Seven Turkish soldiers killed in military operation targeting Afrin as civilian casualties soar

File photo.

Seven more Turkish soldiers were killed on Saturday in Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militia inside Syria, The Turkish General Staff said, bringing the number killed Turkish soldiers so far in the incursion to 13.

The army said that one of the soldiers was killed in a clash and another on the border area, while five were killed when a Turkish army tank had been hit in a separate attack, Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu quoted the statement as saying. According to the statement, another soldier was killed during clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants.

A total of 899 PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and allegedly ISIL militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin region on Jan. 20, according to the Turkish General Staff on Saturday. 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 by the Turkish General Staff it said that a total of 538 terrorist targets were also hit since the beginning of the Operation Oliven Branch. The statement said that since the beginning of the operation 13 Turkish soldiers had been martyred and 57 wounded.

Meanwhile, according to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency (AA), the PYD/PKK has been continuing to target civilians in Turkey’s bordering Hatay and Kilis provinces. PKK/PYD carried out 90 attacks in the provinces in the last two weeks from Syria’s Afrin region. A total of 7 people, including 2 Syrian nationals, lost their lives in the attacks and 107 people including children were wounded.

AA reported that out of the 90 attacks, 88 were rocket attacks, one was a missile attack and another was a mortar shell directed at civilians in Turkey; 34 of these attacks took place in Kilis city center while 56 were carried out in Hatay’s Reyhanlı, Hassa and Kırıkhan districts.

Teenager Fatma Avlar, 51-year-old Syrian asylum seeker Nader Al Fares, Rifat Sinirli and Ahmet Şanverdi were killed during rocket attacks in Reyhanlı while Şahin Elitaş, a 30-year-old Turkish Electricity Distribution Company (TEDAŞ) worker, was killed in the mortar attack on Kırıkhan; 68 others were injured in the incidents. In the attacks on Reyhanlı, 320 houses or businesses were damaged while 33 vehicles became unusable.

Kilis was hit by 34 rockets, killing Muzaffer Aydemir (72), and Syrian Tariq Tabbaq (28); 39 others were wounded. The attacks on Kilis left nine houses, a mosque and 12 vehicles destroyed.

On the other hand, according to Ancela Reşo, co-chair of the Health Council of Afrin Canton, 150 civilians were killed and more than 298 others were wounded as a result of attacks by the Turkish army and FSA in Afrin. Reşo claimed that “The AKP government targets civilians, children and women.” Reşo has also stated that the most of the victims are Arabs who have fled to safe territory of Afrin since the beginning of the war in Syria.

“Turkish troops are getting closer to Syria’s Afrin city center,” said Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday as speaking at a local congress of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the eastern province of Bitlis and added that “We are advancing into Afrin city center. We are close.”

The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on Jan. 20, 2018 launched “Operation Olive Branch” in Afrin against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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