At least 268 militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin district, according to Turkish officials.
“Neutralized” is a term used by the Turkish military and officials to indicate militants were either killed, wounded or captured.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Jan. 24 that the causalities of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Afrin reached 268, following a Jan. 23 statement by the Turkish General Staff, which said the death toll was 260.
The military said Turkey is carrying out the operation under international law and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter and was respecting Syrian territorial integrity, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
It added that the operation targets terrorists and their shelters, positions, arms and equipment. Precautions were being taken to prevent civilians and innocents from being harmed in the operation.
Third soldier killed
It also said the number of Turkish casualties increased to three after soldiers were killed during clashes with militants during the operation. It added one soldier was also injured.
Erdoğan said seven or eight members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is fighting against the YPG in Afrin in coordination with the Turkish military, were also killed during the operation in the first four days.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Jan. 24 that 214 targets were hit and destroyed in total as part of “Operation Olive Branch.”
Speaking in a joint news conference with his Nigerien counterpart Brigi Rafini in Ankara, Yıldırım said the operation continued as planned.
“Some 214 targets were hit and neutralized. Clearing operations in the area are ongoing,” he said.
Syrians want to be enlisted
Meanwhile, Some 500 Syrian youths in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa have submitted applications to a draft office in order to voluntarily join the Turkish military to take part in the operation.
The group, holding Turkish flags and shouting slogans in both Turkish and Arabic, gathered in front of the recruiting office in the Esentepe neighborhood on Jan. 23, demanding to be recruited for “Operation Olive Branch.”
“Turkey has looked after us. Now we want to stand by the Turkish soldiers in order to repay our debt. We are here to submit our petition to voluntarily join the operation in Afrin against terror organizations,” said one young volunteer.
The group reportedly dispersed after submitting their applications to officials at the draft office.