On March 14, three Turkish airstrikes hit a checkpoint belonging to Syrian government forces on road to the city of Afrin in northern Syria, Reuters reported citing an alleged commander of government forces.
According to the report, the airstrikes killed five members of pro-government forces, likely the National Defense Forces (NDF). The NDF is a state-backed militia consisting of locals and integrated into the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). According to other sources, 8 NDF members were killed.
In response, the SAA reportedly shelled the Turish-held village of Marea.
Over the past few days, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have captured a number of villages east, and southwest of Afrin from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Only one route linking Afrin and government-held area in the rest of Aleppo province has remained relatively open.
The villages of Qadi Rayhalah, Ayn Darah and Basute located close to this road are now the last YPG-held points preventing the TAF and the FSA from isolating the city.
A military situation in the area of March 13:
On March 14, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that he hopes Afrin would be cleared by the TAF and the FSA from the YPG “by this evening.” He also noted that Turkey is contributing efforts to prevent civilian casualties.
“All kinds of care is being taken. Look, right now, first civilians are being taken out of Afrin in vehicles through a special corridor,” Erdogan said. “We will clear Afrin of terrorists [YPG], clear Manbij, and east of the Euphrates River to our border with northern Iraq, we will rid the terrorist from all of them the same way.”
He continued saying that the TAF and the FSA had captured about 1,300 km2 and neutralized almost 3,500 “terrorists” since the start of Operation Olive Branch on January 20.
However, later a source in Erdogan’s office noted that Erdogan’s statement had been received wrong.
“The ‘I hope Afrin will completely fall by tonight’ sentence in our president’s speech should be understood as ‘The circle of encirclement will be completed by tonight’,” the source said, according to Reuters.