Turkish airstrikes have claimed the lives of more than a dozen civilians in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin as Ankara is continuing its cross-border military operation against the purported positions of US-backed militants from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) there.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that 13 civilians, including two children and three women, lost their lives on Monday when Turkish military aircraft bombarded Jindires town, located 20.9 kilometers southwest of Afrin.
The Britain-based monitor added the air raids also left scores of people injured, noting that the death toll is expected to rise as some of the wounded victims are in critical condition.
The Observatory further noted that a total of 165 civilians, including 29 children and 24 women, have been killed ever since the Turkish military launched an offensive in northwestern Syria on January 20.
Meanwhile, the Turkish military said in a statement that at least 2,777 YPG militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in Syria.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag also said Turkish forces are now in control of half of Afrin region.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Bozdag said 702 square kilometers of the total 1,920 are now under the Turkish military’s control.
“In Operation Olive Branch, 112 villages, 30 critical positions and a total of 142 spots have been captured so far,” the senior Turkish official pointed out.
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
Erdogan has repeatedly said that Afrin should be cleared of “terrorists,” and demanded the deployment of Turkish troops there during a speech back in November 2016.
This is while US officials regard the YPG as the most effective fighting force against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the group.
The controversy over a possible Syria border force first started on January 14 when a report emerged on Reuters saying that the military coalition led by the United States in Syria was planning to set up a large border force of up to 30,000 personnel with the aid of its militia allies.
The Syrian government has already condemned the Turkish offensive against Afrin, rejecting Ankara’s claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.
Damascus “strongly condemns the brutal Turkish aggression on Afrin, which is an inseparable part of Syrian territory,” Syria’s official news agency SANA cited a Syrian Foreign Ministry source as saying on January 20.
“Syria completely denies claims by the Turkish regime that it was informed of this military operation,” the source added.