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Turkey launches offensive into northeastern Syria

11 October 2019
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Turkish-backed Syrian fighters are seen with an ACV-15 APC in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad on 10 October 2019. Source: Hisam el-Homsi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Turkish military and allied Syrian rebels launched their long-threatened offensive into northeastern Syria on 9 October with the stated objective of establishing a 'safe zone' that has been cleared of Kurdish forces and can be used to resettle Syrian refugees.

"Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border and to bring peace to the area," President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said. "Operation 'Peace Spring' will neutralise terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes."

"A 30 km safe zone is okay for us. We do not have a plan to go beyond that," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told CNN Turk. "First we have to enter 120 km deep to clean the terrorists completely from this area. It will continue gradually until the safe zone is completed."

Çavuşoğlu did not say how long the operation is expected to take but said the objective was to extend the safe zone from Manbij, on the western side of the Euphrates, to the Iraqi border, approximately 400 km to the east. He said Turkish forces will only address Islamic State extremists inside the safe zone and was working on how to deal with thousands of Islamic State fighters and their relatives currently being held by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

The offensive began with howitzers shelling suspected YPG positions across the border and airstrikes. Airstrikes were also carried out against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq under Operation 'Claw'.

The state run Anadolu Agency reported that the Turkish Air Force was ignoring a US ban on it using the airspace over northeastern Syria, with aircraft from the 8th Main Jet Base in Diyarbakır, which operates F-16C/D fighters, destroying targets 30 km east of the Euphrates River.

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