Turkey-backed forces capture Syrian Kurdish town of Afrin

Syrian refugees

OCHA said conditions for those remaining in Eastern Ghouta are "dire".

Thousands of terrified Syrian civilians fled for their lives on Saturday, as they sought to escape two raging offensives in a rebel bastion outside Damascus and a northwestern Kurdish enclave.

Ankara says Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters are an extension of a militant group waging an insurgency inside Turkey, and vowed to crush what it described as a "terror corridor" of YPG-controlled territory along Turkey's southern border with Syria.

The capture of Kafr Batna and parts of nearby Saqba is another blow to opposition fighters who have lost more than 70 percent of the area known as eastern Ghouta since the President Bashar Assad's forces began a crushing offensive under the cover of airstrikes on February 18.

Dozens were injured in the attacks, adding to Friday's deadly outcome after airstrikes killed more than 40 civilians, including six children, in rebel-held areas.

"We have thousands of people leaving their places, running away from battles".

Speaking about the capture of Kafr Batna, al-Shami of the Syrian Civil Defense said people "fled in the streets not knowing in which direction to go".

Zolotukhin is spokesman for the Russian center for reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria.

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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also reported that Turkish forces and allied fighters seized some neighbourhoods in Afrin, and that fighting is still ongoing inside the town.

Hamadin said the FSA entered the town from the north, east and west and that fleeing YPG members had withdrawn to regime-held areas to the south of the town.

"Units of the Free Syrian Army, which are backed by Turkish armed forces, took control of the centre of Afrin this morning at 8:30 am (0530 GMT)", Erdogan said, adding that de-mining operations were under way. He said: "Now the Turkish flag will fly over there".

Ankara launched the operation, codenamed Olive Branch, against the town and surrounding areas on January 20, slowly squeezing the militia and hundreds of thousands of civilians into the town center. Ankara launched Operation "Olive Branch" in Afrin two months ago, saying the area near the Turkish border needed to be secured and the YPG pushed out.

"God bless Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan".

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. "Human beings in Afrin are being killed", he said.

The Turkish Armed Forces said in a tweet that it is now searching the area for mines and home-made explosives.

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