By Gozde Bayar
ANKARA (AA) - A total of 228 terrorists have been neutralized so far since Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria, the Turkish National Defense Ministry said late Thursday.
“Nine more PKK/PYD-YPG terrorists neutralized in air operation within the scope of Operation Peace Spring. A total of 228 terrorists neutralized so far since Turkey started Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria," the ministry said on Twitter.
The newly launched anti-terror operation liberated 11 villages in Tal Abyad town and Ras al-Ayn city from terrorists Thursday.
The villages of al-Yabisah and Tal Fandar were the first ones cleared of terrorists as part of Operation Peace Spring, which was launched Wednesday east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.
Later, the villages of Musheirifa, Dadat, Bir Ashiq and Hamidiyah in Tal Abyad and Kishto in Ras al-Ayn were also cleared of terrorists.
The villages of Lower Kishto west of Ras al-Ayn, Barzan, Al Jadedah and Gisas were also rid of terrorists.
Forces of the Syrian National Army (SNA) are taking security precautions in villages located west of Tal Abyad.
The SNA entered territory east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria on Thursday to support Turkey's Operation Peace Spring.
The SNA forces -- composed of various opposition groups fighting against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime -- entered the areas occupied by the YPG/PKK terrorists as part of Turkey’s fresh anti-terror operation.
Turkey has said the PKK terrorist group and its extension the YPG/PYD constitute the biggest threat to Syria’s future, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity and unitary structure.
Ankara has also stressed that supporting terrorists under the pretext of fighting Daesh is unacceptable.
Turkey has a 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria and has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates River and the formation of a “terrorist corridor” there.
Turkey plans to resettle 2 million Syrians in a 30-km (19-mile) wide proposed safe zone 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.
Ankara has freed an area of 4,000 square km (1,544 square miles) in Syria from terrorist groups in two separate cross-border operations.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria -- Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch -- to eradicate threats from Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist group.
The two operations were in line with the country’s right to self-defense borne out of international law, UN Security Council resolutions, especially no. 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014), and under the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the 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 of campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.