The Turkish Army’s General Staff announced in an official statement that the Turkish Army launched “Operation Olive Branch” against Kurdish militias in the Afrin area in the Syrian province of Aleppo at 14:00GMT on January 20.
“‘Operation Olive Branch’ has been started on Jan. 20, 2018 at 5 p.m., in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region to establish security and stability on our borders and region, to eliminate terrorists of PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh [ISIS], and to save our friends and brothers… from their oppression and cruelty,” the General Staff said in its official statement.
The military also stressed that “Operation Olive Branch” is conducted under “the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law” and within Turkey’s right of “self-defense”.
Later, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu revealed that Turkey informed the Damascus government of its military operation in Afrin area with a written statement before it was launched in a rare diplomatic connection between the two sides.
“We have informed all parties, including the UN,” Cavusoglu added, according to the Russian state-run news agency Sputnik.
From it side, the Ministry of Defense of Russia announced in a statement that it is relocating Russian troops deployed in Afrin to insure their safety during the Turkish military operation.
“The command of the Russian group of troops in Syria has taken measures to ensure the security of Russian servicemen located in the district of Afrin, where the Turkish Armed Forces launched a special operation against the Kurdish armed groups,” the statement reads.
The Russians also said that the US supplies of advance weapons to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria triggered Turkey’s military operation against the Kurdish militias in Afrin.
“Uncontrolled deliveries of modern weapons, including reportedly the deliveries of the man-portable air defense systems, by the Pentagon to the pro-US forces in northern Syria, have contributed to the rapid escalation of tensions in the region and resulted in the launch of a special operation by the Turkish troops,” the ministry said.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Anadolu Agency reported that 103 positions of Kurdish militias in Afrin were destroyed by the Turkish Air Force (TAF) in the last few hours. From it side, the Kurdish Hawar News Agency (ANHA) said that seven civilians were injured in the Turkish bombardment so far.
AHNA also claimed that the YPG repelled several attacks of the Turkish Army and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) around Afrin. However, Turkish sources said that the Turkish Army has not launched its main ground attack in Afrin.