PUK condemns Turkish actions in Afrin
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) issued a statement on Sunday evening claiming what is taking place at the hands of Turkey and its proxies in Syria has “transgressed all the limits.”
Saadi Ahmed Pira, spokesperson of the PUK, told Rudaw “what is happening in Afrin includes the killing of women, children and invasion. They have surpassed all the limits. All the relevant parties must immediately speak up.”
“As the PUK, we are condemning these attacks by Turkey,” he said.
“Wherever Kurds get their heads up, Turkey stands against. In North Kurdistan and West Kurdistan, they did tougher than what Iraq did against the Kurdistan Region. Turkey stands against Kurds. We are condemning any racist acts.”
YPG to launch guerrilla war, resist ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Afrin
Othman Sheikh Issa, a YPG official from the town of Afrin, told a press conference on Sunday that “Erdogan is committing an ethnic cleansing in Afrin.”
“Our people over the past 58 days have showed a stiff resistance against the second most powerful NATO member,” he said.
“We worked hard to help evacuate civilians from Afrin city in order to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.”
“The resistance and fight against invading Turkish forces and extremist forces in the name of Free Syrian Army that have entered Afrin has reached a new phase.”
“We will from now rely on a new tactic in order to protect civilians,” he said. “Our forces are everywhere in Afrin areas and they will target the enemy’s positions.”
Erdogan’s declaration that his forces have entered Afrin does not “mean they have achieved a triumph.”
“Our forces everywhere in Afrin will become a nightmare to them. Resistance will go on in Afrin until we have liberated every span of territory in Afrin and the people of Afrin have returned to their areas and villages.”
“Democratic parties and forces in the world left Afrin in limbo. We salute those who threw their support behind Afrin. We are conveying our voices to everyone to help stop the ethnic cleansing being committed against Afrin.”
“We are calling on the UN and the Security Council to break their silence and put pressure on Turkey to stop this genocide and help return the people of Afrin to their areas.”
“Many civilians who had returned to their villages were killed by Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies,” he claimed.
“Until now, 500 civilians including women and children, elderly and youth have been killed by artillery fire and airstrikes and more than a 1,000 wounded,”
“Their blood will not go wasted. Our path is only resistance.”
Anti-ISIS ops on hold following Afrin advance: SDF spokesperson
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), have said in a statement they will be placing their anti-ISIS operations on hold as a result of the Turkish offensive in Afrin.
A spokesperson for the SDF, Lailawa Abdullah, said on Sunday that a number of its fighters have pulled out of anti-ISIS operations in Deir el-Zour province in Syria's southeast to support YPG units resisting the Turkish advance.
She echoed the warnings of US officials who say the Turkish operation will only prolong the survival of the jihadist group, which has continued to attack SDF positions in the liberated province.
Jadan Ali, the head of the Kurdish National Council of Syria representation board in the Kurdistan Region, told Rudaw the civilians of Afrin do not know where to flee to, as the Turkish army and their Syrian proxies seize the city.
Ali described the Turkish army as “invaders” and expressed his shock at seeing Syrian proxies waving Turkey’s flag in Afrin.
KCK issues Newroz message praising 'courage' of Kurdish fighters in Afrin
Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) published a Newroz message claiming that Turkey wants to erase Kurdish identity of Afrin.
“The people of Afrin and the fighters carried out their missions successfully. The freedom fighters [demonstrated] the biggest courage during the two month long battle,” the KCK announced.
“Everywhere is Afrin and resistance will always continue. Whatever needs to be done for liberty must be done now. Therefore, everyone in everywhere carried new responsibilities for resistance,” it added.
The KCK is an organization founded by the PKK to enact the ideology of democratic confederalism, created by jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Kurdish leader says 'struggle will continue'
Salih Muslim, the former co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main ruling party in Rojava, has tweeted that the Kurdish withdrawal from Afrin does not mean the war is over.
“The struggle will continue and the Kurdish people will keep defending themselves,” he tweeted on Sunday.
Muslim was detained in Prague in February at the request of Turkey and was released with the condition he cooperate with possible extradition proceedings. He has promised to do so and to remain within the European Union.
He is facing several terror-related charges in Turkey. Ankara alleges the PYD is a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a named terror organization. The PYD denies the charge.
