Turkey’s security concerns cannot be at cost of Kurds: Sunni scholar
The “heartbreaking catastrophe” that is taking place in Afrin can only be solved through dialogue, said influential Sulaimani-born Sunni scholar Ali al-Qaradaghi, speaking to Rudaw by phone from Qatar Monday evening.
He called for a delegation of prominent Kurds to visit Ankara and open discussions, saying “We understand that Turkey has concerns about its border security. However, that security cannot be at the cost of the interests of the Kurdish nation.”
As a member of the Union of Islamic Scholars, Qaradaghi said the offensive cannot be justified on religious grounds and said his Union was ready to oversee any truce agreement.
Qaradaghi also said he blames the United States for “provoking Turkey” with the announcement they were forming a border force in northern Syria.
Turkey reports first death in Afrin operation
The Turkish military has reported its first death in its military offensive in Afrin.
One soldier was killed on Monday, CNN Turk reported Monday night, citing the country’s military.
US talks ‘security zones’ in northern Syria with Turkey
The United States is in talks with Turkey about creating a security zone in northwest Syria.
“So we’re in discussions with the Turks and some of the forces on the ground as well as to how we can stabilize this situation and meet Turkey’s legitimate concerns for their security,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a pool reporter, Reuters reported.
He said they are willing to work with Turkey to “create the kind of security zone you might need.”
Officials from the United States are currently in Rojava on an announced visit.
The head of the United States’ aid agency, USAID, Mark Green visited Raqqa on Monday, according to Reuters. The United States is turning its focus in northern Syria to stabilization as ISIS is largely defeated in the region.
He was accompanied by General Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command.
Photos shared on social media appear to show the two in Kobane.
YPG report retaking strategic hilltop
Kurdish forces reported they have taken back control of Mount Barsaya, which Turkey claimed to have seized earlier on Monday.
The strategic hilltop that overlooks Syria’s Azaz and Turkey’s Kilis province “is reseized by our forces now,” the YPG tweeted Monday evening.
Turkey claimed that the YPG used the high point to fire missiles into Kilis province.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had earlier confirmed that the site was taken by Turkey, reporting that the SDF has withdrawn from the hilltop.
Syria’s People’s Assembly condemns Turkish operation
Syria’s People’s Assembly issued a statement condemning Turkey’s military operation in Afrin and urged the Parliamentary Union of member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to pressure governments to also condemn the offensive, Syria’s state-run SANA reported.
The assembly stated that Turkey’s actions demonstrate their efforts to destabilize the region.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had earlier described the military offensive as "brutal aggression" that supports "terrorism."
EU’s top diplomat ‘extremely worried’ about Afrin operation
The European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said she is “extremely worried” about Turkey’s military operation in Afrin for two reasons.
“One side is the humanitarian one – we need to make sure that humanitarian access is guaranteed and that civilian population and people are not suffering from military activities on the ground,” she said on Monday after a meeting of European Union foreign ministers that discussed the offensive.
According to former head of the ruling PYD in Rojava, Salih Muslim, there are over 1.2 million people in Afrin, many of them already displaced from other areas in Syria.
Mogherini’s second concern is that the military offensive could “undermine seriously the resumption of talks in Geneva, which is what we believe could really bring sustainable peace and security for Syria.”
She said she will raise the matter with Turkish officials and hoped to schedule a meeting with Turkey’s European Affairs Minister Omer Celik when he visits Brussels soon.
Gen. Hulusi Akar, head of Turkey’s army, said the operation in Afrin will continue “until last terrorist neutralized,” Anadolu Agency reported.
Cyprus condemns 'Turkish invasion' of Afrin
The Republic of Cyprus "strongly condemns" Turkey’s military offensive in Afrin and slammed the codename ‘Olive Branch’ given to the operation.
"The Republic of Cyprus strongly condemns the illegal Turkish invasion in Afrin in north-western Syria, codenamed operation 'Olive Branch,'" the country’s Ministry of Interior wrote in a press release.
"Contrary to what its name suggests, there is nothing peaceful in the Turkish military operation; using various pretexts, including the protection of Turkmens, it only aims at enforcing Ankara's geopolitical agenda in the region through military force," the statement continued.
The Ministry of the Interior noted that Cyprus has also been a victim of Turkey's invasion, losing one third of its land, under similar reasoning of protecting Turkish residents in Cyprus.
Cyprus called on Turkey to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria in line with the UN Charter and international law.
Iran’s Kurdish MPs appeal to UN to act on Afrin
Kurdish MPs in the Iranian parliament have condemned Turkey’s military operation in Afrin in a letter sent to the UN secretary general.
“Dear Mr. António Guterres, General Secretary of United Nations, as you are aware, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey's president, used the Turkish army to attack defenseless Kurds in Syria while the United Nations and other international organizations are silent. And world powers as usual are silent and watching the killing of Syrian Kurds,” read the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Rudaw.
