1266 militants 'neutralized' in Turkey's Afrin operation


At least 1,266 PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and ISIL terrorists have been "neutralized" since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin, the Turkish General Staff said Sunday.

The Turkish News Agency has admitted that so far 19 soldiers have been killed and now an Augusta Westland T129 advanced attack helicopter has been shot down.

Yildirim told reporters the downed chopper was a T129 ATAK helicopter, and was shot down in Kirikhan district of Hatay province.

The Turkish military later said nine more soldiers were killed in separate incidents but did not give details.

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Turkey launched a military offensive on January 20 to oust the YPG from Afrin, citing national security.

Turkey regards the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a guerilla war with the Turkish state since 1984. "We would like to see a ceasefire, the end of war in Syria, but the terrorists, I'm not sure they are in agreement". "We will have losses but we will also cause losses", Erdogan said in Istanbul.

"Turkey wants to create a zone stretching from Azaz to Idlib", the YPG spokesperson observed, mentioning the last of two important Syrian rebel-held territories east and south of Afrin respectively.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called Saturday for urgent worldwide action, saying the past week in Syria "has been one of the bloodiest periods of the entire conflict".

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Also Friday, Save the Children said tens of thousands of children are in immediate danger in the besieged eastern suburbs of the capital of Damascus, also known as eastern Ghouta, which has been under intense shelling and airstrikes that left more than 200 dead in the past five days.

Eastern Ghouta is home to an estimated 400,000 people -the area is located on the outskirts of Damascus, and residents have been living under siege since 2013.

Lacking worldwide protection, the Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria say they have reached agreements with Damascus to allow reinforcements to be sent to Afrin from other Kurdish-dominated areas - Kobani and the Jazeera region.

An airstrike Friday on the village of Hass in Idlib province killed at least 14 people, according to the Observatory and other opposition activists.

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Both Idlib and eastern Ghouta are part of Russia-negotiated de-escalation areas, which are meant to freeze the lines of conflict and allow in humanitarian aid.