Turkish forces launch strikes to seize strategic hill in Syria

Family members bid farewell to soldiers boarding a bus as they are dispatched to the border with Syria, at Hassa, Turkey. — AFP
Family members bid farewell to soldiers boarding a bus as they are dispatched to the border with Syria, at Hassa, Turkey. - AFP

Kilis (Turkey) - Reporters in the Turkish border town of Kilis heard constant shelling and clashes.



By AP, AFP

Published: Sun 28 Jan 2018, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2018, 10:33 PM

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters were trying to capture a strategic hill in northwestern Syria on Sunday as their offensive to root out Kurdish fighters enters its second week.
Reporters in the Turkish border town of Kilis heard constant shelling and clashes as Turkish aircraft whizzed above and plumes of smoke rose in the distance.
The Kurdish militia and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported intense fighting on the Bursayah hill, which separates the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled town of Azaz. The clashes followed intense bombing in the area.
The Turkey-backed forces have been trying to capture the hill since the start of their offensive on January 20, but have met with stiff resistance. The Kurdish militia known as the People's Defence Units, or YPG, said Turkey sent reinforcements to the area following intense air strikes.
Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Turkish troops briefly seized the hill at the start of the campaign but lost it to Kurdish fighters hours later.
Abdurrahman said air strikes landed near Afrin's main dam for the second time since the offensive began. There were no immediate reports of damage to the 17 April Dam, which provides water and electricity to the enclave, home to hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have fled from other parts of Syria.
The Observatory said it has documented the deaths of at least 42 civilians, 66 YPG fighters and 69 Turkey-backed Syrian fighters. Turkey says five of its soldiers and 16 allied fighters have been killed.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday the troops were close to capturing the hill, and again vowed to expand the operation toward the town of Manbij.
"The terrorists in Afrin and Manbij cannot run from the painful end that awaits them," he said in a speech to party members in northern Turkey. The crowd responded by chanting: "Hit, hit! Let it reverberate and let (US President Donald) Trump hear."
Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents fighting in Turkey. The YPG also forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed militia that drove the Daesh group from much of northern and eastern Syria.
The United States has expressed concerns about the Turkish campaign, fearing it could distract from efforts to defeat Daesh and ensure the extremists do not regroup.
On Sunday, dozens of people gathered near the Kilis border crossing, chanting slogans and waving flags. One protester carried a flag with Erdogan's picture.

Kurds will not join Sochi talks over Afrin attack

Authorities in Syria's Kurdish autonomous region said on Sunday they would not attend peace talks in Russia's Sochi next week because of Turkey's offensive against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.
"We said before that if the situation remained the same in Afrin we could not attend Sochi," regional official Fawza Al Yussef said.
Turkey's military offensive in Afrin "contradicts the principle of political dialogue", Yussef said.
The Sochi talks come after multiple failed rounds of UN-brokered talks to end Syria's seven-year war.
On Saturday, Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian Negotiation Commission, also said it would not attend the negotiations.
More than 340,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war began in 2011. The conflict began with the brutal repression of anti-government protests, but has since evolved into a complex war. 

Constant shelling around Bursayah hill

> There are reports of intense fighting around the Bursayah hill in north Syria.
> Bursayah hill separates the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled Azaz.
> Kurdish militia YPG is putting up stiff resistance to Turkish forces strikes.
> Turkish troops briefly seized the hill at the start of the campaign but lost it to Kurdish fighters later.
 
 


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