Turkish army shells Afrin despite US reaction

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Turkish military trucks deploy tanks to reinforce the border units in Antakya district of Hatay, Turkey on January 18, 2018. Cem Genco / Anadolu Agency

The Turkish Armed Forces on Friday hit several Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) targets in the Afrin area of Syria hours after the US called on Ankara not to invade Afrin, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

According to the report, Turkish border forces in the Kırıkhan and Hassa districts of Hatay province fired at least 10 shells into Afrin as part of “self-defense against militants.”

Turkey views the PYD as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“We would certainly call on Turks not to take any action of that sort,” US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said at a press briefing on Thursday in response to a reporter’s question about Turkey’s preparations for what is believed to be an imminent invasion.

Calling Nauert’s statement “useless and nonsense,” Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli on Friday stated that a military operation would go forward in Afrin to “remove the terrorist presence” there. But he gave no specifics on timing, saying this was part of the planning, Anadolu reported.

In the meantime, Russian forces have started to leave Afrin ahead of the Turkish operation, according to Anadolu.

Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan on Thursday paid a visit to Moscow at the invitation of Russia’s chief of general staff, Valery Gerasimov where regional issues, recent developments in Syria and the Astana-Geneva processes, related to the Syrian settlement, were discussed.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Thursday said the operation in Afrin would be carried out in coordination with Russia and that talks were continuing over the use of airspace.

Turkish security forces on Saturday hit several PYD targets in Afrin following remarks made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said Turkey would carry out a military operation in Syria’s Afrin and Manbij regions “if the terrorists do not pull out in one week.”

The Turkish military on Oct. 9 launched surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the northwestern Syrian province of İdlib as part of the multinational “Tension Reduction Control Force.”

President Erdoğan on Oct. 24 said Turkey had to a great extent completed its operation in Idlib, indicating that Afrin would be the next target.

Turkey with Free Syrian Army forces took control of the Jarablus and Al Bab areas in northern Syria during an operation against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants between August 2016 and March 2017.

More than 70 soldiers were lost during Operation Euphrates Shield, which was evaluated as a strategic move to prevent unification of areas controlled by the Kurdish PYD.

Erdoğan on Oct. 8 said Turkey would not allow a Kurdish corridor in Syria extending along the Turkish border to the Mediterranean while assessing Turkish military operations in Idlib.

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