The United States said it did not give Turkey the go-ahead for its offensive in northern Syria, BBC reported on Thursday. This came after Turkish troops proceeded into Syria after launching airstrikes and artillery barrages, targeting US-backed Kurdish forces who control the area.

“United States didn’t give Turkey a green light,” said United States’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He defended President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw soldiers from the border, saying that Turkey had a “legitimate security concern” and “a terrorist threat to their south”.

Trump on Thursday said he hoped that Turkey would “act rationally” during the operation and reiterated his threat to take action against its economy. “We’ve been talking to Turkey for three years, they’ve been wanting to do this for many years,” the president told reporters at the White House, according to The Washington Times. “They’ve been fighting each other for centuries. They’re bitter enemies, possibly always will be. If he [Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan] does it unfairly, he’s going to pay a very big economic price. I will wipe out his economy if that happens.”

The US president said he will wait and watch Turkey’s actions in Syria and added that Erdogan wanted people to return to where they came from. “Right now, Turkey is holding millions of people that would be all over the place if Erdogan wasn’t holding them,” PTI quoted Trump as saying. “So, he wants to repatriate.”

On Wednesday, Erdogan had announced that the Turkish Armed Forces along with the Syrian National Army had launched the offensive called Operation Peace Spring. He said that the main aim of the mission would be to prevent the setting up of a terror corridor across Turkey’s southern border.

The Turkish president had said that his country would preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and free local communities from the control of terrorists. They would also establish a “safe zone” that will allow Syrian refugees to go back home.

Ankara regards the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, as a terrorist group affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and has been battling the groups for two decades. However, the PKK and YPG are allies of the United States.

Visuals from the area showed civilians trying to escape the towns with smoke emanating from several areas. Activists said that at least seven civilians were killed so far with reports of locals being killed in border towns that were hit by shelling.

Turkey’s armed forces said they had hit 181 “terrorist targets” as part of Operation Peace Spring. Kurdish authorities urged people to reach the border with Turkey “to resist in this sensitive, historic moment”.

President Trump and President Erdogan have reached an understanding over precisely what this operation is,” The Guardian quoted said Gülnur Aybet, one of Erdogan’s senior advisers as saying. The remarks came even as Trump released a statement after the operation was initiated, saying “the United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea”.

The Erdogan administration planned to send two million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees to the “safe zone”. This operation could displace 300,000 people that currently reside in the area. However, the European Union has said that it a “safe zone” may not fulfill the international criteria for refugee return while a few countries, including Belgium, France and the United Kingdom requested a meeting with the United Nations Security Council to discuss Turkey’s action, according to BBC.

All 15 members of the council will meet on Thursday. The Arab League has also called for an emergency meeting to discuss the operation on October 12 in Cairo.

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