Statue for Kawa the Kurdish blacksmith destroyed
Ankara-loyalist fighters shot up and then pulled down a cultural significant statue in Afrin city on Sunday.
The legend of Kawa the Blacksmith is associated with Kurdish Newroz (the March 21 New Year) and him using his hammer in ancient times to begin an uprising to expel an evil and unjust ancient ruler.
Musfata Bali, a former spokesperson for the SDF, explained the history of the current statue.
“In 2015 or 2016, I do not recall exactly, the municipality of Afrin removed the old statue of Kawa the Blacksmith in the city’s entrance and replaced it with this statue due to some technical problems," Bali posted on Facebook on Sunday.
Rojava officials deny Turkey has taken Afrin
Hediye Yusuf told The Associated Press that Turkey has not
captured Afrin and fighting continues on Sunday.
Yusuf, a founding member of the self-declared Democratic
Federal System of Northern Syria, said Kurdish forces evacuated civilians from
the city because of the "massacres" by Turkish and Ankara-aligned
Mustafa Bali, a former spokesperson for the SDF, believes
the events in Afrin are occurring because Afrin did not strike a deal with the
“Now Afrin, with its legendary resistance pays the price of
our insistence on refusing to bargain over the fate of Afrin and refusing to
hand it over to the regime," wrote Bali on Facebook.
He accused the Kurdish National Council (KNC/ENKS) of
dualism, as Kurdish sites like the Kawa statue are being destroyed.
He said ENKS is not "criticizing" its non-Kurdish
allies of the FSA.
“In general, the resistance in Afrin is entering a new phase
and will continue. Our choices are either victory or victory," wrote Bali.
Turkish military: Afrin city center under TAF, FSA control
"Arfin city center is under the Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army. The search for mines and handmade explosives is underway," read a Turkish military statement.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that half of the city is under Turkish/FSA control.
Ankara-aligned fighters raise the Turkish flag over a legislative building in Afrin on March 18, 2018. Video: IHA
Erdogan: We came to Afrin to save them from 'terror'
Beginning his speech with "good tidings" from Canakkale, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the mission of Operation Olive Branch is not to invade.
“We have not invaded the city, but saved them from terror oppression," said Erdogan.
He said the Flag of the Republic of Turkey was raised in the city center at 8:30 a.m.
“This operation has shown the whole world that Turkey sides with the oppressed," said Erdogan.
“I congratulate Afrin people," said Erdogan.
Continuing with his Ottoman rhetoric, Erdogan compared the Afrin operation to the defense of the Cannakale during the First World War.
“We are fighting the same way we did in Canakkale," he said. "They thought that Turkey is not as strong as it was in Canakkale."
Hitting religious tones, he cited a Turkish poem: “This is Islam’s last army,” referring to Turkish forces.
The statue of Kurdish legend Kawa is torn down in Afrin city on March 18, 2018. Photo: AA
Afrin, one of three Kurdish cantons, in Rojava or northern Kurdistan, had no credible threats of ISIS prior to Erdogan's assault.
Since the January 20 operation began, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated forcing more than half of the estimated 300,000 population to flee.
It has resulted in the destruction of cultural heritage sites. It has also killed more than 289 civilians and at least 1,500 Kurdish fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Spokesman: FSA combs streets, houses
Lt. Col. Mohammed al- Hamadeen Abu Ryadh of the Syrian National Army’s Third Legion, a member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), told Reuters on Sunday that the Turkish proxy fighters are in control of "parts" of Afrin city.
“They have taken control of parts of the town. They are combing the streets and the houses," Lt. Col. Mohammed al- Hamadeen Abu Ryadh of the Syrian National Army’s Third Legion, a member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), told Reuters on Sunday.
He claimed Kurdish forces have withdrawn.
Turkish assault on Afrin kills 1,500 Kurdish fighters: SOHR
More than 1,500 Kurdish fighters have been killed by Turkish forces their proxies in the Kurdish Afrin, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Sunday.
Most were killed by airstrikes and artillery, added the UK-based conflict monitor. Hundreds more were injured.
More than 400 Turkish-aligned fighters have been killed since January 20.
The Observatory put the civilian death toll at 289 through Saturday. Turkey denies targeting civilians and says its operation would have gone more quickly if they didn't take precautions.
