Turkey’s military operation in the Afrin district of Syria could finish in 15 days at most if Turkey wasn’t concerned about the civilians there, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli has said in the Turkish Parliament.
Addressing parliament on Jan. 30, he said there were no civilian casualties as a result of “Operation Olive Branch,” conducted by the Turkish army and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with aims to remove the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the northwestern district of Syria.
Carrying out the operation without causing any civilian casualties “shows the Turkish nation’s sincerity and sensitivity in the face of the terror group [YPG] which uses civilians as human shields,” he said.
“We need to consider the length of the operation as a reflection of our extreme sensitivity regarding the civilians,” he added.
“We’ve had 29 martyrs, five from the Turkish army and 24 from the FSA, since the start of the Afrin operation,” the minister said.
He said 649 YPG members were killed during the operation.
“The Turkish Air Forces destroyed 458 targets being used as shelters and ammunition depots. With the ground operation, 4,370 targets were hit,” he said.
Canikli lashed out at the Turkish opposition for criticizing Turkey’s alliance with the FSA, saying that those identifying their Syrian allies as “terrorists are illiterate and being treacherous to the Turkish Armed Forces.”
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chair Öztürk Yılmaz on Jan. 30 warned the Turkish government over its alliance with the FSA.
Addressing the General Assembly in parliament, Yılmaz said Turkey in the future will regret cooperating with the FSA because the group “will bring trouble.”