Air Strikes Started Jan.20
Manbij is in an area where a 30,000-strong US-trained border force from the Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by YPG fighters, is to be trained.The announcement of a border force infuriated Turkey's leaders, and Erdogan has accused the United States, its most powerful NATO ally, of "building an army of terror" on his border and threatened to "drown" the US-backed force. Turkey regards the YPG as the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The PKK is an outlawed Kurdish group responsible for major terror attacks in Turkey as part of its bid for national ethnic autonomy. The European Union and United States have both named the PKK as a terrorist outfit.
Turkish-backed fighters from the Free Syrian Army were battling Kurdish militia members recently in Afrin, and a full cross-border Turkish military incursion had been expected. Turkish vehicles, including artillery, tanks, rocket launchers and heavy equipment transporters, had been observed on the Turkish-Syrian border, a US defense official said Friday.
The operation has been launched as of Jan. 20, 5:00 p.m. to neutralize terrorist groups and liberate friendly and brotherly people of the region from oppression and tyranny, it added, noting that the operation aims to provide security and stability along Turkey's borders and in the region. The operation complies with international law, U.N. Security Council resolutions, especially No. 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014); and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter on Right of Self Defense, the statement said.
It underlined that during the operation's planning and conduct, only terrorists and their shelters, weapons, vehicles and tools are being targeted and utmost care is being shown for civilians not to be harmed.
While ground troops located in Kilis province near the Syrian border aim at PKK/PYD targets with howitzers, tank units, multiple rocket launchers, Turkish warplanes target previously identified terrorists in an air operation, media sources reported.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey has notified all actors involved - including the Syrian government - about the offensive. Russia - a key military figure in the region - says it is concerned by the development, and has relocated its troops from the region. Officials earlier said Moscow would not interfere in the conflict. The mission chiefs employed by U.S., Iranian and Russian embassies were also invited to the Foreign Ministry in Ankara to be given a briefing on the latest developments in Afrin, in addition to the ambassadors of United Kingdom, France and China.
PS: Turkish Operations in Syria originally started in August 2016: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_military_intervention_in_Syria_(August_2016–March_2017)
http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/20/middleeast/turkey-syria-military-operation/index.html https://www.dailysabah.com/war-on-terror/2018/01/20/operation-olive-branch-launched-in-syrias-afrin-to-clear-pkk-daesh-turkish-military-says http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42759944
[UPDATE] Ground Incursion Started 08:05 GMT
In a press conference in Istanbul on Sunday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkish forces crossed into the YPG-controlled region in Syria at 08:05 GMT from the Turkish village of Gulbaba. He said Turkey plans to establish a 30km "safe zone" in Afrin. Confirming the Afrin operation, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday he hopes it will be completed "in a very short time".
America has been arming the YPG as part of the operation to clear Syria of Islamic State militants or Daesh. It's been a festering source of annoyance for the Turks who view the YPG and PKK to be different branches of the same organisation with similar objectives that is creating an independent Kurdistan across Turkey, Syria and Iraq.
Then when the Americans recently announced plans to create a 30,000-strong border security force mainly made up of Kurdish fighters, Turkey ramped up the rhetoric and has now matched it with on-the-ground action.
A few days ago, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped the Americans would not side with the Kurds during the Afrin operation and that 'despite it all', he hoped to continue working with the US. He added he hoped America would rather support Turkey in what he described as its legitimate attempts to combat terror.