President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pledged late Monday that Turkey will take the necessary steps in Syria as soon as possible following the latest attack by the PKK terrorist group’s Syrian offshoot, the YPG, which killed two Turkish police officers.
Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Erdoğan emphasized Turkey's resolve to eliminate the YPG threat.
"We have run out of patience," he said.
"Turkey is determined to eliminate threats arising from northern Syria, either together with forces active there, or with our own means."
Two Turkish police officers were killed and two others were wounded after the YPG carried out an attack in Azaz, northern Syria, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.
The YPG/PKK terrorists attacked an armored vehicle with a guided missile in the Operation Euphrates Shield area, the ministry said.
The attack was launched from the Tal Rifaat region, it said.
Following Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in 2019, Turkey agreed with Russia that terrorist elements be withdrawn from the region, however, the YPG still has a presence in Tal Rifat.
“All YPG elements and their weapons will be removed from Manbij and Tal Rifaat,” the agreement said, adding, “Both sides will take necessary measures to prevent infiltrations of terrorist elements.”
Initially, one officer died immediately after the attack and three others were wounded, but another officer succumbed to his wounds later on.
Ammunition that landed separately in two areas caused explosions in the southern Gaziantep province's Karkamış district, across the border from Syria's Jarablus, the governor's office said.
A third piece of ammunition landed within Jarablus, it said, adding that it was believed to be launched from a region controlled by the U.S.-backed YPG.
Turkey has been carrying out operations against terrorist groups in northern Iraq and Syria, particularly the YPG/PKK.
Based on Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield on Aug. 24, 2016, using its right of self-defense to eradicate terrorist elements that threatened its national security, primarily Daesh, and ensure the security of the border in northern Syria.
On the first day of the operation, the Syrian town of Jarablus, which borders the Karkamış district of Turkey's southeastern Gaziantep province, was liberated from terrorist elements. On Feb. 23, 2017, the northwestern town of al-Bab was freed from Daesh terrorists.
During the operation, an area of 2,055 square kilometers (793 square miles) between the two towns was also cleared from terrorist groups in 217 days. Turkish soldiers and the Syrian National Army (SNA) eliminated more than 3,000 Daesh terrorists in almost seven months.
On March 29, 2017, then-Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım announced that the operation was successfully completed. At the end of the operation, Turkey focused on providing security and stability in the region to create the necessary conditions for the return of civilians displaced due to terrorism.
To that end, security forces and officials trained in Turkey started operating in the region. Through Turkey's initiatives and support in health, education and public services, the population in the region has reached almost 2 million.
Districts of northern Syria under Turkish control are regularly targeted by the YPG, which seized large swathes of land in the northern parts of the war-torn country with the Assad regime's blessing when clashes intensified in 2012.
The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the U.S., Turkey and the European Union, and Washington's support for its Syrian affiliate has been a major strain on bilateral relations with Ankara.
The U.S. primarily partnered with the YPG in northeastern Syria in its fight against the Daesh terrorist group. On the other hand, Turkey strongly opposed the YPG's presence in northern Syria. Ankara has long objected to the U.S. support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Turkey and that terrorizes local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite its NATO ally's security concerns. Underlining that one cannot support one terrorist group to defeat another, Turkey conducted its own counterterrorism operations, over the course of which it has managed to remove a significant number of terrorists from the region.
Last week, Ilham Ahmed, one of the ringleaders of the YPG terrorist group, stated that the U.S. would continue to play a role in Syria to allegedly fight Daesh and develop infrastructure.
"They said they are going to stay in Syria and will not withdraw – they will keep fighting," Ahmed said. "Before they were unclear under (former President Donald) Trump and during the Afghan withdrawal, but this time they made everything clear," Ahmed told Reuters.
Syria's war has killed more than 387,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.
A car bomb also killed four people and wounded six others in Afrin on Monday, according to local sources. It is suspected that the YPG, which frequently attacks civilians, has carried out the act.
Local people living in areas held by the YPG have long suffered from its atrocities, as the terrorist organization has a notorious record of human rights abuses, including kidnappings, recruitment of child soldiers, torture, ethnic cleansing and forced displacement in Syria. The YPG has forced young people from areas under its control to join its forces within its "compulsory conscription."
Turkey has been fighting the PKK and its affiliates not only in cross-border operations in northern Iraq and Syria but also within its border.
Turkish security forces regularly conduct counterterrorism operations in Turkey's eastern and southeastern provinces where the PKK has attempted to establish a strong presence and bases.
In recent years, Turkey has stepped up operations at home and across its borders against the terrorist group and has also convinced an increasing number of its members to quit the PKK.
According to the Turkish president, 153 terror affiliates laid down their weapons and surrendered to security forces in 2021 alone, and more than a thousand young individuals were brought back in the past five years.
Turkey has been fighting terror groups such as the PKK, Daesh and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the president said.
In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
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