Civilians, historical and religious structures, including churches, were undamaged in Turkey's anti-terror Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, the country's Defense Ministry announced yesterday.
As announced before the launch of Operation Peace Spring, Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have targeted neither civilians, nor historical, cultural, or religious buildings - nor harmed the environment, the ministry said in a statement.
As was the case in previous cross-border anti-terror operations, namely Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, these principles were maintained, even on occasions when such care caused delays in operations, it added.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9, in order to clear northeastern Syria, east of the Euphrates River, of terrorists and to create a safe zone along the border, in turn, paving the way for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees.
Ankara has repeatedly expressed its determination to clear northern Syria of both Daesh and PKK-linked terrorist groups.
The ministry said the PKK’s Syrian wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), and its supporters have attempted to slander the operation before it even started, claiming that Turkey would target Kurdish people and other ethnic and religious groups, especially Christians.
They attempted to conceal their crimes against humanity from the world, it added.
"However, during Operation Peace Spring, Turkish Armed Forces unmasked the crimes of the terrorist YPG and its supporters and it was revealed that the terrorist organization had converted a church in Tal Abyad into a shell depot and had hung posters of terrorist Abdullah Öcalan in certain churches," the statement said.
The ministry published photos of the churches in Tal Abyad and Rasulayn on its website to show "that they have not been damaged in any way during the course of Operation Peace Spring."
"Our soldiers in the region give consideration to all ethnic and religious structures, and great efforts are made to meet all their needs, including needs arising from the pre-operation period," the ministry said.
Ankara and Washington reached a deal on Oct. 17 to pause the operation for 120 hours to allow for the withdrawal of YPG terrorists from the planned safe zone.
On Oct. 22, Turkey also reached an agreement with Russia on a 10-point plan to force the YPG to withdraw from the planned terror-free zone.
Over the course of over 30-year-long terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK - listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union - has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.