Turkey says no turning back from offensive in Syria

Erika Holt
January 21, 2018

The Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated that the country's warplanes have bombed YPG, PYD targets in the Syrian city of Afrin, Mehr news agency reports. "The terrorist organisation will be cleansed from there".

Dillon insisted that, despite its name, the new formation was "strictly focused on security" and "to identify and stop the movement" of fighters of Islamic State.

As Turkey sends troops and tanks to the border, the operation threatens to spill into a wider Turkish-Kurdish confrontation inside the country.

In his speech, Tillerson said the Trump administration would maintain a United States military presence - now said to be about 2,000 U.S. personnel - in Syria to keep pressure on Daesh, to help counter Iranian influence, and to help create conditions for a political solution to the country's civil war. Officials earlier said Moscow would not interfere in the conflict.

The US is fuelling the crisis in northern Syria and the ongoing Turkish military operation against the Kurds through reckless weapon supplies to pro-American rebel groups, Russia's Defense Ministry has said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey has notified all actors involved - including the Syrian government - about the offensive.

Instead, the U.S. called on Turkey to focus on the fight against ISIS.

Although the USA has backed the YPG as one of the most capable forces fighting against the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group, Turkey has dubbed it a terrorist group for its alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish group waging a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Ankara says that these two groups are affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) recognized as terrorist in Turkey. On Sunday Washington confirmed it will help the SDF create a new 30,000 "border security force" over the next several years that will police those borders - and also the internal border between Kurdish-controlled Syria and the rest of the country.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responded by vowing to crush the new "traitor" force and drive USA troops from Syria, and powerful ally Russian Federation called the plans a plot to dismember Syria and place part of it under United States control.

Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan had called the US -proposed force an "army of terror", and vowed to crush it.

But the YPG has been the key ally of Turkey's fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member the United States in the fight against IS jihadists, playing a key role in pushing the extremists out of their Syrian strongholds.

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Canikli said that soldiers had not been deployed to Syria, but were instead firing at Kurdish forces from across the border.

What is happening in Afrin?

The operation would be carried out "with respect for Syria's territorial integrity", it added.

The armed forces said that all of the dead and wounded brought to hospitals are Kurdish militia members.

Notwithstanding Ankara's support for rebels fighting against the Moscow-backed Assad regime, Turkey and Russian Federation have been working together to end the Syrian conflict allegedly.

A spokesperson for the YPG told Reuters a number of people had been injured in the strikes on Afrin city and villages around it, but it is not yet clear how many.

The army said the operation would respect Syria's territorial integrity and was justified by Turkey's rights under worldwide law.

On Saturday, the SDF accused Turkey of using the bombardment as a smokescreen ahead of launching an offensive. According to Kurdish analyst Mutlu Civiroglu, YPG are training in "self-defense" tactics for civilian population of Afrin and in cantonal capital re have been major demonstrations against Turkish attack in recent weeks.

Turkey's military operations around Afrin, he said, do not advance those goals.

Anadolu also reported that the army is dispatching armored reinforcements to the border regions with Syria, in apparent preparations for the planned ground attacks.

Mohammed Billo, who lives in Afrin, said Turkish shelling had intensified.

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