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Turkey launches deadly military operation against Afrin in Rojava

By Rudaw 20/1/2018
Smoke billows on the Syrian side of the border at Hassa near Hatay, southern Turkey on January 20, 2018 as Turkish jet fighters hit the People's Protection Units (YPG) positions. Photo: AFP / Bulent Kilic
Smoke billows on the Syrian side of the border at Hassa near Hatay, southern Turkey on January 20, 2018 as Turkish jet fighters hit the People's Protection Units (YPG) positions. Photo: AFP / Bulent Kilic

11:59 pm

YPG: Russia responsible for Turkey’s Afrin operation

YPG, the Kurdish force in control of the Kurdish canton of Afrin, accused Russia for giving the green light for the Turkish operation against the western city in Syria as it also reported the death casualties for Saturday.

“We know that the Turkish military would not have attacked [Afrin] without the approval of the international community, at the top of them Russia that deployed their forces in Afrin,” the General Command of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) said in a statement.

Russia relocated its forces that were stationed in Afrin to another area in the country while it expressed its concerns over the escalation.

Turkish airstrikes has killed 6 civilians and 3 fighters and injured another 13 civilians as they struck at least 100 targets in Afrin, its surrounding areas and a refugee camp, the YPG said.

“The same way we hold responsible the occupation of the Turkish state for these attacks, we also hold Russia responsible for these attacks,” the Kurdish force added.

The strikes killed one male from the YPG, and two female fighters of its all-female counterpart the YPJ forces.

It said 72 Turkish fighter jets participated in the air operation.

The YPG has foiled an attempt by the Turkish military and the so-called Free Syrian Army from entering the Kurdish-controlled areas, according to the statement as it accused Ankara of using the airstrikes to “scare” the civilians in an attempt to force them to flee.

The UN has said the conflict over the Syrian and Turkish border may force as many as 1 million people to leave their homes, many of whom are already displaced because of the Syrian civil war.

11:00 pm

Tuekey: Land operation against Afrin may follow on Sunday

The Turkish military announced that it used 72 fighter jets to take part in the airstrikes and that they have now returned to their bases for the evening, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

It also stated that they have hit some 108 targets in airstrikes. 

Prime Minister Binali Yildrim stated that land forces may be involved in attacks on Sunday. 

“The land force units will be involved tomorrow depending on the developments,” Yildrim said in a press briefing alongside the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahceli.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, “In a situation like this our expectations from everyone and especially from our allies is that they side with us, not with terrorists,” in a reference to Washington, Reuters stated, citing broadcaster NTV.

The US called on the two sides to "avoid escalation."


10:34 pm

Kurdish YPG: We have no option but to resist Turkish aggression

The Kurdish YPG force has vowed to stage “resistance” in response to the Turkish military aggression against the Kurdish canton of Afrin as it warned that the latest development will pave the way for the revival of ISIS.

“We have no option but resistance,” the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its female counterpart, the YPJ, said in a statement on Saturday, vowing to "defeat" the operation. 

The statement called the Turkish operation “an aggressive war against our people in Afrin,” that targets populated civilian areas, something that will give a breadth to the return of ISIS.

It explained that the attack comes as there were efforts in place to work towards stabilization of the Syrian situation after the military victories achieved against ISIS.

At least ten people have been injured due to Turkish strikes today.


10:11 pm

Pentagon calls on Turkey and YPG to avoid 'escalation'

Pentagon encouraged both Turkey, a NATO ally, and the Kurdish forces whom it backs against ISIS in Syria to “avoid escalation.”

"We encourage all parties to avoid escalation and to focus on the most important task of defeating ISIS,” a Pentagon spokesperson told Rudaw in writing on Saturday.



9:35 pm

Syria calls on international community to stop Turkish ‘aggression’ against Afrin

Syria has denied that Turkey has informed Damascus about the Afrin operation that was launched on Saturday, while it called on the international community to condemn, and take necessary steps to stop Ankara’s “aggression”.

“The Syrian Arab Republic strongly condemns the brutal Turkish aggression against Afrin city which is an integral part of Syrian territory,” a source from the Syrian foreign affairs office said, according to state-run SANA news agency.

Earlier in the day, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that they informed certain countries about the operation code named Olive Branch including Russia and the United States. He went on to say that they will inform the Syrian regime in writing in line with international laws.

The Syrian official called such remarks “lies,” calling the military operation that injured at least ten civilians in violation of the Syrian sovereignty.

The Syrian regime on Thursday stated that  it is fully prepared to shoot down any Turkish fighter jets over its airspace if Afrin operation operation launched. 


