Battle for Afrin: Pro-Syrian forces arrive to defend Kurds from Turkey

World Today

SYRIA-CONFLICT-TURKEY-KURDS-REGIME-AFRIN A picture taken on February 20, 2018 shows a convoy of pro-Syrian government fighters arriving in Syria’s northern region of Afrin. (AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIAN)

The crisis in Northern Syria is escalating as pro-government forces entered Afrin to help Kurdish militias fight Turkish troops. They reportedly came under fire as they moved in.

CGTN’s Alaa Ebrahim has more from Damascus.
Follow Alaa Ebrahim on Twitter @Alaa_Ebrahim_tv

One month after the Turkish military incursion into the Syrian region of Afrin, pro-government forces said they have entered the same district.

The Kurdish YPG militia released a statement that said the Syrian government responded to their appeals for help, and sent military units on Tuesday.

Syrian state media said forces that entered Afrin are ‘popular forces’ — a term used by the Syrian media for pro-government militias. A source in the Syrian Ministry of Defense tells CGTN that light units entered the city without heavy weapons, and number less than 2,000 in the operation’s initial phase.

According to Syrian officials, further reinforcements against Turkish forces and anti-government rebels will depend on Kurdish acceptance of government terms that include dissolving the Kurdish militias, and surrendering their weapons and positions to the Syrian army.

SYRIA-TURKEY-CONFLICT-KURDS-REGIME-AFRIN

The major part of the pro-government forces were Iranian-backed militia, an indication of the regional significance of this operation.

A reporter for the official Sana news agency said Turkish artillery targeted the convoy after it crossed into the Kurdish enclave. Local fighters in the YPG, however, said the shells were more of a warning than an actual attack.

Meanwhile in Damascus and its surrounding areas, the Syrian army pressed ahead with a military campaign to take Eastern Ghouta, one of the largest rebel-held areas in Syria, and the closest to the capital.

SYRIA-CONFLICT-EASTERN-GHOUTA

A Syrian man carries a child injured in government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on February 19, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA)

Rebels controlling this area include Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliates and other Islamist factions. The government has been bringing in reinforcements for weeks, for what many experts expect to be one of the biggest battles of the Syrian war.

Medical sources inside Ghouta said that government air and artillery attacks have killed dozens in the past 48 hours. Media reports said nearly 200 civilians have been killed there.

At the same time, the Syrian Interior Ministry said rebels shelling the capital with mortars and rockets have killed more than ten people, and wounded around thirty more on Tuesday alone.

Theodore Kattouf discusses escalating tension in Syria

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