President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday vowed to protect Turkey’s southern border with a “safe zone” in Syria after Ankara launched a barrage of airstrikes against Kurdish fighters, Agence France-Presse reported.
Erdoğan has long sought to build a 30-kilometer-deep “safe zone” inside Syria and repeatedly threatened this year to start a new military operation to achieve this goal.
Turkey’s military has conducted three offensives against Kurdish and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters since 2016 and already captured territory in northern Syria, held by Ankara-backed Syrian proxies.
“With the security [zone] we are establishing on the other side of our border, we are also protecting the rights of millions of women and children,” Erdoğan said during a televised speech to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
“God willing we will complete this [zone] along the border from the west to the east as soon as possible,” he added.
Following a bombing in İstanbul on Nov. 13 that killed six people and injured 81, Turkey launched a series of airstrikes across parts of Iraq and Syria on Sunday, targeting Kurdish groups.
Turkey blamed the bombing on the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community.
Kurdish groups deny any involvement in the İstanbul attack.
Turkey says the Kurdish YPG militia is allied with the PKK, which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Turkey launched raids Friday on Hasakeh in northeast Syria, held by the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), now the Kurds’ de facto army.
Erdoğan wants the “safe zone” to include the Syrian Kurdish border city of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, which was captured by Kurdish YPG forces from ISIL fighters in 2015 with the support of the United States.
Russia and the United States have, however, called for de-escalation.