Turkish forces advance on Kurdish Afrin town

Turkish forces advance on Kurdish Afrin town
2 min read
11 March, 2018
Turkish forces are within 2.5 miles of Afrin town and are poised to recapture the city, reports confirmed on Saturday.
Turkish forces enroute to Afrin [Getty]
Turkish troops reached the outskirts of Afrin town as the offensive against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) ramps up, Reuters reported. 

Ankara's forces are now within 2.5 miles from the Afrin town, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Turkish troops are reportedly aiming to beseige Afrin and cut it off from other areas. 

The news follows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan statement on Friday that his troops could sweep into the town "at any moment".

Although Operation Olive Branch, which began on 20 January, initially made slow progress, Ankara has steamed ahead recently and on Thursday captured the town of Jandairis. Turkey and its allied Syrian opposition factions now hold 60 percent of the Afrin region.

The Turkish assault in northern Syria has sparked concerns for the tens of thousands of civilians in Afrin town. Only one route currently leads out of Afrin and into regime-held zones in Syria's Aleppo province.

At least 370 YPG fighters and 340 rebel fighters have died since Ankara began its offensive earlier this year. More than 200 civilians have also died, but Ankara denies the civilian death toll and says it takes the "utmost care" to avoid casualties.

Ankara says 42 Turkish soldiers have died in the fight.

The Afrin offensive has caused sharp tensions between Turkey and its NATO allies. News of the Afrin campaign raised questions about whether Turkish troops could come into conflict with US forces based in neighbouring Manbij.

President Erdogan has also criticised NATO leaders for not supporting Turkey's operation in northern Syria.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the president asked, "Hey NATO, where are you?". He urged NATO to come to Turkey's assistance, saying his country's borders are "under threat".

Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara has fought an armed conflict with for over three decades.

Both the US and European Union classify the PKK as a terror group.

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