Turkey Says Its Forces Encircle Kurdish-Held Afrin In Northern Syria
14 March, 2018, 00:50
Turkey said Tuesday its troops and allied Syrian fighters have encircled the Kurdish-held town of Afrin in northern Syria, putting hundreds of thousands of civilians under siege and marking a significant military advance in the seven-week operation.
The Turkish forces, who had been looking to complete the encirclement in a two-pronged movement from the east and the west, had Afrin surrounded yesterday, the army said in a statement quoted by state media, without giving further details.
Meanwhile, two Turkish soldiers have been killed in separate incidents, both of which involve Kurdish militant groups, Turkish officials said on March 12.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that the evacuations are expected to begin "within hours" under United Nations supervision.
In a written statement, the Turkish General Staff said the centre of Afrin has been surrounded since Monday as a result of the ongoing operations in the region and "critically important areas" have been seized.
Turkey launched a military offensive into the border enclave on January 20 to drive out YPG forces that it considers to be "terrorists" and an extension of Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.
Turkey regards YPG as a terror group and a branch of militants in Turkey who have waged an insurgency for decades. IS said it attacked troops in positions they took from rebels.
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Backed by Russian Federation, the advance has battered Eastern Ghouta with air strikes, artillery and rocket fire, raising widespread worldwide concern and prompting urgent calls for a ceasefire.
Haley said the Security Council's previous cease-fire agreement, which came into effect last month, had "failed".
Medical evacuations of sick and wounded patients from Eastern Ghouta began on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
An AFP reporter at the checkpoint saw Syrian Arab Crescent ambulances on standby. The United States presented a new draft resolution to the Security Council on Monday, as France urged Russian Federation to put pressure on Damascus to end what its UN envoy called a "bloodbath". The Syrian regime's campaign to crush a popular uprising in 2011 plunged the country into civil war. At least four people died in that attack, he added.
The Observatory reported that evacuations of insurgents and their families began from another rebel-held pocket south of Damascus.
The area is not connected to eastern Ghouta, the main rebel enclave near the capital, which has been subject to a fierce assault by pro-Syrian government forces for almost a month.