HASSA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish troops and Syrian opposition forces attacked a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria on Sunday in their bid to drive a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia from the area.
Turkish officers stated the troops entered Afrin a day after dozens of Turkish jets and artillery models on the border pounded Syrian Kurdish targets. A spokesman for the Kurdish fighters stated the attack was repelled.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish militia, referred to as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a terror group and a safety risk due to its affiliation to Kurdish rebels combating in southeastern Turkey.
The group controls Afrin, in Syria’s northwestern Aleppo province, in addition to a swath of territory to the east alongside Turkey’s border. The YPG additionally varieties the spine of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the primary U.S. ally in opposition to the Islamic State group in Syria.
The state-run Anadolu Agency stated the Turkish-backed fighters had penetrated 5 kilometers (three miles) into Afrin as a part of the offensive, codenamed Olive Branch.
In an announcement, the Syrian opposition fighters battling alongside the Turkish troops stated the mixed pressure seized Shankal, a village on the northwestern fringe of Afrin district.
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali denied that Turkish troops had entered Afrin, saying Kurdish forces had been repelling assaults since Saturday. Bali stated the SDF had despatched reinforcements to Afrin.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Kurdish militia and Turkish forces have clashed on the northern and western edges of Afrin. The Observatory stated the Turkey-backed forces have entered Shankal and are clashing with the Kurds.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to broaden the offensive to Manbij, a city to the east that Kurdish forces seized from the Islamic State group in a expensive battle with the help of the U.S.-led coalition. The city has since emerged as a mannequin for U.S.-backed Kurdish rule of largely Arab areas.
An advance on Manbij by NATO member Turkey would pit two shut U.S. allies in opposition to each other, including one other entrance to the already advanced Syrian civil warfare.
Turkish troops first crossed into Syria after the Kurds captured Manbij in 2016, in half to stop them from increasing westward and linking as much as Afrin. At least 70 Turkish troopers have been killed since then, most in battles with the Islamic State group, which has since been pushed from practically all of the territory it as soon as held in Syria.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim informed a bunch of journalists on Sunday that Turkey goals to create a 30-kilometer (20-mile) deep “safe zone” in Afrin, in accordance with Turkish media reviews. He informed reporters that there have been between eight,000 and 10,000 “terrorists” in Afrin.
Earlier Sunday, 4 rockets fired from Syria hit the Turkish border city of Kilis, prompting Turkish artillery to return fireplace, Gov. Mehmet Tekinarslan stated. The rockets hit two homes and a office, and barely wounded one particular person.
Associated Press journalists on the border noticed a convoy of vehicles, believed to belong to Syrian opposition fighters, carrying pick-up vehicles mounted with arms. Artillery shelling might be heard in the space.
Turkey has ready round 10,000 Syrian fighters to storm Afrin, in accordance Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.
A Syrian commander chatting with the AP by cellphone from northern Syria stated there have been hundreds of fighters positioned in Azaz, on the frontier with the Kurdish enclave, awaiting orders. Another commander stated lots of extra had been stationed in Atmeh, south of Afrin. The officers spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed to talk to the media.
Turkish leaders had been infuriated by an announcement by the U.S. army this week that it was going to create a 30,000-strong border pressure with the Kurdish fighters to safe northern Syria. Days later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson introduced that the U.S. would preserve a army presence with the Kurds for the foreseeable future.
El Deeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press author Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey contributed to this report.