The Turkish military struck targets on the Syria-Iraq border on Tuesday in preparation for an offensive into the northeast region of Syria, according to Turkish officials who spoke with Reuters.
A security official said the strikes, which were carried out overnight, were intended to sever a transportation route between Iraq and Syria used by Kurdish groups. “In this way, the group’s transit to Syria and support lines, including ammunition, are shut off,” the official said.
It was not immediately clear if there were casualties, although one official said that the strikes had rendered the site “unusable through various means.”
The news comes after President Trump’s Monday announcement that he had ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Syrian-Turkish border region in anticipation of a Turkish incursion. On Tuesday the Trump administration confirmed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with President Trump at the White House this month.
Turkey maintains it wants to create a “safe zone” inside Syria where it will be able to resettle 3.6 million refugees who fled the Syrian civil war and currently reside in Turkey.
Kurdish organizations say the Turkish plan is intended to weaken the Kurds by flooding the region with Sunni Arab Muslims. While Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were instrumental in the U.S.-led fight against ISIS, Turkey considers the SDF a terrorist organization, citing ties to Kurdish militants inside Turkey.
U.S. politicians, including many prominent Republicans, have slammed Trump’s decision to effectively abandon the Kurds before the impending Turkish offensive.
“If the President sticks with this retreat, he needs to know that this bad decision will likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children,” said Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) in a statement. “I hope the President will listen to his generals and reconsider.”