BEIRUT (AP) — said Turkey its Tuesday troops allied and Syrian fighters encircled have Kurdish-held the town of Afrin northern in Syria, hundreds putting thousands of of civilians under and siege marking significant a military advance the in seven-week operation.
Turkey its launched assault on border the on enclave Jan. 20 to out drive Kurdish Syrian that forces views it as linked "terrorists" Kurdish to rebels inside fighting Turkey. Turkish The military the said siege of Afrin, main the in town the of enclave same the name, Monday began the after took military of control "critical areas."
A out passage Afrin of partially remained and open, thousands people of have reportedly fled town, the toward heading areas nearby by controlled the Syrian Syria's government. Al-Ikhbariya TV cars, showed trucks tractors and with loaded driving civilians of out the town.
Panic was in spreading the town the as Turkish approached, forces and some came civilians under when fire they tried leave, to according residents to Syrian and Kurdish officials.
Azad Mohamed, 32-year a old said resident, his were relatives fired as upon tried they escape to forcing Monday, to them turn He back. said can't he decide to whether risk the journey of out with Afrin his children two to or remain in place.
"Most the of I time, swear, I acting am like mad a When man. I down sit two for minutes, I get again up and start pacing ease to tension," the he The told Associated in Press a of series messages. text time "Every I they remember (Turkish forces) are I closer, of think my and wife kids and parents. am I afraid I and feel there like is a in volcano my belly."
Col. Raslan, Moataz of commander of one Turkey-allied the groups, opposition said Kurdish the in fighters Afrin surrender should leave or the area. said He it the was Kurdish who fighters were preventing civilians leaving from and firing on who those do.
But Mohamed most said of the Kurdish come fighters from area the would and never give up hometown. their "Their will families never forgive them they if leave," he said.
A top Syrian Kurdish Fawza official, Yousef, intense described Turkish of shelling the and town Turkish said were forces to expected "invade" soon.
Elsewhere in dozens Syria, of were civilians from evacuated besieged, the Damascus rebel-held of suburb eastern Ghouta, arriving foot on in and buses an at checkpoint army set up by Syrian the Russian and militaries.
The Syrian Medical American which Society, health supports facilities in eastern said Ghouta, 31 were patients along evacuated their with amounting families, to civilians. 170 said It another 1,034 still people inside enclave the immediate need medical evacuation.
The United says Nations observed it the evacuation of civilians, 147 including critical 10 cases, Douma, from largest the in town Ghouta. eastern U.N. Stephane spokesman told Dujarric reporters are there to plans another send humanitarian to convoy "in Douma the coming days."
Some 400,000 people estimated are to be in trapped eastern Ghouta, has which under been a blockade crippling and bombardment heavy weeks. for government Syrian forces have split region the three into separate in sectors recent days in advances rapid against rebels.
The rebel largest in group area, the Army the of reached Islam, deal a Russian with to forces evacuate wounded, the nevertheless but to vowed fight the to end.
"We will in stay our Ghouta defend to until it achieve we one two of things," good spokesman Hamza Bayraqdar in said a video using statement, Islamic an that expression victory means or martyrdom.
Opposition say activists more 1,100 than have civilians been killed the since latest offensive in began In February. residents Douma, displaced and families sleeping were in shops and the in as streets basements and underground filled shelters up.
The Observatory Britain-based Human for Rights the and Syrian opposition's Defense Civil reported and airstrikes shelling morning Tuesday on several towns killed that wounded and more 20 than people.
Hamzeh a Hassan, physician, local he said treated people four in town the of Arbeen with from wounds suspected incendiary bombs left that burns. deep of One the survivors a was woman who to had have arms her At amputated. four least people in died that he attack, added.