Turkey ‘neutralizes 595 terrorists’ in Syria op
The number of terrorists Turkey has “neutralized” in its anti-terror military operation into northeast Syria has risen to 595, the Defense Ministry announced on Oct. 15.
“The total number of neutralized PKK/PYD-YPG terrorists reached 595 in the successfully ongoing ‘Operation Peace Spring’,” the ministry said in a tweet.
The Turkish operation entered its seventh day on Oct. 15.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar briefed Turkey’s political parties regarding the developments of the operation. Akar paid a visit to main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, opposition İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy chairman Semih Yalçın. Akar met with Yalçın due to the health condition of MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli.
“Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain are under our control. Works regarding the region’s control are ongoing. Our fight here is not just against the YPG; it is against all terrorist organizations, especially Daesh,” Akar told reporters on Oct. 14, using the Arabic acronym of ISIL.
“Apart from this, we have no relation with any ethnic or religious group here. In this sense, their security is important to us as well. We are doing everything in our power for the safety, security, and peace of our Kurdish brothers and sisters in Turkey and northern Syria,” he said.
Regarding the recent news about emptied prisons holding ISIL members and their families, Akar said Turkey is “determined to show every effort.”
He added that there was only one prison in the region, and it was emptied out by YPG members.
“We detected these with photographs and footages. We are discussing it with relevant persons and will continue to do so,” Akar had said.
As the operation is ongoing, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is expected to brief parliament on Oct. 16 regarding the latest developments.
'Operation cleared 1000 sq km are from terrorists so far'
In the meantime, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 15 said that the Turkish operation cleared some 1,000 square km in northern Syria of separatist terrorists.
“As of this morning [on Oct. 15], we have liberated around 1,000 square kilometer area from the occupation of the separatist terror group,” Erdoğan said during a speech at the 7th Summit of the Turkic Council in Azerbaijan's capital Baku.
He said Turkey aims to clear the area of terrorists from Manbij, Syria to the Iraqi-Turkish border and to provide voluntary resettlement of around 3 million Syrians to their home.
Erdoğan briefs Macron on Syria op
In a phone call, Erdoğan briefed his French counterpart about the aims of the country’s ongoing anti-terror operation in northern Syria, according to Turkey’s Communications Directorate.
Erdoğan told Emmanuel Macron about the threat that the YPG and ISIL in northern Syria pose to both Turkey’s security and Syria’s territorial integrity.
He also stressed the future contributions of “Operation Peace Spring” to both regional and global peace and stability.
Before the phone call, Macron had criticized the operation, claiming, in particular, it could help a revival of the terrorist group ISIL.
Turkey has pushed back against the criticisms, saying it expects its NATO allies to stand with it in fighting terrorism. He also accused countries that refuse to repatriate their nationals who joined ISIL— like France — of hypocrisy in anti-terrorist efforts.
Akar talks with his Russian, French counterparts
In the meantime, Akar on Oct. 14 held phone conversations with his Russian and French counterparts, the Defense Ministry said on Twitter.
The Turkish and French defense ministers spoke about defense and security matters, especially the Syria issue, according to the ministry
“Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had a conversation with French Defense Minister Florence Parly over the telephone,” the ministry said in a tweet.
“In the conversation, Ministers Akar and Parly exchanged information on defense and security matters, especially the Syria issue,” it added.
Akar also had a “constructive” telephone conversation on coordinating and developing activities with the Russian defense minister, he said on Oct. 14.
Speaking with reporters in the Turkish capital Ankara, Akar said he and Sergey Shoygu had exchanged information on Syria and their agenda there.
“We discussed what needs to be done [in Syria] to coordinate activities and develop them appropriately,” Akar said.
Akar did not mention to the reporters Turkey’s current anti-terror operation — launched last week — in northern Syria, but Turkey and Russia have a long history of working together for peace in Syria through the Astana process.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Chief of Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler also held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart on Oct. 14.
Güler and Gen. Valery Gerasimov spoke on the security situation in Syria and recent developments, read a Turkish General Staff statement.
Sanctions threats from the West
Turkey has been facing criticism from its European allies regarding the operation with warnings of possible sanctions.
The Turkish government, on the other hand, has been stressing that the country is carrying out its operation with respect to international law and the “self-defense” article of the U.N. Charter.
The EU Foreign Affairs Council said on Oct. 14 that Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria should be addressed through political and diplomatic means, not through military action.
The council said in a statement that Turkey should cease its anti-terror operation in northeastern Syria and withdraw its forces.
In the meantime, U.S. President Donald Trump on Oct. 14 said that he would impose sanctions on Turkey. Trump’s remarks were followed by the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions announcement on two Turkish ministries and three senior government officials.
Trump also said that he would stop negotiating with Turkey on a $100 billion trade deal, and boost tariffs on the country’s steel to 50 percent.
Timeline of ‘Operation Peace Spring’
Turkey on Oct. 9 kicked off “Operation Peace Spring” in a bid to provide border security and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees in the country.
Ankara has said the PKK and its extension, the YPG, constitute the biggest threat to Syria’s future, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity and unitary structure.
On the first day of the operation, the Turkish military advanced some seven kilometers into Tal Abyad.
YPG/PKK terrorists accelerated attacks on civilians in Şanlıurfa and Nusaybin district of Mardin, killing eight at the beginning of the operation and injuring 71, including Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency’s correspondents.
On the second day of the air and land operations, the SNA, which supported the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch Operations under the name of Free Syrian Army, entered Tal Abyad at noon and Ras al-Ayn in the evening.
The villages of al-Yabisah and Tal Fandar were the first cleared of terrorists as part of the operation; later, the villages of Musheirifa, Dadat, Bir Ashiq and Hamidiyah in Tal Abyad and Kishto in Ras al-Ayn were also cleared of terrorists.
The villages of Lower Kishto west of Ras al-Ayn, Barzan, Al Jadedah and Gisas were also rid of terrorists.
Meanwhile, the SNA disconnected a YPG/PKK supply line through Dirbasiye district in Al-Hasakah.
Asfar Najjar and Tal Halaf villages of Ras al-Ayn district in northern Syria were cleared of terrorists on the third day.
SNA forces are taking security precautions in rescued villages.
A Turkish soldier was killed, and three soldiers were wounded in a clash with YPG terrorists.
Four SNA soldiers were killed in an ambush on terrorists in Tal Abyad district and three others were injured.
Turkish warplanes entered east of Euphrates to a depth of 19 miles (30 kilometers) and hit YPG/PKK targets and around the town of Ayn Issa, affiliated with the YPG/PKK-occupied Raqqa.
On the sixth day of the operation, Turkish forces took control of the strategic M4 highway, which connects the Syrian districts of Manbij and Qamishli.
Reaching M4 – about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of the Turkish border - was a significant development in the operation as the highway connects northeastern Syria to the rest of the country.
Erdoğan has said that the operation would extend from Kobani in the west to Hasaka in the east and go some 30 kilometers (20 miles) into Syrian territory, with the town of Ras al-Ain now in Turkish control.
Turkey has taken central Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain since the start of the operation.
“Ras al-Ain’s residential center has been taken under control through the successful operations in the east of the Euphrates,” Turkey’s Defense Ministry has said.
The Turkish military and allied Syrian opposition forces have been advancing into villages around Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, under the cover of Turkish artillery and some airstrikes.
Besides the key border towns, Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), accompanied by the Syrian National Army (SNA) have liberated over 50 villages.
In the meantime, the United States said on Oct. 13 that it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria.