Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish-led militias in northeastern Syria has triggered a mass exodus of civilians from the combat zone amid heavy air and artillery strikes.

The invasion, dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring’, kicked off on Wednesday following an announcement by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The operation began with heavy shelling and airstrikes, while Turkish military and affiliated militant groups of the so-called Syrian “opposition” started a land invasion later in the day.

READ MORE: Turkey bombs Syria: Erdogan begins ‘Operation Peace Spring’

While Ankara insists it targets solely military positions and infrastructure of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), unconfirmed reports from the scene suggest the airstrikes have already inflicted casualties among civilians.

Footage from the scene shows large groups of civilians, primarily women and children, fleeing the Syrian border towns deeper into Kurdish-controlled territory.

Some people are seen in tightly packed cars and trucks.

While others are trying to escape the ‘Peace Spring’ on foot.

Streets of the Syrian border towns appear to be deserted, with occasional vehicles heading away from the border.

Multiple fires were observed in the area, emitting large columns of thick black smoke. It was not immediately clear whether the fires were a result of airstrikes or if they were ignited deliberately in a bid to set up a smoke screen against the warplanes.

Subscribe to RT newsletter to get stories the mainstream media won’t tell you.