Turkish army launches push into Syria, air strikes hit border town

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Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria on Wednesday, with air strikes hitting the border town of Ras al Ain.

TV reports in Turkey said its warplanes had bombed Syrian Kurdish positions across the border.

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the country had "completed our preparations and action plan" and was ready to launch a "ground and air operation" east of the Euphrates river, with the goal of establishing "peace" by clearing the region of "terrorists". After widespread criticism from members of Congress and other officials, including many leading Republicans, Trump later threatened to "totally destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if Turkish troops do anything he considers "off limits", though he later praised the country as a good trading partner.

US President Donald Trump abruptly announced on Sunday that American troops would step aside for Turkey's push.

Turkish troops have begun an offensive in northern Syria, which could bring them into direct conflict with Kurdish-led forces allied to the United States. "All indications, field information and military assembly on the Turkish side of the border indicate that our border areas will be attacked by Turkey". We believe that a correct path should be adopted to remove those concerns. The American presence, which includes about 1,000 troops in northeastern Syria, is a lean force dispersed across a number of bases.

Both Pentagon and State Department officials had advised Trump against making the move, arguing a U.S. presence is needed to counter ISIS and keep Iran and Russian Federation, both influential inside Syria, in check. The area is about 620 kilometres northwest of Tehran.

Turkey has been poised to advance into northeast Syria since the US troops began vacating the area in an abrupt policy shift by US President Donald Trump widely criticized in Washington as a betrayal of America's Kurdish militia allies.

Turkey views the Kurdish People's Protection Units - also known as the YPG - in Syria as terrorists due to their ties to militants waging an insurgency inside Turkey.

"As threats and mobilization of the Turkish Army and its mercenaries escalate. we call on our people.to go to the area bordering Turkey to carry out their moral duty and show resistance at these sensitive historical moments", an SDF statement said.

The operation started at 4 p.m. local time, the ministry said in a statement. Leaving aside the implicit assumption that US interests are zero-sum with the interests of those states, the argument pays no attention to the dynamics of Russia's and Iran's relations with the Assad regime in Damascus.

Trump also claimed the USA has spent $8 trillion "fighting and policing" in the Middle East, up from the $7 trillion figure he has cited numerous times.

Graham's criticism has been echoed by others within the party, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said "a precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime".

"There is a huge panic among people of the region", he said.

"This morning, Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member, invaded Syria".

"We are helping the Kurds financially/weapons!", he added.

Also in the Washington Post on Tuesday evening, Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's top communications official, insisted that Trump had used the call "to transfer the leadership of the Islamic State campaign to Turkey". A spokesman for Erdogan, Fahrettin Altun, writing in The Washington Post on Wednesday, called for global support for Turkey's offensive.

The Kurdish-led SDF, which is holding thousands of IS fighters in several detention facilities in northeastern Syria, has warned that a Turkish incursion might lead to the resurgence of the extremists.

Until now, the U.S. had supported the SDF, as they worked together to defeat Islamic State in Syria. Casualty numbers have been comparatively low, while the security return is high. Raqqa is being Silently Slaughtered, an activist collective that covers news in the northern city, reported an exchange of fire and a blast.

According to Turkish state media, more than 100 vehicles carrying troops, weapons and construction equipment were sent to Sanliurfa's Akcakale district, 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from the strategic border town of Tal Abyad.

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