Eight Turkish soldiers killed in Syria, 13 wounded: army

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ISTANBUL, March 2, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Turkey suffered heavy losses on
Thursday during its offensive against a Kurdish militia in northwest Syria,
with the military announcing that eight soldiers were killed and 13 more
wounded.

The death toll, released by the Turkish military staff in two separate
statements, makes Thursday one of the deadliest days for Ankara since
launching its cross-border operation against the People’s Protection Units
(YPG) in Syria’s Afrin region on 20 January.

“As part of the operations in Afrin, five of our heroic comrades fell as
martyrs and seven were wounded” on Thursday, said the staff in a first
statement.

Shortly after, it issued a second statement in which it announced that
three more soldiers had been killed as well as six wounded, without giving
details of the circumstances.

“May God grant peace to our martyred soldiers in Afrin, all my condolences
to their loved ones,” spokesman for the Turkish presidency Ibrahim Kalin said
on Twitter.

The day’s toll brings the number of Turkish soldiers killed since the
launch of operation “Olive Branch” to at least 40.

The private Dogan news agency reported that intense fighting had broken out
in the afternoon between Turkish special forces units recently deployed in
Afrin and YPG members, who mounted an ambush with the help of tunnels.

According to the report a Turkish helicopter sent to rescue the wounded had
to turn back after being hit, while the area was shelled to allow an
evacuation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was informed of the incident during
a visit to Senegal.

Ankara considers the YPG a “terrorist” organisation closely linked to the
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that has been leading a bloody
guerrilla war on Turkish soil since 1984.

However, the YPG is supported by the United States and has been
spearheading the international coalition fight against the Islamic State (IS)
group in Syria.

The situation was complicated further 10 days ago following the deployment
of pro-regime elements in the enclave of Afrin, with observers warning of an
increased risk of collision between the forces of Ankara and Damascus.

On Monday, Turkey deployed some 600 members of the police and gendarmerie
special forces in the Afrin region, indicating it was preparing for urban
fighting.

The Turkish authorities have rejected a call by the United States this week
to implement the humanitarian truce, called for by the UN Security Council in
Syria, with Ankara saying the UN resolution did not concern its operation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said a humanitarian aid convoy
entered the Afrin region on Thursday for the first time since the start of
the Turkish offensive, which has had a severe impact on civilians.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), 141 civilians,
including 27 children, have died since the beginning of the Turkish military
campaign, a claim which Ankara denies.

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