Over 100,000 migrants left Turkey for Europe, Turkish Interior Minister says

Over 100,000 migrants have left Turkish borders through Edirne for Europe since Friday, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Sunday.

In a statement on his official Twitter account, Soylu updated the figure to 100,577 as of 7:40 p.m. (local time) from 47,000 from a day earlier.

Turkish authorities announced that they would no longer prevent the stem the flow of migrants who wanted to reach Europe.

The decision was made after 36 Turkish soldiers were killed by the Bashar Assad regime forces in Idlib, northwestern Syria. The Turkish soldiers were deployed to the region to protect local civilians under a 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited.

Since then, thousands of irregular migrants have flocked to the northwestern Turkish province of Edirne to make their way into Europe.

Turkey already hosts some 3.7 million migrants from Syria alone, more than any other country in the world.

The nation has repeatedly complained that Europe has failed to keep its promises to help migrants and stem further migrant waves.

More than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by Assad and Russian forces in the zone since then, as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

The de-escalation zone is currently home to four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks.

Turkey launches Operation Spring Shield in Syria’s Idlib

The Turkish military launched Operation Spring Shield in Idlib in response to the brutal Bashar Assad regime attack on Feb. 27, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Sunday.

The defense minister noted that the only goal of the operation is self-defense against the regime soldiers and units that have attacked Turkish troops in the area.

“Some 2,200 Syrian regime troops, a drone, eight helicopters, 103 tanks, tens of howitzers and three air defense systems have been neutralized,” Akar said.

The operation was launched after regime forces carried out airstrikes, killing 34 Turkish soldiers and injuring tens of others in the area.

Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians as part of a September 2018 deal with Russia, which prohibits acts of aggression in the de-escalation zone set up around Idlib.

Thursday’s attack was one of a series since January targeting Turkish troops, with Turkish officials maintaining a pledge that such assaults would not go unanswered.

Highlighting that Turkey does not aim to face off against Russia, Akar said Turkey only wants to stop the Assad regime’s massacres, radicalization and migration, as he said Ankara expects Russia to facilitate its power to end Assad regime aggression and the withdrawal of regime forces to the borders outlined in the Sochi deal.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Russia should stay out of Turkey’s way in the fight against Assad forces. The president will be traveling to Moscow on March 5 to discuss the crisis with Putin.

Operation Spring Shield is the fourth Turkish military operation in northern Syria.

Turkey on Oct. 9, 2019, launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate YPG terrorists from the area east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Besides the recent Operation Peace Spring launched on Oct. 9, Turkey carried out two cross-border operations west of the Euphrates River, Operation Euphrates Shield in August 2016 and Operation Olive Branch in January 2018, to drive out terrorists, including the YPG and Daesh, from its borders. Turkish and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces entered Afrin town center and liberated it from terrorists on March 18.

While Turkey liberated northwestern territories from Daesh, it also prevented the YPG from establishing a de facto autonomous region in Syria connecting northwestern Afrin to Kobani and Jazeera in the northeast, which Ankara describes as a “terror corridor” posing a grave security threat to its national security.

Backed by heavy Russian airstrikes, Syrian regime forces have been fighting since the start of the year to recapture the Aleppo countryside and parts of neighboring Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in the country. The advances have sent hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians fleeing toward the border with Turkey in the biggest single displacement of the nine-year war.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited. But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces in the de-escalation zone since then, as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

More than 1 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to the intense attacks.