Airstrikes launched as Turkey begins northern Syria military operation

US President Donald Trump speaks about Turkey and Syria at the White House in Washington

US President Donald Trump speaks about Turkey and Syria at the White House in Washington

Mustafa Bali of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the Turkish military build-up, together with information about further mobilisation of Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, indicated "an attack is imminent".

Amateur video on social media showed Kurds in a number of towns across northern Syria protesting the Turkish attack, and other videos claimed to show Kurds rushing to join military units to fend off what they feared was an impending Turkish invasion.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Turkey to halt its military operation, warning that the EU will not be paying to help Ankara set up any safe zone there.

"Turkey is rightfully anxious about its southern borders".

The onslaught wedged Washington between two allies - its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partner Turkey and the rugged Kurdish-led militia it used as a potent ground against ISIS in the region.

President Donald Trump says he is unconcerned about ISIS fighters escaping Syrian prisons following the USA pullout because "they will be escaping to Europe".

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"Putin called on his Turkish partners to think carefully about the situation so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis", the presidency said following a phone call between the two leaders.

The long-planned operation came after President Trump gave Erdogan the green light to attack the Kurdish forces within Syria, which Turkey considers a terrorist threat.

Democrats laced into the president after Turkey's president announced that the military operation had begun.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, head of the pan-Arab organisation said that Turkey's incursion is a "blatant violation of Syria's sovereignty and threatens Syria's integrity".

Amid the condemnation from members of Congress, Trump defended the removal of US troops from the Turkey-Syria border in a series of tweets Wednesday morning in which he blasted the loss of USA blood and treasure in the Middle East over the last two decades.

After NATO member Turkey launched an assault aimed at curbing the SDF, Stoltenberg acknowledged that Ankara had "legitimate security concerns" but called for a measured response.

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The SDF, which holds thousands of IS fighters in detention facilities in northeastern Syria, has warned that a Turkish incursion might lead to the resurgence of the extremists. It's been a force in the battle against Islamic State but not directly against the Assad regime, which has supported the related PKK.

Although it blamed some Kurdish groups for what is happening, saying they were being used as a tool to help an alleged "American project, " it said Syria is ready to welcome back its "stray sons if they return to their senses, " referring to the pro-U.S.

Trump has long criticized President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, but the subsequent rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State has convinced many national security officials, and lawmakers such as Graham, that a precipitous US troop withdrawal from the region would leave the USA and its allies even more vulnerable to extremism.

Also in the Washington Post on Tuesday evening, Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's top communications official, insisted that Trump had used the call "to transfer the leadership of the Islamic State campaign to Turkey".

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., a close ally of Trump, blasted the Turkish operation but stopped short of criticizing the USA president.

Taking responsibility for ISIS will be a "nightmare" for Turkey, said Yaşar Yakış, who served as the country's foreign minister under prime minister Abdullah Gul between 2002 and 2003. There was no immediate word on casualties. An activist collective known as Raqqa is being Silently Slaughtered reported an exchange of fire and an explosion. Military cargo planes also intermittently landed at the base.

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