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World

AFP
March 14, 2018

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Russian military says will respond if US strikes Syria

MOSCOW: The Russian military will respond to a U.S. strike on Syria, targeting any missiles and launchers involved in such an attack, the RIA news agency reported on Tuesday.

RIA cited Valery Gerasimov, head of the General Staff, as saying that Moscow would retaliate if the lives of Russian servicemen in Syria were threatened. Turkish military says has encircled Syria’s Afrin town: Turkey’s military and its rebel allies have encircled the northern Syrian town of Afrin, the Turkish armed forces said on Tuesday, a substantial advance in Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish fighters across its southern border.

Turkey launched its operation “Olive Branch” in northern Syria nearly two months ago to sweep the Syrian Kurdish YPG from the Turkish border.Turkey sees the YPG as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The Turkish offensive opened a new front in a multi-sided civil war now entering its eighth year, which has drawn in neighbours and global powers who have armed and assisted fighters on the ground.

The forces encircled Afrin and also captured “areas of critical importance” in the region as of Monday, the Turkish military said in a statement.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organisation that reports on the war, said Turkish forces and their Syrian militia allies had encircled an estimated 700,000 people in Afrin and nearby areas.

On Monday, a Turkish government spokesman said the armed forces had gained control of more than half the area and vowed to clear the Afrin town of militants.President Tayyip Erdogan last week said Turkish forces had besieged Afrin town and were nearing its centre, but a YPG spokesman later denied this, saying the regions claimed to be under Turkish control were still battlegrounds.

Redur Xelil, head of foreign relations for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance of fighters that includes the YPG, accused the Turkish forces of carrying out “demographic change” in Kurdish territory captured in Afrin.

“The Turkish government is settling Turkmen and Arab families in the villages of Afrin that it occupied after forcing out its people, and is distributing the belongings of the people of Afrin to the new settlers,” he wrote in a message to Reuters.

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