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Turkey begins an offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria

Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

AMMAN, Jordan -- Turkey launched its incursion into areas of northern Syria on Wednesday to excise a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia, Turkish officials said on Wednesday. The move frustrates calls by U.S. lawmakers to prevent what many believe would be an abandonment of an important ally against Islamic State.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the Turkish blitz -- dubbed "Operation Peace Spring" -- on Twitter, even as news channels began to beam images of Turkish artillery and warplanes pounding parts of northern Syria controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group of militias that have for years received backing from the U.S.

"The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring," Erdogan wrote.

"Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area."

A spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish forces, Mustafa Bali, confirmed that Turkish warplanes had begun airstrikes on areas near the Syrian border.

The operation comes after the Trump administration had announced in recent days it would stand aside before a proposed Turkish incursion and withdrew U.S. troops. The move brought opprobrium even from Trump's staunch Republican allies, who excoriated the president for allowing one U.S. ally, Turkey, to attack another ally in the Kurds.

 

For their part, the Kurdish-led administration that controls northeast Syria called for a three-day "general mobilization," exhorting all people under its lands to head to the borders with Turkey "and do their moral duty and do resistance in these historic sensitive moments."

For days, Syria's northeast, home to the Kurds' semi-autonomous proto-state, had been under complete paralysis.

"We thought the Americans were staying, and that the political equations would progress and the area would peacefully move to the next stage in Syria," said Omar Rassoul, a 57-year-old writer from the city of Malkiyeh, in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Malkiyeh was far away from where Turkish troops had entered. But it didn't matter, Rassoul said. Commercial life had virtually come to a standstill, though the first rains had come and it was time for planting seeds, most farmers hadn't gone to their farmlands for fear of an invasion.

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