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Turkey’s Ground Forces Enter Syria’s Afrin

The apparent ground assault comes a day after Turkey launched an air assault against the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia.The apparent ground assault comes a day after Turkey launched an air assault against the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia.

Turkish forces crossed the border into Syria’s Afrin district on Sunday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said.

At a news conference in Istanbul, he said Turkey’s military aimed to create a security zone some 30 kilometers (18 miles) inside the war-ravaged country, DW reported.

The state-run Anadolu news agency also reported the arrival of Turkish forces in the enclave as part of an operation codenamed Olive Branch, adding that airstrikes and artillery shelling that targeted the area, which began on Saturday, were continuing.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped the offensive would be completed in “a very short time.”

  YPG Denies Reports

Turkey’s claims were immediately denied by a Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, spokesman, who said Turkish forces tried to cross into the province but failed, after fierce clashes erupted.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported fighting between the two sides on the northern and western edges of Afrin, but said that Turkish troops had failed to advance.

The apparent ground assault comes a day after Turkey launched an air assault against the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia, which controls the northwestern corner of Syria, and which Ankara regards as a terror group linked to a more than three-decade insurgency in its southeast.

Saturday’s airstrikes and artillery fire were backed by pro-Turkey Syrian rebels who were engaged in a “comprehensive” ground operation against the YPG, Andadolu said.

SOHR said six civilians, including a child, were killed in Saturday’s airstrikes on Afrin.

  Rockets Hit Kilis

Earlier on Sunday, four suspected YPG rockets struck the central-southern Turkish town of Kilis from across the Syrian border, the town’s governor said.

Governor Mehmet Tekinarslan said four rockets hit two houses and an office, slightly injuring a woman, before Turkish artillery returned fire.

“No one lost their life,” Tekinarslan was cited by the Dogan news agency as saying. “They can fire one rocket at us and we will fire 100 back. There is no need to worry.”

While Erdogan has vowed to crush the Kurdish militia, the YPG is the major force within the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance, which is leading the fight back against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Syria.

The decision has sunk US-Turkey ties to new lows and forced other nations to urge an immediate end to the offensive.

“This fighting ... must stop,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly told France 3 Television on Sunday, adding that the new conflict could “deter Kurdish forces who are at the side” of the international coalition battling IS.

France also called for United Nations action to help minimize the “humanitarian risks” as the fighting escalates in Syria.

“Ghouta, Idlib, Afrin — France asks for an urgent meeting of the Security Council,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Twitter.

On Sunday, Iran also called for a quick end to the Turkish incursion, saying it may help “terrorist” groups.

“Iran hopes that this operation will be ended immediately to prevent a deepening of the crisis in the border regions of Turkey and Syria,” it quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying. “A continued crisis in Afrin may boost ...terrorist groups in northern Syria.”

 

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