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Turkey and United States evaluate options for joint Raqqa operation

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Turkey and the U.S. are discussing options for a joint operation to retake Daesh’s so-called capital of Raqqa, a photo released by the Turkish military has revealed. Turkish military Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar met with his counterparts U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford and Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov in the southern city of Antalya on Tuesday. The Turkish military released photos of the meeting, and in one of the photos, a document can be seen in front of a Turkish general with the title “Raqqa Offensive: Turkey-U.S. joint planning”. The photo revealed that Ankara and Washington are currently evaluating options to draw up a joint plan for the Raqqa offensive. A U.S. commander of the anti-Daesh coalition told reporters last week that military leaders are still discussing Turkey’s participation in the Raqqa operation, and that a decision is yet to be made on whether to include the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the PKK’s Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) armed wing, the YPG in the offensive. Ankara strictly opposes any involvement of the PYD/YPG in the Raqqa operation, as Turkey considers it a terrorist group. Ankara has suggested that the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has successfully liberated Jarablus, Dabiq and al-Bab as part of Turkey-backed Operation Euphrates Shield, lead the operation in cooperation with the Turkish military. The YPG, under the guise of the SDF, is on its way to Raqqa. In fact, according to sources close to the YPG, the terrorist group is positioned only a few kilometers away from Raqqa, a Syrian city on the northeast bank of the Euphrates River. Ankara has claimed that several thousand FSA fighters were ready to engage against Daesh to liberate Raqqa.



Reports say civilians have been harmed during military operations, Turkish military rejects the accusations

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The Turkish military has rejected reports that civilians have been harmed during its ongoing military operation in northern Syria. The reports said that civilians were affected during the ongoing Euphrates Shield Operation but according to the General staff it doesn’t reflect the facts on the ground because to not harm the civilians is one of the basic principles of the Turkish Armed Forces. The operation began in late August last year to improve security, support coalition forces and eliminate the terror threat along Turkey’s border with Syria with the help of opposition fighters backed by Turkish artillery and jets. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based war monitor, had said in late December 2016 that Turkish airstrikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-held town of al-Bab in northern Syria, had killed civilians. This claim was not verified from other sources.

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