ANKARA (Sputnik) – The Syrian Defense Forces' press service reported of 308 Turkish servicemen killed since the start of the Olive Branch operation in Afrin. This number contradicts Ankara's reports.
"We have 43 victims among our fighters, including eight women from the YPJ (women's self-defense forces). 134 civilians were wounded and 59 are dead," the statement said.
According to the Syrian Defense Forces, since January 20, the Turkish Air Forces have carried out 191 sorties and dropped 699 shells on the territory in the north of Syria. During the operation, there have been 136 clashes between the SDF and the advancing forces. The SDF even mentions seven more clashes, "the results of which have not been not confirmed."
"Turkish aggression led to… the deaths of 308 members of various offensive troops, with four officers and a general among them," the SDF stated.
However, the Turkish Health Ministry has refuted the number of its servicemen killed, claiming that only three have died since the start of the operation.
"Three Turkish servicemen were killed during the country’s operation in Syria’s Afrin and 16 remain hospitalized, a spokesperson of the Turkish Health Ministry told Sputnik on Friday.
"To date, three Turkish servicemen have been killed during the operation in Afrin …Several dozen have been injured, most of them received medical assistance on site. As many as 16 are in the hospital, their condition is not critical," the spokesperson said.
According to the latest data released by the Turkish military, a total of 343 "terrorists" have been eliminated since the beginning of the Olive Branch operation, which was launched on January 20.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed that Ankara could extend its third military advance in Syria all the way east to the border with Iraq, emphasizing that the country would "completely clear the region of terrorists, beginning with Manbij and throughout our entire border [with Syria]."
The Olive Branch offensive was launched on January 20 in the Kurdish-dominated Syrian city of Afrin, controlled by the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). The latter is considered to be an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist group in Turkey and some other countries.
Despite Moscow and Washington's opposition to the operation, Ankara stresses that the advance is not aimed against the Syrian government <link>, calling the territorial integrity of Syria its common goal with Damascus.
The operation hasn't come as a surprise, as Turkey has been mulling it over since the US <link> announcement of plans to train a 30,000-strong border force in northern Syria mostly from YPG fighters, which was strongly criticized by Turkey . Within a week after the plans had been declared, Ankara launched an offensive in Syria's Kurdish enclave of Afrin <link> code-named Olive Branch and aimed at eliminating terrorists in the region.