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Kurds say Syrian city of Afrin is being ‘ethnically cleansed’ by Turkish military

Syrian Kurds living in the northern city of Afrin have accused Turkey of waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Sky News was the first British broadcaster to reach the besieged city and saw first hand dozens of civilian casualties and victims of the Turkish offensive.

Funerals in the city are now happening on a daily basis – since the fighting began more than 200 people have been killed.

We watched as 19 people were buried in the soft, dark earth in sparsely-populated farmland on the edge of the city.

Most of those killed were YPG fighters but five were civilians, all of them children aged between five and 14.

A woman mourns in a hospital in Afrin
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A woman mourns one of the many children killed in the fighting

In the hospital wards we were shown numerous patients suffering from extensive injuries caused by shelling and airstrikes.

The Syrian government says the the Turkish invasion has nothing to do with protecting its borders and is instead simply a “land grab”.

Senior officials told Sky News that Turkey was trying, through war, to take lands it occupied during the Ottoman Empire.

A child cries in a hospital in Afrin, Syria
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Sky News was allowed to see inside a hospital trying to help those injured in Afrin

Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkish forces and allied rebels could enter the Kurdish led Syrian city of Afrin at any moment.

It was a claim promptly denied by the Kurdish Syrian militia the YPG.

Turkey denies it is targeting civilians, or is engaged in expansionism.

The country says its campaign – codenamed Operation Olive Branch, which saw it invade northern Syria – is about protecting its territory from Kurdish terrorists.

Turkey regards the YPG as a terror group and an offshoot of the separatist PKK it has been battling for decades inside its own borders.

Smoke is seen billowing from the northern Syrian Kurdish town of Afrin on January 31, 2018. Turkey and allied Syrian rebel groups launched operation Olive Branch on January 20 against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which controls the Afrin region
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There has been fighting in Afrin for months

Turkey’s offensive, launched on 20 January, adds another layer of complexity to Syria’s seven-year war.

The YPG were armed and trained by the US and were the West’s most reliable ally, acting as a ground force within the Syrian Defence Force against the Islamic State in Syria.

But the Syrian Kurds and the YPG, who were pivotal in the battle for Raqqa, now feel abandoned by the West in the face of an advancing Turkish army.

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