Turkey tightens grip on border city


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is poised for another crushing military victory over his opponents on the outskirts of the capital damascus, while Turkish forces along with allied rebels have completely surrounded the Syrian city of Afrin, leaving hundreds of thousands of its mostly Kurdish residents besieged.

Assad has defied the United Nations, the Trump Administration and the appeals of the international community by pressing ahead with its assault of eastern Ghouta in one of the bloodiest offensives of the Syria war.

The death toll is surging as the Syrian army and its Russian and militia allies seek to overrun the collection of outer-Damascus suburbs and nearby towns, the largest remaining rebel stronghold in the vicinity of the capital.

Warplanes are carrying out round-the-clock bombardment of the densely populated area that rose up against Assad in 2011 and have been cut off from the outside world since 2013.

Government forces have recaptured around half of the area, and it now seems only a matter of time before eastern Ghouta joins the list of locations clawed back from rebel control — by brute force, negotiated ceasefire or a mixture of the two.

Eastern Ghouta has long been a military priority for the Government.

In north-western Syria, meanwhile, an estimated 700,000 citizens are now encircled in the city of Afrin and surrounding villages and towns as tensions grow in the region, also called Afrin.

Where is the international community? Why don’t they cry tears for all Syrian civilians, not only some? They are too scared to criticise their Turkish ally.


Turkey launched an assault on the border enclave on January 20 to drive out United States-backed Syrian Kurdish forces that it views as “terrorists” linked to Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.

The Turkish military said the siege of Afrin began on Monday after the military took control of “critical areas”.

The only road out was in range of Turkish artillery fire and was therefore impassable, the British-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Some 230 civilians have been killed in Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch.

However, Kurdish fighters warned that the new siege could trigger a humanitarian crisis. There was no water in the city yesterday after Turkish forces seized control of the local dam, and residents say they have relied on water wells for their consumption.

Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighters. Photo / AP
Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighters. Photo / AP

“Where is the international community? Why don’t they cry tears for all Syrian civilians, not only some?” Ahmed Murad, a resident of Afrin told the Daily Telegraph. “They are too scared to criticise their Turkish ally.”

Turkey launched its operation saying it intended to clear the border of People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighters, whom they consider terrorists.

However, its mission has expanded to include territory deep into Syria.

Senior Turkish officials have said that Ankara was trying, through war, to take lands it occupied during the Ottoman Empire. “We aim to give Afrin back to its rightful owners,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President, has said.

Redur Xelil, head of foreign relations for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance of fighters that includes the YPG, accused the Turkish forces of carrying out “demographic change” in Kurdish territory captured in Afrin.

The UN said that it received “disturbing reports” of civilian deaths in the enclave and that it believes “tens of thousands” have been displaced. Turkey has denied the claims.

The Turkish offensive opened a new front in a multi-sided civil war which enters its eighth year today. Turkey considers the YPG a serious threat to its security, while the US has relied on the group in the fight against Isis (Islamic State). Ankara is riled by US support and arming of the Kurds, and accuses Washington of not fulfilling a promise to move the Syrian Kurdish fighters in Manbij east of the Euphrates River.

– Telegraph Group Ltd, Washington Post

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