Turkey says ground forces have crossed over into northern Syria

Turkish ground forces and a Syrian militia group have crossed over into northern Syria, as part of a military operation against Kurdish forces, Turkey's Ministry of National Defense announced Wednesday.

"The Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian National Army have launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river as part of the Operation Peace Spring," the ministry said on Twitter.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier announced the military offensive in the region had begun.


The military operations come just days after President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE abruptly announced that he would be withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of the planned Turkish push.

More than 1,000 U.S. forces have been deployed in Syria, where they worked closely with the Kurdish YPG, which leads the Syrian Democratic Forces. Turkey considers the Kurdish-led forces, which have proved to be the most effective U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS, to be a terrorist group.

“#OperationPeaceSpring will neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes,” Erdogan said on Twitter. 

Trump sought to distance himself from the offensive after it was launched, saying in a statement that the U.S. “does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea.”

Trump also stressed Turkey's commitments ahead of the operation.

“Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment,” Trump said. “In addition, Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form. We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely.”

The decision by Trump to pull troops from northern Syria showcased a clear break between the White House and the GOP.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Graham: 'Stupid' for Trump to ask China to investigate Biden Turkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate MORE (R-S.C.), an outspoken ally of the president's, called the decision a "disaster in the making." 

He told Axios earlier Wednesday that the decision was putting both the nation and his presidency "at risk."

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyHouse Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment Republicans seek to delay effort to censure Schiff after Cummings' death House Foreign Affairs leaders introduce Turkey sanctions bill MORE (R-Wyo.) declared that Trump's move was having "sickening and predictable consequences.”

UPDATED 4:35 p.m.