Turkish groups set up tents, hand out aid in NW Syria

The Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), Red Crescent, and another Turkish aid group have set 200 tent shelters in the countryside of Afrin, northwestern Syria, said AFAD's head on Monday.

Mehmet Gulluoglu told Anadolu Agency that AFAD, in cooperation with the Turkish Red Crescent and Nil Education and Aid Association, set up the tents for refugees from eastern Ghouta, a city besieged for years by the Assad regime.

He said that there are nearly 650 families temporarily living around Afrin's Muhammediyye district, adding that over 20,000 refugees from eastern Ghouta have been evacuated to areas liberated by Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield.

We are working to return Afrin residents to Afrin, Azez to Azez, and Al-Bab to Al-Bab, but since the war is ongoing, going back is difficult, we're doing our best, he said.

The aid groups also distributed five tons of fruits and vegetables with over 1,000 packets of chocolates and 710 packets of biscuits and cakes to orphans living in the area.

AFAD and the Red Crescent had set up camp for 3,000 people around the Turkey-Syria border for people fleeing airstrikes in the eastern and southern countryside of Idlib by Assad regime forces.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests -- which erupted as part of the "Arab Spring" uprisings -- with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, more than a quarter of a million people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced across the war-battered country, according to the UN.

Home to some 400,000 residents, Eastern Ghouta has remained under a crippling regime siege for the last five years, which has prevented the delivery of much-needed humanitarian supplies.

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorist groups from Afrin amid growing threats from the region. On March 18, Turkish-backed troops liberated Afrin town center, which had been a major hideout for the YPG/PKK since 2012.

According to the Turkish General Staff, Operation Olive Branch was aimed at establishing security and stability along Turkey's borders and the region as well as protecting Syrians from terrorist cruelty and oppression.

Source: Anadolu Agency