Top general at border as Afrin op intensifies
The military operation into Afrin against People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants intensified on Feb. 11, one day after the deadliest attack since “Operation Olive Branch” began, as the Turkish Chief of General Staff paid a visit to the southern province of Hatay to inspect troops taking part in the operation.
According to a statement by the Turkish General Staff, Hulusi Akar was accompanied by Commander of the Turkish Land Forces Gen. Yaşar Güler and Turkish Air Forces Commander Gen. Hasan Küçükakyüz.
They met the troops and were briefed regarding the ongoing operation.
Meanwhile, Turkish Army and Free Syrian Army forces cleared another village from YPG militants in northwestern Syria, near the Turkish border.
In the region, the armies launched a joint operation in the village of Haji İskender in the west of Jinderes, western Afrin.
Since the beginning of the operation, the Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army have managed to capture 48 different strategic areas from militants including a town center, 31 villages, three rural areas and 13 hills.
Moreover, at least 1,266 People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin district, the Turkish General Staff said on Feb. 11.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question were either surrendered or were killed or captured.
In a statement, the military said the Turkish Armed Forces had destroyed 19 YPG targets and “neutralized” 86 more militants during operations since Feb. 10.
Turkish jets on Feb. 11 destroyed targets in northwestern Syria within the range of the southern Turkish border district of Hatay.
Turkish artillery units hit YPG forces in rural western Afrin within range and sight of Hatay’s Reyhanlı, Hassa and Kırıkhan districts.
As Turkish Armed Forces continued to deploy military vehicles at the border close to the operation area, smoke was seen rising from various fields in Syria.
Meanwhile, a total of 12 Turkish soldiers were killed and 11 others were wounded in “Operation Olive Branch” carried out by the Turkish army in Syria’s Afrin district on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11, the Turkish Armed Forces announced in separate statements.
Three Turkish soldiers were killed and five soldiers were wounded in Afrin on Feb. 10, an initial military statement said.
A follow-up statement released on the same day said two more Turkish soldiers were killed and four were wounded in the military operations.
Another statement said four soldiers were killed and two more were wounded.
The soldiers were killed in clashes with People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants around a hill near Afrin.
Two Turkish Armed Forces personnel were killed when an attack helicopter crashed in Afrin during the ongoing operation on Feb. 10, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said.
One chopper belonging to the Turkish Armed Forces was “shot down” during Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch,” Erdoğan said on Feb. 10, speaking in Istanbul.
“[The perpetrators] will pay a heavy price [for downing the Turkish helicopter],” Erdoğan said, speaking at a provincial meeting for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“Of course, all of this will happen. We are at war,” Erdoğan added.
On Feb. 11, one Turkish soldier was also killed in a clash with YPG militants.
Funeral ceremonies were held for 12 killed soldiers in their hometowns as numbers of Turkish figures from the political and business community expressed their condolences.
The Turkish General Staff on Feb. 10 also said at least 1,141 YPG militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of “Operation Olive Branch” in Afrin.
In a statement, the military said the Turkish Armed Forces had “destroyed” 36 YPG targets and “neutralized” 79 YPG militants in airstrikes that were carried out overnight on Feb. 10.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” to clear YPG militants from Afrin in northwestern Syria.