Turkish troops attack Kurdish enclave in northern Syria

Turkey awaits Russian permission for aerial campaign on Afrin Kurds

Turkey's defense minister, Nurettin Canikli, said today there was no turning back from launching a ground assault on Syria's Afrin enclave, saying the offensive had "de facto" started with sporadic Turkish military shelling of the area.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also held a phone conversation with United States counterpart Rex Tillerson in the wake of the announcement of the air strikes on Saturday by Turkish Air forces, at Washington's request, the official told Xinhua news agency on the condition of anonymity.

Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan had called the US -proposed force an "army of terror", and vowed to crush it.

Earlier, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the U.S. is openly supporting the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorist groups in Syria.

On Saturday, following loud explosions and huge flames, grey smoke billowing from targets could be seen from the Turkish border after airstrikes, footage on NTV Television shows.

The operation could spill into a wider Turkish-Kurdish confrontation inside Turkey.

The Afrin district houses no less than 800,000 civilians, including displaced people from earlier years of the Syrian war.

Damascus, Jan 19 (Prensa Latina) The U.S. government's decision to train 30,000 soldiers in northern Syria, on the border with Turkey, has raised strong reactions this week in this Middle East region, especially in Damascus and Ankara.

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad warned on Thursday that the Syrian air force could destroy any Turkish warplanes used in the new offensive.

The YPG has been the key ground component in the fight against Islamic State group in Syria.

The Kurdish militia, which forms the backbone of the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces, now controls almost 25 percent of Syrian territory.

There were no other signs of conflict and life appeared to continue as normal, with traffic on the muddy, potholed roads and uniformed rebel police at the main roundabouts.

At one of the auto fix workshops on the outskirts of the town some men were fixing a gun-loaded vehicle.

Skinner said a Turkish operation would be a "serious blow" for the US-led coalition in Syria which still depended heavily on the YPG to stabilise the area after the ousting of IS from major towns. Washington has backed the YPG, seeing it as an effective partner in the fight against Isil.

The operation is being conducted under the framework of Turkey's rights based on worldwide law, UN Security Council's decisions, especially no. 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014) and as per the self-defense right under 51st item of the UN charter, while being respectful to Syria's territorial integrity. Earlier this week, the US -led coalition against Islamic State confirmed that such a unit was to be set up.

There was damage to one building that caught fire and one woman was slightly injured in the rocket fire on the town of Kilis, the Dogan news agency said. Turkish security forces retaliated, it said.

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