While Fighting Rages in Eastern Syria, Erdogan Claims Turkey Has Killed 394 Militants in Afrin

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have accused Turkey of exaggerating the number of Kurdish fighters it had killed

Pro-Kurdish people protest against the Turkish offensive in northwest Syria during a demonstration in Paris, France, January 27, 2018
REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Heavy fighting resumed in Syria's eastern Ghouta on Sunday after a short period of relative calm following reports that a ceasefire had been agreed there late on Friday, a war monitor and pro-government media sources said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said there was intense fighting accompanied by large blasts, heavy shelling and air raids after an attack by jihadist rebels. It said the Syrian army of President Bashar al-Assad had fired dozens of rockets and shells into eastern Ghouta since the ceasefire was reported to have begun.

A military media unit run by Assad's ally Hezbollah said the Syrian army had repulsed an attack by jihadist rebels in eastern Ghouta, detonating an insurgent car bomb. It had then responded to the assault with shelling and air strikes, it said.

A resident of Damascus said bombardment could be heard coming from eastern Ghouta on Sunday morning and smoke was visible.

Late on Friday, a rebel official said that Assad's ally Russia had promised the opposition delegation at peace talks in Vienna that it would put pressure on Damascus to enforce a truce in eastern Ghouta.

The ceasefire was never publicly confirmed by the Syrian government.

International concern has been rising over the fate of 400,000 people living in besieged, rebel-held eastern Ghouta as acute food and medicine shortages have contributed to what the United Nations has called the worst malnutrition of the war.

Turkey's northern incursion

Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel allies have killed a total of 394 militants since the offensive on Syria's Afrin region began, President Erdogan said on Saturday.

Turkey and the FSA rebel factions have together lost 20 people he added, without giving a breakdown.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have accused Turkey of exaggerating the number of Kurdish fighters it had killed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitoring group, said 59 YPG fighters and at least 69 fighters from the Turkey-backed FSA have died in clashes. Seven Turkish soldiers have been killed and another seven were missing, it said.

On Saturday Turkish-backed FSA police force were guarding a checkpoint in Afrin, stationed near the city of Azaz.

A rocket hit a building on Saturday in the Turkish border town of Kilis, close to the Syrian border. Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported two people were injured in the strike, which it said was fired from Afrin. According to Dogan news agency, the rocket did not detonate.

Turkey's air and ground offensive in northwest Syria's Afrin region against the Kurdish YPG militia has opened a new front in the seven-year, multi-sided Syrian civil war and strained ties with NATO ally Washington.

The United States has pledged to stop supplying weapons to a Kurdish militia in Syria, Turkey said on Saturday, calling on Washington to immediately remove its troops from a Syrian town of Manbij that Turkish forces plan to target.