Turkish strikes kill 36 pro-govt fighters in Syria’s Afrin enclave

BEIRUT: Turkish air strikes killed at least 36 pro-regime fighters backing Kurdish militia in Syria’s northwestern Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Saturday, a monitoring group said.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democractic Forces alliance said the Turkish raids targeted pro-regime positions, but gave no death toll.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes on the area of Kafr Janna were the third such raid on loyalist fighters in the enclave bordering Turkey in less than 48 hours.
They came after Turkish raids on other parts of the enclave killed 14 pro-regime fighters on Thursday and four more on Friday, the monitor said.
Turkish-led Syrian opposition fighters have advanced steadily since January 20 when they launched an assault on Afrin, controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The Syrian government deployed fighters to the enclave a month later after the Kurds appealed for help.
The Observatory says Turkish-led forces control more than 20 per cent of the enclave after seizing the area of Rajo in the northwest of Afrin on Saturday.
They also seized a strategic mountain in the northeast of the enclave, a military official from the Turkish-led operation said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has demanded the implementation of a full ceasefire in Syria, UN envoys said, stressing that they have not resigned themselves to Russia’s short fighting pauses in the Eastern Ghouta region.
“We will continue asking until we are red in the face, blue in the face,” said Staffan de Mistura, the UN peace broker for Syria.
“We don’t have the luxury to give up” on the 400,000 civilians in the rebel-held besieged area near Damascus, he said. Syrian regime forces have advanced inside Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said on Saturday, as fighting intensifies on the ground to retake the battered rebel enclave.
Russia-backed government forces on February 18 launched an assault of the besieged region, killing more than 630 civilians.
On February 25, clashes on the ground between the armed opposition and regime forces intensified on the edges of the enclave, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
Since Thursday, regime forces have advanced inside the region, retaking an area in the enclave’s southeast, as well as another and two military bases in the south from main opposition group Jaish al Islam.
“Regime forces and their allies have intensified their attacks on rebel positions in the past 48 hours,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. — Agencies