Turkey will inform all relevant countries, including the Damascus government, about its planned military operation in northeastern Syria, the Turkish Foreign Minister said on October 9.
Mevlut Cavusoglu made the remarks at a news conference in the Algerian capital, according to the Reuters news agency.
The Turkish minister said that the operation will be carried out in line with international law and that the only target of the offensive is “militants” in Syria’s northeast region. Cavusoglu was clearly referring to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Force (SDF).
According to Cavusoglu, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had told President Donald Trump in at the weekend that Ankara would launch the offensive after Washington stalled efforts to form a “safe zone” in the region.
The operation targets not only Kurdish-led militias, that Ankara believes to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group which is outlawed in Turkey, but also Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists, according to Erdogan:
“The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched Operation Peace Spring against PKK/YPG and Daesh [ISIS] terrorists in northern Syria. Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” Erdogan wrote on Twitter.
“We will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists,” Erdogan added.
Few seconds after Erdogan’s announcement, warplanes of the Turkish Air Force (TAF) began conducting airstrikes on positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) along the border with Turkey.
Turkish artillery began striking positions in Syria immediately after Erdogan’s announcement, according to media reports.
The air and artillery strikes have been reportedly targeting the vicinity of the Syrian border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.
Syrian state media has released footage from Ras al-Ayn showing multiple warplanes in the skies as well as a thick plume of black smoke from a fire caused by the air strikes.
The military operation appears to be primarily targeting the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group largely consisting of ethnic Kurds. The SDF has been a close ally of the US-led coalition, with members serving as foot soldiers for its years-long fight against IS.
The SDF said the Syrian towns of Qamishli and Ain Issa were also targeted by Turkish warplanes. The airstrikes have inflicted civilian casualties, the group added, citing preliminary reports from the ground.
Over the last few days, the SDF’s leadership vowed to repel any Turkish attack on northeast Syria. However, the group is yet to respond to Turkish airstrikes.
The Turkish military and its proxies will likely launch their ground operation in the upcoming few hours. The exact goals of the operation are yet to be known.
Syria has condemned the planned Turkish military operation in the country’s northeastern region, holding the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces responsible for this escalation.
A source in the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates told the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on October 9 that any Turkish operation in the region will be a violation of the international law and a blatant breach of the International Security Council’s resolutions.
“The hostile behavior of Erdogan’s regime appears clearly through the Turkish expansionist ambitions in the Syrian territories, and it couldn’t be justified under any pretext, and what the Turkish regime claims regarding the security of the borders is refuted by this regime’s ignorance of Adana Agreement,” the source said.
Unnamed Syrian source went on to hold Kurdish forces in northeast Syria responsible for the upcoming Turkish invasion of the region.
“The Syrian Arab Republic holds some of the Kurdish organizations responsible for what is taking place due to their subordination to the U.S. project as they have been previously warned during the meetings with them against the dangers of that project and to not be tools serving the U.S. policy against their homeland, but these organizations have insisted on being tools in the hands of foreigners,” SANA quoted the source as saying.
The source concluded the statement by stressing that Syria will confront “the Turkish aggression” by all legitimate means. The source also promised that the government will welcome all of its “misled citizens” if they return to the righteous road in a way that would guarantee Syria’s unity and territorial integrity.