As Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, which aims to clear terrorist elements from its borders to protect national security and ensure the return of Syrian refugees, continues a week in, the PKK terror group’s Syrian branch - the People’s Protection Units (YPG) - continues to attack civilians and residential places.
Since the launch of the operation on Oct. 9, attacks by the terrorist group have gained new momentum, making life unlivable for the locals in the region.
Six civilians were killed and 15 injured by YPG artillery fire and heat-seeking missiles in residential areas in northern Syria which were once occupied by Daesh terrorists and then cleared by Turkey's anti-terror Operation Euphrates Shield. Terrorists targeted the Gandura neighborhood of the Jarablus district, held by Syrian armed opposition forces. Six civilians were killed in the attack, with 13 injured. The YPG terrorists also attacked Azaz province, firing four artillery shells which wounded two additional civilians.
On Monday, the terrorist group also injured three children in a separate attack on Jarablus, located in the Operation Euphrates Shield zone.
Education was suspended for two days in the northern Syrian town of Jarablus, held by the Syrian armed opposition, due to attacks from the YPG terrorist group.
In addition to civilians, soldiers were also targeted. A Turkish soldier was killed and eight others injured on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry announced.
The casualties were caused by mortar and cannon attacks by PKK and YPG terrorists from Syria's Manbij, in the Operation Peace Spring zone, according to the ministry statement.
Speaking on his way home from the 7th Summit of the Turkic Council in the Azerbaijani capital Baku, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan touched on a variety of subjects such as Turkey’s ongoing anti-terror operation in northern Syria, the YPG terror group’s mortar attacks in Turkey’s southern provinces and upcoming meetings with U.S. officials.
Erdoğan said late Tuesday that Ankara was pressured to halt its counterterrorism operation in northern Syria but was not worried over sanctions as the government was determined to eliminate the terror corridor near its borders.
“They pressure us to halt the operation, announce sanctions,” he said, referring to Western countries.
“Our goal is clear. We are not worried over any sanctions,” Erdoğan asserted, adding the YPG and PKK were losing ground as Operation Peace Spring continued successfully.
He stressed that the U.S. urged Turkey to declare a cease-fire so it could act as a mediator between the conflicting parties, but he rejected this offer, as Turkey would not “sit down at the table with terror groups.”
Erdoğan went on to say that U.S. mediation between Turkey and the YPG and PKK terror groups would not be reasonable in terms of political science and war law.
"No cease-fire is possible in Syria until the People's Protection Units (YPG) evacuate the border area," he said, adding: "I told them that Turkey will not negotiate with terrorists."
Erdoğan said the aim of Operation Peace Spring was for the YPG to move beyond 32 kilometers into Syria from the border.
Regarding the key town of Manbij, Erdoğan said that terrorists should not remain there. "The Assad regime entering Manbij is not [a] very negative [development], but the YPG must get out," Erdoğan said. However, he added that talks with U.S. and Russian on Manbij and Ayn Al-Arab continued.
On Tuesday, U.S. forces announced their withdrawal from Manbij. U.S. forces had been allied with the YPG terrorist group to defeat Daesh, an alliance Turkey has long criticized as immoral and irrational.
Following the withdrawal of U.S. forces, Syrian regime forces entered Manbij and captured control of the city.
Erdoğan on Tuesday said Turkey aims to clear northern Syria of terrorists stretching from the city of Manbij to the Iraqi-Turkish border and to provide the voluntary resettlement of around 3 million Syrians.
On the topic of sanctions, Erdoğan was unfazed. He said Turkey was not worried about sanctions.
Erdoğan's comments come a day after the U.S. announced sanctions on two Turkish ministries and three senior government officials over the anti-terror operation in northeastern Syria.
The operation, conducted in line with the country's right to self-defense borne out of international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions, aims to establish a terror-free safe zone for Syrians return in the area east of the Euphrates River controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by YPG terrorists.
A total of 637 YPG terrorists have been killed since Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, the Defense Ministry said yesterday.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union, has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, resulting in the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
U.S. trained the YPG for potential Turkish op in Syria: report
Foreign Policy magazine reported Tuesday that U.S. forces trained the SDF for a possible operation by Turkish forces in northeastern Syria.
Citing a U.S. Army officer who worked with the group, the magazine said the SDF was taught sophisticated battlefield tactics, including how to build a network of tunnels beneath key towns in northeast Syria as a contingency against a Turkish military campaign.
The officer told Foreign Policy that the group started to work on tunnels after Turkey seized Afrin in Syria in 2018.
The officer also said U.S. troops conducted several rehearsals with the SDF on how to coordinate in case of a Turkish operation as well as training to build a "defense-in-depth," a military strategy that seeks to cause a delay to an attacking force.
A former U.S. Army officer who also worked with the SDF confirmed the "group built tunnels as a contingency" against Turkey, said the report.
It added that the tunnels and other defenses were likely set up as part of preparations for an eventual U.S. withdrawal.
Erdoğan to visit Russia on Putin's invitation, discuss Syria
Meanwhile, it was also reported that Erdoğan was invited by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss the need to prevent armed clashes between Turkey and the Syrian regime, the Kremlin said in a statement late Tuesday.
According to the statement, in a phone call with Erdoğan, Putin invited the Turkish leader for a working visit in the coming days.
The two also discussed Operation Peace Spring's contribution to Syrian territorial integrity and the political solution process.
Russia is a crucial regional actor for Turkey. The two countries have led diplomatic efforts to reach a political solution for ending the years-long conflict in war-torn Syria.
Turkey has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, pledging military action to prevent the formation of a "terrorist corridor" there.
Since 2016, Turkey's Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG and Daesh terrorists, making it possible for nearly 400,000 Syrians who fled the violence to return home.
International reactions to ongoing operation
Turkey’s self-defense efforts against terrorist groups also continue to receive some unfair reactions from the international community.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday he will rally NATO allies to take action against Turkey during the transatlantic alliance's defense ministerial next week.
"I will be visiting @NATO next week where I plan to press our other NATO allies to take collective & individual diplomatic & economic measures" in response to Turkey's Operation Peace Spring, Esper said on Twitter.
NATO defense ministers are set to convene in Brussels next Thursday through Friday as Turkey vows to continue its operation in northeastern Syria.
Norway, a NATO member, earlier Tuesday criticized Turkey’s anti-terror operation but dismissed calls for suspending Ankara from the alliance.
"I think it’s better to have Turkey inside NATO than outside NATO," Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. "It’s important to have them into our family, and discussion. I think it’s easier to work with them that way."
The EU is not planning any economic sanctions on Turkey at the moment, a senior German diplomat said on Tuesday.
Briefing reporters ahead of an EU leaders’ summit this week, the senior diplomat said the leaders would discuss Turkey’s ongoing anti-terrorist operation in Syria, together with other major EU and international topics, during their two-day summit beginning on Thursday.
“The EU has made no plans so far to impose economic sanctions on Turkey,” he said but stressed that the member states oppose Turkey’s military action and are closely watching developments.
EU foreign ministers on Monday spoke of limiting arms exports to Turkey, expressing worries over a humanitarian crisis and instability in the region. But no EU-wide arms embargo emerged from the meeting.
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