Civilians run for cover from explosions in the city of Afrin on March 18, 2018. Photo: AFP / Nazeer al-Khatib
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syrian Kurdish fighters have pledged to launch a guerrilla war against the Turkish army and their Syrian proxies after Operation Olive Branch forces seized the center of Afrin city
Othman Sheikh Issa, a People’s Protection Units (YPG) official from the town of Afrin, told a press conference on Sunday: “Our people over the past 58 days have showed stiff resistance against the second most powerful NATO member.”
“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 the Free Syrian Army (FSA) 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,” he said.
“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.”
Issa criticized the failure of the international community to pressure Turkey and halt the offensive. He urged the UN to act to stop the “ethnic cleansing” of Afrin.
“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.”
The Turkish military announced on Sunday morning that its forces had seized the center of Afrin city.
“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.
However, Kurdish forces claim the fight is not over. They say resistance is ongoing in neighborhoods around 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 forces.
Mustafa Bali, a former spokesperson for the SDF, believes the events in Afrin are occurring because Afrin did not strike a deal with the Assad regime.
“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.
Salih Muslim, the former co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main ruling party in Rojava, has meanwhile 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.