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Syria: Turkish ground troops enter Afrin enclave

Syria: Turkish ground troops enter Afrin enclave
From BBC - January 21, 2018

Turkish ground troops have crossed into northern Syria as part of Ankara's campaign to rid the border area of Kurdish fighters, Turkey's PM says.

Binali Yildirim said the aim was to establish a 30km (19-mile) "safe zone" deep inside Syria, Turkish reports say.

But the Kurdish YPG militia says it has repelled Turkish troops in Afrin.

Turkey's operation, announced Saturday, risks increasing tensions with the US, which was supporting the YPG in the fight against Islamic State jihadists.

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). The SDF has said it will have no choice but to defend itself if attacked.

What is happening in Afrin?

Turkish troops, accompanied by pro-Turkey rebels from the Free Syrian Army, have already advanced some 5km (3 miles) into Syrian territory, state-run Anadolu news agency reported. No further details about the 30km security zone were given.

But a spokesperson for the YPG, Nouri Mahmoudi, said the group had managed to repel Turkish troops and they were "forced to retreat".

Turkey's military said it had hit 45 targets on Sunday, as part of its air and ground campaign dubbed "Olive Branch".

It earlier said it had taken out 153 targets belonging to Kurdish militants, although it is unclear if this includes Sunday's figures.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Sunday to crush the Kurdish fighters in Syria, as well as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

"Our jets took off and started bombing. And now, the ground operation is under way. Now we see how the YPG... are fleeing in Afrin," he said. "We will chase them. God willing, we will complete this operation very quickly."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad condemned the incursion on Sunday.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says he will call for an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council over the issue.

Have there been any casualties?

There are reports of fatalities on both sides.

The YPG said at least four Turkish soldiers and 10 Syrian rebel fighters supporting them were killed in clashes on Sunday morning, but there has been no confirmation from Turkey

Why is Turkey targeting US-backed groups?

How have key players reacted?

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