The Turkish military’s operations in Syria will continue “until all terrorists are fully eliminated” and around 3.5 million Syrian refugees return to their homes, the Ankara government announced after a top security summit held on the fourth day of “Operation Olive Branch” in Afrin.
“Our operations will continue until the separatist terror organization is fully cleared from the region and around 3.5 million Syrians who are now sheltered in Turkey are able to securely return to their homeland,” Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said in a written statement on Jan. 23 after the summit.
The meeting was convened at the presidential complex in Ankara, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and with the participation of senior military and civilian officials.
Turkey currently hosts around 3.5 million Syrians who have fled violence in Syria since the civil war broke out in early 2011.
Echoing Kalın, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also vowed that the operation will continue “until the last terrorist is eradicated in the region.”
“Whatever it takes, we will abolish the terror corridor they are trying to build in the region,” Yıldırım said, calling on the YPG “to drop its arms and stop causing trouble.”
‘Successful and as planned’
Kalın said the operation in Afrin is going “successfully and as planned,” with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) continuing their advance into the enclave. He stressed that Turkish troops are paying “utmost care to distinguish civilians from terrorists” and are also working to deliver necessary humanitarian assistance to locals.
“Operation Olive Branch is being carried out against terror organizations, not against any ethnic group. Similar operations by Turkey until today have never brought about atrocities, blood or tears. To the contrary, they have brought peace and well-being to the people living in those areas,” Kalın said.
He also urged media institutions to be “careful against disinformation, untrue and distorted news and footage” of the operation, saying legal action will be taken against any such attempts.
Two soldiers killed
As the operation entered its fourth day, two Turkish soldiers were killed in separate theaters in Afrin on Jan. 22 and 23.
The Turkish General Staff stated that commissioned soldier Musa Özalkan was killed on Jan. 22 in clashes that took place southeast of the Turkish village of Gülbaba, just across from the Syrian border.
President Erdoğan, Prime Minister Yıldırım, ministers, senior government officials, and representatives from opposition parties attended Özalkan’s funeral in the Turkish capital on Jan. 23.
Erdoğan delivered a statement at the funeral, vowing that the operation would result in a “clear victory.”
“We have no time to listen to what other countries say about our operation. The decision to launch the operation was given by our people. The people will not give any respite to a few ignoble men on our borders,” he said.
After Özalkan’s funeral it was reported that a second soldier, Oğuz Kaan Usta, was killed on Jan. 23, the fourth day of the operation.