DAMASCUS – A total of 342 fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been “neutralized” since the start of Ankara’s military operation in northern Syria, Turkey’ Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday, while Kurds announced that they have managed to kill 262 Ankara-backed rebels and Turkish soldiers.
Akar’s comments came after his meeting with top military officials in Turkey’s capital Ankara, where he said “every kind of measures have been taken” in operation areas. Akar stated that the military operation continues “successfully as planned”. The SDF in a statement released on Friday claimed that Kurdish fighters have killed 262 Turkish-backed militants and Turkish soldiers in the past two days, while they lost 22 fighters in addition to dozens of civilians.
For the 3rd day in a row, the forces of the Turkish Army continued their aggression on the Syrian territories on Friday, targeting with artillery and warplanes a number of areas in Hasaka countryside. Turkish forces targeted the residential neighborhoods in the city of Ras al-Ayn with air and artillery intensive shelling, launching concentrated shelling against the citizens’ houses and service facilities and establishments, and causing huge material damage, SANA reported. The SDF has brought reinforcement to Ras al-Ayn city which were able to stop the Turkish forces incursion and regain control over parts of the industrial region inside the city, according to the news agency.
Danger of ISIL
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Turkey’s military operation in Syria could lead to the revival of the ISIL (also known as ISIS or Daesh) group in the region. Putin stated that Kurds who were guarding thousands of imprisoned ISIL fighters are now fleeing.
“I’m not sure whether the Turkish army will be able to take this under control – and how soon,” Putin said in televised remarks on a visit to Turkmenistan, adding that “this is a real threat to us”.
“How will they be moving and to where?” he asked of the ISIL fighters, noting, “Through Turkish territory? Through other territories?”
“We should simply understand this, know and mobilize the resources of our security services to neutralise this emerging new threat,” he stressed, without giving more detail.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday called on Turkey and others to show restraint in Northeast Syria. The foreign ministry announced in a statement it was important not to allow the situation there to be further destabilized, calling what was happening a matter “of the most serious concern”. It called for talks to be held between the Syrian government and Kurdish forces and said it was ready to help facilitate such dialogue.
Tusk Slams Erdogan Threat of New Refugee Surge
European Council President Donald Tusk condemned as attempted “blackmail” Friday a threat by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to allow millions of refugees to head to Europe if the bloc criticizes Ankara’s offensive in Syria.
“Turkey must understand that our main concern is that their actions may lead to another humanitarian catastrophe, which would be unacceptable,” Tusk said on a visit to European Union member Cyprus.
“Nor will we ever accept that refugees are weaponized and used to blackmail us. That is why I consider yesterday’s threats made by President Erdogan totally out of place,” he added.
Under a 2016 agreement with the EU, Turkey agreed to prevent refugees from leaving towards Europe in exchange for six billion euros ($6.63bln) and visa-free travel for its citizens but has frequently criticized the lack of assistance from Brussels.
Italy’s PM: Europe Can’t Give in to Turkish “Blackmail” over Syria
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stated that the European Union should not yield to Turkey’s threats that it would let millions of Syrian refugees enter Europe.
“The EU cannot accept this blackmail. Turkish efforts to welcome in Syrian refugees cannot then become a tool of blackmail for a military initiative that we cannot accept and which must immediately stop,” Conte told the media.