Turkey’s Air Strikes Hit Northeast Syria Near Border
Turkish air strikes hit a border area in northeast Syria on Wednesday, a war monitor said moments after Ankara announced the start of an operation against Syria’s Kurds.
In the Ras al-Ain border region, an AFP correspondent heard loud explosions and saw clouds of white smoke towering overhead.
The journalist said Turkish artillery fire also hit the region, adding that he saw dozens of civilians flee in cars and on motorbikes.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said “air strikes” and “artillery fire” hit Ras al-Ain and the surrounding area.
Turkish artillery fire also hit several villages in the Tal Abyad border region, to the west of Ras al-Ain, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
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The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish militia that controls most of northeastern Syria, confirmed the reports, saying that “Turkish warplanes have started to carry out air strikes.”
“There is a huge panic among people of the region,” spokesman Mustefa Bali wrote on Twitter.
Earlier in the day, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the Turkish operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria had begun.
“The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army (rebel groups backed by Ankara), just launched #OperationPeaceSpring,” Erdogan wrote on Twitter in English.
He said the offensive targeted Kurdish militants and the Islamic State group in northern Syria.
“Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” he wrote.
Turkey has long been planning military action against Kurdish forces in northern Syria due to their ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, and has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the E.U., as well as Turkey.