BEIRUT — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):
Turkey’s military says its troops and Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters have begun a siege of the Syrian Kurdish-held northern town of Afrin.
The military said in a brief statement on Tuesday that the siege of Afrin, the main town in the enclave also known as Afrin, had begun Monday. It said the military had taken control of “critical areas” of the town but did not provide details.
Thousands of people had started to flee Afrin on Monday as the Turkish troops got closer to the town, heading toward nearby government-controlled areas.
Turkey launched a military offensive into the border enclave on Jan. 20 to drive out Syrian Kurdish forces that it considers to be “terrorists” and an extension of Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.
The largest rebel group in the besieged suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus has vowed not to leave the area and to continue fighting advancing government forces.
The Army of Islam was responding to some local reports that said it is negotiating with the Syrian government and its Russian backers to leave the area known as eastern Ghouta.
Hamza Bayraqdar, the group’s chief military spokesman, said in a video statement posted online that “our revolutionary ideology does not allow us to sell the blood of the holy warriors who liberated Ghouta.”
Syrian government forces have recently captured more than half of eastern Ghouta and laid a siege on the group’s stronghold of Douma.
Bayraqdar says: “we will stay in Ghouta and defend it.”
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