Turkey's Erdogan says Afrin city centre under 'total' control



Turkey's flag was flying in Afrin on Sunday after its troops and Ankara-backed rebels chased out Kurdish militia forces to seize control of the Syrian city.

In a major victory for Ankara's two-month operation against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, Turkish-led forces pushed into Afrin apparently unopposed, taking up positions across the city.

The advance came as Syria's civil war entered its eighth year this week with heavy fighting on two fronts - around Afrin and in the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

Hundreds have been killed and thousands forced from their homes by the ferocious assault in Ghouta, where President Bashar Al Assad on Sunday visited troops fighting to retake the last rebel enclave close to the capital.

In Afrin, Turkish forces and their Syrian allies were seen in all neighbourhoods of the city after they made a lightning advance on Sunday.

Rebels fanned out across the city, giving victory signs and taking pictures with Turkish tanks parked outside official buildings.

The flags of Turkey and Syrian rebel groups were raised and a statue of Kurdish hero Kawa, a symbol of resistance against oppressors, was torn down.

Civilians fled the city and plumes of smoke rose into the sky as mines exploded.

Up to 250,000 civilians left in recent days after pro-Ankara fighters took the surrounding region and all but encircled the city. They travelled south to territory still held by the YPG or controlled by the Syrian regime.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkish-backed fighters had taken control of the city centre and said a "large number" of Kurdish fighters had "fled with their tails between their legs".

The Turkish leader has said the operation could move on to other Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria.

"Our work is not finished... but terrorism is finished in Afrin," Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag said.

Residents said it appeared that YPG units had withdrawn from the city without a fight.

But Kurdish authorities vowed to retake Afrin, one of three semi-autonomous Kurdish "cantons" in northern Syria.

"Resistance will continue until every inch of Afrin is liberated," authorities representing the Afrin canton said in a statement.

"In all of Afrin's sectors, our forces will become a permanent nightmare [for pro-Ankara fighters]," the statement said, promising "a switch from direct confrontation to hit-and-run attacks".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, says more than 280 civilians have been killed since the campaign began on January 20.

Ankara has denied the reports and said it takes the "utmost care" to avoid civilian casualties.

The Observatory said on Sunday that more than 1,500 Kurdish fighters had been killed since the start of the offensive, most of them in air strikes and artillery fire.

More than 400 pro-Ankara rebels have also been killed, it said. The Turkish military says 46 Turkish soldiers have died.

Turkey sees the YPG as a "terrorist" offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

But the Kurdish militia has also formed the backbone of a United States-backed alliance that successfully expelled ISIL from large parts of Syria.

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Read more

UN Security Council renews Syria ceasefire call

Syria: Ghouta death roll reaches 1,400

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On another front near Damascus, thousands of civilians continued to stream out of Eastern Ghouta for a fourth day as the regime's Russian-backed air and ground assault appeared to have eased up.

Regime fighters have retaken more than 80 per cent of the former rebel bastion since the offensive was launched on February 18, the Observatory says, slicing what remains into three pockets, each held by different rebel groups.

More than 1,400 civilians have been killed in the offensive and at least 65,000 civilians are reported to have fled the area in recent days.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said there had not been any air strikes on Sunday and only sporadic mortar fire into a southern pocket of the enclave held by the Faylaq Al Rahman rebel group.

"The area is awaiting the announcement of a deal between Faylaq Al Rahman and Russia on an evacuation of rebels to northern Syria," Mr Abdel Rahman said.

Mr Al Assad met with soldiers in Eastern Ghouta on Sunday, the presidency said, in the leader's first trip to the region in years.

Syria state television broadcast photos of the president dressed in a shirt and jacket surrounded by soldiers, some perched on a tank behind him, in an unspecified part of Eastern Ghouta.

Syria's conflict broke out in 2011 after protests against Mr Al Assad.

He has maintained his grip on power despite global calls to step down and outrage at the offensives he has waged to retake towns and cities from rebel fighters.

What is Diwali?

The Hindu festival is at once a celebration of the autumn harvest and the triumph of good over evil, as outlined in the Ramayana.

According to the Sanskrit epic, penned by the sage Valmiki, Diwali marks the time that the exiled king Rama – a mortal with superhuman powers – returned home to the city of Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman, after vanquishing the 10-headed demon Ravana and conquering his kingdom of Lanka. The people of Ayodhya are believed to have lit thousands of earthen lamps to illuminate the city and to guide the royal family home.

In its current iteration, Diwali is celebrated with a puja to welcome the goodness of prosperity Lakshmi (an incarnation of Sita) into the home, which is decorated with diyas (oil lamps) or fairy lights and rangoli designs with coloured powder. Fireworks light up the sky in some parts of the word, and sweetmeats are made (or bought) by most households. It is customary to get new clothes stitched, and visit friends and family to exchange gifts and greetings.  

 

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Rating: 4.5/5

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WITHIN SAND

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Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
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Padmaavat

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Starring: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, Jim Sarbh

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The bio

Who inspires you?

I am in awe of the remarkable women in the Arab region, both big and small, pushing boundaries and becoming role models for generations. Emily Nasrallah was a writer, journalist, teacher and women’s rights activist

How do you relax?

Yoga relaxes me and helps me relieve tension, especially now when we’re practically chained to laptops and desks. I enjoy learning more about music and the history of famous music bands and genres.

What is favourite book?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - I think I've read it more than 7 times

What is your favourite Arabic film?

Hala2 Lawen (Translation: Where Do We Go Now?) by Nadine Labaki

What is favourite English film?

Mamma Mia

Best piece of advice to someone looking for a career at Google?

If you’re interested in a career at Google, deep dive into the different career paths and pinpoint the space you want to join. When you know your space, you’re likely to identify the skills you need to develop.  

 

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First course

▶ Emirati sea bass tartare Yuzu and labneh mayo, avocado, green herbs, fermented tomato water  

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1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat

Brief scores:

Manchester City 2

Gundogan 27', De Bruyne 85'

Crystal Palace 3

Schlupp 33', Townsend 35', Milivojevic 51' (pen)

Man of the Match: Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace)

RESULTS FOR STAGE 4

Stage 4 Dubai to Hatta, 197 km, Road race.

Overall leader Primoz Roglic SLO (Team Jumbo - Visma)

Stage winners: 1. Caleb Ewan AUS (Lotto - Soudal) 2. Matteo Moschetti ITA (Trek - Segafredo) 3. Primoz Roglic SLO (Team Jumbo - Visma)

57 Seconds

Director: Rusty Cundieff
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Morgan Freeman, Greg Germann, Lovie Simone
Rating: 2/5


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