Turkey begins invasion of NE Syria (upd 2)

Kurdish media have announced, as has Bloomberg, that Turkey has initiated its invasion of northeastern Syria.

In a tweet president Erdogan announced:

‘Turkish troops, Syrian National Army begin Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria against PKK/YPG, Daesh terrorists’

‘Turkey’s aim is to eliminate terror corridor in southern border, to bring peace and tranquility to region’

‘Turkey to protect Syria’s territorial integrity, free people of region from terror’

‘We will enable return of Syrian refugees to their country via safe zone to be established with Operation Peace Spring’

Turkish artillery is pounding the village of Se Grka east of the Kurdish-held city of Qamishlo.

“We are fleeing the Turkish bombardment. What else shall we do?” one resident of Ras al-Ain told Rudaw, calling on the international community to help.

“We have no place to go.”

AFP’s correspondent at the scene and the YPG affiliated ANHA news agency said explosions have been heard in the border area of Ras al-Ain.“Turkish warplanes have started to carry out airstrikes on civilian areas. There is a huge panic among people of the region,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said in a tweet.

In a statement, the Turkish Defense Ministry said the operation began at 16:00 local time in order to “ensure the security of borders, prevent the establishment of a terror corridor in the south of our borders, neutralize the terrorist organizations and terrorists that threaten our national security, especially Daesh, PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG, and to provide appropriate conditions for the return of displaced Syrians to their homes and land”.

According to Reuters, France’s EU minister says France and Britain will soon call a UN Security Council meeting in response to the Turkish offensive.

Kurdish authorities announced a general mobilisation, urging all civilians to “head to the border with Turkey… to resist during this delicate historical moment”.

Shortly after fighting started, Anadolu news agency said two shells hit the Turkish town of Ceynalipinar and six rockets hit Nusaybin.

“Both Turkish and Kurdish forces have a track record of carrying out indiscriminate attacks in Syria that have killed scores of civilians,” warned Amnesty International’s Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf.

“This must not be allowed to happen again,” she added.

Kurdish leaders said they would hold their erstwhile US ally and the whole international community responsible for any “humanitarian catastrophe”.

In Serêkaniyê as the Turks call Ras al-Ain, Kurdish-led security forces set up checkpoints and stockpiled tyres to set alight to blur the vision of Turkish military pilots, an AFP correspondent reported.

Ras al-Ain was one of the places from which US troops withdrew on Monday.

It was expected that Serêkaniyê and Gire Spi (Tel Abyad) — both with Arab-majority populations — would be the focus of the first assaults. Tel Abyad was liberated by Kurdish forces from Islamic State group.

Kurdish forces have dug trenches and tunnels in both areas, covering streets with metal canopies to block the cameras of Turkish drones.