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The Turkish operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria has begun, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, adding that the offensive aimed to eliminate a "terror corridor" along the southern Turkish border.
"The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army (rebel groups backed by Ankara), just launched #OperationPeaceSpring," Erdogan wrote on Twitter in English. He said the offensive targeted Kurdish militants and the Islamic State group in northern Syria.
The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh 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.
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) October 9, 2019
"Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area," he wrote, also aiming to enable the return of Syrian refugees in Turkey. "We will preserve Syria's territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists."
This operation has been launched with air strikes and will be supported by artillery and howitzer fire, a Turkish security source told Reuters on Wednesday. He was speaking after explosions rocked the town of Ras al Ain in northeast Syria, on the border with Turkey.
A spokesman for the US-backed Kurdish-led force in northern Syria said Turkish warplanes had started targeting "civilian areas" in northern Syria. Mustafa Bali of the Syrian Democratic Forces said the airstrikes had caused "a huge panic among people of the region".
The US ambassador to Ankara was summoned to the foreign ministry on Wednesday to be briefed on Turkey's offensive, broadcaster CNN Turk said, minutes after Ankara launched its cross-border operation.