Turkey’s prime minister confirmed on Sunday that Turkish ground troops have crossed into the Syrian district of Afrin as part of a military operation against the Kurdish YPG group.
Turkish forces crossed the border into Syria’s Afrin district on Sunday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed.
At a news conference in Istanbul, he said Turkey’s military aimed to create a security zone around 18 miles inside the war-torn country.
The state-run Anadolu news agency also reported the arrival of Turkish soldiers in the enclave as part of an operation code-named “Olive Branch”, adding that airstrikes and artillery shelling that targeted the area, have been ongoing since Saturday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped the operation would be completed in “a very short time”.
But President Erdogan also warned pro-Kurdish opposition supporters in Turkey not to protest against the military’s operation.
He told thousands of supporters in Bursa: “Know that if you go out on the streets, authorities are on your necks.”
Earlier, the Anadolu news agency reported that the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters had advanced towards Afrin in the early hours of Sunday.
The YPG confirmed the advance, saying two villages in Afrin’s Bilbil district near the Turkish border came under attack.
About 25,000 FSA rebels were joining the Turkish military operation in northern Syria with the goal of recapturing Arab towns and villages held by the YPG, a Syrian rebel commander told Reuters on Sunday.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters on Sunday: “They [Turkey] warned us before they launched the aircraft they were going to do it, in consultation with us.
“And we are working now on the way ahead…We’ll work this out.”