Turkish military says 260,000 Syrians returned to ‘Euphrates Shield’ operation area

A total of 260,000 Syrian nationals have returned to an area in northern Syria where Turkey carried out a cross-border operation dubbed ‘Euphrates Shield,’ according to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. Turkey launched the operation in 2016 and ended in 2017 to drive away Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from its border with Syria. Ankara regards the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization. “As a result of the infrastructure work and security and stability in the region provided by the Turkish armed forces, around 260,000 Syrian nationals have returned to the Euphrates Shield Operation area,” Reuters quoted Akar as saying. Akar said on Thursday that Turkey’s operations in northern Iraq would continue until what he described as the terrorist threat to Turkish territory had ended. The statements came after a week of airstrikes in the area that have targeted the bases of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters. Turkey hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees who fled the conflict in their homeland.