Turkish ground offensive advances deeper into Syria

Turkish ground offensive advances deeper into Syria
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Turkey is reportedly moving deeper into northern Syria with its ground offensive, taking over at least one village previously held by Kurdish fighters on Thursday.

Residents of the border area are trying to escape the Turkish military operation, which they say bears resemblance to ISIS's initial takeover of the area, The Associated Press reported. In the second day of Turkish ground attacks, airstrikes and artillery shelling continued to pummel towns along the border. Turkish-backed fighters reportedly said Yabisha was the first town "to win freedom."

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There is discrepancy, however, over how far Turkey has advanced, with a Kurdish-led group and Syrian activists saying Turkish forces have not made much progress, according to the news service.

Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, tweeted Thursday, "No advance as of now."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said 109 "terrorists" have been killed since the initiative began, the AP reported, adding that the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported seven civilians have been killed.

Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters to be "terrorists," claiming some have a connection with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an insurgent group that has operated domestically in Turkey for 35 years.

Erdoğan has lashed out at countries of the European Union, demanding they stop referencing its actions as an occupation and warning he'd allow Syrian refugees to enter Europe via Turkey if the characterizations continue, Reuters reported.

The Turkish military operation began Wednesday after President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE announced the U.S. had removed troops from northern Syria.

Some of Trump's usual allies worried that Kurdish allies who helped fight ISIS would view the U.S. withdrawal as a betrayal, and the chaos would allow ISIS detainees to escape.

Reports Thursday indicated that the Kurds have ended all operations against ISIS extremists in order to respond to Turkey's entry into northern Syria, according to the AP. Two British extremists were also moved to American custody Wednesday. 

Trump has called the Turkish attack a "bad idea" and distanced himself from "endless, senseless war."