Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Sunday said 350,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey would return to their homes in Syria’s Afrin region, where Turkey’s military has been conducting an operation against Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) militants, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
“Around 350,000 people from Afrin who we have been hosting in Turkey will return to their homes and lead their lives in peace there,” Yıldırım said during a speech in Kocaeli province.
The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin region of Syria against the PYD, which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Yıldırım on Jan. 21 said Turkey was going to establish a 30-kilometer-deep secure zone in Afrin.
Thirty-three Turkish military members have been killed and 183 others injured since the beginning of the operation.
A total of 2,018 PYD militants have been “neutralized” since the launch of Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, the Turkish General Staff announced on Sunday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 8 said Turkey would not allow a Kurdish corridor in Syria extending along the Turkish border to the Mediterranean.
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.