A Turkish military operation into northern Syria has begun and warplanes have started attacking the region, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed.
Erdogan confirmed in a tweet today that the Turkish Armed Forces, along with the Syrian National Arm, have passed into Syria as part of "Operation Peace Spring" against Kurdish forces.
"Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border and to bring peace to the area," the President said.
Several large explosions have already rocked the northeast Syrian town of Ras al Ain, on the border across from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar, a CNN Turk reporter says.
The reporter said the sound of planes could he heard above and smoke could be seen rising from buildings in Ras al Ain.
Mustafa Bali of the Syrian Democratic Forces also said the airstrikes have caused "a huge panic among people of the region."
Earlier, Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish government communications director, said 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".
In series of tweets from the verified Twitter account of the SDF, the General Command said the border areas of northeast Syria "are on the edge of a possible humanitarian catastrophe.
All indications, field information and military assembly on the Turkish side of the border indicate that our border areas will be attacked by Turkey."
"This attack will spill the blood of thousands of innocent civilians because our border areas are overcrowded," the SDF said.
It went on to call on the international community and those countries fighting against ISIS "to carry out their responsibilities" to avoid a "possible impending humanitarian disaster."
The offensive comes days after US President Donald Trump provoked a storm of criticism, including from his own party, by announcing the pullback of US military forces from the region.
Trump's decision in effect gave Turkey a green light to attack US-backed Kurdish forces, though Trump threatened to punish Turkey economically if it does "anything outside of what we think is humane."
Ankara regards the Kurdish People's Protection Units, also known as the YPG, as a terrorist group affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought the Turkish state for more than three decades.
But the US backs the YPG and credits the Kurds for helping defeat ISIS in Syria.
Ahead of the offensive today, Syria condemned Turkey's "aggressive behavior" and "hostile intentions," according to Syrian state news agency SANA.
"The aggressive behavior of the Erdogan regime clearly shows the Turkish expansionist ambitions in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic and cannot be justified under any pretext," a source at the Foreign Ministry said, SANA reported.
A source at the Foreign Ministry said in a statement today that the Syrian government holds some Kurds responsible for what is happening "as a result of their dependence on the American project."
A Turkish security source said the operation was launched with air strikes and would be supported by artillery and howitzer fire, as explosions rocked the town of Ras al Ain on the border with Turkey,</p><p>The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) appealed to the US and its allies for a "no fly zone" to protect it from Turkish attacks in northeast Syria.</p><p>"The SDF showed good faith to the security mechanism agreement between the US and Turkey. This left our people defenceless," it said.</p>
Yesterday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia was working to extract women and children trapped in war-torn north-eastern Syria.
Senator Payne said evacuating the 65 women and children was anything but simple. Most of the children are aged under five.
"It is very dangerous, it is very complex, it is very time-consuming," she said.
"We are working with - and we have to work with - not just humanitarian agencies, but non-state forces and groups in the community that assist countries who are trying to repatriate their citizens."