Intense battles continue between Turkish fighters, Kurds in Syria's Afrin

Posted January 25, 2018

Backed by air strikes and artillery, the force had made gains in the area but civilian casualties have mounted bringing mild criticism from Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

With heavy cloud cover hindering air support in the previous 24 hours, advances have been limited and Kurdish militia have retaken some territory.

Syrian civil war map, showing control by city.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that Turkey's offensive distracted from efforts to defeat IS, something Ankara rejected, saying that the extremist militant group has been effectively wiped out in Syria.

The White House says Trump is urging the Turkish leader to limit the operation and avoid civilian casualties.

"Now Turkish planes are bombarding Afrin, killing women and children on the pretext that we're separatists, but we're part of Syria!"

"Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots. If the United States doesn't stop this, we will stop it", Cavusoglu was reported as saying on Tuesday.

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He said Tuesday that Russian Federation is in violation of a 2013 agreement it made with the USA on the removal of chemical weapons from Syria and is helping the Syrian government to breach the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans their use.

"The future of our relations depends on the step the United States will take next", Cavusoglu said. Sergeant Musa Ozalkan, 30, the first Turkish military fatality of the operation, was laid to rest with full honours in a ceremony in Ankara attended by the Turkish leadership. The observatory said 43 rebel fighters fighting alongside the Turks had also been killed, as well as 38 on the Kurdish side.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described the fighting as "very violent" to the northeast, northwest and southwest of Afrin, which lies adjacent to Turkey's southern border.

"The violence in Afrin disrupts what was a relatively stable area of Syria".

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Turkey's air and ground "Operation Olive Branch" in the Afrin region of northern Syria is now in its fifth day, targeting Kurdish YPG fighters and opening a new front in Syria's multi-sided civil war.

In an interview with Reuters, Turkey's government spokesman said he saw a small possibility that Turkish forces could come face-to-face with the USA troops in Manbij.

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Meanwhile, Turkish drones were also carrying out attacks, state television said.

Ras Al Ayn is located in Kurdish-controlled territory some 300 km east of Afrin.

Mohamed insisted "not a single bullet" had been fired from Afrin towards Turkey and that if Turkey has a problem with the PKK it is a domestic issue and not a cross-border one.

Ankara has been infuriated by United States support for the YPG, which it sees as a domestic security threat, one of several issues that have brought relations between the U.S. and its Muslim Nato ally close to breaking point.

The battle of Afrin has been long anticipated, as Turkey made clear that it was going to unleash an offensive along with the Ankara-backed Syrian rebels against the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Afrin.

A push towards Manbij, in a separate Kurdish-held enclave some 100 km (60 miles) east of Afrin, could threaten US plans to stabilise a swath of northeast Syria.

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