Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has condemned Turkish military operation in the country’s northwestern region of Afrin, stating that the offensive is part of Ankara’s support for terrorist groups operating inside the conflict-plagued Arab country.
“The brutal Turkish aggression on the Syrian town of Afrin cannot be separated from the Turkish regime’s policy from the first day of Syria’s crisis, which was essentially built on supporting terrorism and terrorist organizations, whatever their names,” Assad said in statements carried by Syria’s official news agency SANA.
Earlier on Sunday, Turkish ground forces, backed by armored vehicles, special forces and infantry regiments, advanced 5 kilometers (3 miles) inside Afrin along with the so-called Free Syrian Army militants. No major clashes took place during the movement.
The Turkish General Staff said in a statement that Turkish warplanes and artillery units had hit 153 positions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants so far.
“Operation Olive Branch continues as planned and the ground offensive has begun,” the military stated on the second day of the military operation.
The military also asserted that only terrorists and their positions, shelters, were being destroyed, and that “careful attention” was being paid not to harm any civilian.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday afternoon said the ongoing Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin would be completed “in very short time.”
The Syrian government had earlier condemned the “brutal Turkish aggression” 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,” official news agency SANA cited a Syrian foreign ministry source as saying on Saturday.
“Syria completely denies claims by the Turkish regime that it was informed of this military operation,” the source added.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkish-language Kanal 24 news broadcaster on Saturday that Ankara was informing the Syrian government “in writing” on the Afrin assault.
Furthermore, Russia has voiced concern about a Turkish military operation in Afrin region, calling on the sides to exercise restraint.
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) 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 consider the YPG as the most effective fighting force against Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the militant group.
The controversy over a possible Syria border force first started on January 14 when a report emerged on Reuters saying that the so-called 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.