Turkey, allies say siege of Syria's Afrin underway

The Turkish army and allied Syrian rebels have surrounded the city of Afrin in northern Syria controlled by Kurdish militia that is the key target of Ankara's cross-border operation, the military said Tuesday.

The rebel faction controlling Eastern Ghouta's main town of Douma, Jaish al-Islam, said a group of "critical medical cases" would be evacuated on Tuesday though the Wafideen checkpoint at the edge of the enclave.

In a written statement, the Turkish General Staff said the center of Afrin has been surrounded since March 12 and "critically important areas" have been seized as a result of the ongoing operations in the region.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday that Turkey-U.S. relations was at the point of breakup, stressing that Washington should fulfil its promises.

Since the launch of the operation, the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters have liberated 217 locations, including five town centers, 180 villages, 37 strategic mountains and hills, and a YPG/PKK base.

Turkey is now undertaking an air and ground offensive in Syria as part of "Operation Olive Branch" against the YPG, Kurdish militias that have been affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a designated terror organisation that has launched continual attacks against Turkey.

Since the start of its Afrin offensive, Turkey has also threatened to push its military operations to Manbij, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Afrin, to sweep Syrian Kurdish fighters from the length of its borders.

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The Turkish foreign minister said on Tuesday that Turkey and the United States have reached an agreement on a plan to jointly station Turkish and USA forces in Manbij.

Washington has not confirmed any such plan - and a small contingent of USA forces is already in Manbij.

Turkey's Foreign Minister said that he and the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will decide on a plan to secure Manbij during talks on March 19.

The Observatory reported that evacuations of insurgents and their families began from another rebel-held pocket south of Damascus.

Some 400,000 people are estimated to be trapped in eastern Ghouta, which has been under a crippling blockade and heavy bombardment for weeks.

Meanwhile the Syrian regime is trying to crush Syrian rebel groups in eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.

It said the government reached an agreement with rebels in Qadam to evacuate the area recently.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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