Turkish PM says land forces will make 'necessary activities' in Syria today

Monday, 22 Jan, 2018

Turkey, which is backing the Free Syrian Army rebel factions in northern Syria, wants to create a 30-km (19 mile) "safe zone" in the region, broadcaster HaberTurk quoted the prime minister, Binali Yildirim, as saying.

Turkish troops and tanks entered Syria on Sunday to push an offensive against Kurdish militia as rockets hit border towns in apparent retaliation and the United States urged Ankara to show restraint.

A Kurdish militia and a Syrian war monitoring group have denied reports that Turkish troops have entered a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria.

The offensive in Afrin would not directly entangle USA troops, which are embedded with Kurdish fighters in the country's northeast.

"We do not believe that a military operation. serves the cause of regional stability, Syrian stability, or indeed Turkish concerns about the security of their border", a senior US State Department official said on Friday.

More than 50 Turkish vehicles, including artillery, tanks, rocket launchers and heavy equipment transporters, had been observed on the Turkish-Syrian border, a U.S. defense official said Friday. Another five were wounded when rockets hit the border town of Kilis, a Reuters witness said. Mayhoub said the government offensive has also captured 300 villages in rural Idlib, Hama and Aleppo.

Turkish warplanes struck Kurdish observation posts and many other targets, Anadolu reported, while its ground forces launched at least 15 rounds of artillery.

"We have no choice but to resist", the YPG statement said.

A Turkish official who did not wish to be named said the offensive "aims to liberate the area by eliminating the PKK-YPG-linked administration" in the region of Afrin, accusing the YPG of "repressing the local population through anti-democratic and authoritarian means". He said Turkish aircraft have continued to strike Afrin. He says Turkish artillery returned fire.

"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.

Analysts say a critical factor will be whether the offensive has any effect on the peace process for Syria that has been backed by Turkey and Russian Federation in recent weeks.

"This fighting. must stop", Parly told France 3 television, adding that the Turkish offensive could "deter Kurdish forces who are at the side" of the global coalition battling jihadists in Syria. The town has since emerged as a model for USA -backed Kurdish rule of largely Arab areas.

Anadolu Agency said the troops pushed into Afrin on Sunday, a day after Turkish jets pounded Syrian Kurdish targets in the region. At least 70 Turkish soldiers were killed, most in battles with IS militants, which have since been driven from almost all the territory it once held in Syria.

Moscow is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and until now, had a contingent of soldiers at the airport in the centre of Afrin.

A quarter of Syria land and 65 percent of Turkey-Syria border is under occupation of the terrorist organization.

"The allegations that we have carried out cross-border attacks are false and are an excuse for Turkey to bring its military and extremist opposition groups to Syrian territory", the SDF said.

Egypt, which maintains security coordination with Syria and is at odds with Turkey, said the military offensive threatened political negotiations.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the dead, who included five children, were killed in air strikes on the village of Jalbara. Another commander said hundreds more were stationed in Atmeh, south of Afrin.