Mar 05 2018

59 Turkish soldiers killed in Afrin, civilians displaced

Fifty-nine Turkish soldiers and 261 members of the pro-Turkey Free Syrian Army (FSA) have died in fighting in the Afrin region of Syria since hostilities began in January, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The death toll rose from the 44 Turkish soldiers reported by the London-based organisation four days ago. Turkey had put the number at 41 on Friday.

Turkey’s bombardment of towns and villages in Afrin is causing significant difficulties in terms of population displacement and leading to fears that about 1 million people, including those who had migrated from other war-torn parts of Syria, will be trapped in Afrin city as Turkish forces approach, SOHR said.

Syrian forces and gunmen loyal to the regime who are manning checkpoints on the edge of Afrin are charging $1,000-$2,200 to people who want to leave the area for Aleppo, the organisation said.

The SOHR said 295 members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) had been killed by Turkish forces. Turkey said on Monday that 2,777 Kurdish and Islamic State (ISIS) fighters had been “neutralised” since the start of the incursion on Jan. 20. 

The SOHR reported that 149 civilians had died in bombardments, shelling and executions and hundreds had been injured. Turkey says there have been no civilian deaths or injuries as a result of its military action.

Turkey has reached the Bafalyun area of Afrin, about 12 km from the city, SOHR said. Turkish forces also control large parts of Raju town in northwest Afrin and managed to enter the town of Sheikh Hadad. Another larger settlement, Bulbulu, was seized weeks ago, it said.

“These violent clashes are accompanied by hundreds of aerial, rocket and artillery strikes which targeted areas in Raju and Sheikh Hadid as well as Afrin countryside, which caused further destruction and material damage to the property of the citizens and to the infrastructure,” SOHR said.