“Since the onset of Operation Olive Branch, 2,960 terrorists have been neutralized in Afrin. Turkish troops are continuing to advance. Just as we established control in an area of 2,000 square kilometres in al-Rai, Jarabulus and al-Bab, we will do the same in Afrin,” Erdogan said.
In the wide-ranging Euphrates Shield Operation launched in August 2016 and lasting until March 2017, the Free Syrian Army -- with the support of the Turkish army -- had cleared 2,000 square kilometres (772 square miles) of land along the Turkish-Syrian border of terrorist elements.
The president added that “Turkey is not an occupying force,” and that Turkey seeks to ensure that Syrians are able to return to their homes.
Operation Olive Branch was initiated on Jan. 20 in Afrin to establish security and stability, eliminate terrorists of PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh, and save locals from the terrorists’ 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.
The military said it is putting the "utmost importance" 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 putting up a fight.