Turkey forces 'encircle' Kurdish-controlled centre of Afrin

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Turkey launched a military offensive into the border enclave on January 20 to drive out YPG forces that it considers to be "terrorists" and an extension of Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that the evacuations are expected to begin "within hours" under United Nations supervision.

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. IS said it attacked troops in positions they took from rebels.

The military said in a brief statement that the siege of Afrin, the main town in the enclave of the same name, had begun Monday. "I am afraid and I feel like there is a volcano in my belly".

Turkey is riled by USA support to the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG, and accuses the US of allegedly not fulfilling a promise to move the Syrian Kurdish fighters in Manbij east of the Euphrates River. "Their families will never forgive them if they leave", he said.

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Three nominated members - actor Rekha, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and social worker Anu Aga - will also retire then. However, state Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki said both Yagnik and Rathwa would win their seats.

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.

Syrian government forces have split eastern Ghouta in two amid rapid weekend advances, dealing a major setback to the rebels and threatening to exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation at the doorstep of Damascus. SAMS said some 1,034 people still inside the enclave need immediate medical evacuation.

Eastern Ghouta is home to some 400,000 people who are living amid harsh condition because of bombardment and lack of food resulting from a monthslong government siege. If the agreement remained intact, hundreds would "all be evacuated in batches for treatment, some in Damascus and some outside of Syria", said Yasser Delwan, a political official with Jaish al-Islam.

"We will work together. we have good mechanisms on how we can achieve this, there is a lot of work to be done", Tillerson said back then, without elaborating.

More than 1,000 civilians are said to have been killed in the fighting there since the regime's assault began. In Douma, residents and displaced families were sleeping in shops and in the streets as basements and underground shelters filled up.

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The Observatory and the opposition's Syrian Civil Defence, reported a wave of airstrikes and shelling Tuesday morning on the towns of Saqba, Jisreen, and Kfar Batna killing and wounding two dozen people. Another woman was held as she could hardly walk.

At least 353,935 people have died since, including more than 106,000 civilians, according to the Observatory.

SAMS, the medical charity, said the incendiary bombs have been repeatedly used in Arbeen over the past week.

The government has reportedly been pursing separate negotiation tracks over the three rebel-held pockets of Eastern Ghouta, focused on local truces or potential evacuation deals for rebels and civilians. The CMM says the army launched raids on IS-held areas in Yarmouk and Hajar al-Aswad.

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