People in Afrin flee out of the city on March 16, 2018. Video: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – At least 18 civilians were killed in Turkish artillery fire on Afrin overnight, a monitor reported.
“Since midnight, 18 civilians, including five children, were killed by Turkish artillery fire on the city of Afrin,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated, AFP reported.
YPG spokesperson Redur Khalil said Afrin was being “exterminated” by Turkey’s “indiscriminate shelling on the alleys and streets of Afrin.”
Turkey has repeatedly denied harming civilians in its military offensive.
Civilians continue to flee the city, nearly completely under a siege by Turkish forces and their allied Syrian militias, according to the Observatory.
Overnight more than 2,500 civilians fled towards areas under control of the Syrian regime – the villages of Nubl and al-Zahra north of Aleppo.
Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced
from Afrin in the last few days as Turkey steps up its bombardment
on the largest urban centre in the Kurdish canton.
Turkish forces claimed to have taken control of another two villages and two strategic hilltops in the southwestern Jandaris district of Afrin on Friday morning, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The Turkish army air-dropped leaflets on Afrin on Friday, instructing civilians to “stay away from the terrorists and the terror compounds,” explaining that Turkey’s “only targets are the terror organizations that have been torturing you,” Hurriyet Daily News reported.
It warned locals to not let themselves be used as “human shields” and offered protection to any who want to leave Afrin.
The goal of Operation Olive Branch is to “save civilians from the oppression and persecution of terrorists,” Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag tweeted on Friday, saying the offensive “will continue until peace, security, and stability are established in the region and the last terrorist is out of Afrin.”
He was responding to a European Parliament resolution adopted on Thursday calling on “the Turkish Government to withdraw its troops and play a constructive role in the Syrian conflict.”
The parliament stated that “opening of new fronts in Syria is not in the interest of Turkey’s security and warns against further deterioration of the country’s humanitarian crisis.”
The body called for a ceasefire throughout Syria, including Afrin.
Turkey launched its Operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish canton of Afrin on January 20, framing its offensive as a counter-terror operation under the charge that the Syrian Kurdish armed force, YPG, and ruling political party, PYD, are branches of the banned PKK.
The Kurdish groups deny the terror charge and have accused Ankara of wanting to change the demography
of the region.