Turkey’s armed forces on Wednesday launched the long-promised offensive into northeastern Syria, east of the Euphrates River.
A statement released by Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence stated that Operation Peace Spring had started shortly after 4 pm local time “upon the directive of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan”.
The statement made no mention of the progress of the forces or how much resistance had met, but simply that “only terrorists, their shelters, positions, weapons, tools and equipment are targeted in the planning and implementation of the operation while all kinds of attention and sensitivity are being shown to prevent damage to civilians/innocent people and historical, cultural and religious structures, infrastructure facilities and elements of friendly and allied countries in the region.”
However, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claimed that three of its fighters had been killed and five civilians had been killed.
“Dozens of civilians injured due to large-scale indiscriminate Turkish shelling on all-long border-line towns of northeastern Syria.”
— Coordination & Military Ops Center – SDF (@cmoc_sdf) October 9, 2019
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that eight civilians had been killed and another wounded “in Turkish aggression on Qamishli, Dibasyah and al-Mishrafah in Ras al-Ayn in Hasaka countryside.” According to SANA, a woman and her three children were among those killed when their house in Qamishli was hit by Turkish shelling.
The launch of Operation Peace Spring followed news that the White House had confirmed that it would not stand in the way of Turkey launching the operation that had been long threatened by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The White House on Monday announced the decision to withdraw troops from the immediate area, in a move criticized by many in Washington from both sides of the political aisle as a betrayal of America’s allies, the Kurds.
Turkey’s government says its aim is to clear border areas of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia which the US considers to be a crucial ally in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group.
Ankara deems YPG as a terrorist organization linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed militant group has waged a separatist insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
The SDF, spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG, has labeled the U.S. policy shift as a “stab in the back” while the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad has condemned the operation saying “the hostile behavior of Erdogan’s regime clearly shows the Turkish expansionist greed in the Syrian territories.”
Meanwhile in Washington, the Reuters news agency reported that Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen had unveiled an outline for proposed sanctions against Turkey, including targeting the U.S. assets of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and imposing visa restrictions.
According to Reuters any military transactions with Turkey, which is a fellow NATO member would also be subjected to sanctions if they get the go-ahead.