A Turkish miltary convoy in Kilis close to the Turkey-Syria border © Reuters

Turkish military offensive in Syria

Mehmet Ali Dag/ Ihlas News Agency (IHA) via REUTERS

A few days after the Trump administration announced it was pulling US troops back from northern Syria, the Turkish military offensive began on Wednesday. Turkey launched airstrikes and artillery fire across the border. 

The operation is aimed at driving Kurdish forces — a key ally of the US in the fight against ISIS — away from the Turkish/Syrian border. “Our aim is to prevent creation of a terror corridor across the southern border and to bring peace and peace to the area,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted. 

The Syrian Democratic Forces

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. The airstrikes and artillery fire that bombarded northern Syria caused chaos as people tried to flee to safety. Everyone tried to get their families to safety taking all they can carry strapping mattresses to their cars.

The Syrian Democratic Forces tweeted that two civilians had been killed and two others were injured in the village of Misharrafa, west of Ras al-Ain. The SDF said homes in the village of Sikarkah in eastern Qamishli and areas close to the Bouzra dam were also targeted. The water there is used by hundreds of thousands civilians in northern Syria. The SDF put their counter-ISIS operations on hold in order to focus on the Turkish offensive. “We will clash against the Turks to not allow them to cross the border. We will use all our possibilities against Turkish aggression,” the group’s spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted.

The Turkish Armed Forces

Shortly after the Turkish operation inside Syria had started, local residents cheer and applaud as a convoy of Turkish forces vehicles is driven through the town of Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border between Turkey and Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
Shortly after the Turkish operation inside Syria had started, local residents cheer and applaud as a convoy of Turkish forces vehicles is driven through the town of Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border between Turkey and Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Wednesday night, Turkey’s Defense Ministry wrote on their verified Twitter account: “The Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian National Army have launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river as part of the Operation Peace Spring.”

Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said “Our army continues its fight against terrorists, while its main priority is to protect civilians from harm,” explaining the purpose of the operation on Twitter. “Turkey, acting within the framework of its rights arising from international law and the ‘right of self-defense’ set out in the UN Charter, is determined to drain the swamp of terror that threatens our borders and poses a threat to the whole world. “It is our greatest expectation that the world public opinion will have the same determination in the fight against terrorist organizations,” Oktay stated.

Criticism on Trump’s decision

The Syrian National Army is considered the biggest umbrella group for the factions of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army. The offensive comes days after US President Donald Trump provoked a storm of criticism, including from his own party, by announcing the pullback of US military forces from northeast Syria. In a statement from the White House Trump defended his decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, but added “The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea,”.

“From the first day I entered the political arena, I made it clear that I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars — especially those that don’t benefit the United States … We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Donald Trump

Erdogan’s ambitions

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the public following the unofficial results of the presidential election on June 24, 2018. Ahmet Dumanli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan | Ahmet Dumanli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

According to Syrian state news agency SANA.Syria condemned Turkey’s “aggressive behavior” and “hostile intentions,” “The aggressive behavior of the Erdogan regime shows the Turkish expansionist ambitions in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic and cannot be justified under any pretext,” a source at the Foreign Ministry said, SANA reported. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked Erdogan to “carefully weigh the situation” in Syria, so as not to “harm the overall efforts to resolve” the crisis, according to a statement released by the Kremlin. The Kremlin also stressed “the importance of ensuring the unity and territorial integrity of Syria and respect for its sovereignty was noted on both sides.”

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