Resistance at the hands of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has allegedly prevented Turkish troops from advancing into northern Syria’s Afrin region, reports Kurdistan 24.
Ankara’s military claims their operation to invade the Syrian territory is “successfully continuing as planned.”
Citing the Turkish military, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reports Ankara’s operation to invade Afrin, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch,” is a triumph thus far.
Operation Olive Branch is “successfully continuing as planned,” the Turkish army reportedly said in a statement.
The news reports come as the Turkish military ardently denied allegations of civilian casualties and the use of chemical or biological weapons in the ongoing Afrin offensive, claiming it does not own banned arms in its arsenal.
“It is evident that these reports, based on lies and slander are spread by terrorist organizations and their supporters,” proclaimed the Turkish military in a statement issued Tuesday, according to Daily Sabah.
Turkey launched the Afrin offensive on January 20.
While Kurdish media suggests the Kurds are winning, Turkish media report otherwise—describing troops loyal to Ankara as the victors so far.
Ankara claimed that Kurdish fighters had only killed five Turkish soldiers and wounded another 41 as of Sunday, but Kurdish outlet Bas News quoted an official from Kurdish-held Afrin as saying “at least 310 Turkish fighters” had been killed during the same period.
Now, Hurriyet reports that, since the Afrin offensive began, Turkish troops have “neutralized” at least 649 Kurds linked to various militias, including the People’s Protection Units (YPG) that leads and makes up most of the SDF fighters.
Ankara uses the term “neutralized” to indicate enemies that the Turkish military has either killed, wounded, or captured, explains Hurriyet.
Turkey has long considered the YPG to be an affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which both Ankara and Washington have deemed as a terrorist organization.
The YPG is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that controls swathes of northern Syria, including Afrin.
“Some 649 targets of the PKK, KCK [Kurdistan Communities Union], PYD/YPG and ISIL [Islamic State] terror organizations have been destroyed,” the Turkish army said in a statement, according to Hurriyet.
The KCK refers to an umbrella organization founded by the terrorist PKK that encompasses various political groups across Kurdistan, which covers territory in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey.
Noting that it is taking the utmost care to avoid harming civilians, the Turkish military added, “The only ones being targeted are terrorists and any shelters, pits, weapons, vehicles, and equipment that belong to them.”
However, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a group that uses ground sources to monitor the ongoing conflict in the war-torn country, reported that the Turkish troops and warplanes killed 68 Syrian civilians, including 21 children and 12 women, and injured another 185, reports Iraqi Kurdish outlet Rudaw.
The Kurdish media agency notes that local health authorities have placed the number of civilians killed after 13 days of Operation Olive Branch Turkey’s at 104, adding that warring faction has injured another 165.
Although Turkey claims the ongoing Afrin offensive is a success, the SDF claims to have prevented the Turks from advancing into Afrin, adding that the Kurdish troops had killed “dozens” of Turkish soldiers in the process.
“In the village of Khalil in the western countryside of Afrin, the SDF said they killed three other Turkish soldiers, impeding the forces’ advance in Syrian Kurdistan (known in Kurdish as Rojava),” notes Kurdistan 24.
The Turkish military has stressed it has implemented precautionary measures not to target religious or cultural structures, historical artifacts, archaeological sites or public facilities.
However, the Observatory reports that the Turkish military has targeted ancient sites and mosques in the Afrin region.
“The Turkish military destroyed archeological sites dating back more than 1400 years and demolished the Salahaddin Mosque in the town of Raju, all while Turkish president [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan claims he defends Muslims,” the monitor group said in a statement, according to Kurdistan 24.
“Another mosque was bombed in Jandaris on Thursday, the SDF reported,” adds the Kurdish outlet.
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the PYD and YPG have combined three Kurdish-led regions in northern Syria into an autonomous federal system.
Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has reportedly indicated he was open to allowing the Kurdish region to remain autonomous, as a component of Syria.
U.S. support for the YPG’s fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has strained relations between NATO allies Ankara and Washington.
Nevertheless, although the U.S.-led coalition has backed the YPG-led SDF against ISIS, the Pentagon claims the alliance has distanced itself from the Kurdish troops fighting Turkey in Afrin.