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Turkey says ground forces have crossed over into northern Syria

The Hill logo The Hill 09/10/2019 Justin Wise
Turkey says ground forces have crossed over into northern Syria © The Hill Turkey says ground forces have crossed over into northern Syria

Turkish ground forces and a Syrian militia group have crossed over into northern Syria, as part of a military operation against Kurdish forces, Turkey's Ministry of National Defense announced Wednesday.

"The Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian National Army have launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river as part of the Operation Peace Spring," the ministry said on Twitter.

The announcement came just hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the military offensive in the region had begun.

The military escalation comes just days after President Trump abruptly announced that he would be withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of the planned Turkish invasion.

In Pictures: Turkey's Syria offensive starts after Trump pulls U.S. troops back [USA TODAY]


More than 1,000 U.S. forces have been deployed in Syria, where they worked closely with the Kurdish YPG, which leads the Syrian Democratic Forces. Turkey considers the Kurdish-led forces, which have proved to be the most effective U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS, to be a terrorist group.

"#OperationPeaceSpring will neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes," Erdogan said on Twitter.

Trump sought to distance himself from the offensive after it was launched, saying in a statement that the U.S. "does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea."

But he insisted that the U.S. military needed to remove itself from "endless, senseless wars."

"Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place-and we will hold them to this commitment," Trump said. "In addition, Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form. We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely."

In Pictures: 24 outlandish conspiracy theories Donald Trump has floated over the years [Business Insider]


The decision by Trump to pull troops from northern Syria showcased a clear break between the White House and the GOP. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an outspoken ally of the president's, called the decision a "disaster in the making."

He told Axios earlier Wednesday that the decision was putting both the nation and his presidency "at risk."

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) declared that Trump's move was having "sickening and predictable consequences."

Trump has adamantly stood by his decision, repeatedly stating that it is time for the U.S. to leave "endless wars." He's also threatened to "obliterate" Ankara's economy if it acts in a way he believes is inappropriate.

The SDF said that Turkish warplanes began striking "civilian areas" around the same time Erdogan announced the operation. SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted late Wednesday that a ground attack by Turkish forces had been "repelled" SDF fighters in Til Abyad.

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