President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he hoped Turkey's military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) would completely encircle the northern Syrian town of Afrin by Wednesday evening, a day after the armed forces said it had encircled the town.
Speaking to local administrators in Ankara, Erdoğan also said civilians in Afrin town were being evacuated in cars through a special corridor, as Turkish forces made substantial advances against terrorists in the nearly two-month-old offensive.
"We have edged even closer to Afrin, and the encirclement will be completed by tonight. Civilians are being lead out of Afrin through a special corridor," Erdoğan said.
Turkey sets up safe corridor for civilians to evacuate Afrin
As the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters encircle the city center of Afrin, a civilian convoy was able to evacuate the northwestern Syrian region through safe corridors that were set up by Turkey.The safe corridors are set to ease civilians’ exit from the southern parts of the Afrin city center.PKK/PYD builds Pentagon base in Syria’s AfrinTurkey, US to decide on Manbij roadmap on March 19: FM ÇavuşoğluAfrin city center surrounded, says Turkish armyThe Turkish Armed Forces announced on Tuesday that the Afrin city center, in northwestern Syria, has been surrounded since Monday as part of the Turkish-led Operation Olive Branch.On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.Video: PKK/PYD terrorists block evacuation of civilians from AfrinAccording to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.The Turkish army and FSA have besieged the town of Afrin, 90 villages and a nearby town, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday, confirming the Turkish military's statement that it had encircled the area.A total of 3,393 terrorists have been neutralized since the start of the operation, the army said in a statement on Tuesday morning.Video: FSA forces advance in Afrin region amid Operation Olive Branch
"As of day 54 of Operation Olive Branch, some 3,500 terrorists have been neutralized and around 1,300 square kilometers of Afrin has been cleared of terror elements," he added.
The Turkish Armed Forces announced on Tuesday that the Afrin city center had been surrounded since Monday as part of Operation Olive Branch.
“If Turkey targeted civilians, Afrin would have been captured long ago. All precautions are being taken. We will clear Afrin, Manbij and our northern Iraq border east of the Euphrates of terrorists,” Erdoğan said.
Operation Olive Branch deals $2 bln blow to PKK
Syria’s ruling Baath party, led by Bashar al-Assad, offered an annual income of two billion dollars to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) by withdrawing from Afrin in 2012. The Syrian Economic Forum President Tammam Baroudi said that the PKK earned this figure annually through drugs, fuel, extortion, human smuggling, deliveries to Aleppo and from civilians who fled to regime territory.“In Afrin, the terrorist organization, which has lost one third of its members, is also experiencing an economic blow. I hope that these losses will continue in Manbij, Tel Abayd and al-Hasakah,” Baroudi said.PKK usurped locals’ belongingsBaroudi, who heads the Syrian Economic Forum, which was established in 2013 with the participation 1260 entrepreneurs, said that the PKK had seized hundreds of businesses in Afrin. The PKK made shop owners work as employees and seized all production facilities from bakeries to olive oil factories.“There are 67 million olive trees throughout Syria, and 18 million of these trees are in Afrin. The PKK sent 40 percent of the income it received from the 250 olive oil factories and other facilities that it confiscated to Qandil. In Afrin, 270,000 tons of olive oil are produced annually. The PKK also seized marble quarries, 10 soap factories, 35 apparel workshops, and 22 flour factories, as well as coal, alcohol, dairy products, sesame seeds, oil refineries and spring water bottling facilities,” Baroudi said.PKK terror group rigs Quran with bomb, martyrs Turkish soldierPoison and human smuggling“The PKK has turned Afrin into a drug capital. More than 60 percent of their income comes from drug and human smuggling. The terrorist organization has established a huge network from Afrin to South Africa, reaching the European and the Gulf drug market. The profits from human and drug smuggling have exceeded one billion dollars per year in the last two years. With the fall of Aleppo, Afrin remained as the only transit point between Syria's eastern and western regions. During the last three years, Afrin served as a bridge between the Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, al-Hasakat, Idlib, Lattakia, Hama, Derra, Humus and Damascus regions,” Baroudi