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Monitor: Turkish Airstrikes Kill 36 Pro-Syrian Government Fighters


Turkish soldiers hold a position atop Bursayah Hill, Afrin region, March 3, 2018, during a Turkish government-organized media tour into northern Syria.

Turkish warplanes attacked pro-Syrian government forces Saturday in Syria's northwestern Kurdish enclave of Afrin, killing at least 36 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confirmed Turkish airstrikes in a statement but did not provide a death toll or say where the attacks occurred. The SDF is a militia alliance led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

The British-based monitoring group said the strikes were the third such attack on pro-Syrian government forces in the enclave in less than 48 hours.

Pro-Syrian government forces arrived in Afrin last week to support the YPG, a month after the Kurds appealed for help. Since Turkish forces and allied Syrian factions began their assault on Afrin on January 20, they have advanced steadily.

Syria TurkeyA Turkish soldier waves sitting atop a military vehicle on at Bursayah Hill, Afrin region, March 3, 2018, during a Turkish government-organized media tour into northern Syria.
Syria TurkeyA Turkish soldier waves sitting atop a military vehicle on at Bursayah Hill, Afrin region, March 3, 2018, during a Turkish government-organized media tour into northern Syria.

The monitoring group said the Turkey-led forces have gained control of more than 20-percent of Afrin after capturing the town of Rajo in northwest Afrin on Saturday.

A military official with the Turkish-led operation said a mountain of strategic importance in the northeastern part of the enclave was also seized.

Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the “terrorist” Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state for three decades. The PKK is also viewed as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the U.S.

At the same time, the YPG has been a key participant in a U.S.-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance in a campaign to defeat the Islamic State militant group in Syria.

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