A Turkish-backed Syrian fighter holds a picture of YPG fighter in al-Bayyah village, northeast Afrin, on February 21. Photo: Nazeer al-Khatib/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies have taken control of Afrin’s borders, cutting the Kurdish canton off from Turkey.
Turkish forces managed a “strategic advancement” on Monday, taking the last of the Afrin-Turkey border area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Turkish forces are now in control of about 250 kilometres of the border, running from the Jarablus area on the western bank of the Euphrates River to the Atmah area in Idlib, the UK-based conflict monitor detailed.
Turkey’s state-run media confirmed the advancement, saying that the Kurdish forces have been cut off from Turkey’s borders.
With this advancement, forces of Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch now control some 22 percent of Afrin canton, according to Observatory figures.
They are now fighting to take control of the towns of Jandaris in southwest Afrin and Rajo in the northwest.
Turkey is bringing in special forces as they move to a new stage, focusing on the populated centres.
“The entrance of the special forces is in preparation for the new battle that is approaching,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told Turkey’s NTV on Monday.
Gendarmerie and police special forces will take part in urban fighting, Dogan news reported.
To date Turkey has taken control of one town, Bulbul. The rest are still under YPG control.
Five civilians were killed by Turkish airstrikes on Jandaris on Monday, according to the PYD, the ruling Kurdish party in Rojava, northern Syria. The country’s state-run media confirmed the deaths.
The YPG-led SDF reported clashes that went on for hours in villages near Jandaris. The Kurdish forces have also carried out counter-attacks against the Turkish army and their Syrian allies.
The intense battles come as global powers are telling Ankara that the UN Security Council’s 30-day ceasefire applies in Afrin.
French President Emmanuel Macron told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the truce must be implemented without delay
The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on all players to ensure de-escalation
takes place on all fronts in Syria, including Afrin.
Turkey welcomed the Security Council’s ceasefire, but said it would not apply to its Afrin offensive, which Ankara has framed as a counter-terror operation.
The YPG have stated they will abide by the ceasefire, but reserve the right to act in self-defence.
Hundreds of civilian deaths in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta was one of the main factors compelling world powers to agree on the 30-day ceasefire that will allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced that a daily humanitarian pause in the enclave will begin on Tuesday.
“On the instructions of the Russian president, with the goal of avoiding civilian casualties in Eastern Ghouta, from February 27 – tomorrow – from 9:00 to 14:00 there will be a humanitarian pause,” Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated, according to Russian media.