Syrian Kurds vow to fight Turkey in Afrin ‘at whatever cost’

Damascus/Istanbul - Syrian Kurds have vowed that they will continue to fight an encroaching Turkish operation in the region of Afrin in northern Syria "at whatever cost."

"We will continue to resist them at whatever cost," Brosik Hassakeh, a spokesman for the Kurdish militia in Afrin, told dpa on Wednesday.

Hassakeh was commenting on remarks attributed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he is hopeful his forces and allied rebels will capture the Kurdish-controlled area by the end of the day.
"Erdogan himself promised at the beginning of the attack to occupy the entire region of Afrin region within three hours, and then he said within three days," Hassakeh said.
"We are now in the 54th day and our forces continue to counter attacks by the Turkish army and the mercenaries," he added.
Later Wednesday, presidential sources in Ankara said Erdogan's earlier statement about capturing Afrin referred to encircling the city of Afrin before the end of the day, not its fall.
"I hope Afrin will have fallen completely by the evening, God willing," Erdogan told a meeting of local administrators in Ankara earlier in the day.
"The president hopes that Afrin will be totally encircled by this evening, not seized," the source clarified shortly after Erdogan's speech.
Erdogan also said on Wednesday civilians were being evacuated via a "special corridor."
Thousands of civilians started to flee the city of Afrin, the capital of the region of the same name, on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. More than 300,000 people remain under siege in Afrin, the war monitor reported on Tuesday.
Turkish-led forces have surrounded the city of Afrin but have not yet entered the city centre, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday.
Backed by allied Syrian rebels, Turkish troops began a military operation against the enclave of Afrin on January 20, opening a new front in Syria's seven-year war.
Ankara considers the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey. For the West, however, it is a main ally in fighting against the Islamic State extremist group in Syria.
A local doctor said the humanitarian situation in Afrin was worsening and alleged executions by Turkish troops and allied rebels in the region.
"They will allow people to get back to their homes after they take over the villages in the region of Afrin and then they execute the men and some women in front of the villagers," Dr Joan Shitika, head of the Afrin city hospital, told dpa.
"The city of Afrin has no more life in it. They have cut all communications. We sometimes have internet service, but it is very bad. There is also no water, power or bread," he said. 
"Even in the hospital, we have a very small staff to attend to the sick and wounded. We are having a shortage of essential medical supplies."
Around 500,000 people are currently trapped inside the city, according to Dr Shitika.
His claims could not be independently verified.
Earlier Wednesday, Turkish warplanes and artillery reportedly attacked an outpost of Syrian pro-government fighters near the city of Afrin, killing at least eight.
Last month, Syrian government loyalists entered Afrin to help Kurdish militiamen there counter the Turkish-led offensive on the region. 
Rojhat Roj, a YPG spokesman, said Turkish jets hit a post manned by the pro-government forces south of Afrin, leaving an unspecified number of fighters dead and injured.
Sources close to the pro-Syrian government forces told dpa that at least eight were killed and five others injured in Turkish artillery shelling south of the city.
So far, there has been no comment from Damascus or Ankara on these reports.


Wednesday, March 14th 2018
By Weedah Hamzah and Ergin Hava,

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