Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria has begun

Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria has begun

Mustafa Bali, a spokesperson for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Turkish warplanes were targeting "civilian areas" in northern Syria, causing "a huge panic" in the region.

One of the prisons where ISIS detainees are held was struck by a Turkish air strike, the SDF said on Twitter.

Tehran, a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war, opposes the planned Turkish incursion. He expected Turkey to protect civilians and religious minorities and to prevent a humanitarian crisis, he said.

European countries called on Ankara to halt the operation and Egypt called it "a blatant and unacceptable attack on a brotherly Arab state".

Turkey "has legitimate security concerns" after suffering "horrendous terrorist attacks" and hosting thousands of refugees, said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

He confirmed in one of his tweets that his Army is moving to the Syria, just days after the Trump administration announced it was pulling United States troops back from the border area.

He also said he would lead an effort in Congress to "make Erdogan pay a heavy price", referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kurdish-led forces denounced the United States policy shift as a "stab in the back". A witness said people were fleeing en masse.

Several large explosions rocked the north-east Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, on the border across from the Turkish town of Ceylanpınar, a CNN Turk reporter said, adding that the sound of planes could be heard above. Turkey, he said, will never tolerate the creation of a "terror corridor or a terror state" at its border under any circumstances, regardless of the cost. The Turkish air strikes killed at least five civilians and three fighters from the SDF and wounded dozens of civilians, the SDF said.

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"We call upon our people, of all ethnic groups, to move toward areas close to the border with Turkey to carry out acts of resistance during this sensitive historical time", it said. There was no immediate word on casualties.

From Akcakale, the red flare of rockets could be seen being fired after dark across the border to Tel Abyad, as well as flames near the town.

He also wants a "safe zone" on the Syrian side of the border where Turkey could send back some of the 3.6 million refugees it hosts from the eight-year civil war.

De Montchalin said France, Germany and Britain were working on a joint declaration "which will be extremely clear on the fact that we very strongly condemn" the Turkish campaign against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria. Still, Ankara views the Kurdish fighters - who it says are linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) - as a threat to its national security.

"The SDF showed good faith to the security mechanism agreement between the USA and Turkey".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Iraqi Kurdish leaders he met earlier this week had voiced deep concern about the risks of the mixed signals from Trump. A U.S. official told Reuters on Monday U.S. forces had withdrawn from observation posts there.

Mr Graham predicted "a devastating ripple effect" from Turkish action in Syria, warning that Mr Trump's decision to withdraw the troops opened the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led forces long allied with Washington.

Trump has insisted he is not abandoning Kurds that fought with US and coalition partners against IS.

Erdogan added that Turkey "will preserve Syria's territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists".

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