18 June, Monday

Afrin city center encircled in Operation Olive Branch, military says


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The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces have encircled Afrin town center as of March 12, while the number of PKK-affiliated People's Protection Forces (YPG) terrorists "neutralized" has risen to 3,393 since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin, the Turkish military said Tuesday.
The Turkish military uses the term "neutralized" in reference to terrorists captured dead or alive, or those who surrender during the operations. However, the term is usually used for the terrorists who have been killed in the operations.
The military noted that documents with critical value have been confiscated in the area.
On Monday, Turkish-backed troops surrounded the Afrin town center and the military announced only 1.5 kilometers remained between their lines and the town center.
The town of Afrin, 90 villages and a nearby town under YPG control have been encircled, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed on Tuesday. Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman said the only road out of the area was in range of Turkish fire, and was therefore impassable, noting that 700,000 people are living in the encircled area.
There are more than 350,000 people in Afrin town center itself, Abdulrahman added. The town's pre-war population was around 50,000 people but swelled during the 7-yearlong Syrian civil war since 2011.
As Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to remove the PKK/PYD/YPG/KCK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin in northwestern Syria, additional people have arrived in the town center to seek refuge from clashes in the countryside.
YPG/PKK also forced local people into Afrin in order to use them as human shields against Turkish air and artillery strikes. As Turkish and FSA forces encircled the town, the terrorist group is trying to prevent civilians from leaving Afrin in order to slow down the Turkish advance.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and in the region as well as to protect Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights within international law, U.N. Security Council resolutions, its right to self-defense under the U.N. charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said, "utmost importance" is being placed on not harming any civilians.
The operation in Afrin – bordering Turkey's Hatay and Kilis provinces – was widely expected in the wake of Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, which cleared Daesh terrorists from Turkey's border between Aug. 24, 2016, and March 2017.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the YPG/PKK since July 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without putting up a fight.

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