Turkish strikes kill 36 pro-regime fighters

BEIRUT — Turkish warplanes struck pro-Syrian regime forces in the northwestern Afrin region of Syria on Saturday, killing at least 36 of them, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It said this was the third time in 48 hours that Turkish warplanes had struck pro-regime forces that entered Afrin last week in support of the Kurdish YPG militia as it fights to stave off an offensive by Turkey and allied Syrian militias.

Meanwhile, Syrian regime forces have advanced inside Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said on Saturday, as fighting intensified on the ground to retake the battered rebel enclave east of Damascus.

Russia-backed regime forces on February 18 launched an assault on the besieged region, pounding the area with air strikes, killing more than 630 civilians. On February 25, clashes on the ground between the armed opposition and regime forces intensified on the edges of the enclave, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

Since Thursday, regime forces have advanced inside the region, retaking an area in the enclave’s southeast, as well as another and two military bases in the south from main opposition group Jaish Al Islam.

“Regime forces and their allies have intensified their attacks on rebel positions in the past 48 hours,” Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said.

Regime fighters are trying to advance inside Eastern Ghouta to cut off the main town of Douma and its surroundings in the north of the enclave, as well as isolate the southeastern area of Al Marj, Abdul Rahman said.

The Observatory says “Russian advisers” are taking part in the battles alongside regime forces in Eastern Ghouta, backed by heavy air strikes and shelling.

Since February 25, 60 regime and allied fighters have been killed, while 34 rebels from Jaish Al Islam have also died, it said.

Rebels now control only a third of the area they once held in Eastern Ghouta in 2012, as regime forces have gradually taken back territory from them.


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