Turkish Air Strikes Target Kurdish Militia In Syria

A Turkish military tanks arrives at an army base in the border town of Reyhanli near the Turkish Syrian border in Hatay province

Turkish defense minister confirms operation coming in Afrin, Syria

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Thursday issued a stern warning to his counterparts in Ankara that the Syrian Air Force is ready to shoot down any Turkish military aircraft that cross into Syria's airspace.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey had "de-facto" launched a new operation on the ground to oust Kurdish militia from a northern Syrian enclave, defying U.S. warnings that the action risked destabilising the area.

Turkey kicked off a ground offensive against Kurdish forces near Afrin, in Syria's Aleppo province, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on January 20.

On Sunday, the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria announced that it was training local fighters, including Kurdish militia, as a "border security force".

Damascus on Thursday vowed to shoot down Turkish fighter jets that carry out attacks inside Syrian territory, while Ankara sought the approval of Russian Federation and Iran to conduct an aerial campaign on a Kurdish enclave in the country's north.

A senior Turkish official said it aimed to liberate the region from the control of the Kurdish militants who they say are using their toehold in northern Syria as a base to launch attacks on Turkey.

Turkey intensified its shelling of Kurdish fighters in neighboring Syria on Friday as it ramped up threats to launch a full military offensive across the border, a move that would stoke tensions with the United States.

The airstrikes targeted Rajo town west of Afrin city in addition to Sherawa town, Shelon Mountain, and Sharra town, the SDF statement said.

"What we can say is this: This operation will be carried out". He was quoted saying, "Tomorrow, (or) the day after, (or) within a short period, we will get rid of terror nests one-by-one in Syria starting with Afrin and Manbij" in northern Syria.

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that officials were consulting Russian Federation and Iran about the use of airspace for the operation, CNN Turk reported.

"Out of 113 designated targets of the Democratic Union Party, Kurdish Syrian terrorist group, 108 have been destroyed as of 18:30 [15:30 GMT]".

Turkey began a new air and ground operation to oust Kurdish militia from their northern Syrian enclave, defying U.S. warnings that this could further destabilise the area after nearly seven years of civil war.

Cavusoglu said Turkey wasn't satisfied with the US explanations, while adding that it has no interest in colliding with the USA over the operation.

They said the "sudden and unjustified" attacks on Afrin "threatens to breath new life" in Isis which the militants are now fighting.

The US had also urged Turkey to avoid taking action against the Kurdish rebels, urging Ankara to keep its focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

"Let us be clear, the United States will maintain a military presence in Syria focused on ensuring [the Islamic State] can not re-emerge", Tillerson said.

Rather, he said, the US military will provide training to local elements to help secure areas that were liberated from the Islamic State, with USA assistance, over the past three years. Moscow's military intervention in 2015 turned the war in favour of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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