Under the cover of heavy artillery and airstrikes, Turkish military forces have advanced to the outer reaches of Afrin. As of now, the central city is under siege and the outlying villages have been decimated by the shelling. Street fighting is still going on though and the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces are not yielding under the pressure despite suffering heavy losses. Turkish forces control the outer villages of Jandaris, Bulbul, Shera, Rajo, and Sheikh Hadid presently. They also occupy the Maydanki dam, which is the primary water source for Afrin.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated, “Right now, Afrin city center is surrounded. We’re in Afrin today, Manbij tomorrow. We will make sure the east of the Euphrates until the Iraqi border is cleansed of every terrorist group,” at the inauguration of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s Politics Academy. Erdogan has kept the tempo high despite pressure from the international community to cease Operation Olive Branch activities as they are conflicting with coalition efforts to combat the Islamic State elements that remain in Syria.
The Syrian Observation for Human Rights has asked the UN to facilitate a protected corridor that would allow for the safe passage and escape of fleeing civilians. By the United Nations estimation Afrin has nearly 323,000 citizens living there, many of which were internally displace and forced to flee inward during Turkish military shelling and airstrikes on the villages they previously lived in. The Syrian Observatory has tallied the civilian death toll at nearly 200 to date while Turkish officials deny any civilian deaths on behalf of Operation Olive Branch’s involvement. The operation was launched on January 20th under the guise of defeating and clearing terrorists, the Kurdish military forces, that were at Turkey’s southern border. The YPG have scorned the international community for its silence and complicity in the face of Turkish aggression stating, “This people will forgive, but will never forget the invaders and their crime partners.”
The United States made an abrupt move to close its doors on the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey recently. The closure came in the wake of a “security threat” that turned out to be extremely valid. It also at a time when the United States finds itself standing at odds with Turkey as the Syrian Democratic Forces have begun to mobilize en mass against Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in the Kurdish Canton, Afrin. The embassy released the following statement on Monday, “US Embassy in Ankara will be closed to the public on March 6, 2018 due to a security threat.” 4 Iraqi nationals were arrested in connection to the threats by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency shortly after the announcement was made. The men all had ties to the Islamic State.