March 18 a historic date in Ottoman history
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had visited the Kurdish city of Mardin on Saturday and addressed a rally of his supporters. He praised the Afrin offensive and said he expects the city to fall “at any moment.”
“Afrin is a matter of time. We are about to enter Afrin [city]. We might give the good news at any moment.”
Pro-Kurdish parties in Turkey accuse Erdogan of controlling the media because he fears for his position.
March 18 is a significant date in Ottoman history. During the Battle of Gallipoli (Canakkale in Turkissh) in the First World War, Ottoman forces defended the narrowest point of the Dardanelles Straits which connect the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.
French and British battleships were sunk and a British fleet admiral issued a general recall.
The Ottomans and the other Central Powers eventually signed a ceasefire agreement in November 1918 and the Ottoman Empire was dissolved in 1921.
Through Turkey's Operation Olive Branch, Erdogan has resorted to Ottoman-era rhetoric like threatening an "Ottoman Slap."
Al-Hamza commander tells Rudaw FAS "at the centre of Afrin'
Sayf Abubakr, the commander of the regime-opposed al-Hamza Division told Rudaw "We are at the centre of Afrin."
Al-Hamza is a regime-opposition group within Turkey's FSA proxies.
Fighting continues in Afrin's northwest: PKK media
There is heavy fighting in Afrin's northwest and Kenar neighborhood, according to Firat News, close to the PKK.
The clashes have continued since Saturday night.
Firat also reported continuous bombardment of civilian settlements in Afrin.
Thousands of people have been trying to flee from Afrin and into the countryside north of Aleppo. A public information office told Rudaw on Friday that "300,000 men, women, and children" face a humanitarian crisis in Afrin.
Kurds outflanked, reportedly won't fight for Afrin city: regime media
A source from the Syrian National Defence Forces told Al Masdar News that Kurdish-held Afrin has been systematically outflanked after a week of relentless bombardment.
The agency is close to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Photos posted by Turkish state media showed Turkish proxy fighters tearing down a YPG flag from a statue in Afrin, tying ropes to it, apparently intending to pull it down.
There are unconfirmed reports in Syrian media. that the YPG will abandon the city.
Turkish proxies hold a YPG banner in Afrin on March 18, 2018. Photo: IHA
The statue is the Kurdish blacksmith Kawa. According to the Kurdish legend behind Newroz (New Year on March 21), Kawa smashed the head of a tyrant to free his people in ancient times.
An FSA source told Al Arabiya Al Hadath that the Kurdish forces have withdrawn from Afrin.
SDF political wing denies Turkish control of city center
Hoshang Darwesh, the representative of the Syrian Democratic
Council (SDC) in Erbil, told Rudaw on Sunday morning that Turkish forces and
the militants of the opposition have not infiltrated Afrin.
He said that clashes have occurred in some neighborhoods at
the entrance of Afrin.
The SDC is the political wing of the Syrian Democratic
Forces (SDF), an umbrella group formed by the US-led anti-ISIS coalition that
is dominated by mostly-Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
Fierce clashes were ongoing between Turkish forces and the
YPG in Afrin city, a Mayadeen TV correspondent reported.
The FSA took control of the local transportation terminal
and the neighborhoods of Ashrafiyah and Jamilyah in the city, Al Arabiya Al
Hadath, a Saudi-owned news channel based out of Dubai reported.
FSA commander: Full control of Afrin city
The proxy groups have taken control of all of Afrin, Al Jazeera reported it was told by an unnamed FSA commander.
Turkey's Sabah newspaper reported that the FSA controls the center of Afrin.
Al-Mayadeen TV confirmed that Turkey arrived in Afrin's center, the news channel close to Hizbollah reported.
They entered the city from the northeast, according to Turkish-state media Anadolu Agency.
Anti-regime forces flash victory signs in Afrin city center
Turkey's Free Syrian Army proxy fighters say they have entered Afrin city on Sunday morning.
The Syrian-regime opposition al-Hamza Brigade tweeted a photo of them standing in front of a cultural monument while flashing the victory sign.
"The fighters of al-Hamzeh brigade in front of a statute inside Afrin city," tweeted the group.
Turkey began its Operation Olive Branch on January 20 and in recent days has closed in on the YPG-held Kurdish city in Syria.
This is a developing story...