Turkey is not holding back as it launched the cross-border operation into northeastern Syria targeting the Syrian Kurdish group YPG.
Turkey considers the group a terrorist organization and a national security threat at its borders. Airstrikes together with a ground offensive has been launched on Wednesday marking the beginning of what may be a long and deadly operation with risks for Turkey.
CGTN’s Michal Bardavid reports.
Explosions roared across the Turkish-Syrian border, creating clouds of smoke as Turkey officially launched the so-called “Operation Peace Spring,” which was announced by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday.
Turkey has been planning for this operation for months now. Ankara said there are two main objectives behind the operation; to remove terrorist elements from its border with Syria, and to ensure the safe return of refugees to these areas.
Ankara said it plans to target Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and Islamic State militants during the offensive.
Smoke was seen rising from buildings in the Syrian towns of Ras-Al-ain and Tel Abyad as Turkish jets hit their first targets, marking the beginning of the operation.
Meanwhile, homes in Turkey’s border town of Ceylanpinar were hit by rocket shells launched from within Syria.
Earlier on Monday, the Pentagon removed Turkey from the anti-ISIS air tasking order which coordinates flights in that region.
“This could cause some restrictions for Turkey, but Turkey’s weapons and ammunition would be sufficient to have an impact on the target operation area which is 30 kilometers deep,” said Abdullah Agar, a security analyst in Turkey. “Without leaving its own air space, Turkey’s fighter jets would be able to hit the targets at the furthest point of the 30 kilometers it has determined.”
Civilians living in residential towns in Syria could also create challenges for Turkey.
“The YPG/PKK will want to use civilians as human shields, a civilian sensitivity will unfold and it’s my evaluation that Turkey will face provocations and manipulations,” said Agar.
NATO’s Secretary-General stated Turkey had legitimate concerns but called for Ankara to be cautious.
“Our ally Turkey is at the forefront of the crisis and has legitimate security concerns,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “It has suffered horrendous terrorist attacks and it hosts millions of Syrian refugees. NATO has been informed by Turkish authorities about their ongoing operation in northern Syria. It is important to avoid actions that may further destabilize the region, escalate tensions and cause more human suffering.”
The UN Security Council is set to meet for an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the operation.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry stressed that only terrorists and their shelters, weapons, positions and equipment were targeted while extra attention was paid to prevent damage to civilians as well as cultural and historical structures.