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Syria: Turkish forces advance in Afrin

March 13, 2018

Thousands of people have been fleeing the Syrian town of Afrin, as Turkish troops and opposition fighters move closer to completely encircling it. Troops have destroyed water and power stations that supply the town.

Syrians flee the village of Khaldieh in Afrin
Image: Reuters/K. Ashawi

With Turkish troops and opposition fighters moving ever closer, thousands of Afrin residents have tried to escape the advancing forces by road, while others have been pushed into overcrowded shelters.

Ebrahim Ebrahim, a Europe-based spokesman for the largest Kurdish group in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said those fleeing were heading toward government-controlled areas, afraid that Turkish troops and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters might commit atrocities against the Kurds and minority Christians, Alawites and Yazidis in the town.

Read more: 'The Kurds put their trust in the US and the West'

Life in Afrin is becoming increasingly difficult, with Turkish troops destroying water and power stations that supply the town.

"Water has been cut from Afrin for a week now. Everyone is very scared of what's coming now that the Turkish occupying forces are getting closer to the town's center," said Serbest Hassan, a resident, told the Associated Press.

He also said 800,000 civilians were facing a humanitarian "catastrophe" amid food shortages and Turkish airstrikes. 

Turkey launched the military offensive in the northern Syrian region in January, in an effort to oust the US-backed Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG. Ankara considers the YPG a terror organization linked to its own Kurdish insurgency. Since the start of the offensive, it has captured around 60 percent of the territory.

Ruined buildings in eastern Ghouta area of Douma
The Assad regime continues to bombard the eastern Damascus suburb of GhoutaImage: Reuters/B.Khabieh

Rapid advances in eastern Ghouta

Meanwhile, in the rebel-held eastern Damascus suburbs of Ghouta, people were sleeping in streets and taking shelter in shops.

In a series of rapid advances over the weekend, Syrian government forces split eastern Ghouta in two — a northern and southern part. It then cut off the key towns of Harasta and Douma from the rest of the enclave. Douma is eastern Ghouta's largest settlement.

No progress at the UN

At the United Nations on Monday, the US circulated a draft resolution urging the Security Council to order a 30-day ceasefire in the Syrian capital and eastern Ghouta.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned Syria that the United States was prepared to take military action for alleged chemical attacks that were killing and wounding Syrian civilians.

'Hell on Earth': Eastern Ghouta

av/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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