Turkey launches land offensive against Syrian Kurds in Afrin. Fears of civilian victims

Turkish soldiers, supported by the anti-Assad rebels and air raids, have crossed the borders invading the region. The Turkish objective is to create a 30 km buffer zone within the Syrian territory. A UN Security Council meeting is scheduled today.


Ankara (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Turkish troops have crossed borders invading the region of Afrin, in northern Syria, at the center of an offensive launched by Ankara against Kurdish militia. The Kurdish fighters YGP (People's Protection Unit) active in the area and fundamental, in the recent past, in the fight against the jihadists of the Islamic State (I S, ex Isis) are being targeted by the Turkish military.

Yesterday, the Turkish soldiers, accompanied by the Syrian Democratic Forces (FSA, a pro-Turkish rebel faction, fighting the Syrian government), began their advance within the Syrian territory. The previous day, dozens of Ankara air force raids had prepared the ground for the operation.

From the first information there are victims and injured on both fronts, but there is still no official toll. There are also several civilians among the dead.

The objective declared by the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, is to create a "safe" zone of about 30 km inside the Syrian territory. In response, YGP spokesman Nouri Mahmoudi reports that the Kurdish fighters have forced the Turks to "retreat".

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to "quickly"  defeat the resistance of the Kurdish militias. In response, the United States and several Western chancelleries are calling upon the Turkish leadership to use "moderation" and commit to saving civilians.

An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council is scheduled today. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks of "brutal aggression" by the Turks on Afrin, part of the "support to terrorism" campaign adopted by Ankara in Syria.

Ankara accuses the YGP of maintaining relations with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), outlawed as a terrorist organization by Turkey. For months the government has been  threatening to hit the guerrillas across the border, focusing its attention on the towns of Afrin and Manbij, about a hundred kilometers away.

The military operation launched on  January 20, and renamed "Olive branch", intends to clean up the area from the presence of Kurdish fighters. The offensive accelerated in the aftermath of Washington's early decision to set up an anti-ISIS alliance of Arabs and Kurds to protect the borders and prevent the return of the jihadists.

President Erdogan also threatens to repress any pro-Kurdish protests inside the country by force. Over the weekend, the police interrupted spontaneous demonstrations launched in several cities, including Istanbul, making numerous arrests.

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