Turkey on Wednesday begun a military offensive in parts of north-eastern Syria days after the United States pulled out its troops from the area.
Turkish warplanes were seen flying into the Kurdish-controlled area of northern Syria and bombed certain places such as the border town of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad where thick black smoke were seen from the cities’ skyline, Reuters reports.
The offensive was launched just days after US President, Donald Trump, surprisingly withdrew US troops from northern Syria, a decision announced after a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and has sparked widespread criticism locally and globally.
According to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who helped the US defeat the Islamic State in Syria, civilian areas came under attack from Turkish planes.
But Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the operation was to create a “safe zone” cleared of Kurdish militias which will also house Syrian refugees.
Writing on Twitter, President Erdogan said the mission “was to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area” and that it would “preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists”.
Turkish ground forces have also been massing on the border.
The Kurds guard thousands of IS fighters and their relatives in prisons and camps in areas under their control in north-eastern Syria and it is unclear whether they will continue to be safely detained.
President Trump’s withdrawal of the few dozen US troops in the border area was seen as a “stab in the back” by the SDF and drew condemnation even from the president’s Republican allies.