Turkish army says 31 soldiers killed in Syria operation

The coffin of Koray Karaca, a soldier who was killed during Turkey’s military action in Syria’s Afrin region, is carried by a ceremonial guard of honor during his funeral ceremony in Istanbul. (Reuters)
Updated 13 February 2018

Turkish army says 31 soldiers killed in Syria operation

ANKARA: The Turkish army on Monday said 31 soldiers had been killed since Ankara launched its offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria last month.
Another 143 Turkish soldiers were wounded in the operation dubbed “Olive Branch” which began on January 20 against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in the western region of Afrin, a statement said.
While the United States has given armed support to the YPG against the Daesh group in Syria, Turkey says the militia is a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK, proscribed as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies, has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.
Turkey has been supporting Syrian rebels with ground troops and air strikes during the operation which Ankara has threatened to extend eastwards toward other YPG-held towns.
Turkey suffered its bloodiest day on Saturday when 11 military personnel were killed, including two after a helicopter taking part in the offensive was downed.
Some 1,369 “terrorists” had been neutralized during the operation, the army said, referring to those killed but also those captured or wounded.
It was not immediately possible to verify this figure.
But according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 152 YPG fighters and 165 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have died in the operation.
The Observatory said at least 74 civilians have been killed in the operation so far.
Turkey has repeatedly insisted it is taking all the necessary precautions to avoid harming civilians and says there have been no civilian casualties to date.
At least seven civilians have been killed in Turkish border towns after rockets were sent from Syria in attacks Ankara blames on the YPG.

Russia says ‘arbitrary’ Israeli airstrikes on Syria must stop

Updated 23 January 2019

Russia says ‘arbitrary’ Israeli airstrikes on Syria must stop

  • The strikes have long caused friction between Israel and Russia

MOSCOW: Russia said on Wednesday that Israel should stop carrying out what Moscow called arbitrary airstrikes on Syria, days after the Israeli air force targeted what Israel said were Iranian forces there.

Israel has repeatedly attacked what it describes as Iranian targets in Syria and those of allied militia, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describes the effort as an open-ended campaign to push back arch-foe Tehran.

The strikes have long caused friction between Israel and Russia, which apart from Iran is Bashar Assad’s other major foreign backer.

Israeli officials have spoken in the past of an agreement with Moscow under which they have made clear their strikes on Syria would not threaten Assad, while Russia has promised to help limit Iranian influence near the Israeli frontier. A hotline set up since 2015 is aimed at ensuring Russian forces in Syria are not surprised by Israeli attacks.

“The practice of arbitrary strikes on the territory of a sovereign state, in this case, we are talking about Syria, should be ruled out,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, in answer to a question from Russian news agency TASS about recent Israeli airstrikes on Syria.

She said such strikes added to tensions in the region, which she said was not in the long-term interests of any country there, including Israel.

“We should never allow Syria, which has suffered years of armed conflict, to be turned into an arena where geopolitical scores are settled,” TASS cited her as saying.

Her comments follow Israeli strikes in Syria on Monday. Israel did not immediately respond.

Earlier on Wednesday, Netanyahu signaled that the Syria sorties would continue.

“The IDF (Israel Defense Force) is the only military that is fighting the Iranian army in Syria,” he said during a visit to an Israeli army base. “I am certain in our ability to defeat the enemy.”