Turkish jets on Saturday destroyed observation posts and many other Kurdish targets in the Afrin region, northern Syria, as part of the cleverly dubbed “Operation Olive Branch,” Turkish Anadolu news agency reported Saturday.
The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Syria, comprising between 7% and 10% of the country’s population. They have faced routine discrimination and harassment by the Assad government.
Kurds are also the largest ethnic minority in Turkey, comprising between 15% and 20% of the Turkish population. Since the 1970s, the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Turkey for thousands of human rights abuses against the Kurds, including executions of Kurdish civilians, torture, forced displacements, destroyed villages, arbitrary arrests, and the murder and disappearance of Kurdish journalists.
Last week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan declared that Turkish forces would enter Syria, with Russia’s consent, to “vanquish” the Kurdish militia that control Afrin, along the Turkish border.
“God willing, in the coming days, we will continue the operation to purge our southern border from terror,” he said in a speech in the eastern Turkish city of Elazig, adding, “If the terrorists in Afrin don’t surrender we will tear them down.”
Turkish general staff on Sunday morning issued a statement saying their warplanes have struck 108 out of a total of 113 Syrian Kurdish militia targets in the Afrin region, including a military airport. Also, the Turks fired 40 rounds of artillery at Afrin from across the border Saturday, and bused more than 8,000 pro-Turkish Syrian irregulars carrying carried Turkish flags into the area.
The Turkish army statement said the operation continues as planned, and is “aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as to eliminate terrorists and to protect Syrian people from the terrorists’ oppression and cruelty.”
“72 planes which took part in the operation have safely returned to their bases to get ready for the next missions,” the statement said.