Seven Turkish soldiers killed in offensive on Syrian Kurdistan, tank destroyed

Five Turkish troops were killed in a tank destroyed by the Kurdish Women's Protection Units (YPJ).

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Turkish army on Saturday announced the killing of seven of its soldiers taking part in Ankara’s “Operation Olive Branch” offensive to dislodge US-backed Kurdish forces from the Afrin enclave in northwestern Syria.

“One of our tanks joining the operation in the northeast of Afrin was hit by PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Da’esh elements. Five of our comrades in arms were martyred,” a statement by the Turkish General Staff said.

Da’esh, or the Islamic State (IS), had never had a presence in Afrin since the beginning of the Syrian civil war almost seven years ago.

The People’s Protection Units (YPG) is the US-armed Kurdish group defending Afrin against continued Turkish attacks and fighting IS in Syria while the Democratic Union Party (PYD) is the ruling party in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).

Ankara has labeled both “terrorists” over alleged ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its civilian umbrella Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK).

Another soldier, the Turkish military said, was killed in clashes with the Kurdish forces. The seventh one was killed in a YPG attack on the border, without giving further details.

A Turkish artillery position staging attacks on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin. (Photo: AA)
A Turkish artillery position staging attacks on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin. (Photo: AA)

Saturday’s casualties appeared to be the highest number in one day since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened a new front in the war in Syria two weeks ago, with hundreds of airstrikes and ground shelling on Afrin.

A video released by the YPG’s all-women branch, Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), showed a direct hit to the tank several miles away as a fighter who used an anti-tank missile could be heard celebrating.

Ankara has confirmed the killing of 13 of its soldiers, and the wounding of 57 while saying they have killed 899 Kurdish and alleged IS members.

The YPG previously accused Turkey of misleading the world opinion by claiming it was fighting against IS which they and the US-led coalition drove away from the Turkish border.

While Kurdish forces were secretive about its losses, medical sources in Afrin said aerial, and ground attacks by the Turkish army and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxies have killed 150 civilians and wounded 300 others.

Erdogan has vowed to “cleanse Afrin from terrorists” and give it back to “its true owners,” a majority of whom he said were Arabs.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany