Turkish-backed members of the Free Syrian Army entered the center of Afrin in northern Syria apparently almost unchallenged on Sunday, March 18, after the two-month Operation Olive Branch to rout Kurdish forces from the city.
This video was described as showing the occupation of Afrin by Turkish forces, with a Turkish flag being raised above the Afrin city center building. Other videos and images here, from various Turkish military sources, show different views of events at Afrin’s city center.
The Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, were said to have withdrawn to nearby mountains prior to the incursion by the Turkish-backed rebels, which includes members of Islamic militant groups that have fallen in and out of support by US forces. Operation Olive Branch was said by activists to have killed 280 people in the area, though that number was disputed by the Turkish government. The YPG denied that FSA forces had taken Afrin on Sunday at the time of writing.
The confrontation over Afrin pitted forces against each other that were both at various times supported by the United States and its allies. Turkey is also a US ally and a member of NATO.
Images of Afrin made an appearance within hours in various propaganda messages comparing its fall to that of Raqqa, the former capital of the Islamic State’s failed caliphate in Syria, saying the “clean” victory in Afrin proved the Turkish military was possibly more civilized than the US coalition, which has been accused of turning much of Raqqa to rubble. Credit: Turkish Armed Forces via Storyful