Turkey begins operation in Afrin

Turkey begins operation in Afrin

Turkish tanks and military personnel have entered Syrian territory amid preparations for the ground operation in Syrian northern district of Afrin, Sputnik reported citing the Yeni Safak newspaper.

According to the newspaper, the Turkish tanks and troops started to enter Syrian territory from the Oncupinar border gate at 19:00 GMT and the passage continued until the early hours of Sunday morning.

Later on, NTV broadcaster said, citing a military source, that Turkish tanks were backing the offensive of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) armed opposition group on the positions of Kurdish militia in Afrin.

According to the broadcaster, the Turkish military is not facing serious resistance from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which is abandoning positions at Syrian-Turkish borders and retreating deeper into the Syrian territory.  However, a spokesman for the YPG in Afrin denied Turkish claims that its forces had entered the district.

The Turkish General Staff declared the launch of the operation dubbed Olive Branch against the Kurdish forces in Afrin on Saturday. The operation started at 14:00 GMT and over 70 Turkish warplanes conducted airstrikes in seven districts of Afrin, where 108 targets out of total 113 were destroyed. The military operation has already been condemned by Damascus with the Syrian Foreign Ministry calling the act a violation of Syrian sovereignty.

The Olive Branch operation of the Turkish military against the Kurds’ units in northern Syria will have four stages, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, TASS reported citing the Milliyet newspaper.

"The operation will have four stages, there will be a 30-kilometer buffer zone," the daily quoted the prime minister.

Besides, he continued in the Olive Branch operation the Turkish military "will destroy all "terrorist organizations." "Prior to the operation’s beginning, we had all necessary diplomatic negotiations," he added.

Yildirim also confirmed beginning of the republic’s military ground operation in Syria’s Afrin. "Turkey’s ground forces entered Syria’s Afrin at 11:05 on Sunday," the newspaper quoted the prime minister as saying.