Turkey Says Its Forces Encircle Kurdish-Held Afrin In Northern Syria

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Russia's top military officer has spoken to his US counterpart after a stern warning from Moscow that it will fire back if the USA attacks Syrian government facilities.

The Red Crescent was preparing on Tuesday to evacuate more people in desperate need of medical care through a humanitarian corridor established by the regime and its ally Russian Federation. -Turkish force will replace a Kurdish militia deployed in the Syrian town of Manbij.

Speaking to reporters on a flight to Moscow, Turkey's foreign minister was quoted as saying that Ankara and Washington would together oversee the withdrawal of YPG fighters from Manbij, a move that Turkey has long demanded.

He said that two working groups were created in February to prevent this.

A senior Turkish official said the accusation was "absolutely false".

He said the YPG had already withdrawn from Manbij in 2016 and handed control to a local body, the Manbij Military Council. Darwish says local forces are now in charge in Manbij and work closely with the US -led coalition, including in joint patrols.

"The United States remains prepared to act if we must".

Civilians on Tuesday thanked Turkish military for providing them with medicines and giving them free health checks. IS attacked areas evacuated by the rebels and handed over to Syrian troops, the Observatory said.

This is the first medical evacuation from the area since pro-government forces began their operation against the besieged opposition-held enclave last month.

More than 1,180 civilians have been reported killed since the assault was launched on Eastern Ghouta, home to some 400,000 people who have been living under a crippling government siege since 2013.

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They include more than 300 militants from the extremist Ajnad al-Sham group and their families. The evacuation is the result of a deal reached on Monday between Jaish al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in the area, and Russian Federation. The CMM says the army launched raids on IS-held areas in Yarmouk and Hajar al-Aswad.

Washington has not confirmed any such plan - and a small contingent of USA forces is already in Manbij.

The Turkish offensive opened a new front in a multi-sided civil war now entering its eighth year, which has drawn in neighbours and global powers who have armed and assisted fighters on the ground. Afrin, located in Syrian territory, has been the target of an Ankara-led offensive for seven weeks.

"Our relations are at the point of breakup", Cavusoglu said.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish militia group to be "terrorists" while the USA has relied on the group in the fight against the Islamic State group. Rebels there have so far rejected a similar evacuation offer.

The military said in a brief statement that the siege of Afrin, the main town in the enclave, had begun Monday. It said the military had taken control of "critical areas" of the town but did not provide details.

But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Turkish Army and allied Syrian rebels had encircled the city of Afrin, 90 villages, and a nearby town.

Turkey launched "Operation Olive Branch" on January 20 to clear Afrin of the YPG, which Ankara regards as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and a threat to Turkey's security.

The US-backed Kurdish forces in the north seized large areas of land from Isis.

It said the government reached an agreement with rebels in Qadam to evacuate the area recently.

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