The Latest: Turkey says troops ‘cleared’ 2 Syrian villages
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest developments on the Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria (all times local):
1: 10 p.m.
Turkey’s state-run news agency says Turkey-allied Syrian opposition fighters have “cleared of terror” two villages across the border in Syria — meaning there are no more Syrian Kurdish fighters in those villages.
Anadolu Agency said on Thursday the Turkish-backed fighters entered the villages of Yabisa and Tel Fander. It did not provide further details.
Maj. Youssef Hammoud, a spokesman for Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, tweeted that they were in Yabisa, near the town of Tal Abyad, describing it as “the first village to win freedom.”
Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish commandos entered the village of Beir Asheq, near the town of Tal Abyad on Thursday morning.
Turkish forces began a ground offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday under the cover of airstrikes and artillery shelling.
Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, whose country currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, says that Finland condemns Turkey’s offensive in Syria and appeals for the cessation of hostilities.
Rinne said in a statement on Thursday that Turkey’s actions “aggravate the already complex crisis in Syria.”
He says: “We are very concerned about the impacts of the measures on the humanitarian situation in Syria. Hostilities in the region may provoke further displacements.”
Rinne added that the Finnish government would cease granting new arms exports licenses to Turkey or other countries “engaged in war” in the area.
EU foreign ministers will convene for a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. At the gathering, Finland will call attention to Turkey’s attack, its impact on refugees in the region, and the humanitarian needs of Syria.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry says Turkish ground troops are continuing their advance against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.
A ministry statement early on Thursday did not provide further detail on the offensive but shared a brief video of commandos in action.
Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria began on Wednesday after U.S. troops pulled back from the area, paving the way for Turkey’s assault on Syrian Kurdish forces, long been allied with the U.S.
The ministry said Turkish jets and artillery struck 181 targets east of the Euphrates River since the incursion started.
Turkey says it intends to create a “safe zone” that would push Kurdish militia away from its border and eventually allow the repatriation of up to 2 million Syrian refugees.
The Turkish invasion is widely condemned around the world.