Published: Sun, March 18, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Syrian children run from strikes on seventh anniversary of civil war

Syrian children run from strikes on seventh anniversary of civil war

The Observatory said another 36 people were killed in the Kurdish-held town of Afrin in northern Syria, where Turkish troops and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters have been on the offensive since January 20.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said Friday that 80 people were killed across the enclave.

An estimated 12,000-16,000 people had already left Ghouta before Saturday, while more than 48,000 were reportedly displaced in Afrin, a United Nations aid official in Syria has said.

"Turkish air and artillery strikes rained down overnight and in recent days, driving tens of thousands out of the main town by auto and on foot, Kurdish authorities and the Observatory say".

After almost four weeks of relentless bombardment, which has left more than 1,250 civilians including children dead, government forces are inching closer to capturing the rest of the enclave, forcing civilians to flee.

Government forces also captured the nearby town of Jisreen, it said.

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Syria's civil war this week entered its eighth year with world powers unable to stem a complex conflict that has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced at least half the country's population.

Eastern Ghouta is one of the few remaining areas in Syria under rebel control.

Speaking about the capture of Kafr Batna, al-Shami of the Syrian Civil Defense said people "fled in the streets not knowing in which direction to go".

Syrian government troops have been pressing a ferocious air and ground assault on Ghouta since February 18 that has seen them retake 70% of the former rebel bastion.

However, the Turkish military in a posting on Twitter denied on Saturday that it had struck the hospital, adding that it was carrying out the campaign in a way that it would not hurt civilians.

"Warplanes targeted civilians in Zamalka as they prepared to flee" the southern area of the enclave held by the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel group, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

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President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had "largely solved the Afrin issue".

An exodus of similar proportions was under way hundreds of kilometres to the north in the city of Afrin, where Kurdish forces have been almost encircled by Turkish troops. "It was the only functioning hospital in Afrin city", a Kurdish Red Crescent official told the AFP news agency.

Earlier on Friday, Turkish aircraft dropped leaflets in Arabic and Kurdish on Afrin, asking residents to stay away from "terrorist positions" - a reference to the Syrian Kurdish fighters - and to not let themselves be used as "human shields".

Friday's strike, allegedly by Turkey, was in an area where Turkish warplanes are making regular sorties as part of an operation to clear Kurdish militias from the Turkish-Syrian border.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization that is a Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade against the Turkish state.

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