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Assad visits troops and civilians in eastern Ghouta (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Assad visits troops and civilians in eastern Ghouta (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that more than 150,000 people had been displaced in Afrin since Wednesday.

Turkey started the campaign against the Afrin district in northwestern Syria on January 20, with a view to driving out Kurdish militants, who are seen by Ankara as terrorists.

Meanwhile figures close to rebels said talks were underway with the aim of them leaving to other opposition areas or giving up arms, though rebels have publicly ruled out the kind of negotiated withdrawal that helped Assad recover Aleppo, Homs and other areas.

Later on Sunday, limited fighting was reported in some pockets in Afrin town while Turkish military said it was combing the area for land mines and explosives.

The army units advanced steadily from Hamouriyah town, which had been liberated from terrorists two days ago, and destroyed the fortified positions of the terrorist organizations at the outskirts of Saqba, continuing to advance in the residential neighborhoods in the depth of the town as the terrorists' ranks collapsed rapidly and many of them fled westwards towards the town of Hazeh. "Our special forces and members of the Free Syrian Army are cleaning the remains and the traps they left behind", Erdogan said.

But a general evacuation of civilians and rebels was not on the table, he said. "We have more to do".

Over the past week, Syrian troops and allied fighters divided the sprawling eastern Ghouta region into three parts, isolating residential areas and facilitating the military advance.




Air strikes killed 37 civilians across the shrinking rebel territory Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor reported, majority in the town of Zamalka as they prepared to flee.

"With every bullet you fire at a terrorist, you change the balance in the world", Assad said.

Footage by Turkey's private Dogan news agency showed Syrian fighters shooting in the air in celebration.

The YPG has been a key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State group, and seized large areas across northern and eastern Syria from the extremists with the help of coalition airstrikes.

Ankara said the demand did not apply to Afrin, but its operation has faced criticism in the West. France's foreign minister said Turkey's concerns for its border security did not justify "the deep incursion of Turkish troops in the Afrin zone", which could also weaken worldwide action against remaining IS militants in Syria.

The Kurds are the largest stateless ethnic group in the Middle East, with some 30 million living in an area split between Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. The statement said this was the "first blatant violation of Kurdish people's culture and history since the takeover of Afrin".


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