Erdogan says Turkey has launched new ground operation in Syria

19 2018 Turkish artillery fire toward Syrian Kurdish positions from the Turkish side of the border in Hatay southern Turkey. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated that a Turkish offensive against the Syrian K

Major Yasser Abdul Rahim, who is also the commander of Failaq al Sham, a main FSA rebel group in the operations room of the campaign, said the rebels did not seek to enter the mainly Kurdish city of Afrin but encircle it and expel the YPG.

A statement by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also asked Turkey to be "scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties", adding that all parties involved in Syria should focus on defeating the Islamic State group.

Turkish forces have said they are targeting ISIS as well as Kurdish militia in Afrin. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the operation would create a 30-km (19-mile) "safe zone", according to broadcaster HaberTurk.

Around 25,000 Free Syrian Army rebels are taking part in the operation with the goal of recapturing Arab towns and villages seized by the YPG nearly two years ago, a rebel commander said.

But the YPG has been the key ally of Turkey's fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member the United States in the fight against Islamic State jihadists, playing a key role in pushing the extremists out of their Syrian strongholds.

A Turkish official says suspected Syrian Kurdish fighters have fired rockets from across the border, slightly wounding one person.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in televised comments several villages had already been taken in the advance. "So nobody can object if we do what is necessary", said Erdogan, threatening to pursue the operations up to the Iraqi border.

Similar strikes had also taken place on Friday, it confirmed.

Following calls from some Turkish pro-Kurdish politicians for people to take to the streets, he warned that anyone protesting in Turkey against the operation would pay "a heavy price".

The ANHA agency, linked to Kurdish organization, published images in which it maintains that Afrin militias would have neutralized a Turkish armoured tank with anti-antitank weapons.

He said forces will next move on the Syrian town of Manbij, east of Afrin, on the Turkish border.

Turkish officials say 11 rockets launched from Syria have landed in Turkish towns along the border, killing at least one Syrian refugee and injuring 47.

Syrian opposition fighters are battling alongside the Turkish troops in the latest front to open in the war in Syria.

The YPG's growing strength across a swath of northern Syria has alarmed Ankara, which fears the creation of an independent Kurdish state on its southern border.

The YPG (Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units) is part of a US-backed alliance with a number of ethnic Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

French Defence Minister Florence Parly said the fighting "must stop" as it could deter YPG fighters helping the global coalition against IS.

France called for restraint and an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council which will hold talks about the situation in Syria on Monday, foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Anadolu Agency said the troops pushed into Afrin on Sunday, a day after Turkish jets pounded Syrian Kurdish targets in the region.

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

"If Turkey decides to throw major resources at this battle, and Russian Federation and (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad stand aside, the balance of power does not look favourable to the Kurds", Lund said.

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