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Turkish troops advance towards Syria's Afrin — reports

Operation Olive Branch aims to protect Turkey’s borders and ensure security in the region

MOSCOW, January 22. /TASS/. Turkey’s ground forces and units of the Free Syrian Army have advanced 7.5 km from the Turkish-Syrian border towards the city of Afrin in the past 48 hours, Haberturk TV Channel reported on Monday.

Initially, the Turkey-led forces planned to achieve this goal only on the fourth day of the military operation, the TV Channel said.

Upon their advance, the Turkish military entered 69 communities which, as Turkey said, were controlled by the People’s Self-Defense Forces (the Syrian Kurdish militia) whom Ankara considers as terrorists connected with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party banned in the country. The Turkish military fully liberated nine villages and also seized three strategic heights.

Meanwhile, the Haberler news portal reports that the Turkish troops liberated 11 communities from the Kurdish militia along the route of their advance.

In some of the communities liberated from Kurdish militia, the Turkish troops will shortly set up temporary military bases for further tactical maneuvers. According to Haberturk TV Channel, as the 2,000-strong forward contingent involved in the military operation on the Syrian territory establishes control of new areas today, it will be joined by another 1,000 fighters. Overall, Turkey has involved about 6,500 soldiers and officers in the military operation on the Syrian territory.

As the Turkish daily Sabah reports, in the first two day of the military operation, Turkish warplanes dropped a total of 100 tonnes of precision ammunitions against the objectives of the Kurdish militia in Afrin and adjacent areas. The strikes were delivered amid electronic silence to deprive the enemy of the possibility to leave shelters in advance. Overall, 150 targets were destroyed.

Operation Olive Branch

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that the operation in the Syrian enclave of Afrin had actually begun. After that, Turkey’s General Staff announced starting Operation Olive Branch.

According to the Turkish miltiary, the operation aims "to protect Turkey’s borders and ensure security and stability in the region," "neutralize militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, units of the People’s Self-Defense Forces, the Democratic Union Party and the Islamic State terrorist organization (outlawed in Russia)" and liberate the friendly population of Afrin from terrorists."

As the newspaper Hurriyet reports, the success of the operation’s first stage was secured by an accord between Ankara and Moscow. Specifically, it is reported that "Russia has opened the airspace over Afrin for Turkish warplanes and temporarily deactivated air defense systems."

Before the start of the operation, Chief of Turkey’s General Staff Hulusi Akar and Head of the country’s National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan visited Moscow where they discussed issues related to Afrin.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the operation will involve four stages but gave no details. As was reported, Operation Olive Branch aims, in the first place, to destroy the Kurdish militia’s strongholds, weapon depots and logistics. The basic task is to create a security zone around Afrin 30 km deep and 70 km long. The city of Afrin is located 22 km from the border with Turkey.