Dozens killed in Turkish air strikes against Kurdish militants in Syria, Iraq

Issued on: 20/11/2022 – 16:21

In this photo released by Turkey’s defense ministry, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, right, and top army commanders work at the Air Force command center, in Ankara, Turkey, early Sunday, November 20, 2022. © Turkish Defence Ministry via AP

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Turkey announced on Sunday it had carried out air strikes against the bases of outlawed Kurdish militants across northern Syria and Iraq, which it said were being used to launch “terrorist” attacks on Turkish soil.


The raids in northern and northeastern Syria overnight, primarily against positions held by Syrian  forces, killed at least 31 people, British-based war monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for said. 

The offensive, codenamed Operation Claw-Sword, comes a week after a blast in central Istanbul that killed six people and wounded 81.

Turkey blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (), which has waged a bloody insurgency there for decades and is designated a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies. The in the .

“Air Operation Claw-Sword was successfully carried out, within the scope of our strategy to eradicate terrorism at its source and eliminate terror attacks against our people and security forces from northern Iraq and Syria,” the defence ministry said in a statement. 

The strikes targeted PKK bases in northern Iraq’s mountainous regions of Kandil, Asos and Hakurk, as well as bases of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (), in Ayn al-Arab (called Kobane in Kurdish), Tal Rifaat, Jazira and Derik regions in Syria, the ministry said. Ankara considers the YPG as a terror group affiliated with the PKK. 

Of all, 89 targets including shelters, bunkers, caves, tunnels, ammunition depots, so-called headquarters and training camps belonging to the militants “were destroyed”, the ministry said, adding “many terrorists were neutralised”, including their leaders. “All our planes safely returned to their bases after the operation,” it added. 

Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was seen in a video image briefing President , who gave the order for the latest operation, which the Syrian government said killed a number of its soldiers. 

The Istanbul bombing was the deadliest in five years and evoked bitter memories of a wave of nationwide attacks from 2015 to 2017 that were attributed mostly to Kurdish militants or . No individual or group has claimed responsibility.

Rocket attack

A rocket fired from left three people wounded on the Turkish border, the official Anadolu news agency reported. One Turkish soldier and two special forces police officers were injured after the rocket fired by Kurdish militia forces fell on the Oncupinar border gate area near the Syrian border, said the agency. 

After the Istanbul explosion, Turkish authorities arrested more than a dozen people, including chief suspect Alham Albashir — a Syrian woman who is said to have been working for Kurdish militants. Bulgaria has also detained five people accused of having helped one of the suspects. 

“The hour of reckoning has come,” the Turkish defence ministry tweeted early on Sunday, along with a photo of a plane taking off for a night operation.

Hesap zamanı!

Alçaklardan hain saldırıların hesabı soruluyor! 🇹🇷

— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma)

Nearly 25 air strikes hit the provinces of Raqa, Hassakeh and Aleppo, killing 18 members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (), 12 members of Syria’s military and one journalist, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

Terör yuvaları tam isabet vuruşlarla yerle bir ediliyor! 🇹🇷

— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma)

Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria meanwhile gave a toll of 29 dead — including 11 civilians, 15 fighters aligned with Syria’s military, two silo guards and one Kurdish fighter. Turkey’s military has in the past denied claims that its strikes target civilians.

In its first comment on the Turkish strikes, the Syrian defence ministry said “a number of soldiers” were killed due to “Turkish aggressions in northern Aleppo and Hassakeh provinces at dawn”. 

Complex ties with US

Turkey’s latest military push could create problems for Ankara’s complex relations with its Western allies — particularly the , which has relied mostly on Syrian Kurdish militia forces in its fight against IS jihadists. Turkey has often accused Washington of supplying Kurdish forces with weapons. 

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu rejected the United States’ message of condolences after the Istanbul attack, even though Erdogan accepted them during a meeting on Tuesday with President Joe Biden on the margins of the G20 summit in Indonesia.  

Soylu has said Ankara believes the order for the Istanbul attack was given from Kobane, controlled by Syrian Kurdish militia forces, which have also denied any role. 

Kobane, a Kurdish-majority town near the Turkish border, was captured by IS in late 2014 before Syrian Kurdish forces drove them out early the following year. The US-backed SDF said the Turkish attacks would “not go unanswered”, in a statement. 

Turkey has launched waves of attacks on Syria since 2016 targeting Kurdish militias as well as IS , and Ankara and forces backed by it have seized territory along the Syrian border. Since May, Erdogan has threatened to launch a new operation in northern Syria.


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