9 Dead, 13 Injured as Turkey’s Airstrikes Pound Syria’s Kurd Area

The Turkish operation was called “Operation Olive Branch”.

3 min read
Hindi Female

Turkey opened a new front in Syria's nearly seven-year-old war on Saturday, launching airstrikes against a US-backed Kurdish militia in Afrin province that raise the prospect of a further strain on relations between Ankara and Washington.

The operation, dubbed "Operation Olive Branch" by Ankara, pits Turkey against Kurdish fighters allied to the United States at a time when ties between Turkey and Washington – NATO allies and members of the coalition against ISIS – appear dangerously close to a breaking point.


The strikes on the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia hit some 108 targets, the Turkish military said. On land, the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army rebels were also helping the operation in Afrin, a senior Turkish official said.

The weakening of the region with artillery fire is under way. The first stage was carried out by aerial forces of the military and nearly all of the targets were destroyed.
Binali Yildirim, Prime Minister

From Sunday, land forces would also carry out "necessary activities", depending on developments, he said.

The YPG said the strikes killed six civilians and three fighters. One of the fighters belonged to the YPG and two were from its all-female affiliate, YPG spokesman Birusk Hasaka said. The attacks also wounded 13 civilians, he said.

We will defeat this aggression, like we have defeated other such assaults.

Differences over Syria policy have complicated Turkey's already difficult relationship with NATO ally the United States, which has backed the YPG, seeing it as an effective partner in the fight against ISIS.


On Saturday, US reaction to the strikes was cautious.

The Pentagon said the United States urged those involved to focus instead on the fight against ISIS. A Pentagon official said: "We encourage all parties to avoid escalation and to focus on the most important task of defeating ISIS."

A US State Department official said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had spoken to the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers, but gave no details on the calls.


Warplanes, Buses

Reuters cameramen in Hassa, near the Syria border, heard the sound of heavy bombardment and saw thick plumes of smoke rising from the Syrian side of the border. The warplanes appeared to be striking from the Turkish side, one of the cameramen said.

Tanks and buses filled with Turkish soldiers and pick-up trucks carrying members of the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army made their way along a 15-km highway in Turkey towards the border, the cameraman said.

Villages in nearby towns came out to cheer them on, waving Turkish flags. “The best soldiers are our soldiers,” some of the villagers shouted in support.  

Warplanes pounded parts of Afrin city and villages nearby, while there were skirmishes with Turkish forces and their rebel allies at the edge of Afrin, a YPG official in the area said.

Authorities in the Afrin region say more than a million people live there, many displaced from other parts of Syria.

"Most of the wounded are civilians," said Hevi Mustafa, a top member of the civilian administration that governs Afrin.

There are clashes. There’s artillery and shelling. Our units are fiercely responding to this occupation.

The attacks follow weeks of warnings against the YPG in Syria from President Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers. Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, three-decade insurgency in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

(This article has been edited for length)

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Topics:  United States   Turkey   NATO 

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