Published: Mon, January 22, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Operation Olive Branch designed to ensure Syria's territorial integrity - Erdogan

Operation Olive Branch designed to ensure Syria's territorial integrity - Erdogan

Syria denounced Turkey's "aggression" and "brutal attack".

Troops, accompanied by allied Syrian rebels, reportedly seized control of several areas in Afrin on Monday.

The PYD is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the USA and the EU.

Not that the Turks are likely to just roll over the Kurds without substantial resistance, after years of United States arming of the YPG.

Ankara views the militia as the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged a bloody three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.

Erdoğan accused the US of creating a "terror army" and said he plans to "strangle it before it's even born".

Turkey's incursion is a direct challenge to Washington, which has openly supported the Kurdish militia against ISIS and which has made the YPG a critical part of its plans for a long-term USA presence in Syria.

What has happened on the ground?

During a press conference, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters there were between 8,000 and 10,000 "terrorists" in Afrin.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the offensive has killed 7 Kurdish fighters, as well as 21 civilians, including 6 children.

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He said: "All the Turkish military's ground attacks against Afrin have been repelled so far and they have been forced to retreat".

There was damage to one building that caught fire and one woman was slightly injured in the rocket fire on the town of Kilis, the Dogan news agency said.

Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation are the guarantors of a countrywide ceasefire in Syria.

What's the background to the offensive?

Local media reported Sunday that Turkish tanks are supporting the Free Syrian Army's ground offensive on Kurdish positions in Syria's Afrin region, as the Olive Branch Operation has entered its second day.

Mr Erdogan has vowed to crush the YPG "very quickly", but the United States is urging Turkish "restraint" in order to avoid civilian casualties.

On Friday the Syrian government threatened to shoot down Turkish fighter jets if they fly into its airspace. France asked Turkey to act with restraint.

It earlier said dozens of air strikes had taken out 153 targets belonging to Kurdish militants. "We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties", Nauert said.

Turkish armed forces have advanced into the Azaz district in Syria, east of Afrin.

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