Turkey resumes air strikes on Syrian Kurdish enclave

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Turkey has resumed air strikes in Syria’s Kurdish enclave of Afrin after a brief lull, killing and wounding several people.

The attacks on border areas and the main town in the region have been among the worst since the Turkish army and Ankara-backed opposition fighters began a ground and air campaign on the Afrin enclave three weeks ago, Kurdish officials said.

The offensive has displaced thousands of people, many of whom have gone to the town of Afrin, which is already crowded with tens of thousands of displaced people who fled violence in other parts of Syria over the years.

The new bloodshed came as Russian president Vladimir Putin and French president Emmanuel Macron discussed co-operating more closely to resolve the Syrian conflict.

The civil war has killed about 400,000 people, displaced half the population and sent more than five million refugees mostly to neighbouring countries.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said F-16 jets resumed bombing on Thursday night, striking the north-western enclave’s Mount Bafilun, the villages of Sheik Huruz and Kefer Jenne, and the regions of Sheran, Jinderes and Raju, among other targets.

Turkey’s military said its jets hit 19 targets, including shelters, ammunition depots and gun positions belonging to “terror” organisations. No planes were brought down.

Afrin-based Kurdish official Rezan Hiddo said by telephone that Turkish warplanes hit 23 points, adding that Turkey’s artillery in three areas near Afrin has also been pounding the town.

Mr Hiddo said: “For the past 21 days, the Turkish army has been violating all laws related to war.”

Separately, the Turkish chief of military staff, General Hulusi Akar, and other commanders surveyed the operation from an airborne warning and control plane, the military said.

Unconfirmed Turkish media reports said Turkey had halted flights after Russia closed the airspace over Afrin after militants shot down a Russian Su-25 fighter jet in Idlib province on February 3. Russia effectively controls the skies over the northern region.

Anadolu and the private Dogan news agency later reported that Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition fighters had cleared five villages of Kurdish fighters in the Afrin region.

Turkey launched an offensive into the enclave on January 20 against Syrian Kurdish fighters which Ankara considers to be a security threat because of their links to outlawed rebels in Turkey.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air strikes targeted the town of Afrin and its outskirts, killing two people and wounding others.

Since Turkey began its attacks, 120 people have been killed, including 26 children and 17 women, according to a statement from the civil administration council in Afrin. The statement added that 60,000 people have fled their homes, leading to a humanitarian crisis. It called on international aid organisations to help, with food said to be running short.

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