Published: Mon, March 19, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Turkish forces and rebel allies take Afrin town centre from Kurds

Turkish forces and rebel allies take Afrin town centre from Kurds

"The world has betrayed us", said Ahmad Khanshour, a resident of eastern Ghouta, referring to the worldwide community that could not do much to stop the offensive. "Our troops will turn into a continuous nightmare for them", said Othman Sheikh Issa, an official from Afrin.

The journalists in Afrin saw Ankara-backed Syrian Arab fighters and Turkish soldiers in every neighbourhood of the city.

SANA's reporter said that army units implemented intensive operations during the past few hours using tactics suitable for preserving civilians' lives, and these operations resulted in eliminating the last of the terrorists' positions in Saqba and Kafr Batna towns.

A Kurdish official, Hadia Yousef, told The Associated Press the YPG fighters have not fled the town, but have evacuated the remaining civilians because of "massacres".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said Turkish-led forces had made a lightning advance inside Afrin, taking control of half the Kurdish-majority city.

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The Free Syrian Army (FSA), backed by the Turkish army, took over the city center completely as of 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Erdogan said at a ceremony marking the 103rd anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in Canakkale of northwestern Turkey.

Turkey says it will consider a "legitimate target" any group that comes to the aid of Kurdish militia in Afrin. Eastern Ghouta has been split to three parts — the largest rebel-held town of Douma to the north has been cut off from nearby Harasta, and both have been split off from the rest of the area.

It is not clear what Turkey would do after the capture of Afrin. At least 46 Turkish soldiers have been killed since then.

Helberg: All guarantors who should actually be enforcing de-escalation zones - namely Russia, Iran and Turkey - are failing in this role, because at the same time they are intervention powers, pursuing their own military interests in Syria.

Ankara has denied the reports and said it takes the "utmost care" to avoid civilian casualties. "We have more to do".

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Kurdish news websites showed images of Syrian fighters destroying a statue symbolizing the Kurdish new year celebrations that are being held this week.

Erdogan has repeatedly said that Turkey will not allow a "terror corridor" along its border and has vowed to push east after Afrin.

But the Syrian government and its allies are continuing to attack three rebel-held pockets of the enclave, which was, until recently, home to almost 400,000 people.

Turkey launched its border mission, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, on January 20 with the aim of establishing security and stability along its borders after much of northern Syria fell under YPG control.

The Observatory says almost 200,000 people have fled the Afrin region in recent days amid heavy airstrikes, entering Syrian government-held territory nearby.

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