BEIRUT – Pro-government militiamen entered on Tuesday the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria in response to an ongoing Turkish military offensive, Syrian state television said.
Images were aired of “popular forces” loyal to President Bashar Assad moving toward Afrin city in pick-up trucks equipped with anti-aircraft guns.
Shortly after the militias entered the enclave, Turkish planes carried out airstrikes around the city, Syrian state TV reported.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press conference in Ankara that the Syrian militia units had already begun to withdraw from Afrin after a bombardment by Turkish artillery.
“A dozen or so pick-up trucks had come to advance toward Afrin. Only after an artillery barrage they turned around and left. This matter is closed,” he said.
On Jan. 20, Turkish forces and Syrian opposition fighters allied with Ankara launched an offensive in Afrin, which has more than 350 towns controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), denounced by the Turks as terrorists.
The Turkish government claims that the YPG is an offshoot of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) which has mounted a smoldering insurrection against the state in mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey for more than 30 years.