Turkey launches land operation into YPG militants in Syria's Afrin


Le Drian also said that France condemned indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian regime in Idlib province and asked for the immediate access of humanitarian aid to eastern Ghouta, where 400,000 citizens are in a critical situation.

The U.S. urged Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration, however, said it was "supportive of addressing the legitimate security concerns" of Turkey regarding terrorist groups in Syria's Afrin, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement Sunday.

Turkish-backed fighters from the Free Syrian Army were battling Kurdish militia members recently in Afrin, and a full cross-border Turkish military incursion had been expected.

Turkey on Saturday launched operation "Olive Branch" seeking to oust from the Afrin region of northern Syria the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) which Ankara considers a terror group.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said troops crossed into YPG-controlled region in Syria at 0805 GMT, the Dogan news agency reported.

The announcement of a border force infuriated Turkey's leaders, and Erdogan has accused the United States, its most powerful North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, of "building an army of terror" on his border and threatened to "drown" the US-backed force.

The army said 72 warplanes took part using Syrian airspace.

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The military also said only terrorist targets were being destroyed and "utmost importance" was being given to not harm any civilian.

The YPG-held enclave of Afrin marks the westernmost extent of its control and Turkey wants to make sure it is kept well to the east of the Euphrates River. They were also working to minimize possible losses for Turkish troops, he said, without providing details.

But it was still unclear what form a Turkish ground operation will take amid considerable political and military risks.

"I can not foresee that this operation will be easy", Agar said, pointing to the thousands of YPG fighters in the region and around 250,000 civilians living there.

In his first comments on the offensive since it began, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed hope the "operation will be finished in a very short time" and vowed "we will not take a step back". "Allah is with us", Erdogan said: "Got willing, this operation will come to an end in a short time".

Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the Kurdish militia, said attempts to infiltrate Afrin have been repelled since Saturday.

The town's mayor said a Syrian national had died, and another 32 were wounded, according to the NTV broadcaster.

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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Kurdish militia and Turkish forces have clashed on the northern and western edges of Afrin, but that Turkish troops have failed to advance.

The Turkish government said it has no intention to invade Syria and its troops would pull out after its targets were eliminated.

Meanwhile the Turkish threats of an intervention have also raised eyebrows in Washington, which has backed the YPG as it dislodged IS and gained control of the swathe of northern Syria up to the Iraqi border.

But President Erdogan called the border force a "terror army".

There was damage to one building that caught fire and one woman was slightly injured in the rocket fire on the town of Kilis, the Dogan news agency said.

The Turkish army said it was taking every precaution to prevent harm to civilians.

The operation, for which Turkey has also rallied almost 10,000 Syrian opposition fighters, could spill into a wider Turkish-Kurdish confrontation inside Turkey.

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