Turkish forces launched airstrikes on pro-Syrian government forces in Afrin region overnight from Thursday, March 1, to Friday, March 2. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the airstrikes killed at least 17 people in a village in the north part of the region, including at least three members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia and 14 pro-government fighters. Additionally, at least eight Turkish soldiers were killed and 13 others wounded in fighting in Afrin region on Thursday, according to Turkish state media. Additional fighting is expected between Turkish forces and the YPG and pro-government forces in the region in the coming days and weeks, despite the recent UN-backed ceasefire.
The Turkish cross-border campaign, termed "Operation Olive Branch," officially began on January 20. The operation aims to target the YPG - considered by Ankara as a terrorist organization and ally of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria. Turkish forces seek to establish a 30-km (20-mi) "safe zone" in the area.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the Syrian army against supporting Kurdish militias in Afrin. A deal was reportedly reached between Turkey and Assad's major international allies in the conflict, Russia and Iran, on February 19 to prevent the intervention of the Syrian army in the region. However, on February 20, pro-Syrian regime forces entered the Kurdish-controlled region to assist YPG fighters in halting the advance of Turkish troops.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) called for a 30-day nationwide ceasefire on February 24, effective immediately. According to the UNSC, the agreed-upon ceasefire would be in effect across Syria, except in areas where armed forces are fighting the Islamic State (IS), Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (Al-Nusra Front), and Al-Qa'ida-affiliated militants, among other designated terror groups. Fighting has continued across Syria in recent days despite the ceasefire.
Due to extremely poor security conditions, Western governments generally advise against all travel to Syria, with some banning travel to the country. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to any travel to Syria.
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