Turk­ish airstrikes pound Kur­dish fighters


AFRIN: Turk­ish airstrikes pounded the Syr­ian bor­der re­gion of Afrin and fight­ing raged on two fronts as Ankara pur­sued its of­fen­sive against the Kur­dish en­clave on Tues­day.

A mon­i­tor­ing group and Kur­dish sources said Turkey's air force had stepped up its raids on the 10th day of op­er­a­tion “Olive Branch,” which sees Turkey pro­vid­ing air and ground sup­port to Syr­ian op­po­si­tion fighters in an of­fen­sive against Kur­dish mili­tia in north­west­ern Syria.

Turk­ish jets were hit­ting Kur­dish po­si­tions in the towns of Rajo and Jandairis, said the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights mon­i­tor­ing group.

Syr­ian op­po­si­tion backed by Turkey “were en­gaged in fierce bat­tles against Kur­dish forces” in the two towns, said Rami Ab­del Rah­man, the head of the Bri­tain-based Ob­ser­va­tory.

“Turkey's aerial cam­paign against Afrin has es­ca­lated since Mon­day,” he added.

A spokesman for the YPG, which Ankara con­sid­ers a “ter­ror” group, said the strikes had been re­lent­less.

At least 85 YPG mili­ti­a­men have died, the Ob­ser­va­tory says, as have 81 fighters from the op­po­si­tion groups fight­ing with Turk­ish back­ing.

Turkey said seven of its soldiers have been killed.

Turk­ish state-run news agency Anadolu re­ported on Tues­day that two vil­lages in the Afrin re­gion had been “cleared” of the YPG.

Turkey and al­lied forces have made gains in the of­fen­sive and on Sun­day seized con­trol of Mount Barsaya, a strate­gi­cally im­por­tant high point near the town of Afrin.

A Turk­ish mil­i­tary con­voy of dozens of vehicles crossed the bor­der overnight, the Ob­ser­va­tory said. It ini­tially headed to­ward an area south of Afrin but was forced to change course af­ter com­ing un­der fire from forces loyal to Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad's regime.

Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties have cracked down on crit­i­cism of the op­er­a­tion and on Tues­day de­tained all the top mem­bers of the coun­try's main med­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tion, in­clud­ing its chief.

The ar­rests came af­ter the Turk­ish Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (TTB) is­sued a state­ment say­ing that “war is a man-made pub­lic health prob­lem.”

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