Turkey vows to spare Afrin civilians as reports of 1st non-combatant deaths emerge
Turkey has vowed not to harm civilians in Afrin as it bombs the Syrian Kurdish region amid the first reports of civilian casualties.
"Every kind of attention and sensitivity will be shown so that civilians and innocent people will not be harmed," Gen. Hulusi Akar from the Turkish General Staff said in a video address. He repeated that Turkey is primarily targeting the forces and infrastructure of Islamic State and Kurdish-linked PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG forces, which Ankara considers terrorists.
Operation 'Olive Branch' exploded into action Saturday as Turkey ordered 72 jets to strike Kurdish targets in northern Syria at 5pm local time. As thousands of Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels mobilized to aid the operation, Turkish jets struck 108 out of the 113 intended targets, including the Mannagh Air Base, a military airport in northwest Syria under the control of Syrian Kurdish militants. At least six civilians and three Kurdish fighters were killed in Afrin's city center, the YPG command said, adding that another 13 civilians were wounded.
While Damascus condemned Ankara's campaign, Moscow urged restraint and respect for the territorial integrity of Syria, emphasizing the importance of focusing international efforts on the Syrian peace process following the defeat of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).
Turkey's maintains that UN Security Council Resolutions 1624, 2170, and 2178 allow it to conduct operations against terrorists in Syria while preserving the territorial integrity of its neighbor.