Two Turkish soldiers were killed and five wounded on Sunday during Turkish military operation in Afrin province of northern Syria, according to a statement by Turkish General Staff. In a statement, the Turkish General Staff said the casualties occurred during clashes with PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and ISIL terror groups. Turkish military has lost 15 soldiers during the operation so far.
On Jan. 20, Turkish military launched “Operation Olive Branch” along with the Free Syrian Army to clear out PYD/PKK and allegedly ISIL terrorists from Afrin. As the operation entered the 16th day, the Turkish General Staff announced that at least 935 militants had been “neutralized” since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in Syria. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
If the PYD/PKK does not leave Syria’s Manbij, Turkey will move there and towards east of Euphrates River, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said Sunday. In remarks made to CNN Turk, Bozdağ, who is also a spokesman for the government, said the PYD/PKK had to leave Manbij, a strategic city west of the Euphrates in northern Syria. “If they do not leave Manbij, we will move into Manbij and towards the east of Euphrates,” he said.
The deputy premier said the operation would continue until terrorism, a threat to both Turkey and its neighbors, was completely eradicated. “It [the operation] will last as long as it is necessary. This is a long-running fight,” he said.
The deputy prime minister also gave information about the casualties in the operation, saying so far, 13 Turkish troops had been killed and 39 injured. He added 30 FSA fighters had also been killed, and 158 others wounded.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım visited a military command center in the southern Hatay province on Sunday as Operation Olive Branch continues in northern Syria. During his visit to the Second Army Command, PM Yıldırım was accompanied by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs, and Communications Ahmet Arslan, and Hatay Governor Erdal Ata. Yıldırım was reportedly updated on the progress of the operation by the 2nd Army Command Commander Lt. Gen. İsmail Metin Temel and other military commanders.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported that Turkish soldiers and Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants took control of another strategic hill in northwestern Syria on Sunday. Located in the southern Raju township in western Afrin, Hill 1027 was captured. So far, 33 areas – among them 21 villages, settlements and 10 strategic mountains and hills located around Afrin – have been freed from the terror group.
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 oppression and cruelty of terrorists.” The military also said only terror targets were being destroyed and that “utmost importance and sensitivity” was being given to not harm any civilian.
However, according to the Health Council of Afrin Canton, 129 civilians died and 320 others got wounded as a result Turkish military attacks on Afrin province. Afrin Health Council Co-chair Ancela Reşo stated that 129 people including women and children have lost their life so far, while 320 other civilians got wounded. Reşo called on the international community, human rights organizations and the Red Cross to provide medical aid for Afrin.