Christian churches were among the Kurds begging for international assistance to stop Turkey’s assault on a northern Syrian city to clear it of Kurdish forces that have been fighting ISIS.
Turkish forces began bombing the city of Afrin from the air on Saturday and sent in ground troops on Sunday. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sunday that “Operation Olive Branch” against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) “will be resolved” and “there will be no step back” as he claims the Kurds are terrorists.
“We have discussed it with the Russians and we have an agreement with them,” Erdoğan said in Ankara.
“The U.S. is urging that the operation should not last too long and should be conducted within a certain time frame. I ask the U.S.: Does your operation in Afghanistan, which you launched more than 10 years ago, have a certain time frame? When will it be completed? You are also still in Iraq, aren’t you? Do these kind of operations have a certain time frame?” he added.
In a joint statement Saturday, the Kurdish Churches in Afrin and Kobane confirmed “we are under attack by Turkey.”
“The lives of our women and children are in danger. The city of Afrin is being bombarded by Turkish airstrikes. We are asking for intervention, and protection against the violent attacks which are being levied against us at the moment,” the statement continued.
“Many lives are in mortal danger. We are requesting aid and assistance. We are unable to protect ourselves or our families against these attacks, neither are we able to offer assistance or shelter to the innocents. Please help us.”
The YPG said Saturday that some 100 locations were targeted by six dozen Turkish fighter jets. Three Kurdish fighters — two of them women — were killed Saturday in the airstrikes along with at least seven civilians.
“Occupying Turkish army and its terrorists, after failed to enter Afrin by attacking on the ground, try to scare people of Afrin and displace them to FSA held areas. Turkey’s attack directly to civilians of all districts of Afrin clearly shows their despair against YPG and YPJ forces,” the YPG’s General Command said in statement Saturday.
“We know that, without the permission of global forces and mainly Russia, whose troops located in Afrin, Turkey cannot attack civilians using Afrin airspace. Therefore we hold Russia as responsible as Turkey and stress that Russia is the crime partner of Turkey in massacring the civilians in the region.”
The YPG vowed to “protect our land and people” and called upon Kurds to “join the ranks of defense.”
On Sunday, the YPG said that Turkey’s bombardment of a camp for Syrians who fled ISIS, the village of Cilbir, and the city center of Afrin “caused many civilian deaths.”
“The operation has been taking place in five different areas. Adah Manli, Shadia and Surka villages of Raju district and Shinkal village of Bulbul district have been fully cleared off Turkish troops and the mercenaries. Intense clashes at some parts of the border area are continuing. Turkish occupation army and its mercenaries’ attempts to enter Afrin once again failed,” the Kurdish forces reported.
Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Kino Gabriel, who was recently promoted to the role after serving as spokesman for the Syriac Military Council Christian forces, said today that the death toll from Turkish attacks is now up to 18 civilians, with 23 more injured, including women and children. Gabriel said two Turkish tanks have been destroyed and 40 Turkish fighters killed.
Turkey claimed Sunday to have seized control of Mt. Barsaya in eastern Afrin and three villages in the Bulbul district of northern Afrin.
Meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London today, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked if the U.S. was going to help the Kurds who have fought and defeated ISIS.
Tillerson called the SDF, the Kurdish, Arab and Christian fighting force that includes the YPG and kicked ISIS out of their capital Raqqa, “truly a multiethnic group of fighters who are defending their home territory” and said the U.S. is “concerned about the Turkish incident in northern Syria.”
“Having said that, in a statement as of yesterday, we recognize and fully appreciate Turkey’s legitimate right to protect its own citizens from terrorist elements that may be launching attacks against Turkish citizens and Turkish soil from Syria,” Tillerson added. “We’re engaged with Turkey, and we are engaged also with the leadership of our coalition, and are asking that both sides show restraint, please minimize the impact on civilian casualties, which — who’ve already suffered too many civilian casualties, and see what we can do to work together to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns in a way that’s satisfactory to Turkey, and get back to the process of defeating ISIS, securing a peaceful, stable Syria, and working towards a unified Syria through the Geneva peace process that all of us are committed to.”
Johnson called it “a very broken current situation.”
“And we understand that the Kurds have clearly been instrumental in taking the fight to Daesh, and everybody appreciates that and understands it,” said the British minister. “On the other hand, Turkey does have a legitimate interest in protecting its own borders and its own security, as Secretary Tillerson has just said, as Rex just said.”
France, meanwhile, called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, which is discussing the Turkish attacks today.
“Ghouta, Idlib, Afrin — France requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tweeted Sunday, calling for “ceasefire everywhere, unfettered humanitarian access.”