Turkish army surrounds Syrian city of Afrin

Wednesday, 14 Mar, 2018

While attention in recent weeks has focused on a ferocious regime assault on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, in Syria's north Turkish forces and Syrian opposition fighters have been advancing in their offensive against the Kurdish enclave.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Turkish General Staff announced that at least 3,444 terrorists have been "neutralized" in Operation Olive Branch, which was launched in northwestern Syria's Afrin on January 20 to remove the PKK/PYD/YPG/KCK and Daesh terrorists.

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 yesterday for the evacuation of wounded civilians.

In a brief statement, the Turkish military said that the new siege on Afrin had begun on Monday, adding that it had taken control of "critical areas" of the town without giving further details.

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced hope that the center of Syria's Afrin district will be freed tonight, Turkish media reported on March 14.

Kurdish officials confirmed that Afrin is surrounded.

The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turkish state that has killed tens of thousands of people. "A transfer of population to that region to change the demographic structure is out of the question".

"The concern we have is that the activities up in Afrin are a distraction to our defeat-ISIS activities right now, and there has been an impact to that", he said, referring to Turkey's military operation to remove terror groups in Afrin.

He said the YPG had already withdrawn from Manbij in 2016 and handed control to a local body, the Manbij Military Council.

Washington has provided the Syrian Kurdish fighters with arms, training and air support in the past, angering Ankara which has demanded that its ally halt its support if it wants to cooperate in the region.