Turkey’s army has launched an offensive in northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday, as part of an operation to move US-backed Kurdish forces away from its border.
“The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh [ISIS] terrorists in northern Syria. Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” he tweeted.
In another tweet, Erdogan added that “Operation Peace Spring” would “neutralize terror threats against Turkey” and help facilitate the “return of Syrian refugees to their homes” by establishing a safe zone.
Important context: The “Syrian National Army” does not refer to the official military of Syria, which is called the Syrian Arab Army.
The Syrian National Army is a Turkey-backed rebel group comprised mainly of factions and fighters from what was known as the Free Syrian Army. The group’s headquarters are in Azaz, in northwestern Syria, and it claims to have tens of thousands of fighters.
The movement came hours after Turkish government communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said the country’s military was set to cross into Syria along with the rebel Free Syrian Army.
In a tweet early Wednesday, Altun said the the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, also known as the YPG, had two options: “They can defect or we will have stop them from disrupting our counter-ISIS efforts.”