Turkey announced Wednesday that its ground forces invaded northeastern Syria to fight against Kurdish forces just hours after launching an initial assault in the area, as the first reports of deaths emerged.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched Operation Peace Spring on Wednesday after President Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw American troops from the area, a move considered by many analysts a blow to the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces there.
Erdogan said the mission was to “neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes.”
At least seven civilians were killed in Turkish strikes in northeastern Syria since the country launched an assault Wednesday morning, according to activists and a war monitor.
Trump warned Turkey that its initial assault was a “bad idea.”
“The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea,” Trump said in a White House statment. “Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place — and we will hold them to this commitment.”
President Trump announced Sunday the U.S. would pull American troops out of northern Syria, a move leaving the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces — longtime allies in the fight against ISIS in Syria — in peril. Ankara has considered the Syrian Kurdish forces to be terrorists allied with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, Lucas Tomlinson, Greg Norman, Victor Garcia, Dom Calicchio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.