Turkish town hit by 4 rockets fired by Kurdish militia

MIDEAST-CRISIS  SYRIA

MIDEAST-CRISIS SYRIA

Turkish tanks are supporting the Free Syrian Army's ground offensive on Kurdish positions in Syria's Afrin region, as operation "Olive Branch" enters its second day, local media reported.

Meanwhile, the Turkish military said in a statement on Saturday that its Operation Olive Branch in Afrin aims "to establish security and stability on our borders and region, to eliminate terrorists of PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and ISIS, and to save our friends and brothers... from the terrorists' oppression and cruelty".

Turkey views US-backed Kurdish militia People's Protection Units (YPG) as the same as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out terror attacks in the southeast of the country.

Associated Press journalists at the Turkish border saw jets bombing positions in the direction of Afrin, as a convoy of armed pickup trucks and buses believed to be carrying Syrian opposition fighters traveled along the border.

Turkey's operation against Kurds in Afrin area in Syria may create certain complications for the forthcoming Syrian National Dialogue Congress, State Duma's defense committee chairman Vladimir Shamanov told TASS.

The YPG said that after the first strikes on Sunday 10 people were killed; seven civilians, including a child, and two female fighters and one male fighter.

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The United States is backing the YPG in Syria, seeing it as an effective partner in the fight against Islamic State.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had raised the prospect that Turkish ground forces would also join the fight later on Sunday.

The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main USA ally against the Islamic State group in Syria. The Kurds were Washington's most trusted force in the US -led campaign to drive Islamic State extremists from Syria, but Turkey's government says they work hand-in-hand with PKK militants who have been battling for autonomy in Turkey's southeast since the 1980s.

They said the "sudden and unjustified" attacks on Afrin "threatens to breath new life" into Isis, which the militants are now fighting.

A US State Department official said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had spoken to the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers, but gave no details on the calls. They also said that thousands of pro-Turkey civilians had escaped the YPG-controlled areas in an attempt to reach Aleppo.

The Pentagon spokesman said the United States recognised Turkey's security concerns about the PKK, noting it was designed by Washington as a foreign terrorist organization. An earlier deployment in Idlib, to the south of Afrin, denied the Kurds access to the Mediterranean Sea - a prized target for a planned Kurdish corridor running all the way to northern Iraq.

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