Turkish military operation in northern Syria has begun, Erdoğan says

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This handout picture taken and released on January 25, 2018 shows President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (3R) adressing soldiers during his visit to Operating Base in Hatay on the sixth day of 'Operation Olive Branch'. / AFP PHOTO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Wednesday that Operation Peace Spring, a Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) military operation east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, has been launched.

“The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists in northern Syria. Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” Erdoğan tweeted.

The operation came after the United States announced it was withdrawing its troops from the region, effectively abandoning the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), its main ally in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Daesh) armed group.

“OperationPeaceSpring will neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes. We will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists,” Erdoğan said in another tweet.

The SDF, led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), has denounced Washington’s move as a “stab in the back”.

Turkey considers the YPG a “terrorist” group, claiming that it has links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

There were reports that smoke was rising from some YPG positions and several explosions took place in the area.

Turkish soldiers with tanks and heavy artillery have been amassing along the border, while berms and other fortifications have been constructed, according to video from multiple news outlets.

In the meantime the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned US Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield shortly after the launch of Operation Peace Spring.

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