Turkish military has said that 260 Kurdish and ISIL fighters have been killed in Turkey’s incursion into northwestern Syria, a claim refuted by a Kurdish commander.
Turkish troops have taken control of various Syrian Kurdish positions and created “safe zones” in these areas, according to Turkish media.
One Turkish soldier has died in the operation, according to the military.
The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed People’s Protection Units (YPG) have come to control large swaths of northern Syria, including Afrin, in the course of the Syrian war.
Redur Xelil, a senior official from Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the YPG, told the Reuters news agency that Turkish military was greatly exaggerating the number of SDF and YPG casualties.
He confirmed YPG and SDF fighters had been killed, but declined to say how many. He also said the SDF had killed tens of Turkish forces and allied Free Syrian Army fighters, but said he did not have precise numbers.
He also denied the claim that there were ISIL fighters taking part in the fight over Afrin.
Turkey sees the YPG as a “terrorist group” that acts as the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody three-decade fight against the Turkish state.
The US, however, sees the YPG as an effective group in the fight against ISIL in the region.
The Turkish operation against the US’ Kurdish allies could threaten Washington’s plans to stabilise and rebuild a large area in northeast Syria – beyond President Bashar al-Assad’s control – where the US supported a force dominated by the YPG to drive out the ISIL group.
Erdogan and Trump will talk over phone
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump will speak over the phone on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Afrin, according to Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister.
Although Moscow did not express support for the operation, Russian forces in Afrin were withdrawn from the area just before the start of the offensive and Turkish jets were allowed to use the airspace over the area, which is controlled by the Syrian government and Russia.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had also discussed Turkey’s military operation with Erdogan by phone, saying that Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty had to be respected.
A Kremlin statement said both men stressed the importance of continuing their two countries’ joint work to try to find a peaceful resolution to Syria’s crisis. Russia has been Assad’s most powerful ally against rebels and fighters in Syria.