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Turkish strikes kill 11 civilians in Syria's Afrin region as troops enter
February 21 2018, 05:30 | Irvin Gilbert
Erdogan says Turkey has launched new ground operation in Syria
It's determined to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state across the border in Syria and has used military force in the past against Kurds and ISIS in the northern part of the neighboring country.
It was the second day of "Operation Olive Branch", an offensive by Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies against the YPG-held Afrin region.
The announcement of a border force infuriated Turkey's leaders, and Erdogan has accused the United States, its most powerful North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, of "building an army of terror" on his border and threatened to "drown" the US-backed force.
"We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a tweet Saturday that the operation isn't targeting civilians and "innocent Syrians" - just terrorists.
Associated Press journalists on the border saw a convoy of trucks, believed to belong to the Ankara-backed Syrian opposition fighters, carrying pick-up trucks mounted with arms or radar equipment. Russian Federation pulled back troops that had been deployed near Afrin after it was briefed on the operation by Turkey.
Yildirim told Turkish reporters in a briefing in Istanbul that the troops crossed into the YPG-controlled region in Syria at 0805 GMT from the Turkish village of Gulbaba.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a total of 18 civilians had been killed so far in the two-day operation.
But even more crucial is the attitude of Russian Federation, which has a military presence in the area and is also working with Turkey on a drive to end the civil war.
Erdogan said Sunday those who heed calls by a Kurdish party for protests will "pay a high price".
Police stopped demonstrations against the campaign taking place in the mainly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir and in Istanbul, making arrests, AFP correspondents said.
At least one person, a Syrian refugee in Turkey, was killed when Reyhanli, a Turkish border town, came under a hail of rockets Sunday.
The "Olive Branch Operation", which came hours after a major air strike on the YPG on January 20, will consist of four phases to create a safe zone with a depth of 30 kilometers, he added.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened over the last days to launch a ground operation, also including pro-Ankara Syrian rebels, to oust the YPG from Afrin and the area.
A main goal of the military operation was to recapture Tel Rifaat, a town southeast of Afrin, and a string of Arab villages the YPG captured from rebels in February 2016, driving out tens of thousands of inhabitants, Abdul Rahim said.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the operation will continue until "all the terror elements are removed", which he said include the PKK, YPG and the Islamic State.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to expand the offensive to Manbij, a town to the east that Kurdish forces seized from IS in a costly battle with the aid of the USA -led coalition.
Turkish land forces will carry out the "necessary activities" into Syria's Afrin province on Sunday depending on developments in the region, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday.
Crucial is the attitude of Russian Federation, which has a military presence in the area and is also working with Turkey on a drive to end the civil war.
Turkish security forces retaliated in kind, the reports said.
On Sunday, the state-run Anadolu Agency said the Turkish-backed fighters had penetrated 5 kilometers (3 miles) into Afrin as part of the offensive.