Following Turkey’s aerial and artillery assaults on positions of the Kurdish YPG on Wednesday afternoon, Turkish forces along with their Syrian rebel allies have advanced into the northeast Syria in what they’re calling their ‘Peace Spring’ operation.
The European Union has strongly condemned Ankara’s actions. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Turkey must end its offensive immediately, Reuters reports.
“Turkey must cease the ongoing military operation. It will not work. And if Turkey’s plan is to create a security zone, do not expect funding from the European Union”, Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament in Brussels.
“The European Union calls on Turkey to cease the unilateral military action… It is unlikely that a so-called ‘safe zone’ in north-east Syria, as envisaged by Turkey, would satisfy international criteria for refugee return,” the 28 member-state bloc said in a joint statement.
According to the Turkish defense ministry, the Turkish army has so far hit 181 militant targets with airstrikes and howitzers since the beginning of the offensive.
Mustafa Bali, the spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, wrote on Twitter that “the Kurdish-led force in northeast Syria had confronted and ‘repelled’ the Turkish ground attack.”
The military offensive comes after US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US forces in the area, a move that has been widely criticized around the world. The Kurdish forces – who were instrumental in helping to eradicate ISIS from the area – have now been abandoned by their supposed ally, the US.
According to sources on the ground, an estimated 40 commanders of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been killed or injured from the Turkish offensive.
Turkey sees Kurdish forces in Syria as an extension of the far-left militant Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) which operates in Turkey and Iraq. Ankara has classified the PKK as a terrorist organization. The People’s Protection Units (YPG) is the PKK’s armed wing.