Turkish military enters Syrian city after days of airstrikes

A Turkish military convoy arrives at an army base in the border town of Reyhanli near the Turkish Syrian border in Hatay province Turkey on Jan. 17

A Turkish military convoy arrives at an army base in the border town of Reyhanli near the Turkish Syrian border in Hatay province Turkey on Jan. 17

The call came a day after Turkey launched the "Operation Olive Branch" offensive.

Badran Ciya Kurd, an adviser to the Kurdish administration in northern Syria who meets regularly with Russian and United States officials, told The Associated Press Sunday that Russian officials suggested that handing over the enclave, encircled by Syrian government and its rival Turkey and Syrian fighters it backs, would avert the Turkish offensive.

He criticized the United States for working with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"Hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time", Erdogan said in a speech in the western city of Bursa.

Turkish military armoured vehicles arrive at a border village near the town of Hassa in Hatay province, Turkey, Turkey January 21, 2018.

More than 50 Turkish vehicles, including artillery, tanks, rocket launchers and heavy equipment transporters, had been observed on the Turkish-Syrian border, a United States defense official said Friday.

It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets, though they come hot on the heels of Turkish airstrikes on areas under the control of the People's Protection Units, also known as the YPG.

Meanwhile the Turkish threats of an intervention have also raised eyebrows in Washington, which has backed the YPG as it dislodged IS and gained control of the swathe of northern Syria up to the Iraqi border.

The operational group of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Warring Parties in Syria and the military police in Afrin were relocated to the Tell-Adjar area within the Tell-Rifat de-escalation zone to avert possible provocations and dangers, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The YPG said Turkey's strikes had killed six civilians and three of its members and injured 13 civilians.

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Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported Friday afternoon that Russian military personnel in the Afrin area were withdrawing from their positions but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later issued a strong denial.

A YPG spokesman claimed that the Turkish forces had sought to enter Afrin "but we blocked the attack". "We call upon all of our young people to meet in the ranks of resistance, taking the resistance spirit of our sacrificial martyrs as an example".

He also condemned indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian regime in Idlib province and asked for immediate access for humanitarian aid to eastern Ghouta, where 400,000 citizens face a critical situation.

Turkey's army and rebel allies battled USA -backed Kurdish militia in Syria's Afrin province on Sunday, stepping up a two-day-old campaign against YPG fighters that has opened a new front in Syria's civil war.

Washington has been concerned about a Turkish military incursion and called on Ankara to refrain from launching one. "The focus needs to be on ISIS", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said last week.

Military analyst Abdullah Agar said USA support had "really deepened", causing "a lot of concern" for Turkey.

The operation was being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on worldwide law, UN Security Council's decisions, self-defense rights under the UN charter and respect to Syria's territorial integrity, the military added.

"We know that without security in Syria, there can not be security in Turkey", Erdogan told members of his ruling party in Kutahya.

Hoffman added that if the offensive "goes well from Erdogan's perspective and he pushes on into Manbij or Kobane (towns in northern Syria), it could prompt an outright break with the USA".

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad warned on Thursday that the Syrian air force could destroy any Turkish warplanes used in a threatened assault on the war-torn country.

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