Oct. 10 (UPI) -- A day after it launched a military operation into northern Syria to clear the region near its border of Kurdish forces, Turkey announced Thursday that the plan has so far been a success and will continue.
Ankara, which had planned the incursion for weeks, launched the military action Wednesday.
Late Thursday, it said the military had "neutralized" 228 Kurdish fighters since the start of the operation as it shelled and sent advancing troops south into northern Syria.
"Operation Peace Spring was successfully carried out by air and land during the night," Turkey's Ministry of National Defense tweeted Thursday. "Operation continues successfully as planned."
The ministry said the operation was carried out "respectfully" to the territorial integrity of Syria and within the framework of international law.
"Only the [Kurdish] and [Islamic State] terrorists and their shelters, positions, weapons, tools and equipment are targeted for the planning and execution of Operation Peace Spring," the ministry said.
The Rojava Information Center, an activist group working in Syria, said tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the first 24 hours of fighting with the civilian death toll rising.
At least 11 civilians have been killed, up from seven on Wednesday, including three children, and dozens have been injured, it said.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a British-based human rights monitor, confirmed the death toll and said 70,000 people have displaced in the first 30 hours of conflict, with at least two cities completely vacant close to the Syrian-Turkey border.
It said a child was killed and two people were injured when Turkish forces launched shells that hit a neighborhood in western Qamishli City, near the Syrian-Turkey border.
Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF press office, said a 60-year-old woman was killed and two children were badly injured, including a girl who lost both legs, in the shelling on Qamishli City. He also said a civilian convoy was hit, killing three people.
The Turkish military said Wednesday it had struck 181 targets in its initial attack.
Contrary to Turkey's claim, SOBHR said that all advancing Turkish ground troops failed to advance and the Syrian Democratic forces and allies thwarted the attack.
Bali said it had "repelled" the Turkish army and there was "no advance as of now."
The attack came after U.S. President Donald Trump gave tacit approval to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday by removing the remaining U.S. troops from the region. The move has come under heavy bipartisan criticism, seen by many as abandoning a U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria.
In a tweet, Graham pleaded with Trump to change his mind.
"America is better than this," he said. "Please stand up to Turkey, Mr. President."
On Thursday, Trump reacted to the criticism saying that he is talking to "both sides" to end the war.
"Turkey has been planning to attack the Kurds for a long time," he said. "They have been fighting forever. We have no soldiers or Military anywhere near the attack area. I am trying to end the ENDLESS WARS."
He said the United States has three options: intervene militarily, impose sanctions against Turkey or mediate a deal.
A senior State Department official said on background that Trump pulled U.S. troops from the area after Erdogan told him Sunday that the Joint Security Mechanism, a roughly 18.5-mile safe zone within the Syrian border, did not meet his safety concerns and that he wanted to push it back farther "and within that zone Turkey alone would be responsible for security."
Turkey also is planning to move 3 to 4 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to this area, he said.
Turkey views Kurdish groups, such as the Kurdish Worker's Party, the PKK, and its Syrian offshoot, the People's Protection Units, the YPG, as terrorists. The SDF is led by the YPG and Turkey doesn't want them near its border.
He said the United States neither supports or endorses the invasion and if Turkey crosses any of Trump's red lines, which include ethnic cleansing, indiscriminate artillery fire and attacks on civilians, "the United States is willing to impose significant costs," stating they would be either diplomatic or economic punishments.
Operation Peace Spring is supposed to be a short-term action, he said.
"We think that this is a bad idea or a very bad idea," he said.