Turkish-backed rebels advance on Kurdish-held Syrian town

Mar 11, 2018, 01:08
Turkish-backed rebels advance on Kurdish-held Syrian town

Ankara's go-it-alone campaign against the Kurdish People's Protection Units in a region called Afrin is reshaping military alignments in northern Syria and forcing the U.S.to pause its mop-up operations against pockets of the Islamic State extremist group.

The armed forces will push on after operations in Afrin and Manbij, further east, to sweep Syrian Kurdish fighters from the length of Turkey' border with Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

"We can start to hopefully work out some of the issues", the State Department Spokesperson said on Thursday, referring to the Turkey-U.S. tense relations of the past period.

Meanwhile, the NTV broadcaster reported that the Turkish Armed Forces had entered the central districts of Afrin together with the Free Syrian Army.

"Turkish forces (and allied rebels) are on the edges of Afrin, less than two kilometres from the town's northeast", said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

"Today, there were also clashes around Bulbul, where they announced around 30 days ago that they captured, occupied it", he said.

The Kurdish YPG is contesting this claim, however, with YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud saying that the Turks are more like 10 to 15 km away from Afrin, and that they definitely do not have the city surrounded.

The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and "utmost care" was being taken to not harm civilians.

Erdogan urged North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to come to Turkey's aid, saying its borders are "under threat right now".

"Turkey will make sure the east of the Euphrates to the Iraqi border is cleansed of any terrorist group after operations in Syria", he said.

Turkey has battled a decades-old insurgency in its mainly Kurdish southeast and sees the Syrian Kurdish group a growing power on its southern border threatening Turkish security.

Last month, pro-Syrian government militias entered Afrin region to back up the YPG, but their deployment did not deter Turkey despite the possibility of a wider escalation in the war, and it continued its campaign.

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