By Zuhal Kocalar, Izzet Mazi and Ridvan Korkulutas
KILIS, Turkey (AA) - Turkey’s justice minister said on Saturday that Operation Olive Branch in northwest Syria is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law.
Speaking to reporters in the southeastern province of Kilis, bordering Syria, Abdulhamit Gul said: “[The operation] is legitimate under the framework of international law, [and is] being carried out against the PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorist organizations.”
Gul, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu, was visiting Calik Mosque to inspect the damage after a rocket attack from the PYD/PKK in Afrin, Syria during evening prayers on Wednesday left eight civilians injured.
“The attack from Afrin on Calik Mosque serves to show how important Operation Olive Branch is. It is a picture that shows that our enemies are never civilians, that they are terrorists.
“An attack on a sanctuary, on a mosque is a terrorist attack, and Operation Olive Branch is essentially an operation launched against terrorists to ensure the safety of the life and property of our people,” Gul said.
For his part, Cavusoglu said: “We will complete the restoration of this place as soon as possible. We will sign a contract in 30 days and reopen [the mosque] to prayers for our brothers in Kilis within the year.”
“Our only target is terrorists, the terrorist organization, their shelters, pits, tools and equipment. We are showing the highest sensitivity to the civilian population not being harmed,” he added.
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
According to the military, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost importance" is being put on not harming any civilians.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.