Turkey begins invasion of Syria as huge explosion hits border town

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the country's military operation in north-east Syria has started.

There was mass panic on the streets as war planes flew overhead and several large explosions rocked the northeast Syrian town of Ras al Ain, on the border across from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar, today.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said there was "huge panic among the people" after Turkish warplanes carried out airstrikes.

Pictures show artillery moving in on the ground, supporting the strikes by warplanes.

Erdoğan said Turkey, along with its Syrian rebel allies, aimed to eliminate a "terror corridor" along the
southern Turkish border.

Erdoğan said the offensive, dubbed "Operation Peace Spring", would aim to eliminate threats from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and the Islamic State militants, and enable the return of Syrian refugees in Turkey after the formation of a "safe zone" in the area.

This comes after Donald Trump pulled US troops back from Syria.

Smoke could be seen rising from buildings in Ras al Ain.

In a statement released on Twitter, Erdogan said: “Together with the Syrian National Army, our Turkish Armed Forces launched the #Barışpınarıharekatı the against the PKK / YPG and Deash terrorist organizations in northern Syria (sic).

“Our aim is to destroy the terror corridor which is trying to be established on our southern border and to bring peace and peace to the region.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart by phone on Wednesday to avoid any steps in Syria that could damage its peace process, the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin said that both Putin and Erdoğan agreed in the phone call that Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected. 

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Twitter: "Turkish warplanes have started to carry out air strikes on civilian areas."

Syrian state media and a Kurdish official separately said bombing hit the town of Ras al-Ain in the northeast along the Turkish border.

A Turkish security source confirmed that Turkish howitzers – a type of tank – have started hitting bases held by the Kurdish militia, the YPG, along with ammunition depots.

The SDF has asked the US coalition for a 'no fly zone' to stop the Turkish attacks.

Meanwhile the US ambassador to Ankara, the capital of Turkey, has been summoned to the foreign ministry to be briefed on the Turkish operation, CNN reports.

Britain has raised concerns over the situation after Trump announced US troops would withdraw.

But SNP foreign affairs spokesman Stephen Gethins accused President Trump of “betrayal” while Labour’s Emily Thornberry said he had “shamed his office”.

UK minister Dr Murrison said military action “must be avoided as it would destabilise the region” and harm efforts to achieve the “enduring defeat of Daesh”.

Speaking in Parliament, former minister Tobias Ellwood warned the situation was a “fundamental change in US foreign policy.”

He added: “These are not soldiers in uniform but radicalised extremists who are committed to pursuing their jihadist agenda.”

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