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Battle of Afrin City

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Battle of Afrin City
Part of the Syrian Civil War, Turkish military operation in Afrin
Battle of Afrin (2018).svg
Turkish Armed Forces move in on Afrin, Syria from the South west
Date13 March 2018 - 18 March 2018
Afrin, Aleppo Governorate, Syria

36°30′30″N 36°52′9″E / 36.50833°N 36.86917°E / 36.50833; 36.86917Coordinates: 36°30′30″N 36°52′9″E / 36.50833°N 36.86917°E / 36.50833; 36.86917
Status Decisive Turkish-Opposition victory
Syrian opposition Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army


Units involved

Turkey Turkish Armed Forces

  • Turkish Land Forces
  • Turkish Air Force [2]

Syrian opposition Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army

  • Third Corps [3]
  • Special Forces
People's Protection Units Flag.svg YPG
Syrian Democratic Forces
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown
289 civilians (SOHR statistic) [5]

In March 2018, The Turkish Army along with the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army , closed in on Afrin, as part of the ongoing Turkish military operation in Afrin


The Afrin Region, is mostly inhabited by the Kurdish population of Syria, and was occupied by the YPG in 2012 after the withdrawal of Syrian government forces. The city's pre-war population was 35,000 people, but numbers in the city had swollen to 700,000 as refugees from other parts of the country had fled there before the Turkish intervention in January 2018.[6] [7] [8]

On 20 January, Turkish forces crossed the border of Turkey, invading Syrian territory [9] Turkey dubbed the action as Operation Olive Branch, the purpose of which it said was to clear the area of what they said were YPG threats to Turkey.[10] Turkey also claimed to be attacking ISIL, even though ISIL is not present in the region.[11][12] SDF troops continued to move into the area to defend it, on 6 March, the SDF announced that it had shifted 1,700 personnel from their frontlines in the Middle Euphrates river valley in Deir ez-Zor to Afrin.[13]By the 11th of March, Turkish forces reached the outskirts of the city[14]

Encirclement of city[edit]

On March 12, Turkish Forces had severed the water supply to the city of Afrin, and also cut off the city's internet access [15]. Residents were accessing water from wells, though the water was of dubious quality.

By Mid March, civilians started arriving in the city, organising themselves as human shields in anticipation of the attack [16] while another 2000 civilians fled the city, in advance of the Turkish troops.[17]

By the 13th of March, Turkey had practically encircled the city, with roads leading out of the city still under control of the SDF, but under bombardment from Turkish artillery, so were impassable.[18][19][20] Turkey announced its troops were in place and prepared to enter the center of Afrin.[21]

Kurdish troops had moved into Afrin from other areas, including retreating troops from the unsuccesful defence of Jinderes, and dozens of international volunteers,[22] reinforcing the troop numbers there, and preparing defences.[23]

By 13th of March, Turkish troops announced they had now surrounded the city[24][25] [26][27] later confirmed by the UK based human rights group, The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) [28]

Artillery Bombardment[edit]

Turkish artillery bombardment increased, with 12 people killed and 60 injured on the 15th of March. Food shortages were reported in the city, with long queues at bakeries. Turkey allowed people to exit the city through the one remaining road, with about 10,000 people exiting the city. [29]

Turkey announced that when they completed the operation and captured the city, they would not hand it over to the Assad Government, but would govern the city themselves. This was a reversal of previous announcements, where Turkey had said the city was soveriegn territory of Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the threat of a ground invasion was imminent.[30] On March 14th, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, claimed the city would be taken in 24 hours, however SDF were sceptical of this claim [31]

Turkey started dropping flyers on the city on the 15th of March, urging the Kurdish and allied fighters to give up, and asking civilians to stay away from "terrorist" positions. [32] Turkish artillery fire continued on the city, killing another 16 people on Friday the 16th of March. [33]

On the 16th of March, YPG claimed a Turkish airstrike hit the main hospital in the city, the only functioning hospital, resulting in 16 civilians dead. [34]. The Hospital had already been inundated with injured people from the region, fleeing Turkish troops.[35] However, Turkish Drone footage released the next day allegedly shows the hospital in good condition. [36]

Ground Assault and Capture of City by Turkey[edit]

On the 17th and 18th of March, Turkish and TFSA forces made ground attacks on Afrin city. They met unexpected light resistance, and penetrated to the centre of the city. Most of the population had left, and rather than engaging the Turkish forces, most of the SDF had retreated, leaveing only a token resistance effort behind. On Sunday the 18th, TAF forces posted pictures from the centre of the city, which appeared to be largely empty. Turkish troops initialy shot at, and then removed with a bulldoser, a statue of Kawa, a legendary Kurdish figure, in the centre of the town, and raised Turkish flags throughout the city. The city was captuered with little losses by the TAF and little losses by the SDF in their withdrawal. [37] SDF troops had withdrawn to Government held areas, or to SDF areas east of the Euphrates. SDF troops had been ordered to withdraw, though a few minor pockets refused orders and stayed to combat the Turkish forces [38] Turkish allied militia pillaged the city, looting private residences, government and military buildings, and burnt shops that sold alchohol. [39] A Kurdish spokesmen for the PYD said they would continue the offensive against the occupational Turkish forces with guerilla tactics. [40] [41]


