Turkey on Wednesday launched a military offensive in northeast Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote on Twitter.
Erdogan said the operation is called “Operation Peace Spring,” adding it was targeting Islamic State (IS) militants, along with Syrian Kurdish fighters known as Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkey considers YPG militants to be linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency in the country.
“Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” said Erdogan on Twitter.
“We will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists.”
“Turkey’s intention is clear: to dismantle the terrorist corridor on our border.”
Several large explosions were reported in the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, across the border from the Turkish city of Ceylanpinar, as the operation began Wednesday.
A YPG source told Reuters news agency that Turkish artillery had struck YPG bases and ammunition depots.
Operation was expected
The Turkish operation began after US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday night that the US would pull its troops from the border region, essentially allowing Turkey to begin military operations against against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria.
An SDF spokesperson said on Twitter that Turkish fighter jets were striking targets and “civilian areas” in the region.
This is the third military offensive in three years that Turkey has launched targeting the YPG, which leads the SDF and was allied with the US-led effort to defeat IS in Syria.