Turkey has now launched a ground offensive after air strikes and artillery fire against Kurdish militias in northern Syria. This was announced by the Turkish Ministry of Defense late on Wednesday evening on Twitter. "Our heroic Turkish forces and the National Syrian Army have begun their ground offensive in the East of the Euphrates as part of the Operation Peace Spring," it said. The Syrian National Army means Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.
Turkish media announced in the evening that the army had crossed the border in at least three places. Altogether 181 military targets had been attacked since the beginning of the operation, communicated the Turkish Ministry of Defense.
According to activists, at least 15 people were killed just hours after the attacks started at 4 pm local time. Among the eight civilian casualties are two children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The other dead were fighters of the Kurdish Kurdish militia SDF. The human rights defenders also reported more than 40 casualties, including 13 civilians. (Read a comment on the Turkish operation in Syria here.)
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali denied reports by Syrian rebels that they had entered Tal Abyad together with the Turkish army. According to SDF, it was on the other hand, succeeded in repelling the Turkish troops. However, according to an air strike, a prison was held in which members of the terrorist militia were imprisoned.
Accordingly, the city of Kobane had previously been bombed by Turkey. A camp in which formerly the US military should have trained troops for the fight against the terrorist organization IS, was also hit.
Turkey wants to build a buffer zone in Syria – in the Kurdish occupied territory
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had announced the launch of the long-planned military operation on Wednesday afternoon. The target of the offensive is the Kurdish YPG militia, which controls a large area in Syria near the Turkish border. Turkey sees in it an offshoot of the banned Kurdish workers' party PKK and thus a terrorist organization.
The offensive triggered international sharp criticism. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Berlin: "Turkey is accepting that it is destabilizing the region further and risking a resurgence of the IS."
Senators in the US Congress prepared a bipartisan resolution for sanctions against Turkey. Many governments and international institutions pushed for an immediate stop to the offensive.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump once again threatened Turkey to "wipe out" the economy in Turkey should the Turkish advance obliterate the Kurds in the region. He had previously described the offensive as a "bad idea".