added.Turkey recalibrated balance“For the last year, the workshops in the Euphrates Shield region could send their products for export via Aleppo or Damascus. They had to use the Afrin line for this. The terrorist organization was taking $1.50 per box for the products sent. The PKK has amassed great deals of money in this way. The clearing of terror elements from Afrin will affect trade balances on a regional scale. There will no longer be the PKK and extortion gangs in the corridor that stretches from Idlib to the Euphrates Shield region and Aleppo,” Baroudi said.Video: Afrin civilians flee PKK/PYD terror, seek refuge in regions liberated by TAF, FSATurkey initiated Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 in Afrin to establish security and stability, PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh eliminate terrorists, and save locals from their oppression and cruelty. The military said it is putting the "utmost importance" on not harming any civilians.Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without putting up a fight.The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. The PKK has been conducting armed violence in the southeastern part of Turkey since 1984. More than 40,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the three-decade long conflict.TAF: 3,444 terrorists 'neutralized' in Afrin operationYPG/PKK forced recruitment of children: Rights reportsTurkish military, FSA liberate 7 more villages in Afrin
"We are checking the terror nests in northern Iraq at every chance. Soon, we will stomp very strongly on the terrorists there," Erdoğan said.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last week that Ankara and Baghdad's central governments could start a joint military operation against PKK terrorists in Iraq after Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2018.
Turkish warplanes regularly launch strikes against the PKK, which has camps in the mountains of northern Iraq, near the border with Turkey.
PKK terror group rigs Quran with bomb, martyrs Turkish soldier
A booby-trapped Quran set up by terrorists in Syria’s Afrin martyred Turkish specialized Sergeant Orhan Sürmen amid the ongoing Operation Olive Branch. The terrorists of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)’s Syrian affiliate, the PYD, who are aware of the Turkish troops’ sensitivity toward the Quran, rigged the holy book with a bomb.Sergeant Sürmen was martyred when he picked up the Quran off the ground. The bomb-laden Quran exploded, martyring Sergeant Sürmen on Tuesday.“During the operations carried out in the Afrin region on Mar. 13 within the scope of Operation Olive Branch, a hero was martyred. We pray for God’s mercy to be upon our martyr and express our condolences to his family,” a statement by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) said.Surmen was taking part in sweep and clear operations in the village of Darmashkanli in the Shaykh al-Hadid district, west of the city of Afrin.The sources also said foreign intelligence services trained the terrorists on preparing explosives. It added that in addition to copies of the Quran, terrorists hide explosives in such materials as food and women’s underwear.The security sources said the terrorists use similar methods to hide explosives in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakir, Sirnak, Hakkari, and Mardin provinces, areas known for attacks by the PKK, the YPG/PKK’s parent terror group.TAF: 3,444 terrorists 'neutralized' in Afrin operationA total of 3,444 terrorists have been neutralized since the start of Operation Olive Branch in Syria's northwestern Afrin region. On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without putting up a fight.YPG/PKK forced recruitment of children: Rights reportsTurkish military, FSA liberate 7 more villages in Afrin
The president also commented on the death of specialized Sergeant Orhan Sürmen, who was martyred when a Quran rigged with a bomb by PKK terrorists exploded as he picked up the holy book in Afrin.
“They [PKK terrorists] are such low murderers that our soldier, our son was martyred by a handmade bomb rigged to a Quran. They have no faith,” Erdoğan said.
Operation Olive Branch was initiated on Jan. 20 in Afrin to establish security and stability, eliminate terrorists of PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh, and save locals from the terrorists’ oppression and cruelty.
TAF: 3,444 terrorists 'neutralized' in Afrin operation
A total of 3,444 terrorists have been "neutralized" since the start of Operation Olive Branch in Syria's northwestern Afrin region, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement on Wednesday morning.Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and that "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming civilians.