Syrians flee Afrin as Turkish forces advance

Civilians in the northern town of Afrin have started to leave the area as the Turkish forces shelled the same as reported by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Turkey has launched a full offensive in Afrin to drive YPG Kurdish rebels from the town. Turkey has stated that it will proceed to Manbij after the siege of Afrin is complete. People have started to move towards the Shi’ite villages of Nubul and Zahra in Aleppo which are have supported a pro-government stance. Syrian regime forces have also come to aid YPG in what is seen as the Turkish invasion.

Turkey has also categorically stated that it will not return Afrin to Syria after the Kurdish YPG fighters are removed from the area. The Turkish offensive has left 12 people dead and wounded 60 others in last 24 hours. Those wounded are highly critical which has raised the fears of rising in the death toll. Ankara sees YPG as an offshoot of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been in conflict with Turkey since last three decades and has killed thousands along the Turkish borders. Nearly 10,000 people have left Afrin on cars or on foot. The people who choose to stay were seen in long queues for buying bread and food.

Ankara has claimed to clear Afrin of all terrorists shortly and then assuming complete control of the city. Latter move to govern Afrin will be a major breach of international law. Turkey had launched Operation Olive Branch to free Afrin of the Kurdish militants which it considered were a potent threat to its borders. Ankara had also exchanged coldness with the US over its support to YPG. However, throughout its offensive, Turkey had considered Afrin to be a sovereign Syrian territory but the latest stance on keeping and governing the area till it desires is a fundamental shift in its original position. European Parliament has raised concerns over the escalating violence and potential consequences. It has urged Turkey to withdraw its forces and thereby play a role of a responsible international player. President Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed the call. Erdogan has said that the European Resolution depicts a clear support for the rebel group and rejected claims that Turkish forces are targeting civilians.

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