Turkey captures strategic town in Syria's Afrin region
March 8, 2018
Marking a major setback for Kurdish forces, Turkey has gained control of one of Afrin's largest settlements. Human rights groups have urged parties to stop indiscriminate attacks, warning of "numerous civilian deaths."
Turkey on Thursday captured the strategic town of Jinderes in the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria, marking a major setback for Kurdish forces in the area.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of on-the-ground sources, said the town fell to Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters "after heavy and sustained bombardment by Turkish aviation."
According to Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had been driven out of the town following intense clashes, which caused extensive damage to infrastructure. Jinderes is considered one of the largest settlements in the region.
Speaking at a press conference in Vienna, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his government expects the operation to end by May so that Afrin can "quickly embrace stability and civilians can return."
"The fighting in Afrin between Turkish and US-backed Kurdish forces has already caused numerous civilian deaths and is putting the lives of hundreds more at risk," said Lynn Maalouf, who heads Amnesty's Middle East research division.
"Reports of shelling of villages and residential areas in cities are deeply troubling," she said. "The use of artillery and other imprecise explosive weapons in civilian areas is prohibited by international humanitarian law and all parties should cease such attacks immediately."
Turkey's offensive has left at least 93 civilians dead and injured more than 300 others, including dozens of children, according to independent monitors.