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Pentagon's arms supplies to pro-US units trigger Afrin operation - Defense Ministry

21 January 2018

In an operation dubbed "Olive Branch", Turkish military forces launched several air strikes on Kurdish targets in Afrin in northern Syria on Saturday.

The region is dominated by the People's Protection Units (YPG), a leftist militia that serves as the paramilitary of the Democratic Union Party, which believes in running society through decentralized socialist cooperatives.

The Kurdish militia said later on January 20 that the Turkish air strikes would force its fighters to respond, alleging that the bombardment had hit civilian areas.

He repeated that Turkey is primarily targeting the forces and infrastructure of Islamic State and Kurdish-linked PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG forces, which Ankara considers terrorists.

"The Afrin operation has de-facto been started on the ground", Erdogan said in a televised speech in the city of Kutahya, without elaborating.

The regime has spoken out against the YPG's autonomous rule but has also lambasted Turkey's operations in Syria.

With conspicuous timing, Turkey's army chief General Hulusi Akar and spy chief Hakan Fidan were in Moscow on Thursday for talks with Russian counterparts on Syria.

Despite US warning, Turkey shells Syria's Kurdish-held Afrin region
Turkey has also objected to that force, charging that it would place thousands of Kurdish militia fighters along Turkey's border. Meanwhile, protests erupted against the Turkish aggression in Afrin and other Kurdish areas of northern Syria.

"Syria completely denies claims by the Turkish regime that it was informed of this military operation", a foreign ministry source told state news agency SANA.

Turkey's government was infuriated by a January 14 statement from the US -led coalition in Syria that said Washington would help set up a new 30,000-strong border force in Syria that includes the YPG.

Turkey has mobilised thousands of Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels to a border province with Syria, as part of a planned offensive against Kurdish fighters, according to Turkish media.

The SDF and their leading force, the YPG, vowed to defend any attacks on the areas under their control.

"Turkey is capable and determined to eliminate every kind of threat against it", Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter soon after receiving a call from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"So nobody can object if we do what is necessary", said Erdogan, threatening to pursue the operations up to the Iraqi border.

But Erdogan appeared to scoff at the mixed messages and lashed out at American military support for the YPG. "They will learn how wrong it is to trust a terror organisation".

Pentagon's arms supplies to pro-US units trigger Afrin operation - Defense Ministry