Syria warns it will down warplanes from Turkey

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Turkish jets bombed the Kurdish-controlled city of Afrin in northern Syria on yesterday, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to expand Turkey's military border operations against a Kurdish group that has been the US's key Syria ally in the war on the Islamic State group.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also held a phone conversation with United States counterpart Rex Tillerson in the wake of the announcement of the air strikes on Saturday by Turkish Air forces, at Washington's request, the official told Xinhua news agency on the condition of anonymity.

The Turkish military said its operation in Afrin was to provide safety for Turkey's border and to "eliminate terrorists. and save friends and brothers, the people of the region, from their cruelty".

The general command of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the mainly Syrian Kurdish rebel force that has led the United States-backed fight against the Islamic State, appealed to Turkey to cease its operation in Afrin, calling it an unjustifiable aggression against the Syrian people that would undermine the fight against the Islamic State.

"Both leaders recognize the importance of maintaining regular communication in order to avoid miscalculation and to promote transparency in areas where our militaries are operating in close proximity", a Joint Chiefs spokesman said.

Turkey vehemently opposes the YPG because of its links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey for three decades.

Turkey opened a new front in Syria's war on Saturday, launching airstrikes against a US-backed Kurdish militia in Afrin province that raises the prospect of deeper strains between Ankara and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Washington.

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The military offensive is likely to sharpen tensions between Turkey and the United States, which supports and openly arms Kurdish militias fighting ISIS. "We want to tell Erdogan that his dream would vanish just as his dreams vanished when he tried to enter Kobani, so Afrin would be your graveyard", a man filmed by RT's Ruptly video agency said.

Earlier Wednesday in California, Tillerson explained why the USA intends to prolong its military presence in Syria to prevent the return of IS and to back up a United Nations-backed political process that Western powers hope will eventually see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad relinquish power.

"It is vital for the United States to remain engaged in Syria", he said in a speech to a US research organization audience. Ankara accuses Washington of using one terrorist group to fight another in Syria.

Syrians in the region expressed alarm, as the aerial bombardment hit outlying villages along the Turkish border.

The airstrikes on Saturday followed days of intense Turkish artillery fire on Kurdish positions, according to activists in Afrin.

"By changing the name of a terrorist organization that is playing games in Syria, they think (they) are being smart".

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