Turkish-rebel offensive close to completing takeover of Kurdish territory in northwest Syria


  • Accepting Assad’s Rule Won’t End Suffering of Syrians

    UPDATE 1345 GMT: Contrasting voices and images from East Ghouta….

    Maamoun talks from a child’s perspective about his love of biscuits, sleeping in the basement, and why he is not afraid of bombing, “I only feel afraid of God, not anyone else”:

    15-year-old Muhammad Najem, who has regularly reported from the area amid the pro-Assad bombardment:

    White Helmets evacuating injured civilians in Douma:

    And regime troops playing on children’s slides:

    UPDATE 0900 GMT: The death toll in East Ghouta, near Syria’s capital Damascus, eased on Sunday as pro-Assad forces consolidated recent gains.

    “Only” 13 people, including five children and four women were slain, according to White Helmets rescuers and
    the Syrian Network for Human Rights.

    The pro-Assad attacks, including Russian airstrikes, have killed more than 1,500 people and wounded thousands since early February. More bodies are still buried under rubble, with rescuers and medics hindered by attacks which have destroyed many areas of towns and damaged at least 22 medical facilities.

    In the past week, many civilians — estimated at 12,000 by the UN last Friday — have fled towards regime frontlines, while thousands others have moved deeper into East Ghouta after more than half the territory was lost to the assault.

    The Violations Documentation Center summarizes:

    Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army swiftly moved into the Kurdish city of Afrin in northwest Syria on Sunday, the culmination of their eight-week offensive against the Afrin canton.

    Defense by the Kurdish YPG militia quickly evaporated after the Turkish-FSA force, having surrounded the city and cut off water, began the move to the center on Friday. The combination of rapid operations and Kurdish retreat meant civilian casualties were relatively low compared to other Syrian cases, although Kurdish officials and the YPG said 15 people were killed when a hospital was hit by shelling — an event denied by the Turkish military.

    Turkish and FSA raised in the center yesterday, extending their control of much of northwest Syria. The offensive had already taken all territory on the border and towns such as Rajo and Jinderes.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan celebrated at a rally on the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli:

    Afrin city center is under control as of 8:30 this morning.

    Most of the terrorists have already fled with tails between their legs. Our special forces and members of the Free Syrian Army are cleaning the remains and the traps they left behind. In the center of Afrin, symbols of trust and stability are waving instead of rags of terrorists.

    Kurdish officials and the YPG promised a guerrilla campaign to “strike the positions of the Turkish enemy and its mercenaries at every opportunity”.

    “Our forces all over Afrin will become a constant nightmare for them,” Othman Sheikh Issa, co-chair of the Afrin executive council, said in a televised statement.

    The UN said on Friday that 48,000 people have fled Afrin canton during the Turkish-rebel offensive. The World Food Programme said it is distributing food to 25,000 people in the nearby regime-held towns of Nubl and Zahra.

    Government spokesman Bekir Bozdag said the military campaign will continue to secure areas around Afrin and ensure food and medicine are available: “We have more to do. But the project of building a terrorism corridor and building a terrorist state is over.”

    Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG militia to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has battled security forces for more than 30 years.

    With the loss of Afrin, Kurdish control in Syria is now focused on the Kobani and Cezire cantons in the north and northeast of the country. The territory is held by the US-supported, YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces.