Turkey starts military operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria
Turkey officially started its long-threatened military campaign to eliminate Kurdish forces in northern Syria on Wednesday, targeting several areas and causing a big wave of displacement amid Syrian government's condemnation.
The Syrian national TV said the Turkish attack targeted positions of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Ras al-Ayn, al-Darbasiyah, and al-Malikiyah as well as the city of Qamishli in the Haskaah province in northeastern Syria and the areas of Ayn Issa and Tal Abyad in the countryside of Raqqa in northern Syria.
The Turkish campaign started by shelling the positions of the SDF in Ras al-Ayn area and later expanded to areas in Raqqa.
The state TV said the Turkish side is heavily shelling the SDF sites amid a large wave of civilians' displacement.
The TV said the Turkish shelling is "random" and is destroying the infrastructure in Ras al-Ayn.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said that the SDF got informed about the Turkish airstrikes and evacuated several positions ahead of the strikes.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday declared the beginning of the military operation in northern Syria against the Kurdish forces that Ankara deems as terrorists and separatists.
Turkey launched the operation with the help of the Turkey-backed rebels in northern Syria, which have recently joined force under the umbrella of the so-called "Syrian National Army."
Erdogan recently said that Ankara was ready to launch military operations against the People's Protection Unit (YPG) and its allies of the SDF in the east of the Euphrates in northern Syria "at any moment."
Turkey sees the YPG and the SDF as separatists and terrorists, citing their links with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.
Turkish officials have recently divulged its intention to unleash an assault against the Kurdish forces in northern Syria in order to impose a safe zone near its southern border and resettle millions of Syrian refugees.
The U.S., which is backing the SDF, has withdrawn troops from the region where Turkey was planning to target, which was seen as an abandoning to the Kurdish forces, which have been Washington allies in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in northern and eastern Syria.
Ahead of the Turkish campaign, reports were saying that the Kurdish forces should embark on a dialogue with Damascus, and not to bet on Washington's support, in order to allow the return of the government institutions to Kurdish-held areas and thus striping Turkey of the pretext of launching the assault.
As Turkey started the attack, the Kurdish Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, known as Rojava, said in a statement Wednesday that it welcomes dialogue with the Syrian government to defuse the tension in the northern region under Russia's mediation.
It noted that it wants Russia to be a supporter and a guarantor state in the dialogue between the Kurdish administration and the Syrian government.
For its side, the Syrian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday condemned the Turkish military offensive on Kurdish positions in northern and northeastern Syria, stressing the Syrian government's determination to confront the "Turkish aggression by all means."
In a statement, the ministry said the Syrian government condemns the "aggressive intentions of the Turkish regime" as well as the Turkish military build-up near the Syrian border, which, it said, constitutes a "blatant violation of the international law."
This "aggressive behavior" exposes the "expansive ambitions" of Turkey in Syria, it said, noting that the anticipated Turkish offensive cannot be justified under any pretext.
On the other hand, the statement assigned the blame to the Kurdish forces and held them responsible for the current situation, saying the Kurdish militias have been warned not to bet on the U.S. support and not to be a tool that serves the U.S. schemes, "but they wanted to be tools in the hands of strangers."
Meanwhile, the ministry stressed that the door is left ajar for the Kurdish powers who want to "return to their senses" and reach deals with the Syrian government.
With the help of the US-led coalition, the Kurdish militia forces have been controlling areas in northern Syria since the early years of the crisis in Syria, in order to force Damascus to recognize a federal rule or autonomy for the Kurds in northern Syria.
However, Syrian government officials repeatedly said that Kurdish federalization in Syria or self-rule is out of the question.