Civilians suffer due to clashes between Turkish military and Syrian Kurdish militants over Afrin

In Reyhanlı district, two civilians, 68-year-old Rıfat Sinirli and Ahmet Şanverdi were killed and 16 others were injured after three rockets hit the industrial site. Meanwhile, three rockets hit Kilis center, causing three injuries.

The city was also targeted in YPG rocket attacks on Thursday, wounding at least five people, luckily none with life threatening injuries.

The PYD/PKK militants have killed at least 5 Turkish civilians in 82 cross-border rocket attacks since the beginning of the Turkish military-led operation in northwestern Syria, said Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Friday. “Over 12 days, 82 rockets have been fired into the Turkish border provinces of Reyhanlı, Hatay, and Kilis,” said Yildirim during a ground-breaking ceremony in the capital Ankara.

“Due to these rockets, five of our citizens have lost their lives and we have had over 100 of our citizens injured. This does not include the demolished buildings and mosques,” he said. “We destroyed their tunnels, their positions in the Syrian operation against the terrorists,” stated Yıldırım and added that “We will destroy them all.”

Sarp Özer, a reporter for the state-run Anadolu news agency, was also injured on Friday in a rocket attack in the Afrin region of Syria. Özer, who was covering the Turkish military operation in Afrin, sustained injuries to his arm and leg when a rocket reportedly fired by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia landed nearby. Özer was taken to Kilis Hospital following the attack.

On Jan. 21, two rockets fired by YPG militants killed one Syrian national and injured 46 civilians, including 16 Syrians in Reyhanlı. On Wednesday, five rockets landed in the district, killing a 17-year-old high school student and injuring two others. In Kilis, two people were killed and 11 others were injured when a rocket fired from YPG-held areas in Afrin hit a 17th century mosque in the city center on Jan. 24 while prayers were ongoing.

Pentagon on Thursday condemned attacks by the PKK/YPG on the Turkish border province of Kilis. Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said the Pentagon condemned “any attack targeting Turkey.” Speaking about the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG militants, McKenzie said the US will retrieve weapons given to the SDF only after the fight against ISIL terrorists is over.

Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White said the US will continue working with Turkey regarding PKK terrorism inside the Turkish borders. “Turkey is a NATO country and we do not always see everything in the same way but we’re working together. We have also worked with the Turks and continue to work regarding the (PKK) insurgency inside (Turkish) borders. But today we need all parties in Syria to focus on the fight against ISIL,” said White.

US military support for the PYD has long been a major reason for tension between Ankara and Washington. The US relies on YPG fighters as the main ground force in fight against ISIL, while Turkey argues that “one terrorist group cannot be used to confront another terrorist group.”

Dr. Ciwan Mihemed has issued a statement on Friday in the name of the Afrin Hospital and said that 127 civilians, including women and children, have been killed and a further 168 civilians have been wounded so far during 14 days of the campaign conducted by Turkish military and FSA militants in Afrin.

YPG CLAIMS KURDISH MILITANT MUTILATED BY FSA 

Kurdish forces in Syria said on Friday one of their fighters was mutilated by Turkey-backed FSA militants, referencing a video circulating on social media. The Kurdish-led administration of northeast Syria said Barin Kobane, a fighter with the Kurdish YPJ militia, was killed by Turkey-backed rebels who “played with her corpse and cut it up” as cameras rolled. The YPJ is the all-female affiliate of the Kurdish YPG militia. “We hold the Turkish government responsible for this heinous act. We salute the soul of the free resistance (fighter),” it said.

The footage showed a bloodied body on the floor. Parts of her torso appeared to have been cut. The video has caused anger amongst the Kurdish population of northern Syria, a witness said. Memorial pictures of her are being circulated widely on social media.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said she was killed during fighting in the north of the Afrin region near the Turkish border where Turkey-backed forces have taken some territory since launching its operation last month. Kobane was in her mid-twenties and joined the YPJ in 2015, a YPG official said. He said she was killed alongside three other fighters near the town of Bülbül.

Meanwhile, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HPD) co-chair Serpil Kemalbay said on Friday that Turkey is massacring civilians in Afrin and the people of Afrin are using their right of self-defense.  Speaking in a conference in Ankara, Kemalbay criticized Turkish government for its attack in Afrin and accused Turkish army of “massacring civilians” in the region.

Kemalbay said that Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling AKP need war and conflict in order to remain in power and stated that “Therefore they attack not only to our party but to journalists, academics and doctors. But no matter how many prisons you construct, you can’t take millions of defenders of peace as hostage.”

About the attacks on Afrin Kemalbay said that “The invasion attempt on Afrin is not legitimate. Afrin is Syrian territory. The people of Afrin who defended their rights during the times of civil war tries to construct a democratic new way of life. People have come together to establish a democratic system. The ruling powers are concentrated to destroy Kurdish demand of forming a democratic self-governing system and expand it nationwide in Syria. Because this demand poses a threat to them.”

On the contrary, President Erdoğan’s spokesman İbrahim Kalın has claimed that YPG/PKK is using human shields to stop “Turkey’s lawful counter-terrorist operation” in northwestern Syria. “The use of human shields to stop Turkey’s lawful steps in the region should ring alarm bells in the White House, which has been told by policymakers that the YPG was a reliable ally in Syria,” wrote Kalın in a guest column for CNN International online. Kalın went on to warn that “those who fail to see the PKK threat in Syria are making a historic mistake.”

“Some Western allies see this as a distraction from the fight against ISIL, but this is not true,” wrote Kalın and added that “Eliminating all terrorist threats from Syria should be welcome as a right step to ensure peace and security and protect Syria’s territorial integrity.”

Kalın argued that Turkey’s current Operation Olive Branch, meant to snuff out the terrorist threat in northwestern Syria, is fully legitimate within the framework of self-defense as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter. Citing Turkey’s fight against ISIL as part of the international coalition, he said Turkey expects its allies to treat the PKK and its terrorist offshoots like the PYD/PKK and YPG/PKK the same way. “It is deadly wrong to think that the PKK does not pose a threat to Western countries,” Kalın said, stressing that it was not only Turkey’s problem. “Terrorism is terrorism and ought to be fought in a determined and consistent manner.”

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey as well as the US and EU. In its terror campaign against Turkey, which has lasted for more than three decades, over 40,000 people have been killed.

On the other hand, the Syrian government on Thursday described the Turkish military operation on the Syrian city of Afrin as an “occupation,” vowing to address the matter as such. “The Turkish military operation in northern Syria is a flagrant aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic and its territorial integrity,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published by state media. “The presence of any foreign military forces on its territory without explicit consent is aggression and occupation and will be dealt with on this basis,” the statement added.

Last month, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Damascus would not stand idle with a Turkish military incursion into its Kurdish-populated north and was “ready to destroy Turkish air targets.” The military attack on Afrin is now in its second week as dozens of civilians, including children and women, were reported to have been killed by Turkish air raids and shelling. Syria has yet to respond militarily.

On Friday, the Turkish General Staff said that at least 823 PYD/PKK and allegedly ISIL militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin region. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured. In a statement, the military added that the Turkish Armed Forces had destroyed six “terrorist targets” and “neutralised 12 terrorists” in overnight airstrikes. Operation Olive Branch is “continuing successfully as planned”, the statement added.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched military operation in Afrin. According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to “protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.” The military also claimed only terror targets are being destroyed and that the “utmost care” is being taken to avoid harming civilians.

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