Turkish military tank
© Osman Orsal / Reuters
A Turkish military tanks arrives near the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey January 17, 2018
Following an intense shelling and bombing attack on Kurdish positions in Afrin Saturday, Turkey's PM announced the ground phase of operation 'Olive Branch' will kick into gear Sunday.

From tomorrow [Sunday], depending on developments, our ground units will perform the necessary activities [as part of the Operation Olive Branch]," Binali Yildirim told reporters. He claimed the first phase of the aerial campaign destroyed "nearly all" of the targets.

Several military trucks carrying tanks and other armored vehicles were already sighted at the border post of Oncupinar, ready to cross into the Turkish-controlled Syrian town of Azaz, footage provided by the Dogan news outlet showed.


"The goal of the Republic of Turkey is not, and may never be, to bring prejudice to the territorial integrity of Syria," Yildirim said, according to Anadolu News. "The rescue of our Turkmen brothers from oppression and persecution of terrorist organizations is one of the important goals of this operation."

Following cross-border artillery shelling Friday and Saturday, Turkey deployed thousands of soldiers of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to support their offensive to eliminate the Kurdish- aligned PKK, PYD, YPG militias and Islamic State fighters.

Some 72 Turkish jets struck 108 out of the 113 intended targets in Afrin Saturday. At least seven civilians, including a child, and three Kurdish fighters were killed in the city center, the YPG command said, adding that another 13 civilians were wounded. Turkey's General Staff, meanwhile, vowed to 'spare' Afrin civilians as it hunts down "terrorist" elements on its border.