More than 2500 YPG militants 'neutralized' in Afrin op in Syria's north

Istanbul conference evaluates all aspects of Syria war

Turkish warplanes struck pro- government forces in the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin on Saturday, killing at least 36 soldiers, as Turkey's assault in the Kurdish region gathered pace, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Turkish military declined to comment on the report, but the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday that Turkish attack helicopters had killed nine YPG fighters in the west of Afrin.

"We have cleared all areas near our borders of terror nests", he said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces statement said that a group of Turkish forces and allied Syrian factions had infiltrated Rajo, and that clashes were continuing there.

Rajo, located in the northwest of Afrin, is the second town centre liberated since the launch of the operation.

Turkish borders run along Afrin's western and northern borders.

A member of Free Syrian Army (FSA) is seen in Rajo after Turkish Armed Forces and FSA members cleared the the town from YPG on March 3, 2018. But it didn't seem likely that they would play much more than a symbolic role, allowing the Syrian government to vaunt a new territorial initiative but at no major risk.

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Turkey launched "Operation Olive Branch" on January 20 along with elements of the FSA to remove YPG militants from Afrin.

"May God grant peace to our martyred soldiers in Afrin, all my condolences to their loved ones", spokesman for the Turkish presidency Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.

The Syrian government deployed fighters to the enclave a month later after the Kurds appealed for help.

The government continued its offensive against eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held region near the Syrian capital Damascus, despite a Russian-ordered five-hour humanitarian pause.

The UN Security Council called recently for a 30-day ceasefire in eastern Ghouta, where 400,000 people live.

Meanwhile, Syrian regime airstrikes and bombardment have killed hundreds of people over 12 days in eastern Ghouta. An elderly Pakistani couple managed to leave after negotiations.

The local Kurdish administration, the Syrian State, the Russian Federation, plus global watchdogs such as the UN, London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty worldwide have all documented civilians killed by Turkish attacks in Afrin.

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