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Turkish troops 'cross' into Kurdish-held areas of Syria Open in fullscreen

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Turkish troops 'cross' into Kurdish-held areas of Syria

Turkish backed Syrian rebels were seen patrolling border areas near Kurdish-held territory [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 October, 2019

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Turkish troops have crossed into Kurdish-held areas of northeastern Syria, according to the Bloomberg news website, as a Turkish spokesman said that Kurdish forces had no choice but to defect.

Turkish troops have begun crossing into northeastern Syria for a long-awaited operation against Syrian-Kurdish forces, the US news website Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, quoting a Turkish official.

A small group of Turkish forces entered Syria from two crossing points on the frontier, near the Syrian cities of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, which are held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

A convoy of Turkish military vehicles was seen earlier in the town of Akcakale, which faces Tal Abyad on the Turkish side of the border.

Turkey said on Tuesday that its preparations for the invasion of northern Syria were "complete".

Read more: Turkey’s three-stage plan to capture northern Syria from Kurdish militias

Turkey has carried out airstrikes on the Syria-Iraq border on Tuesday night, Reuters reported, to prevent YPG fighters from using supply routes from Iraq to Syria during the Ankara's military operation.

Turkish presidential spokesperson Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter that Kurdish YPG fighters had two options, either to defect or to be "stopped" from disrupting Turkey's "counter-ISIS efforts".

The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which includes the YPG, General Mazloum Kobani, said in a Twitter post that "the attack will spill the blood of thousands of innocent civilians".

A senior US administration official said that SDF forces were deploying in force to the Syrian side of the Turkey border, leaving only a few fighters in interior areas to guard Islamic State (IS) prisoners.

Kurdish officials said on Tuesday that they may not be able to guard IS prisoners if Turkish forces attacked, noting that their priority would be to "protect our people".

US Department of Defence spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said that US army officers would communicate to their Turkish counterparts "the possible destabilizing consequences" of the Turkish operation, as US officials tried to stress that they had not given Turkey a "green light" to invade, despite the withdrawal of US troops from the Syrian-Turkish border area.

Fighters from Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups were also preparing to take part in the Turkish operation in northern Syria.

Turkish newspapers and press agencies reported that thousands of Syrian rebels from the Hamza Brigade, the Ahrar Al-Sharqiya Brigade, and other factions had travelled from northwestern Syria to the Sanliurfa region of Turkey, which faces northeastern Syria.

The Turkish-backed opposition "Syrian National Army" called on Kurdish fighters to abandon their weapons and remain in their homes as the Turkish operation started.

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