Thousands on run, hiding as Turkey keeps up Syria offensive

Thousands on run, hiding as Turkey keeps up Syria offensive

He notes that Turkey is "coordinating with the Russians". Both the U.S. and Turkey might support an autonomous YPG enclave as long as it is not affiliated with the PKK.

The air and ground operation has opened a new front in Syria's multi-sided civil war and could threaten US plans to stabilise and rebuild a large area of northeast Syria - beyond President Bashar al-Assad's control - where Washington helped a force dominated by the YPG to drive out Islamic State militants. Turkey's previous incursion into Syria was the Euphrates Shield campaign in August 2016-March 2017, targeting both the YPG and IS in an area east of Afrin. But Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and accuses it of having links to Kurdish separatists.

On Monday, Erdogan blasted the U.S. for supporting what he called a "terrorist organization", and he has said he will push the YPG back from the Turkish border.

"The YPG and the PKK are the same guys", he said.

This deal will likely involve some kind of a de-escalation agreement between the Syrian regime and Turkish-backed rebels in the Idlib area, which in turn will free up Arab fighters to battle the Kurds. The U.S. -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) umbrella group led by the Kurdish YPG said there was no Islamic State presence in Afrin and Turkey had exaggerated the number of dead. "This is far from over, and this is not the time to try to divert attention".

Authorities in Afrin have ordered the closure of exit points with surrounding areas, and are only allowing people to enter from Syrian government-held areas to the south, according to the United Nations.

She added that the second issue was that the offensive "can undermine seriously the resumption of talks in Geneva, which is what we believe could really bring sustainable peace and security for Syria".

Turkish officials, however, insist that the terror group has been defeated.

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Later on Wednesday, Erdogan criticized the administration of former US President Barack Obama for failing to keep its promises to Turkey in Syria.

Dozens of combatants have been killed since Turkey launched its offensive, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria.

"This operation will continue until the last terrorist is eliminated", Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said. The "road to our cooperation is clear: Stop giving weapons and collect the weapons given before", Bozdag said during a news conference in Ankara.

Washington also appears to be addressing Ankara's concerns that United States assistance to the YPG might present a direct military threat to Turkey by monitoring the quality and quantity of weapons and ammunition provided to YPG forces to guard against them ending up in the hands of the PKK across the border in Turkey. "It has been going successfully according to plan and it would continue with the same success", he said.

Erdogan said, "Our martyr, Musa Ozalkan, is the first martyr in our Afrin operation".

He said Kurds are fighting alone without US help.

Kurdish leaders also invited civilians to take up arms, saying the YPG was "ready to receive all those who wish to defend Afrin and provide them with weapons".

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