Istanbul: Turkish warplanes carried out air strikes on Kurdish militant bases in northern Syria and northern Iraq on Sunday, destroying 89 targets, Turkey’s defence ministry said, in reprisal for a bomb attack in Istanbul that killed six people one week ago.
The ministry said in a statement that the strikes targeted positions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey says is an offshoot of the PKK.
Ankara has blamed Kurdish militants for the blast on Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue on Nov. 13 that killed six people and injured more than 80. No group has claimed liability for the bustling pedestrian avenue, and the PKK and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have denied involvement.
“It is time to give account for Istiklal,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
The strikes were carried out in Qandil, Asos, and Hakurk in Iraq and Kobani, Tal Rifat, Cizire, and Derik in Syria, the ministry said. The 89 targets destroyed included shelters, tunnels, and ammunition terminals, it said, adding that “so-called directors of the terrorist organization were among those neutralized”.
A representative for the SDF said that the Turkish strikes had destroyed infrastructure including grain silos, a power station, and a clinic. Eleven civilians, including a columnist, died, said Farhad Shami, head of the SDF media center on Twitter. The SDF said in a statement they would retaliate for the strikes. “These attacks by the Turkish occupying forces will not go without a response,” it said.
The state-owned Anadolu agency reported hours after the SDF statement that a Turkish soldier and two police were injured as a result of a rocket fired into Turkey’s Syrian border province of Kilis. Anadolu said the rocket hit an area near a border gate. It was not clear who had launched it.
Separately, a Syrian military source told state media SANA that several soldiers were killed in a “Turkish offensive on Syrian land” on Sunday morning, in the countryside near northern Aleppo and Hasaka.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement on Sunday morning that all necessary measures were taken to avoid harm to innocent people and the surrounding, adding that “only and only terrorists and structures belonging to terrorists were targeted”. “
“The claw of our Turkish Armed Forces was once again on top of terrorists,” he added, dubbing the operation “Claw Sword.” The Defense Ministry said it was the first time it had carried out an airstrike on Kobani. A Turkish official said on Tuesday Ankara intends to seek targets in northern Syria after it completes a cross-border operation against the PKK militants in Iraq.
Turkey has conducted three attacks so far in northern Syria against the YPG militia. President Tayyip Erdogan has previously said Turkey could lead one more operation against the YPG. Ankara has also escalated drone strikes in Syria in recent months, killing several key SDF officials.
Ankara regularly carries out air strikes in northern Iraq and has sent commandos to help its offensives as part of a long-running campaign against the PKK in Iraq.
The PKK has led a revolt against the Turkish state since 1984. It is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.
Washington has allied with the YPG in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, causing a rift with NATO ally Turkey.