The MPs reminded the world of the sacrifices and bravery of Syrian Kurds against ISIS.
“Although there is not much hope that the UN, US, and Russia will step in to stop this crime by Erdogan, we as Kurdish MPs of the Iranian parliament condemn the attack and remind the UN to commit to its obligations towards protecting all ethnic groups around the world,” the MPs added.
Speaking in the Iranian parliament on Sunday, Mohammed Qasim Osmani, the Kurdish deputy from the city of Bukan, harshly condemned the Turkish president. “The latest barbaric acts of Erdogan are not new, rather they remind humans of the devil Saddam [Hussein] and ISIS. Honestly Recep is the ISIS version wearing ties,” he said.
Turkey claims to take strategic hilltop
Turkish forces claimed to have taken control of Mt. Barsaya in eastern Afrin, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The strategic point overlooks Syria’s Azaz and Turkey’s Kilis province and Turkey claimed Kurdish forces were using the location to fire missiles.
Turkey also claimed to have taken three villages in the Bulbul district of northern Afrin.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Monday that no Turkish troops have been killed so far in the operation in which more than 100 aircraft have destroyed more than 170 targets in the first two days.
Monday is the third day of Turkey’s military offensive, named “Operation Olive Branch.”
The SDF, however, claimed to have killed 40 Turkish soldiers and allied Syrian militias and injured another around 300 in the first three days of the operation. They also said they have destroyed two tanks.
On their own side, they said that three of their fighters have been killed as well as 18 civilians. Another 23 civilians have been wounded. Women and children are among the civilian casualties, the SDF stated.
Turkey’s foreign ministry rejected claims that they will limit the operation to Afrin, Anadolu reported, citing anonymous sources.
UK’s Johnson: ‘Turkey is right to want to keep its borders secure’
Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is "closely" watching events in Afrin where he believes Turkey has the right to "keep its borders secure."
"Watching developments in Afrin closely. Turkey is right to want to keep its borders secure," Johnson wrote in a tweet on Monday afternoon.
"We share goal of reducing violence and keeping focus on most important task: a political process in Syria that leads to the end of the Assad regime,” he added.
PM Barzani, PUK’s Rasul concerned for safety of civilians in Afrin
The Kurdistan Region is “seriously concerned” about the Turkish operation against Afrin, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said in his weekly press conference on Monday.
“Our main concern is the civilians who are in Afrin city. We hope a resolution is found for this problem through dialogue,” he said.
Kosrat Rasul, acting secretary general of the PUK, has called on Turkey to stop its "military attacks" on Afrin and for the international community to "break the silence."
"I call on Turkey to end the military attacks on the city of Afrin and to spare the lives of the innocent civilians," wrote Kosrat Rasul in a tweet on Monday afternoon.
He also called on the international community to "break the silence and to stop the attacks."
Rasul became the PUK's acting head after the death of the party's founder and leader Jalal Talabani in early October 2017.
Turkey reports attack by YPG
According to a report by local media, Haber Turk, 11 rockets from YPG landed in the border city of Reyhana, killing 1 civilian and injuring 47 others.
Erdogan upset over weapons shipments sent to YPG
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that his country has requested the United States sell them weapons but their request was denied, adding that the US gave artillery to YPG for free.
He also said that these weapons may target the West one day, “as they targeted the Reyhana border region.“
Erdogan also acknowledged that the US has demanded the “Olive Branch Operation” not take too long.
“The USA is telling us that the operation period must not be very long. I asked them was your period in Afghanistan short? You entered Iraq before we came to rule Turkey and are still in Iraq,” said Erdogan while attending a ceremony in Ankara.
“Whenever the task is done we will return home. We do not have intention to stay there,” he added.
Turkey to extend "Operation Olive Branch"
Turkish Anadolu Agency announced that the Turkish army has extended its ‘Olive Branch’ operation to Azaz town east of Afrin, 32 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of Aleppo.
Afrin Christians call for international protection against Turkish attacks
Pastor Valentine Hanan from the Good Shepherd Church in Afrin city called for international protection, saying that they are against Turkish shelling on Afrin, according to an official statement.
"As the Good Shepherd Church in Afrin city, we demand urgent international protection for the believers in Afrin and the cease of this Turkish shelling. We are also against the heavy Turkish shelling and the return of Islamic groups to the region," read the statement reported by Sputnik on Monday.
The Church calls on Christians in the world to pray for and help them.
"We as the church first ask God for protection and then ask for prayers and aid from our brothers."
There are 250 Christian families in Afrin canton, 190 families in Afrin city, 45 families in Rajo and 15 families in Maabatli, according to the church.
High-level NATO representative in Ankara
NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller confirmed she was visiting Ankara on Monday.
