By Erdal Turkoglu
A former Syrian army general has praised the Turkish military for protecting lives of civilians during its operation in Syria’s Afrin region.
Ex-Brig. Gen. Asad Nasif told Anadolu Agency on Monday: "The Turkish army could have entered the center of Afrin in 24 hours at most, if it wanted to if it hadn't cared about civilians.
"The most important priority of Turkish Armed Forces is to protect civilians."
Nasif said Turkey had launched its anti-terror operation at the right time since the YPG/PKK terrorists were accelerating their terror activities, both in Turkey and Syria, and were also oppressing the residents of Afrin.
He said the mountainous region of Afrin was full of mines and booby traps.
He added the most important element during the operation was to not harm civilians.
"Despite this, the operation was carried out in a faster and successful way, [and achieved more] than we expected.
“It was known that 400,000-500,000 civilians were living in Afrin.
“This operation didn't start with the aim of war. It was made only for sake of humanity," he said.
Apart from showing utmost attention to not harming civilians in the operation, injured civilians were given treatment while given food and clothing was also distributed in liberated areas.
Additionally, residents of the area were protected from YPG/PKK terror attacks.
- Turkey protects civilians
"The residents are very happy about this. We know the Turkish army is very powerful.
“The most important priority of Turkish Armed Forces is to protect civilians.
“Turkish army doesn't kill civilians in Syria as some others do on the pretext of hitting terror.
“The only aim is to end terror. Turkey protects civilians at the cost of risking its own soldiers," Nasif said.
He also slammed several foreign media corporations for running stories to defame the Turkish army despite Turkish efforts to not harm civilians during its military operation in Afrin.
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to remove YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, Operation Olive Branch has aimed to establish security and stability along Turkey's borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from the cruelty and oppression of terrorists.
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, it said.
The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming any civilians.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the YPG/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.
Turkish-backed troops liberated the town of Afrin, the region’s center, early on Sunday.