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Turkish Forces Surround Syrian Kurdish City

Turkish Forces Surround Syrian Kurdish CityTurkish Forces Surround Syrian Kurdish City

Turkey said on Tuesday its army and allied rebels had surrounded the Kurdish city of Afrin in northern Syria, raising the prospect of another devastating siege in the country’s long conflict.

With Syria’s war set to enter its eighth year this week, fighting continues on several fronts, including around Afrin and in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, where preparations were under way on Tuesday for the evacuation of wounded civilians, AFP reported.

While attention in recent weeks has focused on a ferocious regime assault on rebel-held Ghouta, in Syria’s north Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels have been advancing in their offensive against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Turkish military said it had completed the encirclement of the city of Afrin, home to some 350,000 people and defended by a well-armed Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The Turkish military provided no further details.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said Turkish forces had de facto surrounded the area by moving to within firing range of the last road leading out of the city towards regime-controlled areas. It said the area included some 90 villages to the west of Afrin city.

The surrounding of Afrin city would be a key step in Turkey’s “Olive Branch” operation, launched on January 20 and aimed at ousting the YPG, a key partner of the US-led coalition fighting the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

Ankara regards the YPG as a terror group and a branch of militants in Turkey who have waged an insurgency for decades.

Hundreds of civilians were seen fleeing the city of Afrin on Monday towards areas under the control of Syrian pro-regime forces.

It remains unclear what Turkey’s next move will be, with some analysts suggesting it will be content to lay siege to Afrin for some time and allow civilians to leave to avoid a high-casualty offensive.

 

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