Turkish military operation launched in northern Syria, Erdogan says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday the beginning of a military operation in northeastern Syria, days after President Donald Trump pulled U.S. troops out of the region.

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"The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring," Erdogan wrote Wednesday in a tweet. "Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area."

In a statement released Wednesday, Trump disavowed the attack and said the U.S. "has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea.

"From the first day I entered the political arena, I made it clear that I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars — especially those that don’t benefit the United States," Trump said. "Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place — and we will hold them to this commitment."

Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Turkish warplanes started carrying out airstrikes on civilian targets Wednesday.

"There is a huge panic among people of the region," he said.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported two mortar shells had been fired into Ceylanpinar, a Turkish town on the border with Syria, from the Syrian Kurdish town of Ras al Ayn. The Syrian Kurdish town was targeted by Turkish forces, with large explosions, artillery fire and smoke seen in the area, Reuters reported, citing a CNN Turk reporter.

According to Reuters, Turkish howitzers began to strike bases and ammunition depots of the Kurdish YPG militia on Wednesday and targeted the militia's gun and sniper positions.

The conflict prompted officials to call an emergency meeting Thursday of the United Nations Security Council, AFP reported.

Turkish officials have said they aim to push U.S.-backed Kurdish forces away from the country's border and establish an about 20-mile-deep safe zone, The Guardian reported.

Earlier Wednesday, Turkish television reports said Turkish jets had bombed Syrian Kurdish positions across the border from Turkey.

Trump agreed Sunday to withdraw US troops from Syria and hand control to Turkey.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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