Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has implied on Tuesday that the Turkish military’s operations in Syria are going to be longstanding. President Erdoğan’s Spokesman İbrahim Kalın has stated after a top security summit held on the 4th day of operations in Afrin that the Turkish military’s operations in Syria will continue “until all terrorists are fully eliminated” and around 3,5 million Syrian refugees return to their homes
“Our operations will continue until the separatist terror organization is fully cleared from the region and around 3,5 million Syrians who are now sheltered in Turkey are able to securely return to their homeland,” Kalın said in a written statement on Tuesday after the summit. The meeting was convened under the leadership of President Erdoğan and with the participation of senior military and civilian officials.
Echoing Kalın, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also vowed that the operation will continue “until the last terrorist is eradicated in the region.” “Whatever it takes, we will abolish the terror corridor they are trying to build in the region,” Yıldırım said, calling on the YPG “to drop its arms and stop causing trouble.”
Kalın said the operation in Afrin is going “successfully and as planned,” with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) continuing their advance into the enclave. He stressed that Turkish troops are paying “utmost care to distinguish civilians from terrorists” and are also working to deliver necessary humanitarian assistance to locals.
He reiterated that Turkey’s priority during the operation is to maintain security at its borders and secure the life and property of its citizens. “Operation Olive Branch is being carried out against terror organizations, not against any ethnic group. Similar operations by Turkey until today have never brought about atrocities, blood or tears. To the contrary, they have brought peace and well-being to the people living in those areas,” Kalın defended.
He also urged media institutions to be “careful against disinformation, untrue and distorted news and footage” of the operation, saying legal action will be taken against any such attempts.
Turkey seeks to avoid any clash with US, Russian or Syrian forces but will take any steps needed for its security, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday. Çavuşoğlu discussed Turkish military campaign in Syria with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of “the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons” hosted by the French Foreign Ministry in Paris on Tuesday.
Tillerson announced Monday that the US hopes to work with Turkey to try to create a security zone in northwestern Syria to meet its legitimate security needs. The United States has told Turkey, “let us see if we can work with you to create the kind of security zone you might need,” he said, according to a reporter traveling with him to Paris.
“So we’re in discussions with the Turks, and some of the forces on the ground as well, as to how we can stabilize this situation and meet Turkey’s legitimate concerns for their security,” Tillerson added.
TURKISH GENERAL STAFF: “260 TERRORISTS NEUTRALIZED”
Meanwhile, Turkish General Staff stated on Tuesday that a total of 260 PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG militants have been neutralized since the beginning of the Operation Olive Branch in Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said 23 civilians had been killed in Turkish shelling and air strikes, and thousands were fleeing the fighting. The Observatory has also said that 43 rebel fighters fighting alongside the Turks had also been killed, as well as 38 on the Kurdish side.
Turkish artillery fired into Syria’s Kurdish-held border cities on Tuesday, causing casualties and significant damage, Syrian Kurdish authorities said. In Syria’s predominantly Kurdish northeast city of Qamishlo, Turkish artillery early Tuesday morning fired two mortar shells on the Hileliyeh neighborhood near the border with Turkey.
Northern Iraq-based Kurdistan 24 news outlet has reported that two children had been wounded and several houses damaged. Clashes erupted between Turkish border guards and militants of the YPG. No casualties were reported.
Monday night, the Syrian border towns of Amuda, Derik, and Sarı Kani (known in Arabic as Ras Al Ayn), were also shelled by Turkish artillery. On the outskirts of Amuda, Turkish artillery fired six mortar shells on the villages of Hamdoun and Talmozan, eyewitnesses in the area said. The bombardment significantly damaged dozens of houses in the two villages.
In Sari Kani, Turkish artillery fired three mortar shells on the neighborhoods of Hawarna, Mahatta, and Sawame. Three civilians were wounded in the shelling. In Derik, Turkish artillery targeted YPG positions in two villages around the town. No YPG casualties have been reported up to date. The Kurdish authorities have not released any statements so far. Kurdistan24 reported that, so far, dozens of civilians have lost their lives in the Afrin district, and dozens more were wounded.
SYRIAN KURDS URGE MOBILIZATION AGAINST TURKISH FORCES
According to a report by Reuters, the Kurdish-led authorities of northeast Syria called on Tuesday for mass mobilization in defense of Syria’s Afrin region against a Turkish military offensive. “The will of the people cannot be vanquished,” the civilian administration said in a statement. “We call on all our noble people to defend Afrin and its pride, and to contribute in all related activities.”
Syrian Kurdish forces and their allies have set up three autonomous cantons in the north, including Afrin in the northwest, since the start of the Syrian conflict. They lie outside the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The Turkish state has been trying to enter north Syria for days, but it will not be able to,” said Siyamand Walat, the general commander of the self-defense forces in the north. “We have forces in Afrin, thousands… They are protecting the border and the people. Afrin is trained to endure,” Walat told Reuters. “(If necessary) all the soldiers here will go to Afrin… We are ready at any moment,” he said, on the sidelines of a rally in Hasaka city, some 350 km (215 miles) east of Afrin.
Also on Tuesday, a group of Kurds staged a protest in front of the Council of Europe (CoE) building in French city of Strasbourg. Kurdish representatives urged the CoE and United Nations (UN) “to stop Turkish invasion” in Afrin. The protestors held banners that read: “Stop Turkish invasion of Afrin”, “Yesterday Kobane, Today Afrin” and condemned Turkish government by chanting “Fascist Erdoğan”, “Terrorist Erdoğan.”
German Left Party deputy Gökay Akbulut, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies Filiz Kerestecioğlu, Feleknas Uca, Ertuğrul Kürkçü and Hisyar Özsoy were among the demonstrators.
Speaking at the protest, Akbulut called upon UN and UN Security Council to take a more active position to achieve peace in the region. Akbulut also criticized German Federal Government for their ties with Turkey.
Kerestecioglu pointed out recent arrests of people who shared messages on social media against invasion of Afrin and said, “Peace and the will for a new life cannot be banned.” Kerestecioglu said that freedom of Kurds and freedom of Turkish people will be achieved one day.
Turkey on Saturday launched military campaign named “Operation Olive Branch” to remove the PKK-affliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Afrin. According to the Turkish General Staff, the ongoing operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region. The military also said the “utmost importance” is being put on not harming civilians. Afrin has been under the control of the YPG since July 2012 when the regime of Bashar al-Assad left the city to the group without putting up a fight.