The Turkish military on Saturday denied that it had struck a hospital in Syria’s Afrin region, where it is waging a nearly two-month-old offensive against Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.
“Reports of a hospital bombing in Afrin by the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] are false,” the military said in a statement posted on its Twitter account, adding that Operation Olive Branch “has been conducted without harming any civilians, innocent people or the environment.” The military also said only terrorist targets are being destroyed and that “utmost care” is being taken to avoid harming any civilians.
“During the planning and conduct of the operation, only terrorists and their shelters, weapons and equipment are being targeted, while all necessary measures are being taken with utmost care and sensitivity in order not to harm civilian/innocent people and the environment,” said the TSK.
The Turkish General Staff also said in a statement on Saturday morning that a total of 3,567 militants have been “neutralized” since the start of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply that the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
The YPG and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a Turkish airstrike hit the main hospital in Afrin on Friday night, killing 16 people.
However, according to Kurdish sources, at 21:00 on Friday Turkish warplanes bombed the Avrin Hospital in the city center. At least 15 people were killed and several were wounded in the attack. According to the claims, the warplanes dropped three bombs on the hospital compound in which hundreds of patients were confined at the time of the attack.
Being the only health center with a trauma unit, almost all people who were wounded in Turkish attacks received treatment at Avrin Hospital.
Also, according to a report from the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF) on Saturday, the Turkish army targeted a tractor and another vehicle at the exit of the city on the 57th day of its military campaign in Afrin. Dozens of civilians including children were said to have been killed in the attack.
The report said thousands of civilians in Afrin city center are facing massacre as airstrikes on the city center continue. Contact is lost with central Afrin from time to time due to the interruption of telephone and Internet networks. Reports suggest that videos have been shot at the scene of the massacre and that attempts are being made to send them to news agencies. The report said the Turkish military campaign massacred 47 civilians in Friday’s attacks.
Since launching its ground offensive in Syria’s Afrin region in January, the Turkish military has driven YPG forces back from the Turkish border and advanced on the western and eastern flanks of the town of Afrin itself.
A spokeswoman for the UN human rights office said it had “deeply alarming reports” of civilians killed and wounded in Afrin, and of the Kurds preventing civilians from leaving.
The video footage of Afrin Hospital on 17 March 2018 at 09. 43 am. pic.twitter.com/Ht1X9hIVLv
— TSK (@TSKGnkur) March 17, 2018