Turkey says ground forces push into Syria, Kurdish militia says attack repulsed

Turkey says ground forces push into Syria, Kurdish militia says attack repulsed

Turkey says ground forces push into Syria, Kurdish militia says attack repulsed

The operation dubbed "Olive Branch" started with airstrikes on Kurdish targets in Afrin on Saturday and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed Sunday the beginning of a ground offensive in the area.

"A full Turkish air and ground offensive will not take place without Moscow's blessing", said Anthony Skinner, Director MENA at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, adding a full Turkish campaign is "not inevitable".

YPG and PYD are the Syrian offshoots of the PKK terror group, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

Turkish military armoured vehicles arrive at a border village near the town of Hassa in Hatay province, Turkey, Turkey January 21, 2018. He says Turkish artillery returned fire.

Turkey has described the operation as an anti-terror operation, and labeled it as "Operation Olive Branch".

Turkey has long fought Kurdish unrest in the southeastern part of the country.

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.

The YPG added that multiple civilians and YPG fighters have already been killed.

The state-run Anadolu Agency says Turkey-backed Syrian forces have penetrated the enclave and are advancing.

The YPG issued a statement on a pro-PKK news outlet, ANF, calling the Turkish attack "barbaric".

"In our efforts to restore peace and stability in Afrin, we will draw from our experiences in Jarabulus, Azaz and Al-Bab", the official said, referring to regions in Syria recaptured from IS during the operation. "We call upon all of our young people to meet in the ranks of resistance, taking the resistance spirit of our sacrificial martyrs as an example".

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France called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the developments there and urged Turkish authorities "to act with restraint in a context where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating in several regions of Syria".

Turkey pushes ahead with its operation against US -backed Kurdish militants based in Afrin, saying its forces have crossed into the northwestern Syrian city and hit over 150 Kurdish militant targets so far.

Washington has been concerned about a Turkish military incursion and called on Ankara to refrain from launching one.

On Saturday, a Pentagon official said: "We encourage all parties to avoid escalation and to focus on the most important task of defeating ISIS (Islamic State)".

"The operation is being carried out within the right of self-defense and with respect to Syrian territorial integrity", the armed forces said in a statement.

"We know that without security in Syria, there can not be security in Turkey", Erdogan told members of his ruling party in Kutahya.

A 30,000-strong, US-trained border force from the Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by YPG fighters, is to be trained in Manbij. But the Russian defence ministry said its troops were withdrawing from the Afrin area to prevent any "provocation" and ensure the security of its troops.

The SDF is made up of a number of local rebel groups but mainly from Kurdish militia of the YPG.

But the campaign risks further increasing tensions with Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally the United States - which has supported the YPG in the fight against Islamic State jihadists - and also needs at least the tacit support of Russian Federation to succeed.

Turkey views the YPG militia as "terrorists" linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighting against the Turkish state since 1984.

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