Airstrikes launched as Turkey begins northern Syria military operation

Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops near the Turkish border in Hasakah Syria last November

Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops near the Turkish border in Hasakah Syria last November

Turkey has launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria's territorial integrity.

President Tayyip Erdogan, announcing the start of the action, said the aim was to eliminate what he called a "terror corridor" on Turkey's southern border.

The tweet comes hours after the Turkish government promised an offensive would begin soon.

Turkish forces and Syrian rebel allies will cross the Syrian border "shortly", a Turkish official said early on Wednesday, as a surprise withdrawal of U.S. troops made way for the Turkish incursion.

A senior Turkish official said Wednesday that Turkey's troops would "shortly" cross into Syria, together with allied Syrian rebel forces to battle the Kurdish fighters and also the Islamic State group.

Reports that Turkish troops and tanks were assuming positions along the Turkey-Syria border was causing tension in the border city of Akcakale Tuesday, according to Al Jazeera.

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the US has not "abandoned" its Kurdish allies inside Syria, continuing to give a mixed message to Turkey.

Concerned that the Kurds face an imminent Turkish onslaught with USA forces out of the way, both Republican and Democratic congressional leaders expressed alarm Monday over the president's decision and what looked like the abandonment of longtime US goals in Syria.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said Tuesday that "all indications" point to a Turkish attack on its border areas and called on the global community to help avoid a possible humanitarian disaster. Turkish media outlets aired footage of warplanes leaving from an air base in Turkey's southeast and large explosions in Tel Abyad and another Syrian border town.

"We announce three days of general mobilisation in northern and eastern Syria", it said in a statement, asking all civilians to "head to the border with Turkey to fulfill their duty". A spokesman for Erdogan, Fahrettin Altun, writing in The Washington Post on Wednesday, called for global support for Turkey's offensive.

Turkey's Demiroren news agency (DHA) said Syrian rebels travelled from northwest Syria to Turkey in preparation for the incursion in Syria's northeast.

Taking to Twitter, Trump insisted he was not abandoning Kurdish that fought with US and coalition partners against IS.

"There's a lot of reticence to test the proposition that the Turkish military is capable of carrying this out", said Eric Alderman, former ambassador to Turkey and undersecretary for Policy at the Defense Department.

"Turkey is one of the countries most affected by DAESH's bloody activities and has fought against this terrorist organization both domestically and beyond its borders with increasing tempo and intensity", the ministry said in a tweet posted on its official twitter page. The YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK.

Lavrov said during a visit to Kazakhstan on Wednesday that the USA first propped up the Syrian Kurdish "quasi state" in northeastern Syria and is now withdrawing its support.

Erdogan earlier told Russia's President Vladimir Putin in a phone call that the operation would help peace and stability in Syria.

Turkish army soldiers drive towards the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province.

The Kurds have always been considered as among Washington's most reliable partners in Syria and in the broader campaign against ISIS in the region.

Kurdish-led forces denounced the USA policy shift as a "stab in the back". The White House stated it would not "support or be involved in" Turkey's upcoming operation.

Trump's warning on Turkey's economy on Monday appeared aimed at placating critics who accused him of abandoning the Syrian Kurds.

But Trump also threatened to "totally destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if the Turkish push into Syria went too far.

Trump, in a break with many Republicans, has called for less U.S. military involvement overseas and says USA troops completed their mission in Syria of fighting the Islamic State movement. "Our message to worldwide community is clear".

Trump declared that it would be the responsibility of Turkey and other countries to deal with IS prisoners.

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