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Kurds Flee to Regime-Held Areas Amid Turkish Advance in Afrin

Hundreds of civilians fled a Turkish-led advance on Syria’s Kurdish-majority city of Afrin on Monday, a monitor said. Turkey-led rebels have advanced to the outskirts of Afrin city since launching an assault on the wider Kurdish enclave of the same name on January 20.

“More than 2,000 civilians have arrived in the area of Nubul” controlled by pro-regime forces after fleeing the enclave, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Several hundred more are still on the roads” heading out of the region, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Turkish forces and their allies on Saturday arrived within less than two kilometers (one mile) of the city, sparking fears it could become besieged.

Afrin city — the main urban center in the enclave on the Turkish border — is home to around 350,000 people, the Observatory says.

A journalist contributing to AFP saw dozens of cars and buses loaded with civilians and their belongings lining up as they waited to exit the enclave.

Turkey accuses the People’s Protection Units (YPG) controlling Afrin of being “terrorists.” The Observatory says pro-Ankara forces have captured around 60 percent of the Afrin enclave since January 20. The YPG led a U.S.-backed alliance that succeeded in expelling the Islamic State group from much of Syria.

Hundreds of Kurdish and Arab forces from the anti-ISIS alliance have left the fight against the jihadists to head to Afrin to help. And after a call for help from Damascus, pro-regime fighters have also been deployed on several fronts.

The Observatory says more than 200 civilians have been killed since the Afrin battle began, but Turkey denies the reports and says it takes the “utmost care” to avoid civilian casualties.

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