More than 220 civilians killed as Syria continues air strikes

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Operation Olive Branch was launched by Turkey on January 20 to remove the PKK/PYD/YPG/KCK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin in northwestern Syria.

Flag-wrapped coffin of Ahmet Bayram, a Turkish soldier who was killed during the military operation against Syria's Afrin region, is carried by honour guards during his funeral ceremony in Hatay, Turkey February 4, 2018.

The air strikes destroyed 19 targets including ammunition depots, shelters and gun positions, the Turkish armed forces said in a statement without specifying when the raids were conducted. "Eleven members of the PYD [Kurdish Democratic Union Party], the YPG [Kurdish People's Protection Units] and IS [Daesh] terrorist organizations were killed", the statement said.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey's borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.

"These things will happen; we are in a war".

The country's prime minister walked back on the comments soon after, saying the cause of the helicopter's crash was not yet clear.

Accounts associated with the Azerbaijani lobby in Turkey distributed photos, apparently taken in the war zone, showing messages written on shells like "Karabakh is Turkish, will remain Turkish" with a hashtag for the Turkish official name for the Afrin operation, "Olive Branch".

Idlib is one of the last main strongholds of rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, who have been driven from most of their bastions in Syria since Russian Federation joined the war on the side of Assad's government in 2015.

Damascus has firmly condemned the operation as an assault on Syria's sovereignty.

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The arrival of reinforcements is likely to sustain Kurdish resistance, bog down the Turkish forces and prolong a conflict that is sapping the resources of military powers that rival him for control of Syrian territory.

Fresh air strikes hit the Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Friday, the fifth straight day of a bombing campaign that has killed more than 220 civilians.

"To confront those who really fight global terrorism on the ground in Syria is criminal", Vassily Nebenzia said.

For much of the war, Damascus and the YPG have avoided confrontation, at times fighting common enemies, including the rebel groups that are now helping Turkey attack Afrin.

"Our security forces are engaging in a great fight".

Syria has been gripped by a new and escalating round of violence in recent weeks.

But Russia, Assad's most powerful ally, said on Thursday a ceasefire was unrealistic and that militants were to blame for the bloodshed.

"My brother was hit yesterday in an air strike and we had to amputate his leg. Thank God it was only this", said an Eastern Ghouta resident reached by Reuters on Friday.

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