Turkey launched airstrikes, fired artillery and began a ground offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
“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,” the Turkish defense ministry tweeted after nightfall, following a day of pounding the area from the air.
Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri, Barış Pınarı Harekâtı kapsamında hava kuvvetleri unsurları ve ateş destek vasıtaları ile şu ana kadar terör örgütüne ait toplam 181 hedefi ateş altına aldı.
????????#MSB #TSK #BarışPınarıHarekatı???????? pic.twitter.com/ttPa3GSg8j
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) October 9, 2019
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the attack two days after Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria and handed over responsibility for captured ISIS members to Turkey.
Turkish media reported troops entering Syria at four points, two of them close to the Syrian town of Tel Abyad and two close to Ras al Ain further east.
Thousands of people fled the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain toward Hasaka province, held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
At least seven civilians and three members of the SDF were killed in the Turkish bombardment, Kurdish activists and a Syria war monitor said.
The Turkish army has hit a total of 181 militant targets with airstrikes and howitzers since the start of the operation, the defense ministry said on Wednesday.
The SDF aided the United States in defeating jihadi terrorists in Syria. But the Turkish government views them as a terrorist insurgency linked to the Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Trump said in a statement on Wednesday that the United States has made it clear to Turkey that it doesn’t endorse the invasion and “made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea.”
“This morning, Turkey, a NATO member, invaded Syria. The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea. There are no American soldiers in the area,” said Trump.
He said he doesn’t want to engage in “endless, senseless wars” particularly those engagements that are of no benefit to the United States.
“Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment,” Trump said.
Turkey said it wants to create a “safe zone” cleared of a Kurdish militia that will also house some of Turkey’s 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
The Turkish president’s spokesperson has told U.S. National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien over the phone that Turkey wants to “help refugees return home” and will also continue to fight the ISIS terrorist group.
“The safe zone aims to clear terrorist elements from Turkey’s border within the framework of Syria’s territorial integrity and to help refugees return home and that the fight against DAESH [ISIS] will continue with determination,” spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told O’Brien, according to a statement released by the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey on Oct. 9.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, while noting that Turkey “has legitimate security concerns” after suffering “horrendous terrorist attacks” and hosting thousands of refugees, said the country should not “further destabilize the region” with its military action in Syria.
The SDF said Turkey’s attack will make the SDF’s fight against ISIS difficult. “As the Syrian Democratic Forces, we are determined to defend our land at all costs. We call on our Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, and Syriac people to strengthen their unity and stand by the SDF in defense of their land,” said the SDF.
Reuters, The Associated Press and Epoch Times reporter Venus Upadhayaya contributed to this report.