Turkish warplanes strike Kurdish-held Syrian city as operation begins
Turkish warplanes carried out airstrikes on the Kurdish-held city of Ras al-Ayn in northeastern Syria, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally announced the start of operations against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Erdogan said that the operation was called "Operation Peace Spring".
"Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area," he said.
Mustafa Bali, a spokesperson for the SDF, confirmed the airstrikes, saying that there was "huge panic" among local people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Erdogan on Wednesday morning, told government-linked broadcaster RT, telling him to "assess the situation carefully" so that "peace efforts" in Syria would not be harmed.
Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015 on the side of President Bashar al-Assad. Human rights groups have accused Russian forces of indiscriminately bombing civilian areas, targeting hospitals, and killing thousands of people.
The Turkish intervention in Syria took place after US President Donald Trump said that he would withdraw US troops from the Turkish-Syrian border. This was seen as a "green light" to Turkey to invade the area.
However, Trump later said on Twitter that he would "obliterate" the Turkish economy if Turkey did anything he considered "off limits".
A small number of Turkish troops earlier crossed the Syrian-Turkish border near Ras Al-Ayn. Turkish-allied Syrian rebels are also taking part in the operation against SDF forces.
A Turkish spokesman said earlier today that SDF forces had no choice but to defect, as mostly Kurdish fighters mobilised to prepare for the Turkish offensive.
The SDF earlier warned that they may not be able to guard IS prisoners in the event of a Turkish invasion and that eastern Syria could face a possible jihadi resurgence.