Assad visits troops and civilians in eastern Ghouta (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

19 March, 2018, 13:26 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Syrian Arab Red Crescent workers help a woman this week in Eastern Ghouta

Tens of thousands have taken to the roads with their belongings, as Russia-backed regime fighters push deeper into rebel Eastern Ghouta outside the capital and Turkey-led forces press an assault in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

The Syrian government forces have been surrounding Eastern Ghouta since 2013, restricting access to humanitarian aid and preventing civilians from leaving.

Syrian state-run al-Ikhbariyah TV aired live footage showing hundreds of men, women and children carrying their belongings and marching into the town of Hamouria that was recently captured by Syrian troops.

He said mopping operations are underway and the Turkish flag has been raised in the town that sits less than 50 kilometers from the Turkish border.

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"There was fierce fighting throughout the night on the northern outskirts of the city as the Turkish forces and their Syrian allies tried to break into the city", the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said almost 200,000 people fled the Afrin region in recent days amid heavy air strikes, entering Syrian government-held territory nearby.

Turkey launched its border mission, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, on January 20 with the aim of establishing security and stability along its borders after much of northern Syria fell under YPG control. More than 150,000 people fled Afrin in recent days, the Syrian Observatory said, as Turkey pressed on with its campaign despite a UN Security Council call for a 30-day ceasefire across Syria.

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The army said in a statement that the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, were trying to create a "negative perception" of the Turkish military. Salih Muslim, a senior Kurdish official living in exile in Europe, tweeted that Kurdish fighters had withdrawn from the town but that they will continue their fight. He said YPG fighters remain deployed in areas of Afrin. He joins TRT World from Ankara with his analysis on Turkey's victory in Afrin and how Turkey will secure the return of displaced Syrians to the town.

It launched its campaign eight weeks ago and threatened to extend the offensive to another Kurdish-controlled region further east where United States forces are stationed alongside the YPG, Washington's ally against IS militant group in Syria.

Late Friday, a Turkish bombing raid struck the city's main hospital, killing 16 civilians, the Observatory said.

Turkey views the Kurdish forces in the Afrin enclave along the border as terrorists linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency within Turkey's borders for more than three decades.

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