Turkey rejects calls to suspend Afrin assault

Turkey rejects calls to suspend Afrin assault
Ankara has rejected calls from Western countries to suspend its military campaign against the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, pushing forward with its assault.
2 min read
04 March, 2018
War monitors estimate casualties at 311 on both sides in Turkey's assault on Afrin [Getty]

Turkey has rejected calls by NATO allies for it to suspend its assault against the Kurdish-held Afrin enclave in line with the UN ceasefire for Syria.

The truce does not apply to the Islamic State group, al-Qaeda and groups associated with it, or other groups deemed terrorist by the Security Council, and has also been ignored by the Syrian regime and Russia in Eastern Ghouta.

Last month, Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch in the northern Syrian region, with war monitors estimating the death toll at 311.

Ankara is fiercely opposed to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) - considered by the Turkish government to be a terrorist group.

The 50,000-strong YPG has allied with the US in eradicating the Islamic State group from northern Syria and have been armed by the US since May 2017.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is deemed a terrorist group by the US, the EU and Turkey.

The Syrian regime has chosen to ally itself with the Kurdish YPG in its fight against Turkey in Afrin, despite being at odds elsewhere in Syria.

UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Turkish warplanes struck the pro-government "popular" forces at a camp in Kafr Jina. In a statement, the SDF said that Turkish air strikes had targeted positions held by the regime-allied militia from 5am to 10am, without giving a death toll.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his country's forces had captured the town of Rajo from militants.

The military said in a statement that the army had taken control of seven settlements including Rajo on Saturday.

Turkey is in control of about 70 percent of the town, said the observatory, which lies about 25 km northwest of Afrin city.

"Our soldiers, special forces, gendarmes and Free Syrian Army fighters are advancing towards Afrin step by step," added Yildirim.

On Saturday, at least 36 pro-regime troops were killed in Afrin by Turkish warplanes carrying out heavy airstrikes.