Turkish troops seize Syrian town center from Kurdish fighters

UNHCR said an estimated 12,000-16,000 people left Syria's Eastern Ghouta in the past days

UNHCR said an estimated 12,000-16,000 people left Syria's Eastern Ghouta in the past days

Turkey and its Syrian Arab rebel allies have waged a almost two-month offensive on the Afrin enclave, which is held by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Speaking at the commemoration ceremony of the 103rd Anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, Erdogan said that the Turkey-backed FSA forces entered the Syrian city as of 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. "There was fierce fighting throughout the night.as the Turkish forces and their Syrian allies tried to break into the city", the Observatory said.

The country considers the YPG a terror group and a wing of a Kurdish insurgency operating within its own border.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu agency said Turkish troops heading from east to west and troops heading west to east have linked up in northern Afrin.

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Syria's civil war this week entered its eighth year with world powers unable to stem a complex conflict that has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced at least half the country's population.

But the Syrian government and its allies are continuing to attack three rebel-held pockets of the enclave, which was, until recently, home to almost 400,000 people.

The military tweeted aerial footage and photographs of the town's general hospital it said were from Saturday morning, showing it was intact.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday visited Syrian soldiers who appear close to defeating the last major opposition foothold near Damascus and met some of the many thousands of people uprooted during the government offensive.

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Washington's support to the YPG, including arming the militia and relying on it to battle Islamic State militants in eastern Syria, has strained relations between Turkey and the U.S.

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The US State Department calls on Turkey to "exercise restraint", but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Ankara has "legitimate" security concerns and had warned Washington prior to the operation.

He added that de-mining operations were under way and a "large number" of Kurdish fighters had "fled with their tails between their legs".

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The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming any civilians.

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