• Teddy Allen-Rawding

Operation Olive Branch

Conflict erupted in the northwestern region of Syria on the 21st of last month when Turkish ground troops crossed the border into Syria to operations against Kurdish forces in the Syrian district of Afrin. In preparation for the operation Turkey mobilized its air force and launched dozens of airstrikes against more than 100 YPG positions, according to a statement released by the Kurdish SDF general Command.

The YPG, or People’s Protection Units, is a mainly Kurdish militia which functions as the primary component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group, while the U.S. sees them as a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State.

According to the Turkish government, the operation is part of a plan to create a “safe zone” along the turko-syrian border controlled by pro-turkey rebel forces within the Free Syrian Army. They have also stated that a goal of the operation is to clear ISIS out of the area, despite ISIS not having any positions in the region.

In response to the Turkish operations against YPG positions, the Kurds have called for the United States to take action. U.S. secretary of state has stated that Washington is willing to work with Ankara to resolve the situation.

Since the outbreak of hostilities, Turkish forces have made significant advances in the area, having taking control of 11 Kurdish positions and successfully created “safe zones” along the border.

The UK based Syrian Observatory for Humans Rights has announced that as of January 23rd 24 civilians, 24 Kurdish fighters, and 25 Turkish backed rebels have been killed in the clashes. Turkey rejects these numbers and denies any civilian collateral damage, claiming it to be “nonsense propaganda and baseless lies” from the YPG.

On the 26th, Turkish president Reccep Erdogan threatened to take his military offensive as far as Iraq, which prompted the U.S. to respond by urging Turkey to cease operations. As of February 2nd, according to Turkish officials, Operation Olive Branch has been “continuing successfully as planned”. Despite this, fighting has only intensified as the Kurdish have launched fierce counter offensives which have successfully stalled Turkish advances in some areas.

The intensified fighting has also resulted in higher numbers of displaced persons, with the U.N. reporting upwards of 16 000 people having fled the region.

As of the date of publication the conflict is still active.

Photo source: https://southfront.org/turkeys-operation-olive-branch-january-22-2018-videos-photos/