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Thousands of Syrians Leave Afrin for Gov't-Controlled Areas Amid Turkish Advance

© REUTERS / Khalil Ashawi / People sit in a truck with their belongings in the north east of Afrin, Syria March 15, 2018
People sit in a truck with their belongings in the north east of Afrin, Syria March 15, 2018 - Sputnik International
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Tens of thousands of Syrian civilians are leaving the northern Kurdish-controlled city of Afrin as the Turkish army is tightening its grip on the city, Sputnik correspondent reported Friday, citing witnesses.

The correspondent said that the people leaving Afrin, speak about terrible life in the city because of the constant bombing, which destroyed almost the entire settlement, including the hospital. The city is under blockade with only one road linking it with the areas controlled by the Syrian army, remains open.

Turkey is reportedly dropping leaflets for Afrin residents, calling them to stop supporting Kurds, who "use civilians as a human shield" and to leave territories, "occupied by Kurdish terrorists."

Moreover, the leaflets reportedly say that only Turkey's aim is to free the people of Afrin from a so-called Kurdish occupation. Turkey guarantees freedom and security to all citizens as well as those, who have been involuntary mobilized.

The day before, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkish forces controlled over 70 percent of Afrin's territory.

On March 12, the Anadolu news agency reported, citing military sources, that Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army were advancing toward Afrin, and at that time they were 1.5 kilometers southeast of the city center. According to the media outlet, a total of 1,100 square kilometers of the Afrin region have been cleared of Kurdish forces during the operation.

READ MORE: Turkish Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin: Facts and Figures

Turkish artillery fires toward Syrian Kurdish positions in Afrin area, Syria, from Turkish side of the border in Hatay, Turkey, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 - Sputnik International
Kurdish Self-Defense Forces: At Least 7 Killed in Turkish Airstrikes on Afrin
On January 20, Ankara, jointly with the opposition Free Syrian Army forces, launched Operation Olive Branch in Afrin in order to "clear" Turkey's Syrian border from the terrorist threat. Turkey considers the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish political party in northern Syria, and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia to be linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara.

In the wake of the start of Ankara's Olive Branch Operation in Afrin, Damascus has strongly condemned the offensive, calling Turkey's move "a violation of the country's sovereignty." In response, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that preservation of the territorial integrity of Syria is the common goal of Ankara and Damascus and the Turkish troops are not going to attack government forces in Syria.

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