Erdogan's aide says Turkey to start Syria offensive "shortly"

Turkish troops in Syria

Trump has been facing condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans over his decision to pull U.S. troops from the area, practically paving the way for Turkey to move militarily against the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The decision was a major shift in USA policy and drew opposition from all sides at home.

The Syrian Kurdish forces were long-time USA allies in the fight against the so-called Islamic State group. "U.S. should never have been in Middle East", Trump said in a series of tweets.

Mr Trump announced the decision after a phone call with Mr Erdogan on Sunday evening (local time). Later Wednesday, he said he didn't want to be involved in "endless, senseless wars".

In northern Syria, residents of the border areas were in a panic and got out on foot, in cars and with rickshaws piled with mattresses and a few belongings.

What about the fight against the Islamic State group?

In the build-up to the anticipated offensive, Syria had said it was determined to confront any Turkish aggression by all legitimate means.

This comes days after the USA troops backed away from the border area.

The move was announced by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey's Demiroren news agency said Turkish-backed Syrian rebels had traveled from northwest Syria to Turkey in preparation for the incursion. The AP could not verify the report independently.

President Trump has long criticized President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, but the subsequent rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State has convinced many national security officials, and lawmakers such as Graham, that a precipitous US troop withdrawal from the region would leave the USA and its allies even more vulnerable to extremism.

Hours before Erdogan's announcement, Syrian Kurish forces warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe" and called for mobilization. More than 2 million people live in the area impacted by the attacks, according to aid groups. "This left our people defenceless".

Ankara considers the YPG as an arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged a three-and-a-half decade insurgency against Turkey.

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A Turkish miltary convoy is pictured in Kilis near the Turkish-Syrian border, Turkey, Oct. 9, 2019.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close Trump ally, stepped up his criticism of the president Wednesday, telling "Fox & Friends" that if Trump "follows through with this, it would be the biggest mistake of his presidency".

Trump later said the U.S.

"We have conveyed those concerns and will continue to convey those concerns directly and we will continue to work closely with the United States and others in terms of what, if any, potential response is to that quite serious situation on the ground". He expected Turkey to protect civilians and religious minorities and to prevent a humanitarian crisis, he said.

"Turkey has concerns about the security of its southern borders (with Syria), and their concerns should be acknowledged", Rouhani said in the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

His remarks came as the five European members of the UN Security Council, France, Germany, Britain, Belgium and Poland, called on Ankara to halt its unilateral military operation against Syrian Kurdish forces.

It had been pushing the United States to jointly establish a "safe zone" extending 20 miles (32 km) into Syrian territory, but repeatedly warned it could take unilateral military action after accusing Washington of dragging its feet.

The Turkish presidency's communications director urged the worldwide community to rally behind Ankara. He said some Kurdish groups were being used as a tool to help an alleged "American project", but added Syria is ready to welcome back its "stray sons if they return to their senses", referring to the pro-U.S.

Turkish troops have entered north-eastern Syria, launching a land offensive against Kurdish militia fighters just days after U.S. troops pulled back from the area. The Syrian Kurdish-led administration said it viewed positively calls from Moscow encouraging the Kurds and the Syrian government to settle their difference through talks.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the Islamic republic opposes any possible military operation by Turkey in Syria.

Turkey has invaded north-eastern Syria, attacking largely-Kurdish fighters who were key in defeating Daesh (Isis/Isil).

The International Rescue Committee aid organisation said that 64,000 people had already fled their homes.

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