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Syrian Kurds Vow 'New Phase' of War Against Turkish Forces in Afrin

By VOA News March 18, 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the center of Afrin is entirely under the control of Turkish and allied Syrian forces and that Turkish flags have been raised over the town.

The Reuters news agency reported that a spokesman for Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters said earlier that the rebels had entered Afrin before dawn on Sunday and that Kurdish YPG forces had withdrawn.

Syria's Kurds vowed to retake the city, saying that the war with Turkey has now entered "a new phase" of guerrilla warfare.

"Our forces are present all over Afrin's geography. These forces will strike the positions of the Turkish enemy and its mercenaries at every opportunity," Othman Sheikh Issa, co-chair of the Afrin executive council, said in a televised statement.

"Our forces all over Afrin will become a constant nightmare for them."

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that more than 150,000 people had been displaced in Afrin since Wednesday. Turkish warplanes and artillery are reported to have struck the town of Afrin overnight.

Thousands flee Eastern Ghouta

Meanwhile in Eastern Ghouta, Russian media reported at least 20,000 people fled the region around Damascus Sunday.

The U.N. secretary-general said Friday he is "deeply concerned" about Syrians fleeing in a mass exodus from the enclaves of eastern Ghouta and Afrin.

"I profoundly regret that Resolution 2401, concerning the cessation of hostilities throughout Syria, has not been implemented," António Guterres said of the Security Council's unanimous March 4 decision that has failed to de-escalate the violence.

"The United Nations and its partners are fully mobilized to bring immediate life-saving relief to all those in need," Guterres said in a statement. "I call on all parties to ensure safe and unimpeded humanitarian access in all areas."

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says it has finalized plans to assist as many as 50,000 people fleeing the opposition district of eastern Ghouta, which the Syrian government has been fighting to recapture since last month.

"We have been working, planning to respond to evacuations for a while and specifically to provide shelters with emergency assistance," Marixie Mercado told reporters in Geneva.

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