Turkish strikes kill 8 civilians in Afrin region: monitor, Kurds

Turkey vows to spare Afrin civilians as reports of 1st non-combatant deaths emerge

Turkish ground forces pushed into northern Syria's Afrin province on Sunday, the army said, after Turkey launched artillery and air strikes on a US -backed Kurdish militia it aims to sweep from its border.

The announcement of a border force infuriated Turkey's leaders, and Erdogan has accused the United States, its most powerful North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, of "building an army of terror" on his border and threatened to "drown" the US-backed force. The Kurdish people have endured the loss of thousands of young men and women who joined the YPG, and YPJ women's force, to rid the world of ISIS.

Iran "is concerned about and closely watching Turkey's ongoing operation in Syria's Afrin", the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Our people are holding on to their land and do not accept surrender ... we repeat our determination to protect our people in Afrin against the attacks", the YPG said overnight.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the aim of the operation is to create a 30-kilometer-deep safe zone in the region to ensure Turkey's national security and that the operation would be conducted in four phases, with Afrin offensive being the first leg. "This is our source of concern", Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a press conference earlier in January.

A Reuters reporter at the Oncupinar gate on the Turkish side of the border with Syria, could hear the boom of outgoing artillery, with one being fired roughly every three minutes.

Turkey launched a massive air and ground campaign against US-backed Kurds in Syria on Saturday.

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Operation "Olive Branch", in the Afrin region, is Turkey's second major incursion into Syria during the seven-year civil war.

France on Sunday requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss ongoing developments in the Syrian areas of Afrin, Idlib and Ghouta, the country's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a tweet on Sunday.

Turkey has been particularly outraged by an announcement that the USA planned to train 30,000 personnel in parts of northeast Syria under the control of the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The United States has backed the YPG in its fight against Islamic State in Syria.

Turkey risks entering a diplomatic minefield with its action in Syria and the foreign ministry lost no time in inviting the ambassadors of all major powers to be briefed on the offensive.

Since it erupted in 2011, Syria's conflict has killed more than 340,000 people and displaced millions. On Sunday, President Bashar Assad condemned the "brutal aggression" on Afrin but didn't repeat the threat. "The first USA military instructors arrived to train Kurdish units in Syria in 2015 since Washington believed Syrian Kurds to be the most reliable ally in the fight against Daesh and protecting American interests in the region". Video from Turkey this week showed the military moving tanks to the border.

Turkey has prepared around 10,000 Syrian fighters to storm Afrin, according Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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