Syrian civilians have started returning to Afrin: Turkish army chief
ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said on March 22 that civilians have begun returning to areas cleared of People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants in Afrin in northwestern Syria, which Turkey on March 18 declared control over amid its ongoing “Operation Olive Branch.”
According to a statement from the General Staff, Akar said the main goal of the operation was to ensure the safe and peaceful return of civilians who had “faced persecution and oppression of the terror group,” referring to the YPG.
The remarks came during his visit to military units, command centers and headquarters in the southern border provinces of Hatay and Kilis.
He was accompanied by Turkish Land Forces Commander Gen. Yaşar Güler, Air Forces Commander Gen. Hasan Kücükakyüz, Naval Forces Commander Adm. Adnan Özbal and 2nd Army Commander Lt. Gen. Metin Temel.
The Turkish military has been collaborating with public institutions to provide medical services and other support to the civilians, Akar said.
He added that 157 military personnel who were injured in Afrin voluntarily returned to the battlefield after receiving treatment in hospitals.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, U.N. Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the U.N. charter, and respect for Syria’s territorial integrity, he said.
According to the General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to “protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.”
The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and “utmost care” is being taken to not harm civilians.