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Kurds Report 10 Killed In Syrian Enclave After Turkish Assault


A Turkish Army tank moves toward the Syrian border in Reyhanlı on January 18.

Kurdish militia officials say Turkish air attacks in the Afrin region of northern Syria have killed at least 10 people, mostly civilians.

Turkey on January 20 launched the new round of military operations against an enclave controlled by U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in the region, disregarding U.S. warnings that such a move could further destabilize the area.

"Seven civilians were killed, including a child, as well as two female fighters and one male fighter," Birusk Hasakeh of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) told the French AFP news agency.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD), the YPG’s political branch, said 25 civilians had been wounded in bombing attacks by Turkish warplanes.

Turkish officials confirmed there had been casualties, but said they were all members of Kurdish militias.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on January 20 in televised comments that air strikes targeting the Afrin enclave were aimed at eliminating "elements" of the YPG in Syria and Islamic State (IS) militants.

His remarks followed a statement earlier in the day by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who said the “Olive Branch” military operation had begun in Afrin and that another operation in nearby Manbij would follow.

The Turkish army said the Minnigh military airport north of Aleppo, held by the YPG, had been among the 108 targets hit by the 72 aircraft involved.

Officials said IS targets were also destroyed and that all warplanes returned dafely.

Yildirim said "ground elements" could be deployed to the region on January 21.

Turkish officials said Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had spoken by telephone with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and that Turkey's top general, Hulusi Akar, informed his U.S. and Russian counterparts of the operation.

Turkish moves against the YPG will likely raise tensions with the United States, a NATO ally.

The Turks accuse the YPG of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency in southeast Turkish for more than 30 years. The PKK is regarded as a terror group by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.

But the United States relies on the YPG in its fight against IS militants in Syria and it has announced plans to form a U.S.-backed border security force of 30,000 personnel in northern Syria, partly consisting of YPG fighters.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it was withdrawing its troops from the Afrin area to “prevent potential provocation and exclude the threat to the life and wellbeing of Russian military."

Russia has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government crucial military backing throughout the war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions since it began with a state crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in March 2011.

The Syrian government condemned what it called "Turkish aggression on Afrin," Syrian state media reported on January 20.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, and CNN Turk
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