Turkish strikes kill 14 Damascus loyalists in Kurd enclave, says monitor

#SyriaWar

The Syrian government deployed forces to Afrin following calls for aid by pro-Kurdish groups

Turkish forces and army helicopters advance towards the village of Al-Maabatli in the Afrin region (AFP)
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Friday 2 March 2018 16:28 UTC
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Turkish air strikes have killed at least 14 fighters deployed by the Syrian government in support of Kurds battling Turkish-led rebels in the northwestern enclave of Afrin, a monitor said Friday.

Three Kurdish fighters were also killed in the strikes late Thursday on the village of Jamma in the enclave on the Turkish border, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Turkey-led Syrian rebels have advanced steadily since launching an assault on 20 January on Afrin, which is controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

The Syrian government deployed fighters to the enclave a month later after the Kurds called for help.

YPG spokesman in Afrin, Birusk Hasakeh, said Turkish warplanes targeted the positions of fighters linked to the Syrian army in Jamma, causing casualties, but did not provide a precise toll.

Pro-government fighters are present on several fronts in the enclave, according to the Kurds.

Turkey suffered heavy losses in Afrin on Thursday. The military said eight soldiers were killed and 13 wounded.

The day's toll brought the number of Turkish soldiers killed since the start of the operation to at least 40.

The Observatory says more than 140 civilians have been killed in Turkish bombardment, but Turkey denies the claim and says it takes the "utmost care" to avoid civilian casualties.

Thousands of civilians have fled their homes since the start of the assault, either to the town of Afrin or to nearby government-controlled areas.

On Thursday, an aid convoy carrying food and medical supplies entered the area for the first time since the start of the operation.

Ankara says the YPG is a "terrorist" extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.

The YPG has been a key component of a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance that has been fighting the Islamic State group in Syria.

Turkey has rejected a call from the United States for Afrin to be included in a UN Security Council-agreed nationwide ceasefire in Syria.

Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, warned on Friday that the situation for children inside Syria, including Afrin, was getting worse and lamented the failure of the UN Securiy Council agreement to bring serious change.

"The UN Security Council resolution - unanimously adopted nearly a week ago - created an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children to finally get respite from the brutal and unabated violence they have been living through," she said.

"We all thought this was an excellent window for UNICEF and other partners to deliver urgent and lifesaving assistance to children in need wherever they are inside the country."

However, she pointed out that "violence in fact continued in several places across the country, escalating in some and flaring up in others."

"Violence is ongoing in Idlib, Afrin, in Deir Ezzor, in Damascus, in parts of Aleppo and in East Ghouta with reports of children killed and injured.

"The war on children inside Syria is on and it’s not stopping...Syria remains one of the most dangerous places to be a child."