Turkey launches attack on Kurds days after President Trump’s announcement

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Syria begins bombing in Kurds held region – Photo by Rojava Media Center

AKCAKALE, Turkey (AP) — Turkey launched airstrikes and fired artillery aimed at crushing Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday after U.S. troops pulled back from the area, paving the way for an assault on forces that have long been allied with the United States.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the campaign, which followed an abrupt decision Sunday by U.S. President Donald Trump that American troops would step aside to allow for the operation.

Trump’s move, which has drawn harsh bipartisan opposition at home, represented a shift in U.S. policy that essentially abandoned the Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been America’s only allies inside Syria in the fight against the Islamic State group.

After Turkey’s offensive began, there was sign of panic in the streets of Ras al-Ayn— one of the towns under attack with residential areas close to the borders. Cars raced to safety, although it was not clear if they were leaving the town or heading away from border areas. Near the town of Qamishli, plumes of smoke were seen rising from an area close to the border after activists reported sounds of explosion nearby.

At least one member of the Kurdish-led force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces was killed in the Turkish bombardment, Kurdish activists and a Syria war monitor said.

Turkey’s campaign — in which a NATO member is raining down bombs on an area where hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed — drew immediate criticism and calls for restraint from Europe.

“Coalition forces are not near the places Turkey has struck so far,” an official with the U.S.-led coalition told The Associated Press.

The Kurdish forces have warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” that could potentially unfold because of the Turkish military operation.

“Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” Erdogan said in a tweet.

He added that Turkish Armed Forces, together with Turkish-backed Syrian fighters known as the Syrian National Army, had begun what they called “Operation Peace Spring” against Kurdish fighters to eradicate what Erdogan said was “the threat of terror” against Turkey.

Minutes before Erdogan’s announcement, Turkish jets began pounding suspected positions of Syrian Kurdish forces in the town of Ras al Ayn, according to Turkish media and Syrian activists. The sound of explosions could be heard in Turkey.

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