turk reporter said smoke could be seen rising from buildings in
Ras al-Ain, one of the places from which U.S. troops withdrew earlier
Kurdish leaders earlier called for a "general mobilization" along the
border with Turkey after Ankara said it was about to launch an offensive
into northern Syria following the pullout of U.S. forces from the area.
The Kurdish-led civilian administration in northeastern Syria warned on
October 9 of a "humanitarian catastrophe" in northern Syria if
hostilities break out, while Russian President Vladimir Putin urged
Erdogan in a telephone call to "think carefully" before launching an
offensive in Syria.
"Putin called on his Turkish partners to think carefully about the
situation so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian
crisis," the Kremlin said in a statement.
"We call upon our people, of all ethnic groups, to move toward areas
close to the border with Turkey to carry out acts of resistance during
this sensitive historical time," the Kurdish-led civilian
administration, known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East
Mustafa Bali, spokesman of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),
tweeted, "Turkish warplanes have started to carry out airstrikes on
civilian areas. There is a huge panic among people of the region."
Turkish 'Safety Zone'
Reports late on October 8 said Turkey's army had boosted its positions
on the border with Syria, with dozens of military trucks, armored
personnel carriers, and tanks seen heading to the town of Akcakale.
Turkish officials said that the military had struck the Syrian-Iraqi
border to prevent Kurdish forces using the route to reinforce its units
in the region.
The SDF said Turkish forces were shelling one of their positions in Ras
al-Ain -- one of the places from which U.S. troops withdrew earlier this
week, according to a British-based group monitoring the war.
Earlier, in a column published in The Washington Post, Erdogan's
communications director said Turkish forces, together with the rebel
Free Syrian Army (FSA), would cross the Syrian border "shortly."
Fahrettin Altun wrote that Kurdish militants in the area could either
"defect" or Turkey would "have no choice but to stop them from
disrupting" its fight against the IS group.
A spokesman for a small faction within the FSA was quoted as saying that
18,000 fighters were set to participate in the first stage of the
Ankara says it intends to create a 30-kilometer-deep "safety zone" along
its border with Syria to resettle up to 2 million of the more than 3.6
million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.
About 400,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war, which has
raged since 2011.
Turkey regards the Kurdish militias that dominate the U.S.-allied SDF as
Kurdish forces who helped defeat IS fighters in the war-torn country
have described the U.S. pullout from northeastern Syria ordered by Trump
as a "stab in the back."
his move, Trump said the withdrawal affected "only 50 soldiers," while
the Pentagon said the U.S. personnel were removed "to ensure their
safety," but that they were not being removed from Syria.
"We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we
abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters,"
Trump said, adding that Washington was helping Kurdish fighters
"financially [and with] weapons."
Describing ties between Washington and Ankara as "very good," the U.S.
president said that "any unforced or unnecessary fighting by Turkey will
be devastating to their economy and to their very fragile currency."
Trump also said Erdogan will visit the White House on November 13.
Russia has provided crucial support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
during Syria's civil war, while the United States and Turkey have backed
different rebel groups.