Turkey sends doctors to border provinces ahead of possible Syria operation

The Turkish Ministry of Health has ordered health personnel in 11 provinces to be sent to southeastern provinces of Şanlıurfa and Mardin for a cross-border operation to be launched in Syria, Artı Gerçek news site reported on Monday.

The ministry said in a circular sent to provincial organisations in 11 provinces including Ankara and İzmir that the health personnel would be assigned for a month starting form Sept. 20 to health facilities in two southeastern provinces to support the Turkish military’s planned operation in Syria. 

The ministry on Thursday ordered the governor of Şanlıurfa to cancel the annual leaves of the health personnel until new order. 

Ömer Melik, the head of Urfa Medical Chamber, told Artı Gerçek that the hospitals in the province had been notified about the measures. “The leaves are cancelled without any deadline. The reason was not explained to us. But we think it is related to the situation in Syria,” Melik said. 

But neither the Health Ministry nor the Urfa Governor’s Office provides any information about those measures on their web sites.

Turkey last month set up a joint operations centre with the United States in Akçakale border district of Şanlıurfa for plans to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday said that Turkey would set its own plan in action, if it did not get results within the next fortnight in relation to joint Turkish-U.S. efforts for the planned safe zone.

Turkey has repeatedly said that it would launch a military operation against territories in northeast Syria controlled by the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party. The SDF and its affiliate Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG) form the backbone of U.S.-led coalition forces fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.