At least 192 civilians killed during Turkish military operation in Syria’s Afrin

At least 192 civilians were killed during the military operations conducted by Turkish military and its ally Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) jihadist militias since the start of the military campaign in Afrin region of northwestern Syria.

Angela Reşo, co-chair of Health Council of Afrin has said in a press briefing on Tuesday that 192 civilians were killed and 574 were wounded in Afrin since the start of Turkey’s military operation on January 20. According to the information provided by Resho, 28 of the victims were children and 23 were women.

“Bodies of several people are under the rubble. We are working hard to find the dead bodies,” she said. She said that the numbers do not include 5 civilians killed by Turkish bombing in Jindires on Monday.

However, an official from the Kurdish Red Crescent has claimed on Tuesday that 348 civilians have been killed in Turkey’s ongoing military operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin. He said among those killed there are 57 children and 48 women.

It was reported by Kurdistan24 on Tuesday that the Kurdish Red Crescent has been heavily involved in providing humanitarian aid to the victims of the Afrin assault. Earlier this month, the organization set up tents in Rojava’s Kobani where they began collecting all forms of donations and aid, including humanitarian and financial. “These people have suffered immensely. They’ve lost their homes, their families,” a Kurdish Red Crescent employee told Kurdistan24, adding the organization hopes “to make an impact.”

The Turkish military has repeatedly claimed that they have aimed only “terror targets” to destroy and that “utmost care” is being taken to avoid harming civilians.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has stated on Tuesday that Turkish military has cleared all militants of the YPG from the Afrin side of the border and adding that Afrin city is now surrounded in a crescent-like shape.

“We leave behind the 39th day in our ‘Operation Olive Branch.’ Our soldiers continue to carry out the operation from land and air with utmost determination. Afrin has been surrounded by a crescent-like shape,” Yıldırım said while addressing the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group. Yıldırım said the FSA and the Turkish army are “gaining ground in the region while Turkey’s Kurdish village guards and Police Special Operation Units secure the order behind them.”

Meanwhile, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement on Tuesday that a total of 2,083 YPG/PKK and alleged ISIL militants have been “neutralized” since the launch of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

Turkish military and the FSA have captured 115 locations, including one district center, 87 villages, 20 strategic mountains and hills, and one YPG base, according to the military. “The terrorists in Afrin, and those brought there from outside regardless of their origins, along with the external forces who back them, will be completely routed,” Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday during a visit to the southern Turkish province of Hatay on the border with Syria.

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert at a press briefing on Tuesday urged Turkey to read the entire UN Security Council resolution passed over the weekend for a cease-fire in Syria while avoiding saying that the Turkish government should abide by it.

When asked by a reporter what parts of Syria are covered in the resolution, Nauert said it applies “throughout Syria,” with operations against designated terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) specifically exempted, adding that Afrin, where Turkey is conducting an offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) is “certainly within Syria.” Pressed several times to agree that Turkey, which says it is not bound by the cease-fire and is free to continue going after the Kurds in Afrin, is violating the UN cease-fire, Nauert pivoted and said, “I would encourage Turkey to go back and read this resolution” unanimously agreed by the UNSC on Saturday.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ had said on Sunday that the UNSC 30-day cease-fire across Syria would not have “any effect on the operation that Turkey is pursuing” in Afrin, adding that Ankara would continue to fight what he called “terrorists” in Syria.

Turkey deployed police special forces to the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin on Monday for a “new battle” in its five-week campaign, known as Operation Olive Branch, against the Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday told his Turkish autocratic counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that the United Nations Security Council call over the weekend for a cease-fire across Syria also applied to Syria’s Afrin region.

Federica Mogherini, foreign policy chief of European Union (EU) said on Monday over Afrin operation that “We have already expressed our concerns about this. In general terms, I am extremely concerned, and ministers as well, about the increase of military operations all over Syria from different actors, obviously first and for most by the regime and its supporters.”

She mentioned that regional countries should help put an end to the conflict in Syria rather than worsen the situation. “There is a special responsibility, especially from the three guarantors of Astana process: Russia, Iran, and Turkey to make sure the process of de-escalation takes place, not the process of escalation,” Mogherini added.

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