The U.S.is tracking people who are being displaced from the Syrian cities of Ras al-Ayn, Tal Abyad, Qamishli and Ain Issa, the official says, reflecting a span of some 140 miles along the north and northeastern border. Smoke was rising from buildings in Ras al Ain, he said.
Erdogan said the offensive would aim to eliminate threats from the YPG and Islamic State militants, and pave the way for Syrian refugees in Turkey to return after the formation of a "safe zone" in the area.
Turkey aimed to "neutralize" Syrian Kurdish militants in northeastern Syria and to "liberate the local population from the yoke of the armed thugs", Altun wrote in a Washington Post column published Wednesday.
On Fox News Tuesday night, retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, the former Army vice chief of staff, said that the US essentially clearing the way for a Turkish invasion was "a recipe for disaster". The SDF is the Kurdish-led alliance of militias of which the YPG forms the leading force. I hope we can turn the fight against ISIS over to Turkey. Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria - Operation Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch - to purge the region of the terrorist groups Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the terrorist group PKK.
Mr Trump's withdrawal of the few dozen USA troops in the border area was seen as a "stab in the back" by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and drew condemnation even from the president's Republican allies. It said Turkish armed forces would wait for the full withdrawal of USA troops before commencing any operation.
(AFP) This picture shows artillery pieces on the Turkish side of the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province on October 8, 2019.
Turkey said on Tuesday that it would begin its long-threatened offensive "soon", after Trump gave what was widely seen as a green light at the weekend, ordering the pullback of USA troops who had previously served as a buffer.
A Turkish security source told Reuters the military operation into Syria has been launched with air strikes and will be supported by artillery and howitzer fire.
"The border areas of northeast Syria are on the edge of a possible human catastrophe", SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Tuesday.
"If we pull out, the Kurds are in a world of hurt and ISIS comes back, and President Trump will own it".
Trump also restated his intention to withdraw all of the estimated 1,000 US troops remaining in Syria, but gave no timeline.
Trump was widely seen as giving a green light at the weekend, ordering the pullback of United States troops from the Turkey-Syrian border which had served as a buffer.
The Turkish military operation began days after a surprise and widely criticized White House announcement that USA forces would withdraw from the region.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar-Al-Assad, told state media that the "presence of the Syrian army" is the "only solution to ensure safety and security in southern Turkey and northern Syria".
But Trump also threatened to "totally destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if the Turkish push into Syria went too far.
"We announce three days of general mobilisation in northern and eastern Syria", Kurdish authorities in northern Syria said, urging all civilians to "head to the border with Turkey... to resist during this delicate historical moment".
Turkey has closed airspace along the border with Syria amid ongoing airstrikes.
The troops had served as a buffer preventing a long-planned attack by Turkey against Kurdish forces, who were crucial in the campaign to defeat the Islamic State group but are viewed as "terrorists" by Ankara.
Ahead of the attack, the Syrian regime said Turkey's aggressive intentions violate global law.