Turkish warplanes have bombed parts of north-eastern Syria at the
start of an offensive which could lead to conflict with Kurdish-led
allies of the US.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the
operation was to create a “safe zone” cleared of Kurdish militias which
will also house Syrian refugees. The strikes have killed at least two
civilians, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said.
The group vowed to resist any Turkish advance across the border. It
asked the US and the coalition against the jihadist group Islamic State
(IS) to establish a no-fly zone in the area to stop “attacks on innocent
The Kurds – key US allies in defeating IS in Syria – guard thousands
of IS fighters and their relatives in prisons and camps in areas under
their control and it is unclear whether they will continue to be safely
detained. Turkish ground forces have been massing on the border.
The offensive was launched just days after President Donald Trump
controversially withdrew US troops from northern Syria, a decision
announced after a phone call with President Erdogan that sparked
widespread criticism at home and abroad.
On Twitter, President Erdogan said the mission “was to prevent the
creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring
peace to the area” and that it would “preserve Syria’s territorial
integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists.”
The scale of the offensive was not yet clear, and there was no
information on whether Turkish ground forces had attempted to enter
Syria. Turkey plans to create a “safe zone” cleared of Kurdish militias –
regarded by Ankara as terrorists – which will also house two million of
Turkey’s 3.6 million Syrian refugees.