As Turkey continues its offensive in Syria’s Kurdish enclave of Afrin, Ankara says it has killed 260 enemy fighters. Washington and Moscow have called for restraint as the United Nations readies aid supplies.
Turkey’s military said on Tuesday it has killed at least 260 Syrian Kurdish fighters and “Islamic State” (IS) militants in the first four days of operations in northwest Syria’s Kurdish-dominated region of Afrin.
There is no known IS presence in Afrin, which is under the control of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described the fighting as “very violent” to the northeast, northwest and southwest of Afrin, which lies adjacent to Turkey’s southern border.
The Observatory said 28 civilians were killed; a number vehemently denied by the Ankara government which insists it is only targeting militants. The monitoring group also said 43 Turkish-backed rebels had been killed as well as 38 Kurdish fighters, a number far lower than that provided by the Turkish military. Three Turkish soldiers have been killed since the offensive began on Saturday.
Artillery and drone strikes
The Turkish military and their Syrian rebel allies on Wednesday continued an offensive against the YPG, which the US is backing in the fight against IS, but who Ankara accuses of links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party waging a more than three decade fight in Turkey.
The military offensive has opened up a new front in Syria’s seven-year war, which could extend wider still and lead to a confrontation between Turkey and its NATO ally the US.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday said the operation could spread into the town of Manbij to the east, where some US troops are positioned alongside the SDF. He reiterated Ankara’s call for Washington to stop supporting the YPG.