Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Turkey will withdraw its forces from Afrin: Deputy Prime Minister

Erdogan says Turkey killed 38 PKK fighters in Shingal Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressing an audience at his Ankara palace
Patty Aguilar | 19 March, 2018, 19:46

Translating as the People's Protection Units, the US-backed YPJ (also known as the YPG) is a mainly-Kurdish militia in Syria comprising 50,000 members including Arabs and British volunteers.

The State Department said United States "does not operate" in the Afrin area and was "deeply concerned over reports from Afrin city in the last 48 hours". The house-to-house looting took place after hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurdish civilians fled to areas controlled by government forces.

Turkey-backed FSA militia swept into Afrin town on Sunday, raising their and Turkish flags in the town centre and declaring full control after an eight-week campaign to drive out Kurdish YPG fighters.

The Syrian monitor said pockets of YPG militants had defied orders to withdraw, but the town had fallen to the Turks and rebels. Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish militiamen as terrorists due to their links to Kurdish insurgents fighting inside Turkey.

The OCHA estimated that 100,000 people remained in Afrin district and said it would increase its humanitarian aid efforts in the area.

Kurdish authorities said on Sunday that their forces would "switch from direct confrontation to hit-and-run attacks" and that resistance would "continue until every inch of Afrin is liberated".

"Operation Olive Branch is not directed against Syria", he added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said that after taking Afrin, Turkey's offensive would expand to key border towns controlled by the YPG right up to the Iraqi frontier.

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Othman Sheikh Issa said that Kurdish forces fighting Turkey-backed groups would use guerrilla tactics.

A senior Kurdish official, Aldar Khalil, called the Turkish offensive an "occupation" that endangers the rest of the region, saying "the whole of northern Syria is in danger".

European Union headquarters said on Monday that the four work at the Scientific Studies and Research Center, a Syrian government agency the European Union says produces chemical weapons and missiles to deliver them.

Turkish troops and Syrian opposition fighters allied with Ankara captured Afrin on Sunday, almost two months after Turkey began its offensive on the enclave.

She urged Turkey, Russia and Iran to guarantee that conflict "de-escalation zones" are established as promised, to "guarantee that that is what happens on the ground".

So will Turkey now move on Manbij, a YPG-held town about 100km (60 miles) to the east?

The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on sources across Syria for its information, has reported looting in several villages since pro-Ankara forces on January 20 launched an assault on the wider Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

There will be pressure on Turkey to bring refugees from Afrin back swiftly.

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