ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian government on Thursday described the Turkish attack on the Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) city of Afrin as an “occupation,” vowing to address the matter as such.
“The Turkish military operation in northern Syria is a flagrant aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic and its territorial integrity,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published by state media.
“The presence of any foreign military forces on its territory without explicit consent is aggression and occupation and will be dealt with on this basis,” the statement added.
Last month, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Damascus would not stand idle with a Turkish military incursion into its Kurdish-populated north and was “ready to destroy Turkish air targets.”
The attack on Afrin is now in its second week as dozens of civilians, including children and women, were reported to have been killed by Turkish air raids and shelling. Syria has yet to respond militarily.
Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Salih, who arrived in Afrin with his team on Saturday, said the bombing has targeted villages which the Turkish army is seeking to move toward but have not made any progress.
A United Nations report noted that “the majority of hostilities remain concentrated along the Syrian – Turkish border,” suggesting Turkey has made little progress in its campaign against the Syrian Kurds.
Turkish warplanes began striking the Kurdish city of Afrin on Jan. 20 with ground troops entering the region as well.
The campaign dubbed “Operation Olive Branch” by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is meant to clear Syria’s Kurdish-held northwest district of People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters who Turkey claims are an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Ankara has labeled the US-backed Kurdish forces a “terrorist organization” and has been infuriated by Washington’s support for the YPG.
The US, which is backing the Kurds in the ongoing battle against the Islamic State in Syria, said it was concerned and has called on Turkey to limit its military offensive in the Kurdish region.
The Syrian government continues to condemn the Turkish assault, but it also opposes the YPG and Kurdish aspirations for autonomy in northern parts of the country.