President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 14 that he “hopes” the northern Syrian town of Afrin will be totally encircled by the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) later in the day.
“I hope that Afrin will fall totally this evening [March 14],” Erdoğan said during a meeting of neighborhood heads (muhtars) in the capital Ankara.
His comments referred to the completion of the town’s encirclement by evening, presidential sources said after the speech, “clarifying “his words.
“By saying ‘I hope Afrin will completely fall by tonight,’ the president should be interpreted as meaning he hopes Afrin will be totally encircled by this evening, not seized,” one source said.
Erdoğan reiterated that “utmost care” is being taken to avoid harming civilians in Afrin, saying that if that were not the case the operation against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) would already be over.
“All care is being taken. Right now the first civilians are being taken out of Afrin in vehicles through a special corridor,” he said.
“We will clear Afrin of terrorists, clear Manbij, and east of the Euphrates River to our border with northern Iraq. We will rid terrorists from the whole area in the same way,” he added.
“[The YPG] has partners, too. They did this all together as coalition powers. The terrorists aren’t that smart, don’t be fooled,” Erdoğan added.
“Today, as the operation entered its 54th day, almost 3,500 terrorists have been neutralized and about 1,300 square kilometers of land cleared of terrorists,” he said.
The Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” with the FSA to clear YPG militants from Afrin, near Turkey’s southern border.