8:29 pm

10 people injured due to Turkey’s aggression in Afrin

Ten people have been injured due to Turkey’s military operation against the Kurdish canton of Afrin in western Syria including children, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Saturday night.

Some of the injuries are life threatening, it added. 

It also reported “intensive” fighting between the Kurdish forces against the Turkish military aggression north of Afrin on the border with Turkey.



8:08 pm

Turkey to inform Syrian regime about Afrin operation

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that they are going to inform the Syrian regime about the launch of the military offensive against Kurdish authorities in Afrin.

The relations between Ankara and Damascus deteriorated since the start of the Syrian Civil War with the former calling for President Bashar al-Assad to go. 

"We informed all parties on what we are doing. We are even informing the Syrian regime in writing," Cavusoglu told the 24 TV broadcaster, AFP reported.  "Even though we don't have relations with the regime, we are taking our steps in compliance with the international law."

The Syrian regime on Thursday stated that  it is fully prepared to shoot down any Turkish fighter jets over its airspace if Afrin operation operation launched. 

"We warn that the Syrian air force has retaken its past capabilities and is fully prepared to destroy Turkish air targets in the sky of the Syrian Arab Republic," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad told reporters.


7:29 pm

Russia relocates troops from Afrin after Turkey launched operation

Russian troops and military police have been relocated from now-under-attack Kurdish Afrin due to the Turkish military operation against Kurdish forces, the Russian Ministry of Defense stated, adding that they did so to protect the security of their servicemen in the areas. 


It accused the United States for triggering the Turkish-led operation after it announced they they would establish the so-called border security force for the Kurdish enclave in Syria. 


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday denied reports by Turkish media that they withdrew their forces from the Kurdish canton in Syrian Kurdistan, Rojava.


Russia earlier today called on the two sides to shows “restraint.”


Moscow is the main backer of the Syrian regime who has warned that they are fully ready to shoot down Turkish fighter jets over the Syrian skies.




7:00 pm

Russia ‘concerned’ over Afrin operation

The Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries have stated that they are following the news of the Turkish-led operation against Afrin in western Syria, and are calling on the two sides to exercise restraint.

“Moscow has received this information with concern. We are closely monitoring the development of the situation," The Russian Defense Ministry stated, according to Sputnik, adding that Russia will take necessary measures to protect their forces in the areas.

“We call on the opposing parties to show restraint," The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement following the launch of the operation.

Ankara announced the so-called Olive Branch operation at 14:00 GMT on Saturday, Turkish military stated. It claimed that the operation is against “terrorist” groups of the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) and ISIS. There are no reports of ISIS presence in the targeted areas. 

At least six civilian casualties have been reported since Turkey started to carry out strikes about a week ago, including two children and one woman, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held a phone call with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, at the request of the latter to discuss the operation, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. 

US has already expressed its concern over the Turkish aggression in Syria, supposed by Ankara-backed Syrian rebels.

The Syrian regime had stated earlier this week that they are fully ready to shoot down Turkish fighter jets if the Afrin operation was launched, something it said would be in violation of the Syrian sovereignty.

Damascus has not commented on the operation as of yet.


Local media reported at least 7 casualties including elderly due to Turkey's strikes. 


6:15 pm

US-backed SDF calls Turkish aggression ‘unjustified’

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) called on the world and Turkey to stop carrying out “unjustified” Turkish attacks against Kurdish-controlled Afrin canton, saying that they respect peace and security of their neighbors,and the sovereignty of the Syrian state.

The statement published earlier today warned that if attacked they have the right to defend their land and people.

The SDF is a “peaceful movement” that is focused on the war against ISIS group and respects a solution to the almost seven-year-old civil war in Syria in line with the US resolution in this regard.

“These threats are wholly unjustified as we are determined to preserve the sovereign borders of Syria, and would not allow any hostile acts to launch against Turkey from Syrian soil, including from Afrin,” the SDF statement published in English read.

It added that Turkish claims that the YPG)attacked Turkish territory are “false,” and “pretext” to attack Afrin with the support of “extremist” Syrian rebels.

“This would be an act of aggression against us, our people, and Syria,” the statement explained the position of SDF whose backbone is the Kurdish YPG force.

“If attacked, we will have no choice but to defend ourselves and our people,” the statement warned.

It stated that as the Turkish threats were made, the SDF have lost some of their fighters in the last two days against ISIS in Syria, and that the Turkish attacks would shift focus away from the war against ISIS.


The Kurdish armed force YPG has vowed to defeat Turkey: “just how ISIS gangs attacked Kobane and were defeated, the same thing will happen to the invading Turkish state if it tries to attack Afrin,” they declared in a statement on Friday.

