Thousands flee as Turkey begins siege of Syrian town of Afrin

Elias Hubbard
March 17, 2018

On Monday, the SOHR said that hundreds of residents had fled the area and many had arrived in Syrian-government-controlled territory ahead of the Turkish advance, according to Al Jazeera.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that the evacuations are expected to begin "within hours" under United Nations supervision.

On Friday, Turkey's military and its rebel allies had besieged Afrin and were nearing its town centre, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, in what would mark a major advance in Turkey's military operation. The Syrian government and the Russian military have set up a corridor outside eastern Ghouta to arrange the evacuation from the area, which is home to some 400,000 people.

The Turkish military is also involved in an operation called "Olive Branch", which was launched on January 20 to clear PKK and IS terrorists from Afrin in northwestern Syria.

Speaking to reporters during a flight to Moscow, Cavusoglu said Turkey and the U.S. would decide on a detailed plan for the region in the coming week, vowing that Turkish forces would go ahead with a military operation if those talks fail.

A top Syrian Kurdish official, Fawza Yousef, described intense Turkish shelling of the town and said Turkish forces were expected to "invade" soon. It said the military took control of "critical areas" of the town but did not provide details.

The Observatory also warned that if fighting intensifies in urban areas of Afrin, the number of casualties will rise.

Speaking to reporters on a flight to Moscow, Turkey's foreign minister was quoted as saying that Ankara and Washington would together oversee the withdrawal of YPG fighters from Manbij, a move that Turkey has long demanded.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey and is listed as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.

The Army of Islam's statement came hours after it said it had reached an agreement with government-allied Russian forces to evacuate the wounded from the enclave.

"Basic humanitarian needs, including health services of civilians in the operation area have been met "devotedly", it said.

He said that two working groups were created in February to prevent this.

Syrian government forces captured more than half of eastern Ghouta over the past two weeks and laid a siege on the group's stronghold of Douma.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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