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.”