Turkish warplanes and artillery continue to strike border towns in north-eastern Syria, after its troops crossed into the region to wrest it from US-backed Kurdish forces. An earlier barrage of airstrikes and artillery signalled the beginning of a long-planned operation. The Turkish military later said it had hit 181 “militant targets”.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to “open the gates” for Syrian refugees in his country to migrate to Europe if the continent’s countries label Turkey’s military campaign in north-eastern Syria an “occupation”.
Video footage showed civilians fleeing towns with columns of smoke rising in the background and jet trails visible in the sky. Kurdish activist groups estimated tens of thousands of civilians had fled their homes after the beginning of the Turkish offensive. Pictures and video from border towns shared on social media showed wrecked buildings and bodies in the rubble.
President Trump presented the invasion as a historical inevitability, saying Turks and Kurds “have been fighting each other for centuries”. And he downplayed the US debt to Kurdish fighters, saying: “They didn’t help us in the second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy.”
Turkey says it is seeking to establish a 20-mile (32km) wide buffer zone along the border against the threat of what it says are Kurdish terror groups as well as ISIS. It also hopes to resettle Syrian refugees in the zone.