Turkey intensifies air and ground strikes in Syria’s Afrin region

World Today

More fighting raged across Syria’s Afrin region on Monday, with Turkey waging a ground and air assault against the U.S.-backed Kurdish group controlling the area. Ankara considers the militia a terror group and a threat to security.

Washington said it’s open to helping Ankara create secure zones, and to addressing “legitimate” concerns in the region. But in order for that to happen, Turkey wants the U.S. to end its support for the Kurdish forces.

CGTN’s Michal Bardavid reports from near the Turkey-Syria border.

Follow Michal Bardavid on Twitter @Michal_Bardavid

Turkish airstrikes again hit Syria’s Afrin city on Monday, targeting the Kurdish YPG’s positions, while rockets launched from within Syria shook the town of Kilis in Turkey.

While Ankara has emphasized that the Turkish military is only targeting terrorists and not civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish airstrikes that started last weekend killed at least 18 civilians were killed in Afrin and nearby villages.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his government has no interest in anyone’s land, and that Ankara only wanted Syria’s territorial integrity. The leader also announced Turkey had discussed the operation with Russia, and had come to an agreement.

“Afrin will be settled. There won’t be a step back from Afrin,” he said. “We discussed this with our Russian friends, we have an agreement. We also talked to the other coalition powers. We also talked to America, but we could not convince them of one thing.

Inside Turkey, views differ on “Operation Olive Branch,” but many of the locals living in towns or cities near Afrin’s border said they feel nervous, and support the Turkish government’s decision to take action.

“My aunt lives in Reyhanli,” one resident of Hatay said. “Yesterday, a rocket dropped in front of her home. It could have hit her house, we could have lost someone from our family!”

Another resident said that if called by Erdogan to take part in a military campaign, he would do so with no hesitation.

Some locals said the U.S. is partly at fault for having supported the armed Syrian Kurdish group YPG during its fight with ISIL. But not everyone agrees.

“I don’t approve the attack that is carried out on Afrin at the moment,” Diyarbakır resident Atilla Kalay said. “As a matter of fact, Kurds proved themselves when they fought Daesh (Islamic State) gangs and gained a place in world politics. But now that the gang is gone, Turkey is fighting Afrin.”

NATO issued a statement on the operation and said that Turkey has the right to defend itself as it faces terrorism, but should do so in a “proportionate and measured way.”

Edmund Ghareeb discusses Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke to Edmund Ghareeb about Turkey’s military operation in Afrin. Ghareeb is a scholar and specialist in Middle East affairs.