Damascus permitted Kurdish forces to send reinforcements to its isolated Afrin canton through Aleppo province, according to media with ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Citing military sources, Al-Masdar News reported that YPG had sent hundreds of reinforcements over the last 48 hours.


5:38 pm

Turkey carried out airstrikes against various parts of the Kurdish-controlled Afrin canton on Saturday, with local sources claiming that they foiled Turkish attempts to cross the border into Kurdish territories.

The airstrikes targeted the city of Afrin, Shirwa and Shra towns in Afrin cantons.

Afrin is the western-most canton of the Kurdish enclave in northern Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The Kurdish-dominated People’s Protection Units (YPG) is in control of Afrin, a force that received fame for defeating ISIS in Syria.

The force is the backbone of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that drove out the ISIS militants including in Raqqa.

The Kurdish forces foiled attempts by the Turkey military to enter Afrin for the second day, ANHA, a YPG-linked media reported.



11:30 am

Turkey 'responds to firings' in Kurdish canton of Afrin, Syria


The office of the top Turkish general has claimed it has responded to Kurdish aggression in Afrin, Syria.

“According a briefing by the office of the Chief of the General Staff that reports to the presidency, [the Turkish army] has responded to disturbing firings from Afrin by the PYD/PKK terrorist organization yesterday and today,” Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Saturday morning.

The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD and operates in Syria. Turkey conflates PYD with the PKK, as the banned Turkish political party is designated a terrorist organization by Ankara.

The YPG denies any organic links to the PKK.

The United Nations has called for "all concerned parties to avoid further escalations and any acts that could deepen the suffering of the Syrian people."

Spokesman for the UN Secretary General Stephane Dujarric answered questions regarding Afrin on Friday

"...the Secretary-General said on his way into the Council this morning, he's very concerned at any situation where civilian lives are at risk," added Dujarric.

With the possibility of a 1-million person displacement, "once violence starts, it's extremely difficult for us to get in," explained the UN spokesman.

Afrin, with its mostly Kurdish population, is surrounded by Turkey to the north and west, Turkish-backed fighters like Ahrar al-Sham to the east, and Syrian regime loyalists and to the southeast around Aleppo.

Friday evening, shelling in the north of Afrin injured one woman, a lawyer from Afrin told Rudaw English.

He explained that people in Afrin are afraid but defiant.

YPG spokesperson in Afrin, Rojhat Roj, told Reuters that the shelling  that began about a week ago was the heaviest since Ankara began threatening military action on the Kurdish enclave. 


In pictures: From east to west, Rojava Kurds support Afrin


11:10 a.m.

Russia, Iran reveal details of Sochi meeting to discuss Syria

The Russian Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and the African Countries & Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and the Iranian Deputy for European and American Affairs Hossein Jaberi-Ansari are meeting in Sochi for two-day talks on Middle East issues.

"Today’s meeting is very important to us, because we can specify some details and coordinate our approaches on the Syrian settlement issue," Bogdanov was quoted as saying by Russia's TASS news agency after Thursday's talks.

The Russian diplomat noted situations in the Middle East are "actively developing."

"Different, sometimes contradictory, processes are going on there, so it is important to us to share our assessments, ideas and forecasts with our Iranian partners and friends," he said.

The Iranian diplomat, Ansari, said Iraq, the situation of Syria and the measures taken by Tehran and Moscow to solve the Syrian crisis were raised.

Turkey was also present at the tri-lateral meeting.

Iran, Russia and Turkey are the guarantors of a May 2017 ceasefire agreement for Syria, as part of the intra-Syrian Astana talks.


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pre-Boomer Marine brat | 20/1/2018
Kurdish Aggression! ARRGGHH! Th' poor Turks! Beset in so many vile ways by the Barbaric Kurds! Hulusi Akar must be unable to sleep at night, terrified of nightmares of wolf-like, fanged Kurds attacking and eating his children. Th' poor, poor Turks! Poor General Akar! My heart bleeds for him. ... Sob!
Shivan | 20/1/2018
Why can’t we unite and stand up for ourselfs. We Kurds have always been divided. That has never worked for us, lets change our ways and unite so we can defend ourselfs. Afrin must survive.
Genocide | 20/1/2018
Will this be another Turkish genocide?
US Friend of Kurds. | 20/1/2018
I wish my country would stop working with Turkey. I'm sure the people are OK, but they are being led by a psychopathic paranoid. Too bad the coup failed.
David cohen | 20/1/2018
Thr nazi Erdogan should be dead

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