  1. "Opposition groups are preparing to break into Jarabulus, northern Aleppo, from Turkey". ARA News. 20 August 2016.
  4. J.O (5 February 2017). "Self-defense fighters join Wrath of Euphrates". Hawar News Agency.
  5. SOHR statistic references in "Turkey Seizes Afrin from Kurds Amid fears of Ethnic Cleansing" nexus news feed 18/3/2018
  6. "Turkish Forces Surround Afrin City Syria Operation Army" Agency 13 March France
  7. Ensor, Josie The Telegraph 13 March 2018 "700000 Trapped Syrian City Afrin Turkey Allied Fighters Surround"
  8. "Turkish Forces Besiege 700,000 Kurds in Syrian Enclave of Afrin" Brisbane Times 17/3/2019 14 March 2018
  9. “Turkey targets Kurdish forces in Afrin: The short, medium and long story” BBC 22/1/2018
  10. "Turkish field op against Afrin Kurds 'de facto underway' – Erdogan". Russia: RT.
  11. Press, Associated (27 January 2018). "The Latest: Turkey says 2 soldiers killed in Afrin push". Retrieved 28 January 2018 – via
  12. "Turkey claims over 260 YPG, ISIS fighters killed in northern Syria". 23 January 2018. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  13. "US Coalition Asks for Pause in Hostilities in Northwest Syria". Voice of America. 6 March 2018.
  14. "Turkish Forces Reach Outskirts of Afrin Town". Reuters. 11 March 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  15. “Civilians-organise-human-shield-protect-kurdish-afrin” Al Jazeera 12 Mar 2018
  16. “Civilians Organise Human Shield to Protect Kurdish Afrin” Al Jazeera 12 Mar 2018
  17. "Syria Afrin City Hundreds Civilians Flee Turkish Forces"
  18. "BBC Afrin: Turkish forces 'encircle' Syrian Kurdish city" BBC
  19. "Turkish Forces Surround Afrin City Syria Operation Army" Agency 13 March France
  20. "Turkish Forces Surround Afrin City in Syria Operation" Channel News Asia, 13 March
  21. "Turkey Erdogan Afrin Syria" CNN
  22. Ensor, Josie "Battle for Afrin Turkish forces advance raises fears of New Ghouta"" The Sydney Morning Herald 13th March
  23. "Will YPG Retreat Afrin" Al Monitor
  24. "Afrin: Turkish forces 'encircle' Syrian Kurdish city". BBC News. 13 March 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  25. ""Turkey says troops encircle Kurdish-held city in Syria"". CNN. 13 March 2018.
  26. "Deutch Weller". Deutch Weller. 13 March 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  27. ""Turkish forces say they have 'surrounded' Afrin city"". middleeast eye. 13 March 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  28. ""Turkey forces encircle Kurdish-controlled centre of Afrin"". al 14 March 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  29. "Turkish-led assault on Syria's Afrin displaced 10,000 in a day" 16/3/18
  30. "Turkish-led assault on Syria's Afrin displaced 10,000 in a day" 16/3/18
  31. "Turkeys Erdogan says hopes syrias afrin town-to-be-captured-by-wednesday-evening" Reuters March 14, 2018
  32. "The Latest: Turkey urges Syrian Kurds in Afrin to surrender" Longview News Journal, 15/3/2018
  33. "Turkish Artillery Fire on Syria's Afrin Kills 18 Civilians: Monitor" March 16 2018 Times Now News
  34. "Turkish air strike hits hospital in Syria's Afrin Nine dead monitor" SBS News 17/3/18
  35. "Syria: Children, families killed by airstrikes, shelling in Afrin – UN" UN News - 16th March
  36. "Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army group 'capture' Afrin city" Al Jazeera
  37. "free-syrian-army-group-captures-afrin-city" al jazeera 18/3/18
  38. "turkish-forces-and-syrian-allies-drive-kurds-from-afrin" Reuters 18/3/2018
  39. "pro-turkish-forces-pillage-afrin-after-taking-syrian-city" Yahoo
  40. "Turkish Led Forces Seize Centre Syria's Afrin" Middle East Eye 18/3/2018
  41. "Saleh-moslem-guerrilla-warfare-begins-in-afrin" anfenglish 18/3/2018

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