Exodus From Eastern Ghouta as Syrian Army Appears to Near Victory

Leslie Hanson
March 19, 2018

The Kurdish militia called the assault on Afrin an "occupation" and vowed a "new phase" of guerrilla tactics against Turkish troops and its allied Syrian fighters.

Ankara says the YPG is an extension of the PKK, a marxist Kurdish militant group that has been waging an insurgency in southeast Turkey since the 1980s.

Ankara launched the operation, codenamed Olive Branch, against the town and surrounding areas on January 20, slowly squeezing the militia and hundreds of thousands of civilians into the town centre.

Turkey's military tweeted that its forces are now conducting combing operations to search for land mines and explosives.

More than 1,400 civilians have been killed since the regime offensive began, the Observatory says, while tens of thousands more have fled.

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) found the depot during detection operations in the countryside of Afrin city center.

SANA's reporter said that army units implemented intensive operations during the past few hours using tactics suitable for preserving civilians' lives, and these operations resulted in eliminating the last of the terrorists' positions in Saqba and Kafr Batna towns.

"The world has betrayed us", said Ahmad Khanshour, a resident of eastern Ghouta, referring to the global community that could not do much to stop the offensive.


In a regime-held area just outside Afrin, Syrians who had fled their homes were sleeping in mosques and schools - some even in shops, a displaced person there said.

The Kurdish administration of Syria's Afrin region indicated on Sunday that Kurdish-dominated forces fighting Turkey-backed groups in the area will shift from direct confrontation to guerrilla tactics.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Sunday areas of Eastern Ghouta where he met and talked with soldiers to thank them for their victories and civilians to whom he asserted the State will restore stability and security in all that region.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu agency said Turkish troops heading from east to west and troops heading west to east have linked up in northern Afrin. The statue is of Kawa, a mythological hero in Iran's Zagros mountains who defeated a brutal ruler and lit fires to spread the news, ushering in spring.

But Washington has provided weapons to the YPG, which it sees as a key ally in the fight against jihadists in Syria and Turkey, with Ankara's military operation hiking tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Ankara said the demand did not apply to Afrin, but its operation has faced criticism in the West. France's foreign minister said Turkey's concerns for its border security did not justify "the deep incursion of Turkish troops in the Afrin zone", which could also weaken global action against remaining IS militants in Syria.

Turkey also fears the establishment of a Kurdish self-ruled zone in Syria that could inspire its own Kurdish minority to press for greater autonomy. A Kurdish official on Sunday said the fight against ISIS in northeastern Deir el-Zour province, where remnants of ISIS have remained, have been put on hold as the battle for Afrin unfolded.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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