According to a reported issued by the Turkish army on Tuesday, January 23, at least 260 Kurdish People's Protection (YPG) and Islamic State (IS) fighters had been killed in air and land operations conducted by its forces in Syria’s Afrin region since they began on January 20. The report also confirmed that the operations would continue into the coming days. In response, Syrian Kurdish leaders said they would continue to protect their region and called on the Kurdish population to take up arms against Turkey on January 23.
The Turkish cross-border campaign, termed Operation Olive Branch, targets the YPGs - an ally of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and considered a terrorist organization by Ankara - in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria. Turkey seeks to establish a 30-km (20-mi) "safe zone" in the area. Damascus has warned that its air defense system would shoot down any Turkish jets carrying out attacks on Syrian territory, although it is unclear if Syrian forces have the capability to follow through on such a threat.
On January 13, news broke that the US had plans to create a new "border security force" composed of 30,000 personnel, including members of the YPGs and other allied forces, as part of its ongoing fight against IS; the US has denied the claims. Turkey has stated that such a move would be tantamount to building a "terror army" that would threaten Turkey's domestic security, reiterating demands that the US withdraw its support of Kurdish forces in the region.
Due to extremely poor security conditions, Western governments generally advise against all travel to Syria, with some banning travel to the country, as well as areas in Turkey along the Syrian border. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to any travel to these areas.