Turkey targets Kurds in attack on Syria
TURKISH warplanes have attacked Kurdish targets in Syria as Ankara moves to help opposition fighters enter the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the country's air force had begun its aerial offensive on the region near the border between the two nations, which has been controlled by the Syrian YPG (People's Protection Units), a mainly Kurdish militia, since 2012.
Russia's defence ministry said it was removing its military observers from Afrin because of the attack.
A senior Turkish official said it aimed to liberate the region from the control of Kurdish militants, who Ankara accuses of using their toehold in northern Syria as a base to launch attacks on Turkey.
He said freeing the nearby town of Manbij - which the Kurds took back from Islamic State in 2016 - would follow the Afrin operation.
Associated Press journalists at the Turkish border saw at least five jets heading toward Afrin. They also witnessed a convoy of buses, believed to be carrying Syrian opposition fighters, travelling along the border across from Afrin. The convoy included trucks mounted with machine guns.
The assault has been dubbed Operation Olive Branch by the Turkish armed forces.
The PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), the Turkish Kurdish separatist movement, has been involved in an on and off armed conflict with the Turkish state since 1984.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ended a two-year ceasefire with the Kurds after he became concerned about their growing military strength from fighting IS militants over the border.
He has claimed the PKK, which operates in Turkey, is trying to "trick” him by pretending they are the same as the YPG which only operates in Syria.
Caroline Mortimer, The Independent