BEIRUT, Lebanon — Turkey launched a planned military operation in northeastern Syria on Wednesday aimed at flushing out a Syrian militia backed by the United States, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Erdogan said the operation aimed to “prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border,” but provided no other information about whether Turkish ground troops had entered Syria or how far in they would go.
A spokesman for the United States-backed militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces, said that Turkish warplanes had begun carrying out airstrikes.
Civilians were reported to be fleeing the border towns of Ras al Ain and Tel Abyad, which were being pounded by airstrikes and shelling, Reuters reported. “There is a huge panic among people of the region,” the spokesman, Mustafa Bali, wrote.
Turkey’s long-planned move to root out United States-allied Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria accelerated rapidly after President Trump seemingly gave a green light in a call with Mr. Erdogan on Sunday. The operation has sparked fierce debates in Washington and could open a dangerous new front in Syria’s eight-year-old war.
Earlier Wednesday, the Syrian Democractic Forces had mobilized and warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” as Turkey massed troops near the countries’ border for an incursion it said would begin “shortly.”
New violence between Turkey and the United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces pits two United States allies against each other in ethnically tinged battles,