DAMASCUS, SYRIA (09:30 PM) – Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said in an interview that the Turkish offensive in northern Syria, nicknamed “Operation Olive Branch”, is nearing its completion, according to Arab international newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
“The army has started to control the mountains and it is advancing on Afrin. It has little way to go.”, Erdogan reportedly stated on Saturday, indicating that the Turkish offensive is nearly finished.
However, sources on the ground seem to indicate that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are still putting up a fierce resistance to the Turkish and rebel offensive in the Afrin district of Syria.
Later on Saturday, Ankara confirmed that eight Turkish soldiers were killed in battle, one of whom within Turkey itself as a result of a cross-border exchange of artillery fire with Kurdish militia forces.
The Turkish army meanwhile is continuing to reinforce its positions alongside the Turkish border with Syria. The military has even dropped leaflets across Afrin district, calling upon locals to “unite against “terrorist” organizations”, and reiterating that Turkey would leave Afrin “in the hands of its original residents” after the completion of Operation Olive Branch.
However, many believe that Ankara aims to hand the territory over to rebel organisations grouped in the pro-Turkish Euphrates Shield force.