Urgent UK protests called as Turkey begins ‘illegal invasion’ of northern Syria

Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria in Akcakale Sanliurfa province southeastern Turkey members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG hold a position on a building in the Syrian town of Tel

A Turkish invasion looked more likely after President Donald Trump's sudden announcement that USA troops, who had fought alongside the Kurds against Islamic State group, would withdraw from the area.

A Turkish security source told Reuters the military offensive, dubbed "Operation Peace Spring", opened with air strikes.

Erdogan's communications director Fahrettin Altun said Turkey had no ambition in northeastern Syria except to neutralize the threat against Turkish citizens and to liberate the local people from what he called "the yoke of armed thugs".

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. "It is time to establish a safe zone in northern Syria, and create an opportunity for Syrians in Turkey to return home voluntarily".

The two operations were in line with the country's right to self-defense borne out of global law, UN Security Council resolutions, especially no. 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014), and under the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter, while being respectful of Syria's territorial integrity.

In the meantime, Syrian Democratic Forces, which have vowed to defend itself against any perceived Turkish incursion called on the US-led coalition and the worldwide community to implement a no-fly zone over northern Syria similar to the one implemented in Iraq.

But Kurdish officials have warned that they would have to divert their forces away from guarding IS prisoners in case of a Turkish assault.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's Secretary General, said via Twitter: "I count on Turkey to act with restraint & ensure that the gains we have made in the fight against ISIS are not jeopardised".

Founded in 2003, the PYD and its military wing the YPG are the ideological sister group of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long conflict with Turkey. "Yesterday, we saw U.S. troops, but this time they were on their way out of the area, and that terrified people", he said.

The statement said the mobilization would last for three days.

Turkish army soldiers drive towards the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province.

"The difficulty we are going through is this, that we have partnered in dignity and clarity and friendship with American forces for 5 years and it is really hard for us to accept an end to this partnership in an unworthy way", SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told VOA's Kurdish service.

In its call for a general mobilisation, the local civilian Kurdish authority known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, also asked the global community to live up to its responsibilities as "a humanitarian catastrophe might befall our people".

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says if Trump follows through with planned troop withdrawal it could be one of the biggest follies of his presidency.

After appearing to give a green light to the Turkish invasion on Sunday, he later threatened to "obliterate" Turkey's economy if it went too far.

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

The SDF, which are led by the Kurdish YPG militia, has long angered the Turkish government and Erdogan.

The Kurds say Ankara's real goal is to dilute their demographic dominance of the northeast with an influx of mostly Sunni Arab refugees from other parts of the country now living in southwestern Turkey.

Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, front centre, is flanked by Turkish army's top commanders before he speaks at the National Defence University, in Istanbul.

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