Turk­ish forces lay siege to Syria’s key Kur­dish town, civil­ians flee­ing

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Turkey’s army and al­lied Syr­ian rebel forces have sur­rounded the city of Afrin in north­west­ern Syria, the main tar­get of Turkey’s op­er­a­tion there.

The mil­i­tary said on Tues­day that forces en­cir­cled Afrin and also gained the con­trol “ar­eas of crit­i­cal im­por­tance” in the re­gion as of Mon­day. The so-called Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory of Hu­man Rights (SOHR), a Bri­tain-based mon­i­tor­ing group, con­firmed the de­vel­op­ment in a sep­a­rate state­ment.

Turkey - to­gether with the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion the so-called Free Syr­ian Army (FSA) rebel group - launched in Jan­uary an air-and-ground op­er­a­tion into Afrin in the north­west of Syria to vanquish the United States-backed Kur­dish Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG/Yekîneyên Parastina Gel) fighters near its bor­der.

Turkey con­sid­ers the Kur­dish Demo­cratic Union Party (PYD/Par­tiya Yekîtiya Demokrat?) in Syria and its armed wing YPG to be “ter­ror­ist groups” with ties to the banned Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party (PKK/Par­tiya Kark­erên Kur­dis­tanê).

The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turk­ish state that has killed tens of thou­sands of peo­ple.

Afrin city - the main ur­ban cen­ter in the YPG-con­trolled en­clave on the Turk­ish bor­der - is home to around 350,000 peo­ple, the SOHR Ob­ser­va­tory said.

The so-called SOHR says over one mil­lion civil­ians face an “un­known fate” as Turkey is lay­ing siege to the re­gion.

The pro-Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces en­tered Afrin re­gion late Fe­bru­ary to re­pel Turkey’s of­fen­sive.

This is the first time that Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces have been de­ployed in the re­gion since 2012 when the YPG held the area un­der its con­trol.

In the ab­sence of Syr­ian air cover, the YPG is de­fense­less against Turk­ish airstrikes, which pave the way for ground forces to ad­vance.

The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment has al­ready con­demned the “bru­tal Turk­ish ag­gres­sion” against Afrin, re­ject­ing Ankara’s claim about hav­ing in­formed Da­m­as­cus of the op­er­a­tion.

Since the start of its of­fen­sive, Turkey has also threat­ened to push its mil­i­tary oper­a­tions to Man­bij, fur­ther east, to sweep Syr­ian Kur­dish fighters from the length of its bor­ders.

Turkey’s re­peated threats to push to Man­bij have caused com­pli­ca­tions with NATO (North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion) ally the U.S., which has its troops de­ployed in the area and is back­ing the YPG in the fight against the Is­lamic State in Iraq and the Le­vant (ISIL/ Daesh), a move that has in­fu­ri­ated Ankara.

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