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Turkey launches offensive against northeastern Syria

Posted October. 11, 2019 07:40,   

Updated October. 11, 2019 07:40


Turkey has started ground warfare on Wednesday in northern Syria where Kurds are based. Fifteen people, including eight civilians, were killed along with dozens injured on the day alone. The civil war in Syria, which has been going on since 2011, has taken a new turn of an all-out war between Turkey and Kurds.

The Turkish Ministry of National Defence said via Twitter that the Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river and that its military had hit 181 targets so far with airstrikes and artillery. Reuters and other media reported that the Turkish military entered Syria at four points. It’s been also reported that the country’s air force heavily shelled strategic points along the border, including Tel Abyad, Ras al-Ayn, Qamishli, Ain Issa, and Kobani, before the deployment of the ground forces. The exact size of the Turkish troops for the operation has not been known yet.

Turkey dubbed the operation as “Operation Peace Spring” claiming that its attack of Kurds is intended for regional stability and peace. The Ministry of National Defence justified its action under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which covers the right to self-defense, and under UN Security Council resolutions that cover matters related to a war against terrorism, while being respectful of Syria’s territorial integrity. "The operation will only target terrorists and their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons vehicles and equipment. All precautions are taken to avoid collateral damage to the civilian population,” the ministry also claimed.

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting over the issue on Thursday. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said any military operation must fully respect the UN Charter and international humanitarian law. Jens Stoltenberg, the chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, urged Turkey to show "restraint" and to “avoid actions that may cause more human suffering.” He also added that he will discuss the matter with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday. The U.K., Germany, France, Egypt, etc. also called for the suspension of attacks by Turkey. The Dutch government summoned the Turkish ambassador in the country, and Russia and Iran among others are also concerned over Turkey’s expanding influence over the Middle East.

However, Turkey has been unswayed with its intention to continue military operations despite the international community’s opposition. The country is extremely wary of the potential separation by Kurds in the country, which account for about 20 percent of its 82 million populations, in case that Syrian Kurds become independent. The Kurdistan Workers' Party has called for secession since more than 40 years ago and been harshly oppressed by the Turkish government accordingly. The Turkish government has been claiming that the People's Protection Units, the main force of the Kurdish militia in northern Syria, is a sub-group of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.

Se-Hyung Lee turtle@donga.com · Yong Park parky@donga.com