‘Legitimate target’: Turkish airstrikes kill 8 pro-Syrian gov’t forces near Afrin – Government forces shell Turkish troops in response to airstrike – Update

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‘Legitimate target’: Turkish airstrikes kill 8 pro-Syrian gov’t forces near Afrin – Government forces shell Turkish troops in response to airstrike – Update

The main entrance to Afrin

© AFP 2018/ George OURFALIAN
The main entrance to the city of Afrin, along Syria’s northern border with Turkey

After pro-Syrian government militia joined the battle in Afrin on behalf of the Kurds, Ankara slammed the move, saying that the fighters had become Turkey’s “legitimate target.” Damascus has dubbed the Turkish campaign as “aggression,” however, refrained from sending armed forces to the area.

Three Turkish air strikes hit Syrian government forces checkpoint on road to Afrin, killing eight fighters and wounding six, according to a source. Damascus have yet to confirm the information.

On February 22, the Syrian pro-government forces entered Afrin to support the Kurds being attacked by the Turkish army and the FSA, as part of Ankara’s Olive Branch Operation launched on January 20. The residents of the city greeted the pro-Damascus forces.

In its turn Turkey stated that the fighters had become Turkey’s “legitimate target.”

READ MORE: Turkey Announces Preliminary End Date of Olive Branch Op in Afrin

Earlier, Behchet Ebdo, the chairman of the Afrin Canton Council said that 48 pro-Syrian government troops have been killed amid clashes with the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army opposition group. He noted that two militiamen from the pro-government forces had been killed in the first day after their arrival in Afrin, while three had been wounded.

Most recently, according to Turkish General Staff, Turkish forces surrounded the Kurdish-held Syrian city of Afrin in the course of its Operation Olive Branch.

According to the Anadolu news agency, a total of 1,100 square kilometers of the Afrin region have been cleared of Kurdish forces during the operation.

Turkey’s operation in northern Syria envisages clearing the area of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, considered by Ankara as an part of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey considers as a terrorist organization.

Damascus has firmly condemned the operation as an assault on Syria’s sovereignty. Russia, in turn, has urged all the parties to exercise restraint and called for respect of Syria’s territorial integrity.

Comment: Turkish warplanes have unexpectedly struck a government-controlled Shiite-majority town and military checkpoint area in the northern countryside of Aleppo province amid an intensified air campaign over northwest Syria.

According to a statement released by local pro-government activists, Turkish aircraft bombed the town of Nubl an unspecified number of times. Early reports say that at least three civilians were killed in the strikes.

Update: A local government militia reportedly shelled Turkish forces in the town of Marea in northern Syria today, in retaliation to an airstrike on a checkpoint, which killed eight of their combatants near Afrin.

Another six militiamen were injured in the airstrike by a Turkish warplane. It’s unclear if the subsequent artillery fire resulted in the death of any Turkish servicemen or Turkey-backed militants.

A pro-Syrian government militia has attempted to revenge comrades killed in a Turkish airstrike against their positions in the northwest Syrian region of Afrin.

The Turkish airstrike hit the Iranian-organized National Defense Forces (NDF) who are made up of local Syrians and usually act as a defensive force rather than offensive, as reported earlier by FRN. A total of eight NDF fighters were martyred in the attack.

The NDF in response has just fired dozens of rockets and mortars at Olive Branch forces.