Seven Turkish soldiers die in Afrin offensive in Syria

The Afrin operation was launched on 20 January against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan holds olive branches when it emerged Turkish soldiers had been killed (Photo: ABC News)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan holds olive branches when it emerged Turkish soldiers had been killed (Photo: ABC News)

Seven Turkish soldiers have been killed in an offensive against Kurdish militia in Syria, including five who died in as ingle attack on a tank, Turkey's army has said.

This was Turkey’s deadliest day since the start of the Afrin offensive in Syria two weeks ago.  

Operation Olive Branchwas launched on 20 January against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, seen by Ankara as a terrorist group.

The five Turkish soldiers were killed on Saturday after their tank was attacked near the city.

Earlier in the day, three of their comrades died.

The clashes brought the number of Turkish troops killed so far in the operation to 14.

Turkey shares a 566-mile border with Syria and the YPG (People's Protection Units) controls much of the Syrian side.

However, Turkey considers the US-backed Syrian Kurdish group a terrorist organisation, a growing power on its southern border which threatens its security.

Turkey sent its troops into Afrin vowing to get rid of the YPG and it claims to have killed more than 900 of the group's fighters so far.

The Turkish army and allied Ankara-backed Syrian rebel forces are seeking to oust the YPG from its western border stronghold of Afrin.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London, said it had counted 104 allied rebels and 102 YPG fighters killed since the beginning of the offensive.

Sixty-eight civilians have also died, it added.

In retaliation for the latest attacks on Turkish forces, war planes carried out airstrikes on the area, destroying shelters and munitions dumps, the army said.

Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that the operation might be expanded further east, telling reporters that Turkey would not put up with YPG "anywhere" on its southern border.

He urged the US to "disengage" from the YPG and said Turkey would continue communications with "our American allies to avoid any confrontation".

Ankara says major progress has been made in the 15-day operation, with almost 900 YPG fighters killed so far, although it is not possible to verify these figures.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said France would have a "real problem" if the situation in Afrin turned out to be an "invasion operation".

Many European countries do not share Turkey's view of the YPG as terrorists and have since responded.

On Saturday, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved to reassure Macron, saying that Turkey had "no eye on the territory of another country", according to a report by the state-run news agency Anadolu.

During the phone call, “the two presidents agreed to work on a diplomatic roadmap in Syria in the coming weeks”, the Élysée Palace said.