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Airstrikes Pound Syria's Afrin As Turkey Launches 'Operation Olive Branch'

Airstrikes Pound Syria's Afrin As Turkey Launches 'Operation Olive Branch'

However this was the first confirmation that Turkish ground troops were now involved in the operation inside Syria.

Turkish warplane striking Kurdish positions in Afrin province of Syria. The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main U.S. ally against the Islamic State group in Syria.

The PKK is classified as a terrorist organisation by the USA and European Union, as well as Turkey.

In a sign of the risks to Turkey, six rockets fired from Syria hit the Turkish border town of Reyhanli Sunday, killing one Syrian refugee and wounding 32 people, its mayor said.

Turkish artillery firing on Kurdish position in Afrin, Syria.

The Syrian government has warned that any incursion into Afrin by Turkish forces would be considered an act of aggression.

But the risks are huge - the offensive pits Turkey against its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally the United States, which backs the Kurdish militia against IS, infuriating Ankara.

It began operating in northern Syria in 2016, its participation in an global effort to defeat Islamic State dovetailing with its campaign to block the convergence of Kurdish-run regions.

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Turkey launched a massive air and ground campaign against US-backed Kurds in Syria's Afrin province on Saturday, which its military has code-named operation "Olive Branch", according to state-run Anadolu Agency. "We won't fight in the city as we have no problem with civilians", he said.

Turkish troops were advancing alongside forces from the Ankara-backed rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and were already five kilometres (three miles) inside Syria, state media said.

The YPG issued a statement on a pro-PKK news outlet, ANF, calling the Turkish attack "barbaric". "Now we see how the YPG... are fleeing in Afrin", he said. "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". And the defence ministry said its troops were withdrawing from the Afrin area to ensure their security and prevent any "provocation". Rebel-held areas of Idlib and Ghouta in northern Syria have come under sustained attack by Syrian regime forces, raising fears for the thousands of civilians sheltering there.

Turkey's military has been shelling the Afrin region since Thursday, a move which it said was in response to fire coming from the area.

Later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his American counterpart Rex Tillerson spoke over the phone and discussed the issue.

Turkish artillery and war planes pounded YPG sites around Afrin and total of 153 targets, including YPG refuges and weapons stores have now been hit, according to the army. It was being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on global law, UN Security Council's decisions, self-defense rights under the UN charter and respect to Syria's territorial integrity, according to Turkish military.

Turkey has been particularly outraged by an announcement that the USA planned to train 30,000 personnel in parts of northeast Syria under the control of the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The timing reflects Turkey's increased frustration with United States support for Kurdish forces in Syria, who are now in control of almost 25 per cent of the country, in areas that straddle the Turkish and Iraqi border.


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