Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) neutralized at least 39 more PYD/PKK and allegedly ISIL militants during the ongoing operation in Syria’s Afrin that also left 9 Turkish soldiers killed on Saturday, according to a statement by Turkish military.
In a statement, the Turkish General Staff added 9 other Turkish soldiers were also injured in the operation. TSK said Turkish military forces have also “neutralized” 79 more terrorists in early Saturday air strikes. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Also on Saturday a Turkish military helicopter crashed in Hatay province during an ongoing military operation across the border in the Afrin region of Syria, the state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) reported. According to AA, the T129 ATAK helicopter was shot down in the southeastern Turkish province of Hatay; however, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the incident took place in Syria’s northern Afrin province.
Yıldırım said it was not certain at this point whether the incident occurred due to an external impact or not. Investigations are ongoing, he said. The Turkish Armed Forces also confirmed the incident and the deaths, saying the military helicopter had “crashed.”
“They [the perpetrators] will pay a heavy price [for downing the Turkish helicopter],” said Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday at a ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK) meeting in İstanbul.
At least 1,180 PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and allegedly ISIL militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin, the Turkish General Staff said Saturday.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said that if the US wants to keep ties with Turkey, it should withdraw its support for terrorists. Talking to reporters in central Yozgat province, Bozdağ said the US must show understanding of Turkey’s sensitivity and concerns.
He reiterated Turkey’s expectations and called on the US to end every kind of aid provided to PYD/PKK militants. “Turkey wants to have good terms with the US, which is a NATO ally; the US also wants to have good terms with us,” Bozdağ said.
“Then it is clear. You [the US] will not support terror, you will not give weapons to the terrorists, you will not train the terrorists,” he added.
Also on Saturday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for urgent international action against Turkish and Syrian government airstrikes. “In the northwestern Afrin district controlled by Kurdish forces, a Turkish-led offensive launched on 20 January is placing large numbers of civilians at risk,” said Zeid in a statement published by the UNHCR.
There have been reports of civilians including children being killed and injured as a result of airstrikes and ground-based strikes, the statement said. Some inhabitants wishing to flee are apparently being prevented from doing so by Kurdish forces, statement added.
The UNHCR also said it has received reports indicating that at least 277 civilians have been killed between 4 and 9 February by airstrikes by the Syrian Government and its allies. “The past week has been one of the bloodiest periods of the entire conflict, with wave after wave of deadly airstrikes leading to civilian casualties in areas of Eastern Ghouta and Idlib,” Zeid said.
On the other hand, a regional education administration in Turkey has banned a children’s play “Environmentalist Rascals” for being “anti-war and anti-violence”.
The educational authorities in the Akhisar district of Manisa province said that one of the characters in the play expressed “anti-war” sentiments, while another voiced opinions that were “against violence.” Therefore, the drama was banned. The order, shared on Twitter by Turkish journalist Erk Acarer, said that a play with an anti-war theme would be “problematic” during the “sensitive period” Turkey is going through, referring to the ongoing Turkish military operation in Afrin.
The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin region of Syria against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).