She is expected to discuss the Afrin attacks, according to NTV a Turkish broadcaster.
“Ankara will brief the NATO official about the ongoing incursions, as part of the diplomatic briefings given to partners and international bodies,” according Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News.
She paid her respects to the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, by laying a wreath at his mausoleum.
"An honor to begin my visit to Ankara by paying respects at President Atatürk’s mausoleum. Turkey is a deeply valued member of NATO," wrote Gottemuller in a tweet on Monday afternoon.
In Istanbul on Tuesday, she will visit the 3rd Army Corps and Multinational Joint Warfare Centre Command, and deliver remarks at the National Defence University.
According to a report from Ronahi TV based in Syria, a media outlet close to the YPG, 14 fighters were buried on Monday. Ronahi also claimed that Turkish airstrikes have killed 17 civilians since the operation began on Saturday.
KDP head Masoud Barzani 'concerned' about 'Turkish attack' on Afrin
The leader of the KDP and former President of the Kurdistan Region has voiced concern over Turkey's "attack" in Afrin, adding that the best solution is through "peaceful means."
"Very concerned about the Turkish attack on the city of Afrin. We hope that these attacks, which have led to the loss of civilian lives are ended immediately," wrote Masoud Barzani in a tweet on Sunday afternoon.
Barzani, who was born in the short-lived Kurdish Mahabad Republic and has been a lifelong Peshmerga and advocate for the Kurdish struggle, reiterated that problems in the Middle East must be resolved peacefully.
"Historically war and violence have only further complicated the issues in the Middle East. The best possible solution to the problems of the region is through peaceful means," he added in another tweet.
YPG's commander: Turkey wants to 'legitimize invasion' through 'lies'
The YPG did not commit the attack on Kilis, the commander of the Peoples Defence Units in Syria, Sipan Hemo, was quoted by Sterk TV as saying on Monday.
The Turkish government wants to "legitimize its invasion through lies", Hemo told the broadcaster which is close to the YPG.
He further claimed there is nothing called the "Free Syrian Army" on the ground.
What exists are Erdogan mercenaries, claimed Hemo, referring to proxy fighters backed by Ankara.
Some parties in Turkey say Ankara’s aggression is ‘policy of annihilating the Kurds’
A group of Kurdish political parties in Diyarbakir condemned Turkish army’s aggression on Afrin in a press conference on Monday, describing it as a move by Turkey to disallow the existence of a Kurdish enclave in Syria.
The statement was issued by People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the Peace and Democratic Party (BDP), Democratic Society Congress (KCD), and the Freedom and Socialism Party and Freedom Movement.
They also described as the “cleansing” of Kurds and opposition to “freedom, liberty, independence and “self-governing struggle” of Syrian Kurds in Rojava, or northern Syria which border Turkey.
“It should also be well known that the attack of the Turkish State towards Afrin is part of the policy of annihilating the Kurds,” added the joint statement.
They said the Turkish army, instead, should resort to peaceful means such as dialogue.
“If this method is not chosen, inter-communal problems will deepen and grow,” they warned.
They claimed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) portray the aggression as a peaceful operation in order to garner international support.
The parties also condemned the “silence” of the international community in the face of the attack.
Turkish and Kurdish forces clash
Following the announcement of the Revolutionary Operation against the invading Turkish army by the general command of SDF, [our] fighters carried out a military operation against the invading army in the vicinity of Edema village in Rajo district [in Afrin], reported Kurdish Sterk TV, which is close to the PKK.
The Kurdish fighters claimed “a number” of Turkish military casualties.
The operation continued until early Monday morning and as a result a mounting number of Turkish soldiers were killed and a number of soldiers were injured, added Sterk.
The YPG denies any organic links to the PKK.
The Turkish operation codenamed ‘The Olive Branch’ is aiming to take over Afrin and is underway for the third day.
According to Anadolu Agency, the Turkish state-run agency, the Turkish military conducted shelling from Kilis and Hatay provinces.
Kilis is to the north of Afrin and Hatay is to the west.
AA added that Turkish military continued to amass military vehicles on the borders.
Turkey has alleged the operation that began on Saturday is to establish security along the Syrian-Turkish border.
“This is a national struggle. We will crush anyone who opposes our national struggle,” Erdogan said at an event on Sunday.
“We are not alone... Allah is with us,” he added , “God willing, this operation will come to an end in a short time.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called the “brutal aggression” of the Turkish military in Afrin as supporting “terrorism.”
The Kurdish-majority YPG (People’s Protection Units) is the dominant force in Afrin. They are the armed wing of the PYD (Democratic Union Party).
The UN Security Council is meeting on Monday at the behest of France to discuss the situation.
Background: Turkey continues its assault on Kurdish Afrin in Syria on Sunday