'Over 200,000 flee Afrin' since Turkey's offensive

More than 200,000 civilians 'have fled Afrin' since Turkey's offensive
2 min read
17 March, 2018
Turkey denies targeting civilian infrastructure during its offensive, which has left hundreds of thousands residents of Afrin displaced.
More than 200,000 civilians have fled the city of Afrin in northern Syria since Wednesday evening to escape a Turkish-led military offensive against a Kurdish militia, a war monitor said.

"There was fierce fighting throughout the night on the northern outskirts of the city as the Turkish forces and their Syrian allies tried to break into the city," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.

Turkey and its Syrian Arab rebel allies, who are also fighting brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad, have waged a nearly two-month offensive on the Afrin enclave, which is held by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

The Syrian regime has sided with the YPG against Turkey's offensive in Afrin.

Earlier this week, they largely surrounded the enclave's sole city, which was home to some 350,000 people, including people displaced from other parts of the enclave already overrun.

A single escape route remains open to the south to territory still held by the YPG or controlled by the Damascus government.

"Civilians are fleeing through the southern corridor," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Afrin has come under heavy air and artillery bombardment by the Turkish army. 

On Friday evening, a Turkish bombing raid struck the city's main hospital, killing 16 civilians, a monitor said.

Turkey's military denied hitting the hospital, saying that its operation in Afrin "is carried out in such a way as to not cause any harm to civilians.”

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria. The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.