The Turkish Prime Minister has reacted angrily to criticism from the French President who warned the country against invading the northern Syrian enclave of Afrin.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said French President Emmanuel Macron had a “flawed understanding” of Turkey’s cross-border offensive in northwestern Syria.
The Turkish premier said “the whole world knows and should know that Turkey does not operate with the mentality of an invader”.
His comments come amid mounting concern about the safety of civilians trapped in the Afrin area as Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch moves well into its second week.
Turkish citizens are quickly realising they risk arrest if they oppose or criticise the military action.
More than 300 politicians, journalists, lawyers and activists have been arrested after tweeting or posting messages on social media sites expressing a mixture of criticism, alarm and derision about the operation or, in some cases, simply for calling for peace.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said those who don’t support the military action are in effect siding with terrorists.
The medical community was shocked after a police raid on its association headquarters and the arrest of its entire eleven-member governing board.
It came after the Turkish Medical Association issued a statement in which the medics warned about an humanitarian tragedy, without actually mentioning the Afrin offensive.
President Erdogan was very publicly critical of the statement – describing the group of top doctors as “filth” and “terrorists-lovers”.
Doctors told Sky News they now fear voicing criticism about any government policy or actions, including the military action in Syria.
One told us he felt it was his ethical duty to speak out about civilian injuries or deaths despite the fear of being taken into custody.
The official Turkish government line is that there is “utmost care” taken to avoid civilian casualties and some ministers have gone further in asserting there are none which have been caused by Turkish airstrikes or military action.
Mr Erdogan has said the military air and ground offensive is necessary to maintain security in his country and protect his country’s borders.
He views the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, controlled by the YPG, as a terrorist hub.
The Turkish authorities are furious at Washington and Paris for arming and supporting the Kurdish YPG as they relied on them to oust IS from Syria.
The Turks are worried the weapons the Kurds were given by the West will be turned on them – and they see the YPG and the outlawed PKK as one and the same.
While the YPG has been treated as an ally by the West in the fight against Islamic extremism, the PKK is deemed a terrorist group by the US, EU and Turkey and has been mounting an insurgency for years inside Turkey.