By Esber Ayaydin
SANLIURFA, Turkey (AA) - Turkish howitzers targeted YPG/PKK terrorists in Tal Abyad town as part of Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.
Turkish troops are continuing their advance into northern Syria following a ground offensive launched on Wednesday as part of the operation, the National Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
The operation aims to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees as well as Syria’s territorial integrity.
The operation in northern Syria was carried out successfully by air and land overnight, said the ministry.
Turkish airstrikes and howitzers hit 181 terror targets, the ministry added.
On Wednesday, Turkish jets destroyed YPG/PKK targets 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) deep east of the Euphrates River.
YPG/PKK targets at the Rami Airbase and its ammunition depot near Ayn Isa district, as well as five villages -- including Aluk and Tal Fender -- were hit by Turkish F-16 jets.
The airstrikes also hit the terrorist elements in the city of Ras al-ayn, as well as those in the rural areas of Derik and Qamasli districts.
The terrorist group PKK and its extension the YPG/PYD constitute the biggest threat to Syria’s future, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity and unitary structure, Turkish leaders have said.
Ankara has also stressed that supporting terrorists under the pretext of fighting Daesh is unacceptable.
- Terror corridor
Turkey shares a 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria, and it has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates and the formation of a “terrorist corridor” there.
Ankara plans to resettle 2 million Syrians in a 30-km-wide (19-mi) safe zone to be set up in Syria, stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, including Manbij. However, the presence of terror groups such as the PKK, PYD, and YPG risk its formation.
In two separate cross-border operations, Turkey has rid an area of 4,000 square km (1,544 sq mi) in Syria of terrorist groups.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria -- Operation Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch -- to purge the region of the terrorist groups Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the terrorist group PKK.
The two operations were in line with the country’s right to self-defense under international law, UN Security Council resolutions, especially no. 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014), and the right to self-defense under the Article 51 of UN Charter, while being respectful of Syria’s territorial integrity.
During Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish forces neutralized 3,060 Daesh terrorists.
Turkey has suffered greatly from Daesh attacks inside the country. More than 300 people have been killed in attacks claimed by Daesh in Turkey, where the terrorist group has targeted civilians in suicide bombings and armed attacks in recent years.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.