Turkey’s army battled U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Syria

Turkish army troops gather near the Syrian border at Hassa, in Hatay province on January 21, 2018. Turkish forces on January 20, 2018, began a major new operation aimed at ousting the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia from Afrin, pounding dozens of targets from the sky in air raids and with artillery. Turkey accuses the YPG of being the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged a rebellion in the Turkish southeast for more than three decades and is regarded as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies. / AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC

Vastavam web: Turkey’s army and rebel allies battled U.S.-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.Turkey began its push to clear YPG fighters from a northwestern enclave of Syria on Saturday when it launched artillery and air strikes against their positions in Afrin in what it called “Operation Olive Branch”.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organisation and has been infuriated by U.S. support for the fighters. Washington, which is backing the YPG in the battle against Islamic State in Syria, on Sunday said it was concerned about the situation.Intense Turkish artillery fire and air strikes continued to hit some villages, the YPG said, while fierce battles raged to the north and west of Afrin against Turkish forces and their rebel allies, said Birusk Hasaka, a YPG spokesman in Afrin.

Turkey, which is backing the Free Syrian Army rebel factions in northern Syria, wants to create a 30-km (19 mile) “safe zone” in the region, broadcaster HaberTurk quoted the prime minister, Binali Yildirim, as saying.“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.Turkey did advise the United States before taking action, the U.S. Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, said on Sunday, adding “We’ll work this out”.