Turkey eliminates 3444 terrorists in Syria's Afrin

OMAR HAJ KADOUR

Turkey said yesterday its army and allied rebels had surrounded the Kurdish city of Afrin in northern Syria, raising the prospect of another devastating siege in the country's long conflict.

The Turkish offensive opened a new front in a multi-sided civil war which enters its eighth year tomorrow.

Four Turkish soldiers were killed and four were injured on March 13 in separate outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and People's Protection Units (YPG) attacks in Turkey's southeastern province of Diyarbakır and Syria's northwestern district of Afrin.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and in the region as well as to protect Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists. The military provided no further details.

Turning to a question about the US stance on Syria's city of Afrin, Votel said the USA has not operated there and has no intention of doing so.

Turkey launched its operation on January 20, saying it meant to clear the border of People's Protection Unit (YPG) fighters, whom they consider terrorists. Turkey considers the YPG a serious threat to its security, while the U.S. has relied on the group in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

Storyful can not yet independently confirm the Turkish claim that its forces have surrounded the city.

It remains unclear what Turkey's next move will be, with some analysts suggesting it will be content to lay siege to Afrin for some time and allow civilians to leave to avoid a high-casualty offensive.

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have meanwhile been pressing an assault to retake the opposition-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel stronghold near to Damascus.

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