Advancing Syrian troops pile pressure on rebels in Ghouta
Advancing Syrian troops pile pressure on rebels in Ghouta
Turkey's Erdogan says Afrin town centre 'under control'
19 March, 2018, 15:26
While it wasn't immediately clear which formation hosted Assad's surprise visit, the footage came after the Syrian President visited army positions in Eastern Ghouta, where he met with the "heroes of the Syrian Arab Army" according to Assad's Telegram account.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA), backed by the Turkish army, took over the city center completely as of 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Erdogan said at a ceremony marking the 103rd anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in Canakkale of northwestern Turkey.
He added that some 300,000 people are still besieged in eastern Ghouta, left to choose between "dying under fire or surrendering and go to Assad's jails and slaughterhouses".
Syria's civil war entered its eighth year last week with heavy fighting on two fronts - around Afrin and in the rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.
On Thursday, thousandsfled the enclave of Eastern Ghouta as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government forces advanced into rebel-held areas - making it the largest mass displacement in the enclave since regime forces and their allies first began their siege of the area in 2013.
The UN and other humanitarian groups have been working with the Syrian government and Russian Center for Reconciliation to provide aid and assistance to the civilians leaving and those still trapped in the area of eastern Ghouta.
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Civilians were seen fleeing the city and plumes of smoke rose into the sky as mines exploded.
Turkey launched an offensive against the YPG on January 20 to clear Afrin.
Mr Issa said more than 800 YPG fighters were killed in the 58 days of fighting, and estimated that 500 civilians were killed.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said almost 200,000 people fled the Afrin region in recent days amid heavy air strikes, entering Syrian government-held territory nearby. "Some sleep in cars or on the roadside", said the person, asking not to be named, adding that rent prices in the area had soared. The country considers the YPG a terror group and a wing of a Kurdish insurgency operating within its own border. France, like the United States, has given arms and training to a YPG-led militia in the fight against IS in Syria, and also has dozens of special forces personnel based in the region. The army tweeted a video showing a soldier holding a Turkish flag and a man waving the Syrian opposition flag on the balcony of the district parliament building with a tank stationed on the street.
A single escape route remains open to the south to territory still held by the YPG or controlled by the Damascus government.
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The capture of Afrin would be a major victory in Turkey's campaign against the YPG, which Ankara considers a terrorist group. He added that large numbers of people have now been squeezed into the small areas held by rebels in eastern Ghouta.
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Hundreds of residents in the town, which has a population of about 1600, slept in an evacuation centre in Bega or in their cars. It was a story repeated among the hundreds of locals who were forced to leave when the fire struck with little warning.
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